Previously we talked about taking family history day trips, and how they can be good family-friendly events. But what if you’re still looking for ideas? Here’s a simple one you can do no matter where you live: visit a cemetery.
Why visit a cemetery? Here are two good reasons, whether or not your ancestors are buried there:
Visit a Cemetery for Your Own Research
Perhaps the most obvious reason to visit a cemetery is to visit the graves of your own ancestors.
This might mean visiting recently-departed relatives like a parent or grandparent. Or, if your family has been in the same location for generations, you might be able to visit more distant relatives in their final resting place.
Why do this for genealogical research though? What can you learn?
- verify birth and death dates of ancestors;
- confirm your ancestors died, and are buried, where you believe from past research;
- identify other family members.
That last point is key. Even if your research focuses on direct ancestors, sometimes tracing your lineage will lead you to a brick wall. And that’s when aunts, uncles, and cousins can come in handy.
For example, let’s say you can’t find information about your great-great-grandfather in public records. By visiting a cemetery where numerous family members were buried, you might identify a sibling of theirs who happens to be easier to trace. This could lead you to parents’ names and much more.
How You Can Help Others by Visiting Local Cemeteries
You shouldn’t only visit a cemetery for your own research though. Consider stopping by a local cemetery whether or not you have ancestors there.
You can photograph and document gravestones by uploading information to a gravestone database like FindAGrave.com.
This can help others with their family history research if they don’t live locally and can’t visit your local cemetery themselves.
While you’re at it, see if anyone’s done the same for cemeteries you can’t personally visit (or at least not now). With the help of other amateur genealogists, you might be able to track down new leads in cemeteries halfway around the world.
Whether you’re looking for new leads yourself or you want a way to give back to the genealogy community, take a few hours to visit a cemetery. And if you’re able, photograph some gravestones and upload them to help more distant researchers trace their roots to your own backyard.