By Dale. E. Lee
A while back I asked a friend who has been heavily involved in doing their own family research to write an article for the Seekerz blog. She declined to do so, saying something about not wanting to write for the public. However, some time afterword I discovered she was releasing names on FamilySearch that happened to be related to me. At the time I didn’t know I was related to her, even distantly. I just knew her through Church.
While letting her know about our distant relationship, she related that she and her siblings had taken several family history vacations to cemeteries in the Eastern part of the US to discover new extended family. That seemed odd, because cemeteries didn’t seem to be something you would start your research with and I told her I was interested in how she did it.
The following is a summary of the techniques she uses:
- Each year she and her siblings visit the counties her ancestors came from.
- They plan the trips and discover the cemeteries they want to visit. Originally they started their trips based on the location of several of their direct line relatives.
- They also looked at neighboring counties because as the kids married, they started spreading out.
- Part of the research was to find the courts and libraries to visit and these they saved for visits on rainy days.
- They take as many photos as they can while there.
- They use the time between visits to organize the materials they discover.
- They upload the new photos to Find A Grave.
- They enter the new names on FamilySearch.
- They search for additional records online (e.g. Obituaries).
When photographing, she warns to:
- Take a picture of the cemetery and a first and last picture of your visit to that cemetery. This reduces confusion on which graves are associated with which cemeteries.
- Take photos of graves not known to be your family, she estimates that only about 50% of the graves in the cemeteries she visits are represented in Find A Grave.
- Take a photo even if a photo already exists in Find A Grave, your photo may be better.
- Take as many photos as possible, this way you don’t miss graves you didn’t know you needed. You can always sort through them when you get back home.
When you are home:
- Work methodically through each cemetery’s pictures.
- Upload the photos to Find A Grave.
- Maintain entries in FamilySearch.
- Find additional sources of information (obituaries, etc.).
- Look up the person in Censuses.
- Look up births, deaths, marriages, etc.
- Add Spouse and Children.
- Add Children’s marriages.
- Make up a To Do list of things you missed and want to do next time.
- If you can’t establish a relationship, add the documentation to FamilySearch and Find A Grave anyway, so others that are related to them can find them.
She has found many of her relatives using the techniques above. Family members tend to be buried in the same cemetery and she has been able to find additional relatives within those cemeteries.
One of the most rewarding things she found is children that were born and died between censuses. Where they could not be found on census records, they were found in cemeteries.
After 7 annual visits, she still has not run out of cemeteries to visit