Finding a loved one’s or ancestor’s grave is a wonderful way to connect your present life to your family history. Not only can this activity provide a sense of closure and fulfillment, but it can also help you feel connected to your family in a deeper way.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Georgia?
- Georgia-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
- Steps for Finding a Grave in Georgia for Free
Thanks to the growing popularity of ancestry research, there are numerous resources that can help you search for the grave of your loved one. We hope these tips, tricks, and steps will provide you with the information you need for a successful search.
What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Georgia?
The most important step to take before beginning your search is collecting information to make your search easier. Most databases have basic and advanced search options, allowing you to narrow your search to a specific person, county, or cemetery.
The more information you have related to the grave you’re trying to find, the better. However, even if you only have basic pieces of information, you’ll still have a starting point for your search.
So, what information do you need to make your search a successful one? You’ll want to gather the person’s:
- First, middle, and last name
- Maiden name (if applicable)
- Alternate spellings
- Spouse(s)’ first, middle, and last name
- Names of children
- Date of birth
- Date of death
- County where they died
You may not have all the pieces of information listed here, and that’s okay. Even basic amounts of information should yield results.
Georgia-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
Here are some of the best resources to help you find the grave of your loved one or ancestor in Georgia.
The Georgia Gravestone Photo Project is a volunteer-run project with the goal of photographing every gravestone in Georgia. Though the project is fairly new, there are over 1,000 photographs of gravestones uploaded to the website.
The photo database is searchable as long as you have a minimum amount of information such as the first letter of the person’s first name or the first letter of their last name. You can search all counties at once or choose the county if you know it.
Search results will pull up all names with your parameters and list the cemetery where they’re located. Click on the name and you’ll see a picture of the gravestone along with transcription information. Click on the cemetery and you’ll be directed to a page that provides additional information including the address and historical background, where applicable.
If the photo project didn’t yield any results, you might want to try the transcription project next. This project’s goal is to transcribe all the writing on every gravestone in Georgia.
This website doesn’t have a super easily searchable archive, but if you know what county your loved one is buried in, then you’ll have a solid starting point. To search through the transcription project, you click on the county you want to search. All the cemeteries in that county are listed in alphabetical order.
If you’re unsure of the exact cemetery, you can easily search through them one by one. Simply click the first cemetery on the list and you’ll be directed to a page with transcribed information. When looking for a specific name, try the “ctrl+f” function and type in their name. If the name appears anywhere on the page, it will be highlighted.
Though this resource isn’t specific to Georgia, the database contains a wealth of information for finding a grave in Georgia. With the basic search feature, you can use the person’s first, middle, and last name, in addition to their birthdate, death date, and state where they died.
Advanced search features let you search with similar spellings a spouse’s, child’s, or parent’s name and their GPS coordinates.
The benefit to using this searchable database is the information provided to you when you find your loved one’s gravesite. In addition to a picture of the gravestone, you’re also provided with the cemetery name and address and, in most cases, the plot number. There might also be an epitaph transcription available.
Steps for Finding a Grave in Georgia for Free
Though finding a grave might take a bit of work, follow these steps below to get the process going.
1. Gather data together
Before you start searching through databases, you need to collect the information mentioned above. More information is always better, but as long as you have at least a person’s first initial and last initial, you can do a basic search.
2. Try searching in multiple ways
Once you have information about your loved one, you’re ready to start searching for their grave. This is where it can get tricky. Let’s say your loved one was named Catherine DeBurgh. You look up her name in three different databases and come up empty-handed. Then you remember that you discovered while researching family history that she also went by Kitty, Kit, and Cathy.
Naturally, you assumed that her tombstone would read Catherine DeBurgh. But now you try “Kitty DeBurgh,” “Kit DeBurgh,” and “Cathy DeBurgh.” Wouldn’t you know it, a grave for Cathy DeBurgh shows up and matches the birth and death dates of your ancestor.
Names are tricky because there can be multiple variations, nicknames, and even misspellings that get into the mix. Keep track of all name variants you find during your information gathering and, if one name search comes up empty, try others you found.
It’s also beneficial to search in various ways by using different date combinations, spouse names, children’s names, and other information to narrow down the search. Here are several examples:
- Full name, spouse’s name, birth date, and death date
- Alternate first name, last name, spouse’s name, birth date, death year
- First initial, last name, spouse’s full name, unknown birthdate, death date
- First initial, last initial, spouse’s full name, birth date, death date, county
- First name, last initial, spouse’s first initial and last name, birth date, death year
- First initial, last name, spouse’s first initial and last name, unknown birthdate, death date, county
As you can see, there are multiple search combinations you can try when searching for your loved one’s burial place. One combination might not yield results while another might bring you exactly what you’re looking for.
Using multiple search combinations not only takes into account various spellings and nicknames but also accounts for abbreviated headstone markings. For example, you may be looking for a Philip Alexander Henderson. Your search, however, might yield few results until you try “P. A. Henderson” instead.
Note: You can use these same search combinations to help yield results if you’re trying to find out if someone died.
3. One database at a time
It can be tempting to open up a million tabs and search for your loved one’s grave everywhere at once, but we recommend taking your time and looking through one database at a time. Make your search methodical and go through the list of search combinations before you move on to the next.
Try not to get discouraged if one search engine doesn’t provide you with any results. A different resource might reveal just what you’re looking for. If no databases reveal your loved one’s location, search again in three to six months or a year. New information is added all the time so you never know what you’ll find or when you’ll find it.
4. Visit local archives
If you know the county where your loved one is buried, try visiting local archives contained in the library, a historical society, or even cemetery offices.
Many libraries and cemeteries have tons of local archives such as obituaries, newspapers, cemetery maps, and other historical information that isn’t online. Some historical cemeteries also have an archive of old records, obituaries, receipts, and paperwork for those buried in the cemetery. They should also have a map of the layout and plots available.
5. Visit the cemetery
Once you’re armed with the name of the cemetery where your ancestor is buried, a picture of their gravestone, and a plot number or GPS location, it’s time to visit the cemetery.
Take a map of the cemetery with you if there is one available or pictures of the area if the location is particularly rural. Some graves might be marked by a simple rock or stone, and these are often located through GPS tracking. Make sure you’re armed with a GPS tracker if all you have are two sets of coordinates to find a grave in a cemetery.
You can also use a picture of their grave, if you have one, to assess the surrounding area and locate the stone you’re looking for.
6. Document your findings
Once you find your relative’s grave, take a moment to honor all of the hard work and effort it took you to get there. Then document the grave by confirming the coordinates or drawing a map of the cemetery and noting where your loved one’s grave is located. Take pictures of the grave, headstone, and surrounding area to make it easier to find again.
When ready, place a flower or another item that you can leave at a grave before you go.
Honoring Your History
Finding the grave of a loved one or ancestor high up in the family tree can help connect you to your past. This activity can also give your life a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. It may take some patience and effort, but standing before your relative’s grave will make the work well worth it.