You may have already spent time visiting the local cemetery to search for family graves. Have you considered the possibility that family members could also be buried in neighboring cemeteries? The following tips will help you to make sure you are not leaving behind their memory.
Cemeteries on private property
Earlier burials often occurred on private property. People who died in the family were once buried on their own land. Search for cemetery surveys or inventories available in books at the local library or genealogical society in the area where your family lived.
Many of the headstones in these cemeteries have deteriorated or no longer exist. The only record of these burials might be found among the earlier documentation on cemeteries. One such cemetery is the Byrd Cemetery located in Greenwood South Carolina. It was once on the plantation of Thomas B. Byrd (1798-1857).
Thomas Byrd was buried on his property, and it later became a pauper cemetery. Today it is almost completely destroyed, and the few headstones that currently exist look like they have been bulldozed. An effort is being made to identify burials that took place at Byrd Cemetery during the time death certificates were being recorded.
Another way to discover whether a cemetery existed on private property is to study the plat map for that property to see if the existence of a cemetery was recorded. Land deeds and wills may also document older cemeteries.
If you know the religious affiliation or church your family attended in earlier days, research to learn if their was a cemetery used by people of that faith or members of a particular church. Search local university libraries for collections documenting the local church. Contact the church to see who kept these records or where they are stored.
Perhaps the church published a history or record of people buried in the church cemetery. If the church no longer exists, or even if they do not have knowledge of any records, check the local library for cemetery books or church histories.
Do not assume that your ancestor always worshiped in a church or worshiped with people who were the same denomination. In former days, people from different faiths shared meeting houses until they build their own place of worship.
When they ran out of room to bury people in the church cemetery, people were buried in public cemeteries. Some former private cemeteries became public cemeteries after no living descendant was available to care for or maintain the private cemetery.
Some public cemeteries were designated places for paupers or impoverished people to be buried. You would not expect to find many headstones in a pauper cemetery.
A couple of unfortunate occurrences with public cemeteries is that because they are not affiliated with a specific church, no one feels charged to maintain them. They are often abandoned and overtaken by overgrowth. Also, they fall victim to new development where they are bulldozed or end up beneath new homes or businesses.
Cemeteries in new boundaries
Keep in mind that some new cemeteries were once in different boundaries before an area was redistricted. Even though a cemetery currently exists in one county, the records to document the cemetery and the people buried there may only exist in the parent county.
Newer books or histories may make mention of a cemetery where it currently exists, however, if you want to locate a deed for a cemetery or records for people interred when the cemetery was part of the parent county, you will need to consult the records in the parent county.
Ask local church members or the older living residents in a community to find out the names of the newer cemeteries being used in an area. Consult the later local city directories to see if people with your surname lived in the area after your ancestor died or moved away.
Search for death certificates to see where they were buried. Check the names of the informants on the death certificates for people you know. If you learn the names of newer cemeteries find out if any of the people buried there have your same surname. Research them to see if they are related.