What is Find a Grave?

If you have ever been searching through sites like Ancestry you may see hints for a site called Find a Grave. What exactly is this site, is it a cemetery plot sales site? Luckily the answer is no, it’s actually in many ways a very helpful site in terms of genealogical research.

In this post, we are going to take a look at this site. There are pluses and considerable minuses to this particular tool but hopefully, we can help you navigate it to get your best results.

What Is Find a Grave?

Well as the name suggests it is a website that touts its ability to help you find your ancestors' gravesites and perhaps even offer a picture of the headstone. It is 100% free of charge and has millions of grave location profiles from around the world.

This extensive online burial site database uses user-created content to help us locate the final resting place of our long-forgotten ancestors. Thousands of volunteers visit cemeteries and photograph gravestones, often transcribing the information from them.

Some volunteers will even go so far as to research the cemetery's available records to find out more detail which can be added to the created profiles.

History of Find a Grave

Find a Grave started out life as a hobby site for Alma, Michigan born Jim Tipton. In 1995 while living in Salt Lake City Tipton decided to create a website in support of his hobby of visiting the burial locations of celebrities.

The website became popular urging Jim to later add an online forum. It took just 3 years for the site to actually become a commercial entity in 1998 and just two years later in 2000 it became incorporated.

As the site grew it started to extend beyond just the gravesites of celebrities as non-celebrity graves were added as well. The intent being that relatives and friends would be able to view the graves of their loved ones and leave their respects.

Over 13 years the company grew and grew until finally in 2013 Jim Tipton sold the business to Ancestry. Jim decided this made sense as Ancestry had essentially been driving people to his site for numerous years already.

The Pros of Find a Grave

With Ancestry owning Find a Grave it is highly likely if you know enough detail regarding an individual in your tree that you will see hints for this site. When we know roughly when a family member may have died and where there is a good chance you can find a listing on Find a Grave.

A huge community of volunteers and members is constantly increasing the content in the database with many featuring actual pictures of the gravestones. We can be on the other side of the country and see an image of our great-great-great grandparents' graves.

Some profiles may have family tree information connected as well as information that others have found out via research regarding the person in question. It is exceptionally user friendly and the database covers burial sites in many countries around the world.

The Cons of Find a Grave

Any genealogist knows that although a gravestone is a good source of hints it is not always 100% accurate. There is a decent chance that the date of death may be correct as it is usually a recent event but when it comes to date of birth you have to hope someone knew that information for definite fact.

The basic point is that gravestones can be prone to inaccuracy and obviously just plain mistakes can be made. As such the information taken from it has to be viewed with a certain level of skepticism. It also has to be noted that Find a Grave is 100% user-generated.

Although many Find a Grave users are diligent genealogists there is always the possibility of error and misunderstanding. It is a common complaint among genealogists that people will create memorials for recently dead individuals that their surviving families find vastly inaccurate information recorded.

The long descriptive stories that are sometimes posted on the memorial pages may or may not be accurate. The family associations may also be incorrect on occasion. The thing to remember is that the people who create the online memorials for each person on Find a Grave have control over them.

Therefore the major drawback of the site is those people who do not do all the research required to confirm what they are posting is accurate. The site may indeed lead you to the burial site of your ancestor but the details listed may not always be accurate.

Is Find a Grave Worth It?

You might think I am saying this is not a good or helpful site but actually far from it. This is an amazing site with a great online community of committed volunteers. If you want to find a grave not already on the site, you can post a request to take a picture.

Volunteers living near where you suspect the grave site to be can choose to take up the challenge. If you want to help you can also volunteer to go and photograph gravestones for others that are near your location.

Essentially Find a Grave is a good site and considering that it is free to use. You cannot go too far wrong, at least, in trying to use it to find the final resting places of your ancestors. As mentioned, however, do not assume everything that the memorial page says is 100% accurate.


Find a Grave is an impressive site and another example of someone’s hobby having become a major business. With millions of gravesites, photographed, researched and GPS located it may well have some information that can help your research.

Always be aware that just like with obituaries, gravestones should be viewed more as a clue than direct evidence of anything. Ensure you confirm any information you find with more credible sources if at all possible.

If you are a person who also likes to help remember that you can also help other Find a Grave users by picking up their requests to get images of their ancestor's grave locations. Find a Grave is a community website which seeks to be as helpful as possible.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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  • "What is Find a Grave?". NameCensus.com. Accessed on May 25, 2024. https://namecensus.com/blog/what-is-find-a-grave/.

  • "What is Find a Grave?". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/blog/what-is-find-a-grave/. Accessed 25 May, 2024

  • What is Find a Grave?. NameCensus.com. Retrieved from https://namecensus.com/blog/what-is-find-a-grave/.