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How to Locate a Cemetery

Using Maps & GPS to Track Down Family Cemeteries

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If you have narrowed down the area where your ancestor died, but still aren't sure in which cemetery they are buried, turn to maps and GPS for assistance.

How to Find a Cemetery

  • Begin your search for a cemetery by using land, tax or census records to help you pinpoint your ancestor's land on a map. You will often find them buried in a nearby cemetery, or even in a family cemetery on their own property.

  • Look for maps in old atlases, old or current town or county histories. Maps showing cemeteries can also often be obtained from land surveyor's offices. Topographic maps or locality maps may show cemeteries, roads, houses and farms. Even little details such as elevation features may prove useful, as cemeteries were often erected on high ground.

  • Call or write to funeral homes in the area where your ancestor died and ask for names of cemeteries in the area.

  • Genealogical and historical societies in a community or county will share knowledge of cemeteries in their area.

  • Contact the local courthouse for information on cemeteries and inquire about plat books and deeds that show the owners of cemetery lots. In some states and counties, town clerks are in charge of these records.

  • Visit an online geographic place names database for information on cemeteries. Databases such as the US Geographic Names Information Server (GNIS) allow you to search for features, including cemeteries, within a specific locality (i.e. a search for feature type 'cemetery' in Pitt County, N.C. will bring up a list of known cemeteries within that county). These lists are not usually complete, but provide a good starting point for most larger cemeteries, both active and retired.

Once you've located a few possible cemeteries to search for your ancestors it is time to resort to maps and/or GPS (Global Positioning System) technology to help you find them.

Locate Latitude & Longitude Coordinates for a Cemetery

  • Place name finders, such as the previously mentioned GNIS database, are an excellent source for retrieving latitude and longitude for cemeteries and other named features.

  • Topographic maps can yield details on cemeteries so small they don't have known names - including their precise latitude and longitude. Topozone.com, for example, provides free online access to every USGS 1:100,000, 1:63,360, 1:25,000, and 1:24,000 scale map available for the contiguous United States. The 1:24,000 scale maps are fairly detailed and, if you zoom in on specific locations using the available tools, show locations of thousands of unnamed cemeteries - many so small they only contain a handful of graves. Clicking on any of the outlined cemeteries will provide latitude and longitude coordinates.

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