Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Researching in Cemeteries

It is no secret in my family that I love cemeteries. My husband and children will attest to that. We've actually planned some vacations around cemeteries. Visiting relatives in Missouri was just an excuse for going to MachPelah Cemetery in Lexington, Missouri  and Sunny Slope in Richmond, Missouri to find the ancestral burial plots. And sure, I was sneaky when planning trips to Kings Island, Ohio when the kids were little and planned that side trip to Burlington Cemetery in Burlington, Kentucky to find the burial plot of my great-great-great grandmother Sarah Ann (Kirtley) Percival Webb. Husband and I have made so many trips to Lexington Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky photographing headstones, that he could probably drive there blindfolded. And I am far from done with that cemetery.

Then there are the occasional trips to Mount Olivet in Detroit to find the odd plot here and there. Last summer, when stopping at our favorite coffee supplier in Madison Heights, I asked Husband, how far are we from Mount Olivet Cemetery? Can we make a quick trip there, I want to see if my mom's uncle John Ochsenfeld was buried there? 

Funny. We hadn't been there since the mid 1990's probably before I went back to work, and discovered McNichols was closed there. Finally, circling the perimeter we found the way into the cemetery and were able to discover the plot and headstones of John Ochsenfeld and his first wife, Selena Warmuskerken Ochsenfeld. My mother's aunt, Rose Zimmeth, was married to John and they basically raised my mother before and after the death of her mother and abandonment by her father when mom was 7, her brother 9 and sister 6.

But what do you do when you live in Michigan and the cemetery is in California; or you live in Tennessee and the cemetery is in Philadelphia?

First, check Findagrave.com for burials. The link here takes you directly to the search page. Many, many people have contributed to this site, not only information, but cemetery photos, headstone photos, personal photos, obituaries, death certificates, etc. Please remember to source these and if you are going to use the linked images, get permission. Another good site, I am told, is interment.net. Unfortunately, I never have luck with this site.

Second, if the cemetery in question is across the country, consider looking for a researcher to get the records for you. I did this in the case of a branch of the Percival family in California. The family was that of my great-great grandfather John Percival's brother, Jabez. It was worth the cost to me, because I know there isn't any chance of me traveling to Los Angeles.

Third, check to see if the cemetery has an online presence. One I found is Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can submit queries, and they will respond. I submitted a query last year and they not only sent me a copy of the burial record, but 8 x 10 glossy photos of the burial blot and each stone in it. I gladly sent a donation to the Friends of Laurel Hill. Or there is Lexington Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky which has their burial records online. Another of my favorites is Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio. Clicking on the record number will get you a .pdf of the burial record. Some of the information that may be included are parents, plot owner, sometimes the cause of death. Another favorite is Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. Their twist to the index is that you can also find the section and plot on a .pdf map. Friend/Cousin Karen has used this also in preparation for a trip there last year. Husband doesn't know yet, but that is the next cemetery project.

Fourth, if you have a veteran, don't forget to check the Nationwide Gravesite Locator. This site is maintained by the US Department of Veterans Affairs and lists burials in National Cemeteries.

I found the cemeteries by simple searches of google. If they have a web presence, you will find them. Even if they don't have a web presence, you can sometimes find SKS who will get the information for you for either a small fee or for free or in exchange.

Happy digging!

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