Monday, July 30, 2007

Genealogy Through Cemetery Research

Sometimes the only way to gain information and further your research is by visiting the graves of your ancestors. You may wonder why you should go to the trouble of locating and visiting cemeteries. I'll tell you why. You may think you are visiting the grave site of one person, then when you get there you discover a whole family plot. There can be a spouse (maybe even a maiden name), children, possibly the children's spouses, full or partial birth and death dates, birthplaces, and parent's names listed on the stone. Sometimes a grave stone will even provide military information or a hint of membership in an organization.

Yes, it is true! It has happened to me. I can't tell you how excited I was when I found such extended information. The grin on my face was huge. I began taking notes and pictures like crazy. What I thought would be a short half-hour visit to a cemetery turned into a couple of hours. I have even found evidence of previously unknown baby deaths.

Just remember, this is considered secondary information not primary. The people providing the information or the stone carver sometimes made mistakes. You will need to confirm the cemetery information with sources - birth and death certificate, marriage records, probate records, etc.

Is it worth it? Absolutely! It is a wonderful feeling to stand in the place that holds your ancestors' remains and see important information carved in the stones. If the cemetery you want to visit is a long distance away, use the trip as part of a vacation. And do it now. Older stones are deteriorating or being destroyed by vandals; old cemeteries are disappearing. You won't regret the trip, but you might regret a missed opportunity.

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