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Resources for finding a "lost burial"

The most popular resources that will give you the best clues on finding out where a decedent is interred are listed below:

Recommended Reading
coverLocating Lost Family Members & Friends : Modern Genealogical Research Techniques for Locating the People of Your Past and Present

Obituaries

Obituaries will often indicate the burial location.  If you know the city or local area of where the person died, and date of death, obtain the newspaper of that area, for that date, and look up the obituary.  Newspapers will publish an obituary as soon as someone submits one.   Therefore, when searching for an obituary, check all editions of the newspaper following the next seven days from the date of death.

Several newspapers and libraries have now published obituary databases on their websites for free access.  There are several Internet directories of these websites.   Refer to the Obituary Database Links for a list of these sites.

Most public libraries in medium to large cities will obtain books and microfilms of newspapers from libraries in other cities through the inter-library loan system.  Some libraries will search for the library that has the material, or, you may have to locate the library yourself.  Visit your local public library and speak to the reference librarian on how to obtain old newspapers.  For newspapers that are no longer in circulation, the state genealogical or historical society will often have microfilms that are available through inter-library loan.  Society Hill has a remarkable directory of addresses and websites to societies across the world.

Social Security Death Index

The Social Security Administration publishes a database of SSA registrants who have died since the 20th century.  The database will provide the date of death, and the zip code of where the registrant was residing at the time of death.  The database can be queried either by name or social security number.  The main reason for using the Social Security Death Index is to find the date of death, so as to obtain a death certificate or finding the obituary.

Visit "Social Security Death Index icon" at Footnote to search records.

Death Certificates

Obtaining a decedent's death certificate will indicate the place of death.  Often, it will also include the place of birth, date of birth, and even the names of parents.  The catch is, however, you need to have the exact date of death to begin with in order to obtain a death certificate.   You may or may not need to have the county of where the death was recorded.

Death certificates are issued by the county or state of where the death was recorded.   Requesting certificates from the state will always require both the date and place of death.  Requesting certificates from the county, will only require the date of death.  Small, rural counties, will often require only the decedent's name, as there are fewer names to sort through.

A good website for getting instructions on how to obtain death certificates from state and county offices is the RecordsRoom [http://www.daddezio.com/records/room/index.html].

Cemetery Offices and Societies

Cemetery Offices

Each active cemetery has an office that maintain records of who is interred at the cemetery and who was moved from that cemetery to another.  The offices are always more than happy to look up a name in their records, free of charge.  Often, they will mail or fax you copies of the burial records, and may even supply a map pinpointing the exact location.   Public cemeteries are operated by the "cemetery district" responsible for a defined geographic area.

Funeral.com [http://www.funeral.com/cemetery_listings/] has a directory of active cemeteries in the United States with addresses and phone numbers.  They are also developing a similar list worldwide.

Klaus Medeke has an excellent Internet directory [http://www.totentanz.de/] of cemetery web pages.

Websites for cemetery districts can usually be found by running a search for "cemetery district" on any popular Internet Search Engine.

Cemetery Societies

A Cemetery society is a group of people who take interest in a particular cemetery and volunteer their services.  Often, the cemetery is inactive, and has no other means of maintenance.  Some societies take interest in a historic cemetery already under the management of a government agency.  These societies record the history of the cemeteries and have usually taken an inventory of all burials.

Only a handful of societies have its own website.  Most, if not all, societies are operated out of someone's home.  Local genealogical societies are usually aware of these societies and know how to contact them.

Funeral Homes

Also referred to as "mortuaries", funeral homes provide funeral services.   Funeral homes are often happy to look up the name of a decedent to tell you if they handled the funeral service, and can often tell you where the decedent is interred.

FuneralNet [http://www.funeralnet.com/] is perhaps the best Internet resource of locating addresses and phone numbers to funeral homes throughout the United States and Canada.

Another way to look up funeral homes on the Internet is by using an Internet yellow-pages.  You can select a state, and search on "funeral".  The following Internet yellow-pages are excellent resources:

Coroner's Office

The local coroner investigates all unnatural deaths or deaths of an undetermined nature.  The coroner will record the date of death, cause of death, who, if any, came to claim the body, and to where the body was shipped.  If no one comes to claim the body, the coroner will ship the body to the Public Administrator, who will handle the decedent's estate.  You can contact the coroner to get the cause of death and to where the body was shipped.

In the United States, the coroner's office is a county office.  If you know where the decedent died, determine the county of where death took place.  The phone number to the coroner can be referenced in the phone book.

The Homeless and Missing Persons Project has a directory of county coroner's offices in the United States.

Some coroners have published databases and lists of unclaimed and/or unidentified bodies.  Visit "Unidentified and Unclaimed Bodies" on this website for a directory of these sites.

Public Administrators

In the United States, the Public Administrator is a county office that handles a decedent's estate if no next-of-kin can be located.  The PA will try to settle the decedent's debts, carry out any of the wishes of the decedent, and arrange for the burial or cremation.  Burial or cremation is paid for out of the decedent's estate.  The body is often shipped to a funeral home for burial at a public cemetery.

Contact the Public Administrator to determine where the body was shipped to or interred.  The PA office may be a self-standing office, or may be combined into the County Circuit Court.  In some rural areas, one PA office will serve several counties.

Post a Query

Posting a query will tap the resources of millions of people around the world. A "query" is a request for help. It usually consists of a brief message describing what you need help on, one or two associated surnames, and your contact info.

Queries have historically been submitted to magazines and journals. But these days, queries are even more effective when published on the Internet.

CousinConnect.com is an Internet database of genealogical queries, where people post their queries in hopes of gaining contact with others who have information that can help them.

 

 

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