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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Searching for Graves

Driving across the country, especially in the East and Midwest, I see hundreds of cemeteries. As a genealogist, I wonder if the cemetery records are available and If they are already online in one of the many cemetery websites. I thought it would be an interesting project to see how many of the cemeteries in a county were inventoried online. This might give us all a better understanding of the limitations or advantages of the huge online websites such as

Since I was very recently touring cemeteries in Hancock County, Illinois, I thought this county might serve as a representative. It isn't in the East and it is definitely in the Midwest. For example, I wouldn't be surprised at all of a small cemetery outside a very small town in Arizona was yet to be inventoried, but the Midwest is more settled and I would expect the cemeteries to be better recorded. Let's see how it works.

Hancock County, Illinois has quite a number of cemeteries. Here is a list of the resources that might be searched to find cemetery information:
But how effective are any of these compared to the total number of known cemeteries? The number following the link to the website gives the total number of cemeteries listed on that site. Without doing a spreadsheet, it is impossible to tell the overlap between the various online sources, but you can see that there are some websites that provide a lot more information than others. 

You can find similar records in every county of the United States and many foreign countries. In the United Kingdom, I did find cemetery sites but they were pay-per-record sites. As I kept looking in this particular county, I kept finding more resources. For example, the USGS Geographic Names Information System shows 214 cemeteries by coordinates in Hancock County, Illinois. However, many of the cemetery locations are shown as unknown. When you do a search, you put in just the name of the state and county, but add the Feature Class of Cemetery from the list of features. Some abandoned cemeteries may be on the USGS list because the names and locations are taken from all the old maps.

Don't forget local historical societies, museums, genealogical societies and other organizations that may have cemetery lists that are not yet online. You might also find that asking the sexton of one cemetery if they know the location of any other cemeteries as helpful. It also doesn't hurt to stop and ask in the city, town, village or county offices for information. You can see from the list above that no one website is going to have every cemetery. 

1 comment:

  1. lists 214 in Hancock County, gives GPS co-ordinates and maps (but no readings).