Thanks to the magic of the internet, you could be minutes away from seeing a photograph of a specific grave in the United Kingdom. We’ll give you tips to make that happen in this article.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in the U.K.?
- U.K.-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
- Reasons You Can’t Find a Gravesite in the U.K.
- Steps for Finding a Grave in the U.K. for Free
Finding a grave of someone buried in the UK during the internet era may be as simple as completing a Google search. While there are no guarantees that a photograph of the headstone will be available online, you will probably not have a problem finding out the burial site of the deceased – as long as it was a public record.
You might have a more difficult time finding the grave of someone who died decades (or centuries) ago. Before you begin that process, you might need to do a bit of research on the deceased. Having a bit of knowledge regarding the geography of England may help as well.
What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in the U.K.?
The more information you have about the deceased, the more likely you will find a grave in the U.K. Here’s the biographic information that will assist you in your search.
Of course, the best way to begin your search for a grave in the U.K. is to find out everything you can about the person’s name. Learn what you can about their given name, possible nicknames, maiden names, or alternative spellings of the name.
If the name is common for the area, you might also want to take note of the names of that person’s parents, spouse(s), and children. This will enable you to narrow your search to find the correct John Alexander Smith’s grave.
The person you are researching may have used several names throughout their life, but if you are trying to find their burial spot, it would be most helpful to find the name used on the death certificate or obituary.
Knowing the birth and death date may also help you find a grave in the U.K. These details are essential if you are looking for the burial spot of someone with a common name for the area.
Finding the death date would be especially helpful if you are forced to look through church or cemetery records or published obituaries or death notices.
The British Government’s General Register office website has death records for England and Wales starting in July 1837. Earlier records may be available at the parish level. This website also has information for obtaining records from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Location of death
Another helpful piece of information that may help you find a grave in the U.K. is the location of the death. This information may be available on the person’s death record, which you might uncover at the General Register office.
The location of death may help you narrow down the place of the burial. The earlier the death, the less likely the body would have been transferred to another place for burial. And, of course, cremation was not common in the U.K. until the modern era.
U.K.-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
Once you have gathered as much information as you can about the deceased, you’re ready to utilize online resources that will help you find a grave in the United Kingdom for free.
Find a Grave’s website says that it is the “world’s largest gravesite collection.” Find a Grave allows users to search for the headstone using the person’s name(s), the year they were born, the year they died, and the location of the death. In addition, you can add other family names to the search, such as the deceased’s parents, spouse, siblings, or children.
If your search comes up blank, you might consider searching with fewer restrictions. For example, if you aren’t sure of the first name that may have been used on the headstone, consider searching with only the deceased’s last name. The website also allows you to mark the dates as “approximate,” which may reveal more results.
If you are lucky, this simple search may yield an actual photograph of the headstone, taken by a volunteer who visited the U.K. cemetery to record the information for Find A Grave.
Don’t worry if this website didn’t help. We’ll give you other options for finding a grave in the U.K.
Billion Graves is a competitor of Find a Grave. For both websites, volunteers take photos of the headstones and enter the biographical information into a database. Like Find a Grave, Billion Graves allows you to search for the gravesite using the deceased’s name, the approximate birth and death years, and the place of death.
Unlike, Find a Grave, Billion Grave will give you the GPS coordinates of the burial site. If you only know the cemetery’s name, you might be interested in learning how to find a grave within a cemetery.
You might be able to find the burial site for your ancestor in the U.K. using Interment. This website has a page specifically for British cemetery records. So, if you know the country where the person died (or was buried), you can browse through cemetery records for the specific region in hopes of finding the burial site.
Interment has records for England, the Channel Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
There, you will also find a link to a spreadsheet showing where U.S. soldiers who died in the U.K. were buried.
If you didn’t find the burial site from Find a Grave or Billion Graves, your next best resource is Ancestry. The popular website allows you to connect with others in your extended family tree. If your distant relatives set their trees to “public,” you’ll have access to all of the biographical information and records they posted about your joint family member. This may include the burial site.
Additionally, Ancestry has millions of records available to paid subscribers. For example, you can search over 47 million death records from England and Wales from 1916 to 2007.
It’s also interesting to note that you can hire a genealogy expert through Ancestry to help you search for the burial place. But, of course, you might want to exhaust your free options before you pay someone.
Consider searching the British National Archives to find the burial information you are seeking. You may also get results when searching through the British Newspaper Archive.
Reasons You Can’t Find a Gravesite in the U.K.
We’ve given you a lot of resources for finding a grave in the U.K., but you may not have found any record of the gravesite. Here are some reasons that you weren’t able to find the information you were seeking.
The person is still living
Could it be that the grave you are searching for does not exist because the person is still alive? Verify the person’s birth date to see if that is possible, and then learn more about how to find out if someone is still alive.
The cemetery records aren’t online
Find a Grave and Billion Graves rely on the work of local volunteers who visit cemeteries. Unfortunately, perhaps no volunteers have visited the British cemetery where your loved one is buried. In addition, old cemetery records may be missing or incomplete, which would further inhibit your search.
The headstone is difficult or impossible to read
Old headstones are often difficult to read. So the ability to record the data on the monument depends on the age and condition of the grave. And if the cemetery records are incomplete, illegible, or never existed, finding who was buried in that particular plot may be impossible.
Steps for Finding a Grave in the U.K. for Free
If you aren’t ready to give up your search for the grave in the U.K., you might consider seeking the assistance of a genealogical researcher from the region where your ancestor died. However, here are some other options for finding a grave in the U.K. for free.
Seek help from members of your family currently living in Britain
Consider contacting a member of your extended family tree who is currently living in the U.K. You might be able to find such a person by sending a message through Ancestry.
Even if they don’t know the burial site of your shared ancestor, they may have more access to local parish records than you do.
It’s not a free option, but consider traveling to the U.K.
We know this isn’t a free option, but you might be able to find the gravesite of your ancestor if you travel to Great Britain. This might be money well spent if you feel the need to say your goodbyes in person.
Did You Find Your Loved One’s Grave in the United Kingdom?
If you found the gravesite in the U.K. and are considering a visit, you might want to leave a gift at the gravesite to honor your loved one. Visiting gravesites can be an emotional experience – even if you never met the deceased in person. However, before you leave a gift behind, make sure you understand the cemetery rules for flowers and gifts.