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How Do I Find Out What Cemetery Someone is Buried in?

Finding out what cemetery someone is buried in involves pursuing various avenues...

Ask Surviving Family Members & Friends

People closest to the deceased usually have the best information. If none of them know what cemetery the deceased was buried in, or what became of the body, they will usually have vital information that will help you research. Among them are the Date of Death, Place of Death, Place of Residence, Names of other Friends and Associates.

If You Know the Place of Residence

You can always call every cemetery in town. To locate every cemetery in town, you can call up just about any funeral home in town. Funeral homes keep records as well; you can also ask them if they administered the burial.

Contact the County's office of vital records, this is usually the County Recorder, but can also be the County Court. If the deceased died at home, or at a local hospital or other healthcare facility, the County will have a death record on file. The death record may not have the name of cemetery, or disposition, but will have the date of death, which will be useful when contacting funeral homes and looking up obituaries.

If the Deceased Had No Immediate Family

All counties have a "Public Administrator" or "Department of Public Assistance" whose job is to settle the estate of deceased persons who have no surviving family, or who don't have anyone to claim their bodies. The Public Administrator is also responsible for handling the disposition of bodies.

Larger cities typically have their own Public Administrator, while smaller cities use the County's Public Administrator. Sometimes the Pubic Administrator has its own separate office, while in other cases they are part of the County Coroner.

Every County has a cemetery they use to dispose of unclaimed bodies. Larger cities will have their own cemeteries. Often times, counties and cities contract with private cemeteries to receive unclaimed bodies.

Looking up Newspaper Obituaries

This can be helpful if you know the deceased's date of death and place of death. Obituaries almost always note the intended place of burial. Note that obituaries are only published when surviving family or friends submit an obituary to a newspaper. If no obituary was submitted, then no obituary gets published.

Obituaries published since 2010 usually are published on the Internet through the newspaper's website. You can often just run an Internet search for the person's name and the word, "obituary" plus the location. For example, "john smith obituary oklahoma". If the results are too several, then try adding the name of the town they lived in. For example, "john smith obitiary tulsa oklahoma".

For older obituaries, you may have to pay to use an online service. Services like GenealogyBank and NewspaperArchives have large holdings of newspapers that go back into the 1600s. The Library of Congress offers a free service of old newspaper archives, but is very limited in geographic regions.

If You Know the Deceased's Religion

Catholics typically prefer burial in a Catholic cemetery. Jews also prefer burial in a Jewish cemetery. If the deceased was associated with one of these religions, there's a stronger chance that their burial was administered through the local Catholic church or Jewish Synagogue.

If the Deceased Was a Veteran

Veterans do a pretty good job of taking care of their own. If a deceased was a veteran, and was in the care of a hospital or convalescent home at the time of death, it's almost guaranteed the facility knew that person was a veteran, assuming that veteran carried a veteran's ID card on them. In that case, the deceased's body would have been interred at a State Veterans Cemetery or National Cemetery.

You can search all veterans cemeteries here.

If the veteran died while fighting in war, in another country, the branch of Military that person was in has jurisdiction over the body, and will attempt to contact that person's family, and ultimately transfer the body to them.


If the Person Died in Prison

In the old days, prisons had their own cemeteries and conducted their own burials. Today, the disposition of deceased prisoners usually falls to Coroner in the county where the prison is located. If the deceased has "Next of Kin" on file, that person will ultimately receive the body and determine where to bury or cremate it.

If the deceased has no next of kin, the County Coroner will determine how to dispose of the body. Usually, that gets transferred to the Public Administrator or Department of Public Assistance, and usually that means it gets handled by a funeral home that contracts with the County.

You will have to contact the Coroner or Public Administrator to find out what happened.

Did They Donate Their Body to Science?

There are dozens of organizations who act as organ donation agents for people who want to donate their body or organs. All of these agents add your profile to a national registry. When someone dies, the hospital or coroner looks up the registry to see if they are on it, and notifies the organ donation agent to take over.

If someone opted to donate only specific organs, the rest of their body is transferred to surviving family members to finalize disposition. If there is no surviving family, the Public Administrator takes over (see above).

If someone opted for Whole Body donation, then obviously there is no cemetery burial. You will need to contact the surviving family to find out if this is case, or the local Coroner that handled the disposition.

The national donation registry is private, thus you cannot look up to see who was on it.

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