Finding the graves of distant relatives and ancestors has become a popular pastime, thanks to the growing popularity of ancestry research. Finding a grave helps you feel more connected to your distant past, and it can also provide a level of closure for loved ones who passed away recently.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Louisiana?
- Louisiana-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
- Steps for Finding a Grave in Louisiana for Free
Whether you’re working on a legacy project or you simply want to find the grave of a loved one, we’ll tackle everything you need to know.
What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Louisiana?
When searching for a grave, you might be tempted to enter what little information you have about your loved one and see what comes up. If you do this, however, you might get overwhelmed with the sheer number of search results that come up.
To help you narrow down your findings, it’s helpful to enter as much as you can about the person you’re searching for. Information that is helpful includes:
- First, middle, and last name
- Maiden names for married females
- Nicknames and alternate spellings
- Names of husband and children
- Death date
- State and county where the deceased passed away
- Cemetery where they were buried
You’re probably not going to have all of these pieces of information, and that’s okay. In an ideal world, you’ll have all the information you need to find your loved one’s grave. Realistically, you might only have one or two pieces of information to help you with your search. These are the best pieces of info to have, however, so the more you can find, the better.
A note on names
Your relative’s name could be surprisingly tricky. It’s important to collect a list of any names they went by. For example, if your loved one was named Dorothy Johnson but also went by Dottie or Dot and had the maiden name Thornton, then you’ll want to have this information handy.
When searching, you can try multiple search options including:
- Dorothy Johnson
- Dot Johnson
- Dot Thornton
- Dottie Thornton
- Dottie Johnson
You get the idea. A simple name change could be all you need to land results for your loved one’s grave.
Louisiana-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
There are plenty of resources to help you with your grave search. Here are a few of the best.
Louisiana Gravestone Photo Project
Louisiana Gravestones is a volunteer-run project with the aim of photographing every gravestone in Louisiana. To date, they have more than 330,000 gravestones photographed, transcribed, and uploaded to their online searchable database. Hundreds of new gravestones are added each week, making this one of the best state gravestone photo project databases available.
To search the database, you only need a first or last name to get started. The search results will pull up every result with your search terms. You can narrow the search by choosing a specific parish or widen the search by allowing the database to bring up all results state-wide.
Find a Grave
Find a Grave is the largest database of cemetery and grave marker information both in the United States and worldwide. Over 190 million records are contained in the free, searchable database, making this one of the best resources available.
For a simple search, you can add information like first and last names, birth and death dates, and a spouse’s name. For their advanced search, you can also add alternate search parameters such as nicknames, maiden names, and alternative spellings.
If you’re looking for a service member who was buried in Louisiana, the military Grave Locator could be a helpful resource. This database contains information on all service members and where they were interred. It’s run by the VA and is up-to-date.
To search, you’ll need a minimum of their last name. You can also add their first name, middle name, birth date, and death date. Search results will provide you with names that fit your search parameters, the cemetery, the plot number with a cemetery map, the cemetery address, and the phone number.
Steps for Finding a Grave in Louisiana for Free
Finding a grave in a cemetery might take some time, but the result will be well worth the time and effort you put in. Here are the steps you’ll need to take, depending on the level of difficulty in finding the grave.
Pro tip: You can use some of these same steps if you’re trying to find out if someone died, as well.
1. Take some time to research
The amount of information you need to search for your loved one’s grave varies depending on how unique or unusual their name is and how much accompanying information you have about their death.
When it comes to distant relatives, you’ll probably need to spend a bit more time researching than you would for a loved one who passed away within the last 10 to 20 years. Finding the information listed earlier in this article is a bit more complex when you don’t have direct access to primary documents such as a relative’s birth or death certificate.
So, what types of documents are you looking for to gather information that will help your search? Documents that popular ancestry research sites have includes:
- Birth certificate
- Death certificate
- Immigration documents
- Military documents such as draft cards
- Wedding certificates
- Divorce papers
- Bill of sale, titles, and deeds for land purchases
- Baptism certificates
Even if you can only find one of these documents during your research, you could potentially find a treasure trove of information such as your loved one’s first and last name, maiden name, parents’ names, places lived, birth dates, death dates, and wedding dates to help you approximate birth dates.
The more information you have about your relative, the better search results you’ll bring up when searching for a grave. This is why it’s always better to be as specific as possible. Vague results might bring up a plethora of results, but unless you’ll have to comb through hundreds of results that don’t apply to you.
Let’s look at this practically. If you know your loved one’s first name started with an S and their last name was Morgan, it could be tempting to search for “S. Morgan.” This will bring up a couple hundred search results which, at first, could feel very exciting. After you’ve looked at the 50th S. Morgan result and you’re no closer to your relative, you might get pretty discouraged.
On the other hand, you might put in a bit more research and find out that your relative was named Stanley Morgan, was born on April 5, 1804, and died on December 20, 1852. You enter this information into a grave search, and you could pull up his exact gravestone location. At the least, you’ll be given fewer search results, but ones that are far more specific to your relative than every S. Morgan who ever lived.
2. Search through databases
There are many excellent grave databases available for free online. Choose the one that best suits you to start. If you’re searching for a military member, then start with Military Grave Finder. If you aren’t sure where in the world your loved one is buried, but you think it might be Louisiana, then start with Find a Grave. If you know the parish where they were buried, then go straight to the Louisiana Gravestone Photo Project’s website.
If you don’t find any results in one database, make a note of the date and time you searched it and try another. Even if one database doesn’t yield results, another might. If no database results in actionable information, you might want to pause your search and try again in a month or two.
3. Check with local resources
Sometimes you might need some in-person, on-the-ground help. If you know what county or city your relative died in, then consider going to the local library or county archives. Many cities have archives that haven’t been uploaded to the internet. These are available to search in person and contain items like old newspapers, obituaries, local news, photographs, birth and death announcements, and other information applicable to your search.
4. Visit the cemetery
Some old cemeteries that are now historical sites even have their own archives. This can be helpful if you know which cemetery your loved one was buried in but you’re unsure of the exact location within the cemetery grounds.
You can usually search databases onsite that help you locate the specific plot of a loved one. Many times you’ll even be provided with a map that helps you walk to their grave.
5. Document your findings
Once you locate your relative’s grave, be sure to take plenty of pictures of their grave and the surrounding area for your records. If the gravestone is deteriorating, consider using your smartphone or a GPS device to pin the exact coordinates of the marker. This ensures that you’ll know the exact spot to return to even if the stone becomes unreadable or it wears away.
When you’re ready to leave, consider placing a flower or other biodegradable item to honor them. If the cemetery is a historic site or a fully operational location, check with cemetery guidelines for information regarding what to leave at a grave.
Honoring a Loved One’s Memory
Visiting a loved one’s or distant relative’s grave is a special way to honor their memory. Graves provide us with a glimpse into the past and a link to our history. Finding a grave might take some sleuthing work, time, and patience, but the result will be well worth it.
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