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:
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.
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
" at Footnote to
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
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.
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
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.
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.
is perhaps the best Internet resource of locating addresses and
phone numbers to funeral homes throughout the United States and
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:
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Sponsored Genealogy Links