As family historians, we always come across those ancestors that died in places far from home. We wish we could just hop on a plane and visit our ancestors’ distant burial grounds, but unfortunately, that dream is often out of reach. Luckily, Find A Grave lets you visit your family cemeteries “virtually,” and is a true treasure trove of genealogical information! In this article, you’ll learn more about Find A Grave, how you can use it, and how you can contribute information!
What is Find a Grave?
Find A Grave is a free genealogy website with an online database of cemeteries, burial data, obituaries, and other “final disposition information.” It is the home of the largest “graving community” in the world. Find A Grave’s goal is to “help people from all over the world work together to find, record and present information as a virtual cemetery experience.” Find A Grave includes information for deceased ancestors and cemeteries from all over the world.
Find A Grave includes information pages for individual cemeteries that can include photos, driving directions, and maps. Each person added to the Find A Grave database will have a “memorial” page that can include photos of the individual, record images, obituary information, tombstone photos, links to other family members’ memorials, and sometimes even their exact burial location within the cemetery. Visitors can leave virtual “flowers” on a memorial page in remembrance of an ancestor. Find A Grave also encourages the genealogical community to contribute to the site by adding new memorials, updating current memorials, and adding photos and burial information from their local cemeteries. Find A Grave can also be an excellent resource for locating obituary information, as many members will add newspaper clippings or transcribe obituary information to memorial pages.
Who owns Find A Grave?
Find A Grave was founded in 1995 by Jim Tipton, who wanted to build a website “to share his hobby of visiting the graves of famous people.” The site became so popular that he began allowing visitors to contribute memorials for any individuals, famous or not. Find A Grave continued to grow, and in 2013, the site was taken over by Ancestry, becoming one of its subsidiary websites. Ancestry helped to develop a Find A Grave phone app for Apple and Android, and the Find A Grave website was redesigned in 2018.
Is Find A Grave free to use?
Yes it is! There is no cost to view memorial information or access the website’s features. Even though Find A Grave is part of the Ancestry suite of websites, you do not need to have an Ancestry account in order to access Find A Grave. You must create a free Find A Grave user account if you would like to create memorials, submit changes to existing memorials, or volunteer to gather information for others.
How to use Find a Grave
There are two ways to begin a search on Find A Grave- by cemetery, or by a particular individual/memorial.
Search by cemetery
Find a Grave contains information for over 500,000 cemeteries in 244 different countries! Chances are you will find the cemetery you are looking for. Begin your search by either entering the cemetery name and location (by city, county, state, or country), or you can browse cemeteries by location. The cemetery search page also includes a map that pinpoints cemeteries near you. You can click on these markers to see more info about your local gravesites. Once you locate a cemetery, you can then search for individuals buried there.
Search by memorial
This is a great option if you don’t know exactly where an ancestor is buried. Enter as much information as you know for the person’s name, years born and/or died, and possible burial location. If the first search does not turn up any results, try adding or omitting info from your search to expand your search hits. You can also search with other criteria by clicking on “More search options.” This will allow you to filter search results by memorial types, memorials with or without particular information, and narrow down name options (include nicknames, exact spellings, similar spellings, etc.). You can also search with a spouse, child, parent or sibling’s name by expanding the search options.
Find A Grave also provides “search tips” on the memorial search page. You can utilize “wildcards” to search for various spelling of names. Find A Grave also suggests searching with a birth/death date range and utilizing family members’ names, when there is not a lot of information known about the deceased. Find A Grave also has a Support Center page where you can get answers to common questions, learn how to manage your own memorials, how to contribute, and how to use the other features, tools, and the mobile app.
How To Contribute to Find A Grave
Contributing to Find A Grave is a great way to volunteer and help others! There are several ways you can help (you will need to create a free Find A Grave account in order to contribute).
- Add new memorials– Find A Grave will try to cross-check your information to avoid duplicating existing memorials.
- Add a new cemetery
- Upload photos to existing memorials or cemeteries
- Suggest edits/updates to existing memorials
- Transcribe photos- Find A Grave will provide a photo of a headstone, taken by another member, and ask you to transcribe what is written.
- Fulfill photo requests– many memorials do not have photos, as they were created by family historians who did not live near their ancestor’s burial place. You can help your fellow genealogists by offering to take photos of requested memorials at cemeteries near you, and uploading them to individual memorial pages.
- If you have multiple burials to add to a cemetery, Find A Grave will even let you upload a spreadsheet (various formats accepted) of names to be added to that cemetery. You can review and edit before completing the memorials.
Find A Grave has other interesting and fun features, including-
- Famous people- Learn where George Washington, William Shakespeare, Walt Disney, and many others are buried! You can search by name, location, newest listings, or “Claim to Fame.” There are other search features for Famous memorials, including:
- Born/Died on this date- Search for famous people that were born or died on a particular date
- Yearly Necrologies- Search for famous individuals who died in a particular year
- Posthumous Reunions- Choose an historic event to view memorials of the people involved
- Interesting Monuments- Check out interesting monuments from cemeteries all over the world
- Interesting Epitaphs- View inspiring, amusing and perplexing epitaphs from gravestones of the famous and not-so-famous!
How reliable is Find A Grave?
It is important to remember that Find A Grave is open to any who wish to contribute, including professional genealogists and hobbyists alike. While many people enter information from sources that are considered “reliable,” such as published obituaries and death certificates, others may be entering information from an old and unproven family tree. Additionally, information engraved on tombstones is sometimes “second hand,” and may not be entirely accurate. When using Find A Grave, family historians should always analyze the information provided and compare it with other verified information on their family tree. Luckily, if you discover that the information in Find A Grave is incorrect, you can submit corrections to help future genealogists.
Is Find A Grave safe?
Find A Grave is safe to use- but users should never post any information about living people. If a user comes across the memorial of a family member that was created by someone else, they can request the memorial be “transferred” into their care- in other words, the rights to edit the memorial will be given to the descendant. Users can also request that a memorial be deleted, if they are uncomfortable with their loved one being added to the website. Find A Grave tries to respect privacy concerns, but it is a massive website with millions of memorials, and they must rely on users to report any issues. You can learn more on Find A Grave’s Community Rules page.
Find A Grave can be a great research resource, and a great way for family historians to “give back” to the genealogy community!