Finding burial records is an important way to do genealogy research. Whether you’re starting your ancestry search for the first time or exploring your own history, there are a lot of reasons why you might need to know how to find a grave. This can be complicated no matter where you’re searching, but it’s especially challenging outside of the US. How do you find a grave in Israel?
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Israel?
- Israel-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
- Steps for Finding a Grave in Israel for Free
With many people across the globe having ties to Israel, this is a common question. What do you need to begin this search, and how do you find out if someone died abroad? Most gravesites exist under government supervision, but that doesn’t mean there’s a single national database. Even in the US, you typically have to do state-specific research to find a specific burial site.
With that in mind, how do you find a grave in Israel for free? Because Israel operates in Hebrew, there are additional steps you might have to take to translate government records. With people from Israel coming from all different cultural and religious backgrounds, this can be a tricky process. In this guide, we’ll share how to find a grave in Israel for free step-by-step.
What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Israel?
What do you need to find a grave in Israel? While you might be able to learn how to find a grave in a cemetery if you already know where to look, you’re going to need to back up a few steps. First, it’s important to recognize that for most records outside of Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, you might struggle to find digital records. This means it’s helpful to seek records in person or to have someone you trust in the region help you.
Similarly, it’s important to remember that the primary language of Israel is Hebrew. This means you need to know how to spell the deceased’s name in Hebrew. Many foreign words translate multiple ways into the Hebrew language, so having an expert in this language is a huge resource.
Additionally, you might find different requirements to request information and private records. While you can contact government offices, you might have better luck seeking private burial organizations. However, it’s not common for strangers to call and ask for records—especially if those strangers live abroad. Be patient and work with the individuals on the other line. You typically need to justify your interest in these records, usually by proving a family tie through the next of kin.
With that in mind, what do you need to find a grave in Israel? Like all other grave searches, make sure to have at least the following:
- Full name of the deceased in Hebrew
- City of death
- Date of death
- Date of birth
- Full name of the next of kin in Hebrew
Once you’ve gathered all of your key information, you’re ready to begin. The more information you have, the easier it will be to locate your record without hassle. There can often be duplicate names, especially for common surnames. Pack your patience when beginning this process.
Israel-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
To begin, let’s share Israel-specific resources to locate graves. These digital resources are here to help, and they’re created with the help of historians, genealogists, and Israel experts. A basic understanding of Hebrew is helpful when reviewing these tools.
First, as the name implies, Jewish Genealogy is a comprehensive resource for Jewish genealogy information and databases. An affiliate for the Museum of Jewish Heritage, this database helps people from across the world connect with their Jewish ancestors. With over 4.1 million burial records, this is a powerful way to search for the grave you’re looking for.
Another common ancestry tool is My Heritage. This tool spent 5 years digitizing every cemetery in Israel. Almost all gravestones are fully preserved and transcribed online through My Heritage. You can begin searching for free, though you might need a premium membership for a more advanced search. This is an ambitious effort, but My Heritage completed inspiring work to preserve graves for future generations.
Find a Grave
A global tool to find graves is Find a Grave. You can search by name, and over 250 cemeteries in Israel will be featured. With collaborative options, you can request locals share gravesites online. This digital memorial tool is good to keep in mind no matter your search.
Israel Genealogy Research Association
If you’re looking to explore burial societies, start with the Israel Genealogy Research Association. The list is fully in English, though many of these burial societies operate in Hebrew. You can explore government records, private records, and more. Be sure to read the further notes for helpful tips in starting your search through burial records.
Another provider of online gravesite information is Billion Graves. With research opportunities, this is a free website that helps genealogies from across the globe collaborate to preserve history. You can search by family name and given name across all continents. While you can do a simple search for free, a premium upgrade helps you get more from the search tool.
Finally, Ancestry is another well-known tool for finding graves. Ancestry compiles databases from across the web, making it possible to find exactly what you’re looking for with a single search. You can search records by country, including Israel. You’ll need to know the ancestor’s full name, birth year, and country to begin your search.
Steps for Finding a Grave in Israel for Free
With that in mind, how do you find a grave in Israel for free? These steps below share how to start this process, no experience or complicated tools needed. While the resources above are a great starting point, these steps keep you on track.
1. Gather your information
The first step is to gather key information. You should have this available in both English and Hebrew. It can be confusing if you’re not sure where to begin, so take your time with this first step. Ancestry websites are a great source of information, and many genealogy experts can help you establish a basic foundation of research.
2. Begin your search
Next, it’s time to start your search. The easiest way to begin is with an online search. However, keep in mind many Israel graves are not digitized. While this is changing over time, older graves might be hard to access online.
To start your search, use a tool like My Heritage or Billion Graves. Search by name, date of death, and place of death. Depending on your search, you should be left with a list of potential matches.
3. Contact burial societies
If you don’t have any success with a basic online search, don’t fret. You still have options. In this case, you might need to contact local burial societies in Israel. Seek burial societies close to your ancestor’s place of death for the most success.
When reaching out to these burial societies, be patient. Many workers only work a specific number of part-time hours a week, and they might not be responsive during holiday times and busy seasons. Records from before Israel became a state (1948) might be harder to find. When speaking to employees, give them as much information as you have. Again, the more information, the easier it is to complete your search.
4. Locate the grave
Next, it’s time to locate the grave. Now that you have a list of cemeteries of the specific cemetery, it’s time to find the specific grave. Depending on the size of the cemetery, this might be easier said than done. Most large cemeteries are organized by sections, but the rows might be sparsely marked. Smaller cemeteries can be even harder to navigate.
Additionally, older graves likely faced a lot of wear over time. It’s important to be patient while searching for graves. You might have to go through each row one by one to find what you’re looking for. When in doubt, ask for assistance from cemetery workers.
5. Plan your visit
Lastly, plan your visit to the grave. If you’re wondering what to leave at a grave, this is typically dependent on the individual religion. For example, flowers are not appropriate at a Jewish gravesite. On the other hand, it’s encouraged to bring stones or other simple markers.
Whenever visiting a cemetery, practice proper etiquette. Because most cemeteries and burial societies in Israel are operated by religious groups, it’s important to dress conservatively and be mindful of cultural practices. During your visit, it’s a good idea to record your ancestor’s gravesite. You might take photos or contribute to a memorial site.
Locate a Grave in Israel
Ultimately, no matter why you’re looking for a grave, there are more resources than ever before. It’s important to go into any genealogy process with a full understanding of your expectations. This is especially true when seeking a gravesite abroad. Luckily, this guide is here to help.
When you take the time to discover ancestors’ graves, you’re practicing active remembrance. Everyone deserves to be remembered and honored, even after death. What does remembrance mean to you?
- “Locating Burial Records in Israel.” Jewish Genealogy. JewishGen.org.