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Monday, July 18, 2016

What Can You Discover at the Cemetery?

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Graves of Burwell and Massey Henderson Chick at Springwood Cemetery, Greenville, SC
Robin Foster, 2012

If you have never walked a cemetery, you may be wondering why genealogists place so much emphasis on it. Those who have had experience firsthand in researching the cemetery where their ancestor was buried know that you can find important clues and information that provide links to more discoveries.

Plan ahead
Some cemeteries, like Springwood Cemetery in Greenville, South Carolina are bigger than you can search in one day without the help of those on site:
"Before visiting the cemetery, you'll want to contact the cemetery's superintendent's or sexton's office by phone, letter, or email. They should be able to let you know exactly where your ancestor is buried. Try to get as much information from the office as possible, as their burial records often contain information such as the date of burial, cause of death, the name of the owner of the plot, and lots of other goodies. While you're at it, be sure to ask them the days and times that the cemetery is open for visitors, as you don't want to travel a long distance only to find the cemetery closed." See "Digging Into Cemetery Research."
So what are some of the things that make cemetery research so fascinating? To know walk the final resting place of an ancestor puts you that much closer to them no matter how long it has been since they passed away. Often family groups who appeared on the census together are buried alongside each other.

People who did not appear on the census
Cemetery findings can open up a door to the past and help you to clarify the things you may have already surmised. You can make discoveries about people related to you that did not appear on the census.

You can search death the certificates of those you find to compare names and dates on headstones. It is possible to go back further if information about your ancestor’s parent was shared on the death certificate. Sometimes you may find the grave of a family member who died before death certificates were issued.

Different dates and names
You may become more confused in the cemetery too. The names and dates on the headstones may be different or inaccurate. You then must look for other sources to confirm your findings, but by all means preserve each detail you find for the next generation.

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