How Do I Find Someone’s Grave Online for Free
As part of your genealogy and ancestry research, you may need to locate the place an ancestor was buried. In this article, we will provide a list of useful websites that will help you find the place of an ancestor’s death.
A good genealogist knows that in order to be thorough you must leave no stone unturned in your search for your family history. This of course includes potentially trying to locate the place an ancestor was buried in order to discover the information contained on their gravestone.
This may seem a tad morbid to some people but the truth is that a person's gravestone is an important piece of historical information regarding the final milestone of someone’s life. It is proof that someone was born, lived and eventually died.
It is often the case that we may live hundreds if not thousands of miles away from the final resting place of one of our distant ancestors so it is not always possible to find the gravesite ourselves. Even if we do want to visit and search it could cost us a lot of money to do so.
Thankfully though there are a number of options online through which you can potentially find out where your ancestor was buried and perhaps even see a picture of the gravestone. I recall myself being able to see a picture of the gravestone of my great uncle. A World War One hero, my great uncle was killed in action in France and buried there.
So for those who would like to try and track down the gravesites of their ancestors here are a few places you can go to get them quickly, easily and most importantly for free.
Those who have used Ancestry in the past may have seen some hints for their ancestors' graves, usually from Find-a-Grave. This is its own free website which relies on volunteers to photograph and find grave locations globally.
Started in 1995 by Jim Tipton, it was originally intended to support his hobby of visiting celebrity graves. It quickly grew to be much more as the database expanded. In 2013 Tipton sold the site to Ancestry.com who revamped and improved the site markedly.
This is a completely free site to use that is intended to help people locate the graves of their ancestors and potentially find out some important helpful details. There is also an aspect of memorial to the site as well. It allows users to leave messages to their ancestors' memories.
In terms of accuracy, it needs to be noted that this is user-created content so sometimes information may be wrong or may have been embellished. People have complained in the past that memorials were created for their recently deceased family with very inaccurate details attached. The biggest issue is that once someone starts a memorial for a particular burial they own the right to modify it any way they see fit.
BillionGraves is another major user-created website which allows you to search for gravesites. You just have to sign up for an account and you get access to thousands of pictures from gravesites around the world.
Volunteers visit these cemeteries to take pictures, transcribe the gravestone when possible and in some cases research the person who is attached to that gravesite. BillionGraves does go a step further than FindaGrave, however, because they often have volunteers set a GPS location for the gravesite.
Started in 2010 specifically to be a tool for the genealogical community by Brian Moncur, it is a constantly growing database. Although at this time it only has around 38 million gravesite records compared to FindaGraves 180+ million.
The site does boast that unlike FindaGrave, which sometimes does not have a gravestone picture, all of their records have an image attached. They are also, as previously mentioned, GPS marked so if we were to want to visit the gravesite of an ancestor we could easily locate them.
Started in 1997 as a personal webpage named “Cemetery Interment Lists” it was originally just a list of links to various websites that contained cemetery lists. Its current database holds information from over 6 million cemeteries from around the world.
This site can direct you to other websites where you can find transcriptions from burial records and gravestones from around the world. It may not be as impressive as FindaGrave and BillionGraves but it could still be a useful tool to check if searches of the other two are unsuccessful.
International Free Grave Websites
These first three major sites can help heavily to potentially find a gravesite in the United States and to some degree in other countries. Sometimes their coverage internationally is not the most comprehensive. Thankfully though there are other free sites that are specific to particular countries. Here is a short list that may be helpful.
- Online Begraafplaatsen (Netherlands)
- Irish Graveyards (Ireland)
- Graves.by (Belarus)
- Canadian Headstones (Canada)
- China Family Records on Family Search (China)
These are just a few examples but a search of gravesites in specific countries on the internet may help find others.
It must be remembered that not all countries follow the same burial practices so depending on where your ancestors are from there may be no gravesite to be found for them. This means that when in doubt we should always research the death practices of a country to determine if there are likely to be any records.
This is in fact a good tip for all parts of genealogical research. Always research first what kind of records your ancestors may appear in. If birth records didn’t start until well after an ancestor was born then there is no point in seeking a birth certificate. This holds the same if a country does not use cemeteries. You can’t find something if it doesn’t exist.
There are numerous websites around the world on which the final resting place of our ancestors may be recorded. As long as we know their names, roughly when they died and the general area in which they were buried we may be able to find the location.
It is important that when we use these sites we also understand that gravestones, while very important for genealogical research, are not always accurate. A date might have been etched incorrectly or the date of birth of the deceased may not have been remembered correctly by their family.
Use gravestones as a guide and source of clues rather than a set in stone document of proof. Also, remember these sites are usually put together by volunteers so we are at the mercy of their interpretation of sometimes very faded words in stone.
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"How Do I Find Someone’s Grave Online for Free". NameCensus.com. Accessed on May 29, 2022. http://namecensus.com/blog/how-do-i-find-someones-grave-online-for-free/.
"How Do I Find Someone’s Grave Online for Free". NameCensus.com, http://namecensus.com/blog/how-do-i-find-someones-grave-online-for-free/. Accessed 29 May, 2022
How Do I Find Someone’s Grave Online for Free. NameCensus.com. Retrieved from http://namecensus.com/blog/how-do-i-find-someones-grave-online-for-free/.