Locating a Cemetery Plot
Many states keep records concerning municipal cemeteries and the deeds to cemetery plots. These records can help you locate a cemetery plot of a long deceased ancestor or person you are trying to find. Additionally when locating a cemetery plot you may find an interment register which may also contain useful information about locating the original cemetery plot.
Some cemetery’s do not sale the actual deed and thus do not properly record the location of the cemetery plot. In these cases the sexton or caretaker of the cemetery may be contacted and asked for the location of the cemetery plot.
The locations of cemetery plots are often known by locals, cemetery plot monument setters, or cemetery sextons. To find the location of very old unmarked cemetery plots many sextons have an unusual tool at their disposal called a dowsing rod(s). Usually coming in pairs and made out of wire or willow sticks these rods can accurately detect the location of a cemetery plot. One rod is held loosely in each hand and when the edge of the cemetery plot is reached –even in an unmarked location – the dowsing rods cross. In this way the location of the cemetery plot is revealed and can be marked so that graves near it are still the correct distance away.
No one knows why dowsing rods help detect the location of cemetery plots but it is thought that perhaps the decay or debris left behind causes the magnetic field to vary. Some believe it is the spirit of the dead person themselves that the dowsing rods detect. For most sextons it is simply a useful tool to discern the location of a cemetery plot.
Local funeral homes, churches, libraries and city buildings are useful resources for finding cemetery plots. Sometimes it is hard to locate a cemetery plot if you live in another city or state.
Some cemeteries have locations of cemetery plots online. My friend doing some genealogy was looking online for her great grandmother who she was named after. The location of the cemetery plot was unknown. She did not even know which state the cemetery plot was located in. After a brief internet search using Google she found the location of the cemetery plot and even a photo of the marker! Oddly enough the grave had been recently decorated – did other people remember her great grandmother? The Internet is an invaluable tool to locate cemetery plots and even to get started in genealogical research.
Since 1995 there has been a boom in genealogical research a large part of which is locating cemetery plots. Some cemetery plots were moved due to construction, large projects such as the creation of lakes and the damming of rivers making them harder to locate. Without the Internet as a resource many families would never know the location of historical cemetery plots.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has an online tool for locating cemetery plots of Veterans (USA). Grave locator This tool only locates the cemetery plots of veterans buried in VA National Cemeteries, state cemeteries and other military cemeteries.
Visiting interesting locations for cemetery plots is not hard. Many old family cemetery plots and those in very historical areas dot rural areas all over the country. Finding the location of civil war cemetery plots and visiting old grave sites is a way to connect to history and imagine the man who lived in the 1860’s and what life was like. Locating cemetery plots of young children is not hard, in the past infant and child mortality took a gruesome toll. At one point almost half of all children born died prior to reaching adulthood.
Visiting the locations of cemetery plots in any cemetery can leave a person in contemplation about how short life is and to meditate over how we spend our time here and what we leave behind. We can consider how the past was and imagine the future. Enjoying the peace in the cemetery and locating cemetery plots of those who came before us is an important way to connect the past with the present and consider each day a gift.