San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Digging for Roots Online: Cemeteries and Tombstones

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

At the July Society meeting we had an interesting program, "Care and reading of old tombstones" by Martha Wallace, and it reminded me of the many places on the Web where I’ve recently seen information about genealogy and cemeteries. To supplement Ms. Wallace’s talk, let me add a few places to “dig for roots” (but not literally, please!)

Usually the first place I start when I’m thinking about specific genealogy topics is the Family HistoryResearchWiki. I typed “cemeteries” in the “Search by place or topic” box and the first entry was “Cemeteries”.

I clicked on the link and got a wonderful page on cemeteries that listed various ways to find cemeteries and links to other websites.

Further searching on the Wiki led me to a page on UnitedStates, Tombstone and Sexton  records:

Next I searched the FamilySearch Learning Center for “Cemetery” and got 9 video or slides on topics such as: episodes of the TV show Ancestors; “Researching Funeral Homes, Gravesites and Cemetery Records”; “Cemetery Art”; and “Messages From the Grave: Listening to Your Ancestor’s Tombstone”!

Now I went to and searched their Wiki for “cemetery records” and got this article from “The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy”:

Next I used my third favorite Web site, to search for CemeteryRecords”:

In addition there were links to: “Tiptoeing Through the Graveyard”, “How to Do a Tombstone Rubbing”, Tips for Taking Great Cemetery Pictures” (and yes, they recommend a mirror as mentioned by Ms. Wallace),  and other topics including a link to “The LimitedEncyclopedia of Grave Terminology ”.

The fourth place I go to is the “GeneaBloggers” site by Thomas MacEntee, where one can search almost 3,000 genealogy blogs.

Here I found something I hadn’t even thought about (and have probably broken the law doing!)--an article on the “Legal Genealogist” site by Judy Russell, called “Cemetery Photos-Permission Required?"

Another listing was “Cemeteries and Cemetery Symbols” by Joe Beine.

On another of Thomas MacEntee’s sites, “Blogtalkradio” there is a program called “Bring Out Your Dead! Cemeteries and Genealogy 

And, of course, we can’t forget the fine articles on our very own Blog on San Mateo County Cemeteries by the very knowledgeable Cath Madden Trindle!

There is a site on the MyHeritage genealogy blog called Cemeteries: Gravestonesymbols.

On the blog (yes, they have a free-to-read-blog too) there is an informative article for newbie cemetery genealogists called CemeteryEtiquette: What you Need to Know for that Cemetery Trip.

On a personal note, a few years ago I found, in a used book store, the book Storiesin Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography that is both visually attractive and fun to read. (Note: the link is to the site but the book is available elsewhere. When you look at the prices don’t hate me for paying only $2.00 for my used copy!)

And finally there was recently a news article about a person who did awful damage to many tombstones so they could photograph them for Find-A-Grave (which had no responsibility for this person’s actions). I think it illustrates perfectly what Ms. Wallace told us.

Cemeteries can give us more information about our ancestors and have broken many a genealogical brick wall.

Remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen says,

“Life is short; do genealogy first!"

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