Looking into family history has soared in popularity thanks to companies like Ancestry that help trace your lineage using DNA. Along with finding distant relatives, many people are also stumbling upon memorials, tributes, and information that leads them to family graves.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Kentucky?
- Kentucky-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
- Steps for Finding a Grave in Kentucky for Free
Finding a family member’s grave or even a family plot in a cemetery may not be as easy as it sounds, however. Many factors go into a gravesite or cemetery search and we’re here to help you navigate them all.
What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Kentucky?
Before you fire up your favorite search engine and type in your relative’s name, it’s a good idea to gather some critical pieces of information. The more information you have on hand for your search, the better your chances are for finding your long-lost relative or even a recent loved one.
These pieces of information are also needed if you’re simply trying to find out if someone died, as well. So, what pieces of information will you need? You should collect:
- First, middle, and last names
- Maiden name if they were married
- Spouse(s) name
- Children’s names
- Date of birth
- Date of death
- County and city of death
You may not be able to find all the pieces of information listed here, and that’s okay. The goal is to find as many as you can, since the more pieces of information you have available, the more likely your search will pull up good results.
Where to find your relative’s personal data
Even though you called your great-great-grandma “Memaw” when you were two, that’s probably not what’s written on her gravestone. So, if you’re trying to find Memaw’s grave, you’ll need the information we listed above. But where do you find this type of info?
There are several important documents you can use to obtain basic information about your relatives.
Death certificates contain a wealth of information such as:
- The person’s full name
- Their address at the time of death
- Place of birth
- Father’s name and place of birth
- Mother’s name and place of birth
- Marital status
- Cause of death
- Date of death
- Name of hospital or location of death
If you can find a death certificate for your relative, you’ll have a tremendous amount of information to begin your search. The only information missing that you still might need are the names of their spouse and children.
It might sound funny to search someone’s birth certificate for information as to their grave, but their birth certificate will provide you with the names of the person’s parents and the address of residence. It’s not much, but if you can’t find a death certificate, this is a good place to start.
Marriage certificates record the names of your relative and their spouse, in addition to their age and birth dates. This is a beneficial document to obtain if you don’t have their birth certificate and can’t find information on their birth year.
Genealogy research sites
There are many genealogy research sites available to search from these days. Even a basic search can produce the above documents or other documents such as land deeds, titles, draft cards, military records, and immigration records.
To search, you’ll need at least a first or last name. If you have their first, middle, and last name, you’ll narrow the search results down considerably.
If you run out of all other options and still lack information about your relative, you can try searching through family heirlooms such as old pictures or the family Bible if your family used one to record weddings, marriages, and deaths.
Kentucky-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
There are many websites and resources that can help you in your search to find a grave. Here are several that contain information for Kentucky graves.
Kentucky Gravestone Photo Project
The Kentucky Gravestone Photo Project is a volunteer-run website with the goal of photographing every gravestone in Kentucky. They already have more than 12,000 photographs uploaded to the website. The entire database is searchable with a minimum amount of information, such as the person’s first name or initial and last name or initial.
If you can’t find your loved one’s grave, don’t despair. New photographs are uploaded daily, so keep checking back.
Nationwide Gravesite Locator
Though this is a VA national database, it can help you locate a grave for a veteran loved one who was buried in Kentucky.
You can search with nothing more than their last name or get as specific as entering their first, middle, and last name along with birth and death dates.
If your search is successful, you’ll be provided with the cemetery and plot number where they were buried.
Find a Grave
Find a Grave is another national database that provides in-depth free search capabilities.
You can search with a minimum amount of information such as a first initial and last name or try the advanced search and input their full name, birth and death dates, name of spouse or children, use alternate name spellings, and even search with nicknames.
Interment hosts a huge database of over 25 million cemetery records from all around the world. You can begin searching for your loved one’s grave in Kentucky with just their first and last name. Should your relative’s record exist in their database, you could be given information as specific as the grave and plot number in the cemetery where they were buried.
Steps for Finding a Grave in Kentucky for Free
When it’s time to find a grave in a cemetery, these are the steps you can take to locate your loved one’s grave.
1. Gather their information
Take a look at the list of information you need to find a grave and gather as much as you can together. When it’s all in the same place, it’ll be much easier to perform a search.
When gathering information, be sure to make a list of alternate spellings, nicknames, and married and maiden names. These pieces of the puzzle are helpful when it comes to performing advanced search options.
2. Start searching
Start with your favorite research database listed above and begin your search. The simplest way is to start by using their full name. Then, if that doesn’t work, use alternate spellings and nicknames.
Alternate spellings and nicknames were frequently used on headstones, potentially making your search a bit more difficult. For example, Beatrice might have gone by “Bea” and put that on her headstone. Searching for Beatrice might not yield any results, but searching for “Bea” could help you locate the right grave plot.
Try not to get discouraged if their name doesn’t immediately bring up search results. Continue to try combinations using all the information you’ve gathered until there are no combinations left. If you still haven’t found any results, consider pausing your search for a few months and trying again later. New results are added to databases all the time.
3. Visit the local library or county records office
If you know which county your loved one died in, a trip to the county library or records office could be of help. Many county libraries and records offices have a special archive of local records, newspapers, and historical information.
Check to see if the county has any archives that haven’t been uploaded to the internet and schedule a time to comb through them. Even if the database isn’t online, they might have a database that is searchable internally from within the library or county system.
When looking through archives, you can do a generic search for the name of your loved one and see what comes up. Keep an eye out for things like death announcements, obituaries, and newspaper clippings containing information about a memorial or funeral.
4. Visit the cemetery
If you’ve found the cemetery, then it’s time to visit. You may not know exactly where your loved one’s plot is yet, and that’s okay. The cemetery office should be able to provide you with information regarding the exact position of your loved one’s grave. Ask for a map of the cemetery and plot a route to your loved one’s grave if the cemetery is large enough.
Some cemeteries are no longer functioning and may not have an office. In this case, you should try to obtain old cemetery maps or cemetery records from the library or county archives.
Plots with GPS coordinates will require you to bring a smartphone or GPS device with you. Plug in the coordinates and the device will lead you right to the grave marker. Old cemeteries with markers that are little more than a rock often use coordinates to mark the location of peoples’ graves.
5. Record your findings
Once you find your loved one’s grave, pat yourself on the back! You put in a lot of hard work and dedication to get here. Finding a grave is a significant accomplishment. While there, take plenty of pictures to document the grave and its location in the cemetery.
Finally, feel free to place a flower or object out of respect before you leave. Just be sure to follow cemetery guidelines regarding what to leave at a grave.
Remembering the Past
Finding a loved one’s or distant relative’s grave is a memorable way to honor those who came before you. Finding links to the past can also help you feel more grounded in your identity and your place in the family tree. We hope this article helps you with your search for relatives from the past.