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How to Find a Grave, Cemetery or Death Record

Finding the grave of a loved one can be challenging, especially when families are more spread out across the US today than ever before. If you’re looking for a grave of a family member overseas, then it will likely require even more patience. But with a few tips, you can get started in the next few minutes.

For starters, it will make your research much easier if you know a person’s first name, last name, date of death, and location of death. From there, there are many free online grave and obituary search resources that can help you make it the rest of the way.

How to Find a Death Record

1. Know the person’s full name.

If you’re looking for someone, it’s important to know their basic information. For starters, knowing a loved one’s full name sounds easy enough but can be a challenge. Many immigrants to the United States recount having changed their names accidentally when processing their immigration paperwork or purposefully to get a better chance at getting hired due to historical biases against certain immigrants. If you think you know a person’s full legal name but aren’t sure, start by asking relatives to confirm the information. Look through birth certificates or relevant documents to confirm a full legal name.

2. Find or guess their date of death.

When looking for a death record, it’s important to know a loved one’s date of death. If you don’t know it, start by asking relatives to confirm the information. If they don’t know, consider asking to see any documents they may have that might cite a date of death. It’s useful to know a loved one’s date of birth because it can help you identify a relative range of years in which they lived. If you can guess the relative range of years or decade in which a person passed away, you can try searching national, state, or local city newspaper archives to find an obituary.

3. Find their place of death.

To find where a person resided when they passed away, it’s useful to already have a death certificate. But if you don’t have one handy, you can start by asking relatives to confirm the information. Consider also looking through legal documents, probate records, wills, and trusts. In addition, if you can locate their obituary, the obituary will typically include their place of death.

4. Contact the city or state for a copy of their death certificate.

Once you know the person’s place of death, then you can simply reach out to city or state officials for a copy of their death certificate. If you’re having trouble locating an official or a contact, try searching online for their website – they will usually have a directory for a web page that explains how to request a copy of a death certificate. Keep in mind that you will likely be asked to pay a fee for a copy of the death certificate.

5. Use the internet.

There are many sites that can aide you in your search for someone's death records. Sites like Ancestry.com or Familysearch.org let you enter in the information you have on hand and will perform a search through their database for you. These sites also have guidance on locating death records for individuals who have passed away a long time ago, so it's useful if you're looking for historical information and data.

Now that you’ve discovered the place of death of a loved one and even received a copy of their death certificate, you might be thinking “Hmm, how might I find the cemetery they were buried in?” Or better yet, you might want to find their specific grave so that you can make a visit to pay your respects in person.

How to Find Someone's Cemetery or Specific Grave

1. Check the cemeteries of family members.

It’s often traditional for families to be buried near each other. If you can’t seem to find the grave of a loved one, it might be easiest to talk to family and figure out where any relatives have been buried. In particular, if you know a loved one’s place of death, this can narrow down your search. If you decide to visit a cemetery, consider speaking to a staff member who can provide you with a map or guided instructions to the family grave site.

2. Contact other funeral homes in the area.

If you know the city of death of a loved one but not much more, try calling local funeral homes to track down where someone may be buried. Funeral homes keep extensive records of the deceased and locations where each are buried. In fact, the funeral home might be listed on the obituary itself, but if not then it may be best to research local funeral homes. Start with the better known funeral homes and work your way down the list. When you chat with the funeral home, you can simply ask them if they happen to know the cemetery or burial location of your loved one. Giving them the full name

3. Ask the cemetery for a map and guided instructions.

Once you’ve identified the cemetery in which a loved one is buried, consider asking the cemetery for a map of the burial plots to track down a loved one. Both cemeteries and funeral homes keep death records and records of their burial plots, so it would be easiest to speak to someone in person on location who can help you. Some cemeteries may have a map of their burial plots available online, so it's smart to do a quick Google search for their website before visiting.

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Last updated June 23, 2022
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