Are you trying to find a grave in France? Is this a struggle because you’re not sure where the grave is likely to be?
You may find yourself in this position for several reasons. For example, maybe you’re trying to find the grave of a distant ancestor. It’s entirely possible you wouldn’t have much information about their burial site in these circumstances.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in France?
- France-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
- Steps for Finding a Grave in France for Free
Luckily, there are actually a number of ways to find a grave in France even if you don’t know where to begin looking. It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to find out more about the location of someone’s grave. To learn more about how to find a grave in France for free, keep reading. This guide will explain what you need to know.
What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in France?
The first step to take when looking for a grave in France is to gather certain basic information that you may need when using certain tools and resources later. You’ll of course need general info, such as the name of the person whose grave you’re searching for. You should also make an attempt to determine when the person died. You don’t necessarily need to know the specific date to find their grave, but having an approximate year when they likely passed is helpful.
Try to determine where the person died, as well. When you begin looking for cemeteries that may be home to their graves, this will help you save time by focusing on specific areas instead of the entire country of France.
Other types of information you may attempt to gather include:
The cultural identity of an individual can play a role in loved ones’ decision-making regarding their burials when they pass on. For example, perhaps the person whose grave you are seeking was very religious. Their family may thus have chosen to bury them in a religious cemetery.
Association with special groups
Whether the person whose grave you are looking for was a member of certain unique or exclusive groups might also have impacted where their grave is. A basic example is a veteran whose loved ones decide to bury them in a veterans cemetery.
France-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
There are multiple resources you can turn to when trying to find a grave in France. The following are among the most useful:
Cemeteries of France
The purpose of Cemeteries of France is quite simple: to provide users with the means to search a database of entries listing the names of deceased people in France and the locations of their graves. By entering basic information such as the name of the deceased into a search field, users can search for any grave. However, because the project is relatively new and is still growing, its records may not be thoroughly comprehensive yet.
French census records
Do you know the name of the French department in which the person whose grave you’re looking for lived? If so, Google “Archives Départementales” with its name. You can then find the official website through which you may access census records.
This is helpful because a census record will likely contain information about where a person was living at the time of their passing. This will help you narrow down your search, as it is likely their burial spot is at a cemetery somewhere in that area.
Interment.net is a website that allows users to look through cemetery records from countries worldwide. Although the section for France is somewhat limited, it can still be a helpful starting point that may lead to other clues that can help you track down a grave in France.
This is another tool to consider using in your search. It mainly consists of photographs of graves, so you might have to spend time browsing its database, but it is another option worth considering.
Steps for Finding a Grave in France for Free
Breaking down the process of finding a grave in France into steps can make it much less intimidating. Steps you should take include the following:
1. Use Google to find an obituary
As the above section indicates, there are several resources and tools that you can turn to when trying to find a grave in France. However, before you begin conducting thorough research and using those tools, it’s worth trying a straightforward method of finding a grave in France: searching for their obituary online.
For years now, it’s been common for obituaries to be available online. Newspapers may post them, as may funeral home websites. Thus, an easy method of finding out about a person’s death and burial is to simply Google their name along with words like “death” or “obituary.” If you find it online, it may contain information about plans for their burials. This can at least help you determine which cemetery their grave may be in.
Most obituaries you can find online are naturally for those who passed away in the information age. However, there are exceptions. Many newspapers keep digitalized copies of their pre-internet issues in online databases. Thus, even if you’re looking for the grave of someone who died long before the rise of the internet, it’s still possible you can find their obituary through a simple Google search. Keep in mind that this method is also helpful if you’re trying to find out if someone died at all.
2. Do your research
The above method isn’t effective all of the time. If it isn’t for you, the next step you should take is to conduct preliminary research to gather key details and information about an individual’s death and clues as to where their grave may be. Again, once you’ve done your research, the odds that one of the search tools and resources mentioned earlier will be effective are much greater.
3. Use the tools covered in this guide
Now that you've gathered as much information as you can about a person, their life, and their death, you can experiment with the various tools and resources discussed earlier to try tracking down someone’s grave.
In some instances, these tools directly provide a user with exactly what they’re looking for. If that doesn’t happen to you, they may nevertheless provide you with enough information and clues that you can make a list of cemeteries where a grave may be located that consists of just a small handful of options.
4. Visit the cemeteries’ websites
Now it’s time to check the websites of the cemeteries on your list. If you’re lucky, they’ll have a search feature. Many cemetery websites now let users quickly check whose graves they may find there using an easy search tool.
If the results indicate a particular cemetery is home to a particular grave, the page for that grave might also feature a map or some other form of information indicating the specific location of said grave.
(Need more information about finding a burial site? Check our guide on how to find a grave in a cemetery.)
5. Contact the cemeteries directly
Not all cemetery websites have search tools. However, virtually all of them do have contact information. Cemeteries may also have social media pages with contact info if they don’t have websites. This is sometimes the case when a cemetery is very old and traditional.
If you weren’t able to find a search tool on a cemetery’s website, just call or email the cemetery explaining whose grave you are searching for and why. Unless they have a policy regarding not giving out this information, there’s a good chance management will be willing to check if the grave you’re trying to find is there. If it is, particularly helpful managers may even be willing to provide a map helping you find the specific location of that specific grave on their property.
6. Plan your trip
You may be trying to find a grave in France because you naturally want to visit it. Once you’ve succeeded in determining the location of a grave, it’s time to start planning your visit.
Think of what you will do once you’re actually at the grave to ensure the visit is as meaningful as possible for you. For instance, it’s common to leave something special at a grave. If this is something you’re considering, but you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, check our guide on what to leave at a grave for inspiration.
Easy & Affordable Ways to Find a Grave in France
None of this is meant to mislead you into thinking that finding a grave in France is always something you can do quickly and easily. You will potentially have to spend some time on your search, but if you do keep at it, there’s a good chance you’ll find the grave you’re looking for.