Every state has its own system for keeping grave information, and this can make it confusing to know where to begin. How do you find a grave in Michigan? The good news is there are a variety of tools, resources, and guides to help. Better yet, most of these are available for free or for a low cost.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Michigan?
- Michigan-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
- Steps for Finding a Grave in Michigan for Free
Nowadays, with the rise of genealogy research, you don’t need any formal training or skills to get started. Whether you’re trying to learn how to find out if someone died, find an ancestor’s grave, or explore local history, now is the best time to begin. Cemeteries come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s possible to find what you’re looking for regardless of your experience.
In this guide, we’ll identify how to find a grave in Michigan for free step-by-step. Though this can be a time-consuming process, it’s also a noble act of remembrance. Everyone wants to be remembered, no matter when they died. Taking the time to honor an ancestor’s memory makes all the difference.
What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Michigan?
Before you try to find a grave in Michigan, make sure you have the right information. Graves can be hard to find, especially in a large state like Michigan. At the very least, make sure you know the following about the deceased:
- Full name
- Previous names (i.e., maiden name)
- Date of death
- Place of death
It’s also helpful to have more information, if possible. Though not required, the more information you have, the less likely you’ll find the wrong results. This is especially helpful if you’re searching for a popular name or in a large city. If you can, also identify:
- Date of birth
- Death certificate
- Funeral home
How can you discover this information? A great resource is ancestry websites, but you can also talk to your older relatives. You’d be surprised what they might know if you’re willing to ask. Alternatively, family records, bibles, and journals can contain key information about your family tree. When you uncover these things, it’s similar to stepping back in time.
Michigan-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
Before we explain the specific steps for finding a grave in Michigan, let’s start by identifying important resources. These Michigan-specific websites and resources are designed to speed up your search, making it easy to find what you need digitally.
Find a Grave
Even if you’re not very familiar with genealogy, you’ve likely heard of Find a Grave. Known as one of the largest cemetery records online, Find a Grave is exactly what it sounds like. This free resource is curated by genealogy experts and enthusiasts, and everyone can contribute to its many updates. For Michigan, you can browse by county.
Another helpful tool is Family Search. Family Search is a free online resource for all levels of family history. By compiling lists of records and links from across the web, it’s possible to explore the leading options in a quick glance. Think of Family Search as an encyclopedia for family history, always growing and changing.
Next, the LDS Genealogy resource is created by researchers belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church). Though affiliated with the church, these records are free and accessible to all.
Within the LDS church, ancestry and preserving one’s story is important. Because they’re so confident with recordkeeping, it’s only natural to provide this resource for all. The Michigan page has thousands of records related to births, deaths, and marriages.
Michigan Genealogy on the Web
Part of the USGenWeb Project, the Michigan Genealogy on the Web initiative. Started in 1996, this began as a state-specific way to collect databases relating to genealogy. Additionally, it’s indexed and cross-linked to connect those who have records in multiple counties. Over time, volunteer work has grown to create this impressive digital record specifically for Michigan.
Upper Peninsula Cemetery Records
Created by Northern Michigan University, the Upper Peninsula Cemetery Records are an ongoing way to index records for Alger, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette, and Schoolcraft counties in Michigan. While the indexes for Marquette and Mackinac counties are still incomplete, these contain an impressive amount of information related to these cemeteries.
Detroit Society for Genealogical Research
Finally, the original Detroit Society for Genealogical Research was created in 1936 by a group of 33 interested researchers. It soon grew throughout the area, and it has since become a non-profit organization that preserves the records of ancestors and families. With help from the Burton Historical Collection and the Detroit Public Library, this research project is fully digital and open to the public.
Steps for Finding a Grave in Michigan for Free
Now that you know the best resources to guide your search, what are the steps to finding a grave in Michigan? You don’t need any expensive subscriptions or programs to get started. Simply follow these instructions below to step back in time.
1. Compile your information
To begin, make sure you have all the information you need. As you’ll see from the resources above, it’s useful to at least have the full name of the person you’re seeking. Additionally, you should have an idea of when he or she died and their place of death. The more specific, the better.
There are free genealogy websites that can help you uncover this information. Alternatively, talk to loved ones, explore family records, and search known surnames. Do the best you can to collect the right information before you start your search.
2. Conduct an online search
Next, it’s time to start searching. Choose a tool from above and enter the information you have. Though there are a lot of tools to choose from, one of the most user-friendly is Find a Grave. You can use the basic search function or add advanced capability if you have more information to include.
From there, make note of your results. In a perfect world, you would find the right results immediately. In reality, it might take a few tries to narrow down the ancestor’s grave you’re looking for. This is especially true if you don’t know their specific date of death.
3. Contact local record departments
If you don’t have any success with a basic search, you might have to do additional research. This doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, it’s relatively straightforward. Contact your local department of vital records, as well as any funeral homes or cemeteries that were around at this individual’s time of death.
These places have access to records that might not be publicly available. If you’re a direct family member, it’s usually straightforward to get these records or ask more questions. You never know unless you ask!
4. Look for graves of relatives
Another option if you don’t have success with local contacts is to change your perspective. It was commonplace in the past for people to be buried in family plots. This means if you can find a relative’s grave, you’re likely close to discovering their grave as well.
Consider the name of the spouse, parent, sibling, or child. If these death records are more recent, it might be easier to find the burial plot. Sometimes finding a grave can feel a bit like doing a scavenger hunt. Still, it’s well worth the effort.
5. Locate the grave in the cemetery
Once you find the name of the cemetery, it’s time to find the location. Most cemeteries are large, and they can be confusing to navigate. Understanding how to find a grave in a cemetery, however, isn’t complicated. Most are arranged on a grid system, and the plot number is typically engraved on the headstone.
If the cemetery is still active, you can usually find a map with plot locations online. Otherwise, you can visit in person and ask for directions. During visiting hours, ground crew members are there to offer assistance.
6. Plan your visit
When you’re ready to visit the grave, start planning your trip. This can be the most exciting part of the process, and all of your hard work paid off. If you’re wondering what to leave at a grave, you have a lot of options.
Many choose to leave flowers, wreaths, flags, photos, or candles. Another alternative is to take a few moments to clean the grave with an appropriate, safe cleaner. However, always check the cemetery rules and requirements when planning what to bring. Always practice proper cemetery etiquette during your stay to pay your respects.
7. Record your findings
Lastly, make sure you record what you find. Taking the time to contribute to the growing world of ancestry and genealogy research makes all the difference. You can photograph the grave, update your family records, and share what you’ve found. Not only does this make it easier for others to find their own family member’s graves, but it also becomes part of your own story.
Find a Grave Location in Michigan
Ultimately, the Great Lake State is a vast place full of a large range of cemeteries dating back hundreds of years. Whether you’re new to genealogy or you’re hoping to delve deeper into your family’s story, this is an important way to practice remembrance.
Are you looking for a grave in Michigan? Let the guide above lead the way. This is an exciting journey back through time, and it proves the power of compassion even after death.