RESEARCHING CEMETERY RECORDS
Tewksbury Public Library
RECORDS OF DEATH

Autopsy records

Bible records

Bodies in transit

Burial permits

Wills, administrations, and probate

...
Autopsy Records
• Modern death certificates may include information

as to whether or not an autopsy was done.

• In order...
Bible Records
• It is rare that a family Bible will include a place of

burial, but they most often include a place of dea...
Body in Transit/Burial Permits
• Permits are needed when relocating or burying a

body.

• Records for transportation and ...
Coroners’ records
• If a death occurred as a result of uncertain or

unusual circumstances then a coroners' report may
be ...
Death Certificates/Death Registers
• Death certificates are statewide official documents

that record people’s deaths.
The...
Funeral, Memorial, and Prayer Cards
• Funeral and memorial cards became popular in the

1880s.
• Currently they are most o...
Funeral Home Records
• Funeral home records are private so the content and

accessibility will vary greatly.

• Guides for...
Institutional Records
• Institutions can include; hospitals, sanitariums,

asylums, almshouses, and prisons.
• Many of the...
Monument Makers’ Records
• These would be private business records.
• A New England resource could be Harriette Merrifield...
Mortality Schedules
• These are supplements to the federal census for the

years 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 (though ...
Necrologies
• If your family member belonged to a organization,

society, church union or other group there may be a
listi...
Obituaries and Death Notices
• Not everyone has an obituary or death notice

published in a local paper.
• They vary great...
Social Security Death Index
• The Death Master File (DMF) from the Social Security

Administration (SSA) currently contain...
Wills, Administrations, and Probate
• These records will give a place of death, but not a

time of death.
• Sometimes they...
LOCATING CEMETERIES AND
GRAVES
Locating Cemeteries
• Regional guides such as “Massachusetts
•
•
•
•
•
•

Cemeteries” by David Lambert.
Find A Grave websi...
Veterans Cemeteries
• Most soldiers during the Civil War and wars previous

to that were buried where the death occurred.
...
Cemeteries Online
• Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com/) is one

•
•
•
•

of the most popular, but there are other ex...
Planning Your Visit
• Spring and Fall are the best times to visit a cemetery
•
•
•
•
•

(especially if it is neglected and...
Resources Used
• Carmack, Sharon DeBartolo. Your Guide to Cemetery

•
•
•

•
•

•

Research. Cincinnati, Ohio: Betterway B...
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Researching cemetery records

  1. 1. RESEARCHING CEMETERY RECORDS Tewksbury Public Library
  2. 2. RECORDS OF DEATH Autopsy records Bible records Bodies in transit Burial permits Wills, administrations, and probate Coroners’ records Death certificates Death registers Funeral, memorial, and prayer cards Funeral home records Institutional records Mortality schedules Monument makers’ records Necrologies Obituaries and death notices Social Security Death Index
  3. 3. Autopsy Records • Modern death certificates may include information as to whether or not an autopsy was done. • In order to access these records you must be able to prove that you are next of kin. • Autopsies are usually performed when the cause of death is uncertain, questionable or suspicious.
  4. 4. Bible Records • It is rare that a family Bible will include a place of burial, but they most often include a place of death. • If you are uncertain if a family Bible exists: - Ask your relatives, even the far reaching ones. - Check the internet • http://www.biblerecords.com/ • http://www.cyndislist.com/bibles • http://www.loc.gov/coll/nucmc/
  5. 5. Body in Transit/Burial Permits • Permits are needed when relocating or burying a body. • Records for transportation and burial are more common in the 20th century. • For deaths at sea, information was sometimes recorded in passenger lists. They are listed sometimes next to the original record or on the last page.
  6. 6. Coroners’ records • If a death occurred as a result of uncertain or unusual circumstances then a coroners' report may be available. • Coroner and medical examiner files are available to the legal next of kin and those with written permission from the next of kin from the Office of Chief Medical Examiner.
  7. 7. Death Certificates/Death Registers • Death certificates are statewide official documents that record people’s deaths. The states began collecting this information in different years. Massachusetts started in 1841. • The more recent the death certificate, the more information it is likely to contain. • Some cities, towns, and counties kept death registers, which might predate statewide registration.
  8. 8. Funeral, Memorial, and Prayer Cards • Funeral and memorial cards became popular in the 1880s. • Currently they are most often issued by the funeral home or church. Image taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/newmund ane/6248260023/sizes/m/in/photostream / on 10/21/13
  9. 9. Funeral Home Records • Funeral home records are private so the content and accessibility will vary greatly. • Guides for locating funeral homes “American Blue Book of Funeral Directors” “The National Yellow Book of Funeral Directors” “The Red Book” http://www.funeralnet.com/index.php • Other sources National Funeral Directors Association Cremation Association of North America Jewish Funeral Directors of America
  10. 10. Institutional Records • Institutions can include; hospitals, sanitariums, asylums, almshouses, and prisons. • Many of these institutions keep records, but the more recent records may be restricted by privacy laws.
  11. 11. Monument Makers’ Records • These would be private business records. • A New England resource could be Harriette Merrifield Forbes’s “Gravestones of Early New England and the Men Who Made Them, 1653-1800”.
  12. 12. Mortality Schedules • These are supplements to the federal census for the years 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 (though the only state that still has copies of the 1900 census is Minnesota).
  13. 13. Necrologies • If your family member belonged to a organization, society, church union or other group there may be a listing of the recently deceased. • These listings often appear in the organizations publications.
  14. 14. Obituaries and Death Notices • Not everyone has an obituary or death notice published in a local paper. • They vary greatly in the amount of information provided. • Some are written by family/friends of the deceased others are written by newspaper staff with information provided by the funeral home. • If someone died in an accident or unusual death, also look for a news article. • Obituaries and death notices can be found more frequently online, but most are found through the local papers at local libraries.
  15. 15. Social Security Death Index • The Death Master File (DMF) from the Social Security Administration (SSA) currently contains over 89 million records and is updated weekly. • Family Search and Ancestry.com have SSDI records.
  16. 16. Wills, Administrations, and Probate • These records will give a place of death, but not a time of death. • Sometimes they will mention a funeral home that expenses should be paid. • These records can be found in county courthouses.
  17. 17. LOCATING CEMETERIES AND GRAVES
  18. 18. Locating Cemeteries • Regional guides such as “Massachusetts • • • • • • Cemeteries” by David Lambert. Find A Grave website (http://www.findagrave.com/) City Directories (for names of cemeteries, funeral homes and monument makers) Cemetery deeds Cemetery plant maps Cemetery transcriptions Town Hall – cemetery commissions
  19. 19. Veterans Cemeteries • Most soldiers during the Civil War and wars previous to that were buried where the death occurred. • It was on July 17 1862 that fourteen national cemeteries were established. Army crews sought out the remains of Union soldiers to have them reburied in the national cemeteries. Nearly half were not found. Confederate soldiers buried in national cemeteries were those that died in Union prison camps. • There are now 131 national cemeteries in the United States. For a list and more information visit http://www.cem.va.gov/
  20. 20. Cemeteries Online • Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com/) is one • • • • of the most popular, but there are other excellent sites. African American Cemeteries Online (http://africanamericancemeteries.com/) Funeral Net (http://www.funeralnet.com/index.php) Internment.net (http://www.interment.net/) BillionGraves (http://www.billiongraves.com/)
  21. 21. Planning Your Visit • Spring and Fall are the best times to visit a cemetery • • • • • (especially if it is neglected and overgrown). Wear long pants, a long sleeve shirt, sturdy shoes and gloves. Bring paper, several pencils, and a camera. Write down names, dates, and inscriptions exactly as they appear on the stone. Sketch any symbols. Make a note of the physical relationship between tombstones. Nearby graves could provide additional information.
  22. 22. Resources Used • Carmack, Sharon DeBartolo. Your Guide to Cemetery • • • • • • Research. Cincinnati, Ohio: Betterway Books, 2002. Family Search Cemetery Wiki. http://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Cemeteries Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/ Gilson, Thomas E. Carved In Stone: The Artistry of Early New England Gravestones. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2012 Kull, Andrew. New England Cemeteries: A Collector’s Guide. Brattleboror, Vt.: Greene Press, 1975 Rogak, Lisa. Stones and Bones of New England: A Guide to Unusual, Historic, and Otherwise Notable Cemeteries. Guilford, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press, 2004 Yalom, Marilyn. The American Resting Place. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2008
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