It’s always a good time to visit a cemetery, and you might wish to explore the grave of a long-lost ancestor. However, uncovering these graves can feel a bit like traveling back through time. If you’re not sure where to begin, it can be a confusing process. It also varies by state. How do you find a grave in Minnesota for free?
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Minnesota?
- Minnesota-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
- Steps for Finding a Grave in Minnesota for Free
The good news is we’re entering a new age of genealogy. It’s never been easier to find an old grave. Whether you’re looking to learn how to find out if someone died or you want to complete your family’s records, finding a grave doesn’t have to be complicated. Better yet, you don’t need any formal experience, education, or tools to get started.
As long as you have a bit of patience, you can learn a lot about ancestors from their graves. In this guide, we’ll share step-by-step how to find a grave in Minnesota for free. It’s easier than you think, no genealogy experience necessary.
What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Minnesota?
Before you begin your search for a grave in Minnesota, make sure you have the right information. While many people think they need a long list of information, that’s not actually true. In reality, you need at least some of the following:
- Their full name
- Place of death
- Date of death
- Date of birth
At the very least, you need their full name. It’s also helpful to have their maiden name or any previous names. Though not necessary, having additional information will only help. You might also wish to have:
- Cemetery name
- Death certificate
- Funeral home information
- Relative's names
Think of your grave search like a puzzle. The more pieces you have, the easier it is to complete the puzzle. While you don’t need a full profile or history to begin your search, it will only help. How can you uncover this information? One of the best ways is by using free genealogy websites, asking family members, or even looking in family bibles.
Minnesota-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
With that in mind, start with these Minnesota-specific resources. These are designed to make it easier to find graves no matter where you’re searching. While you don’t need a lot of information, pay close attention to the location when beginning your search with the tools below.
Find a Grave
It comes as no surprise that Find a Grave is one of the top options on this list. Find a Grave is an international resource that has grave information from across the globe. It’s fully collaborative, letting people add to it as they go. Their Minnesota page has over 80 counties listed, and you can browse by cemetery.
Another commonly known resource is Family Search. This is the Wikipedia of family history, making it possible to find important tools all in one place. These Minnesota records go back to the 1600s, and there are a lot of unique links to choose from. Though you’ll need to browse many pages, this is the perfect place to start.
Next, Interment is a cemetery record website designed for many different country records. Within the United States, you can browse records by state. The Minnesota page goes back to 1849, and most counties are represented. You can also browse obituaries and funeral notices for more recent burials.
Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs
If you’re seeking the grave of a veteran, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs website is the perfect place to search. Including state veteran cemetery information as well as information about military honors, this is how you can find any military cemetery.
Though this website is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), LDS Genealogy is completely free to the general public. In the LDS church, genealogy and record-keeping are important practices. As such, the church took great strides to create a resource for all. Organized by Minnesota county, this is a comprehensive guide.
Minnesota Association of Cemeteries
The Minnesota Association of Cemeteries, as the name implies, is an online consumer resource for browsing all cemeteries in Minnesota. You can find member cemeteries by city, giving you access to contact information and more.
Maple Grove Historical Preservation Society
As the world becomes more modern, historical societies preserve the past for future generations. The Maple Grove Historical Preservation Society was created in the 1990s as a way to keep the Minnesota past protected. They do a lot of ancestry research, and their records are all available through their website or an in-person visit.
Minnesota Historical Society
Another historical society is the Minnesota Historical Society, the official historical group for the state. The record search tool on the MNHS website is a powerful option for anyone seeking birth, death, census, veteran, or gold star records. With state death records dating back to 1904, there is so much to discover with this efficient database.
Steps for Finding a Grave in Minnesota for Free
Now that you know the top websites for starting a search for a grave in Minnesota, it’s time to explain the steps. Again, this can be a time-consuming process depending on how much information you have. Not all records in Minnesota are digital, especially older records. That being said, the steps are still straightforward.
1. Compile key information
To begin, make sure you have all the information you need. As explained above, you need at least a full name. You should try to have more than this if theirs is a common name. Beyond this, you need an idea of the time and place of death. This doesn’t have to be specific, but it’s helpful if you know clear details.
How can you uncover this information? Don’t underestimate the power of talking to loved ones. You can also explore online records, request a death certificate in Minnesota, and read family albums for clues. Sometimes it feels a bit like being a detective, but it’s all worth it in the end.
2. Start your search
Next, it’s time to start searching. Begin by using one of the resources above. If you had to start somewhere, the easiest tool is Find a Grave. You can quickly search just by entering the name of the deceased. To narrow down your results, use an advanced search with a specific state or county as well as the date of death.
Once you receive your list of results, check if any stand out as accurate. Depending on the popularity of the name, you might have multiple records for similar people. You’ll need to determine which grave you’re looking for. If you don’t have any success, don’t fret. Move on to the next step.
3. Call your local records department
If you don’t have any success with a simple or advanced search, you might need more help. Luckily, this is still pretty easy. Contact your local records department where your ancestor was buried. You can also contact funeral homes or cemeteries that were open at their time of death.
These places are likely to have more information that might not be available online. Most public record departments can share information, especially for deaths that happened a long time ago. You might also have success if you go in person or visit a local library.
4. Plan your visit to the grave
Once you find the burial place for your ancestor, it’s time to plan your visit. There are a lot of ways to pay your respects. For example, you might choose to clean the grave. After many years, graves are usually in various states of disarray. You might need to clean the gravesite of debris, brush the headstone, or repair cracks.
You might also wonder what to leave at a grave. The most common options are flowers, wreaths, flags, and photos. Depending on the time of year, you can also leave seasonal items like holiday decorations, religious elements, or candles. However, check with the cemetery rules before you plan your visit. Some things aren’t allowed.
5. Find and record the grave
Last but not least, find and record the grave. If possible, you can search for a cemetery map online before your visit. Otherwise, you might need to research how to find a grave in a cemetery or ask for help in person. Most cemeteries are organized by plot number, but you can also ask for directions from someone who works at the premises.
Lastly, make sure you record the grave when you visit. You might take photos, note the engraving, or add an online memorial. When you contribute to the world of ancestry research, you help others connect with their own family stories. This is truly a collaborative process.
Find a Minnesota Grave
Whether you’re exploring your family history or just honoring an ancestor, this is a powerful act of remembrance. Everyone wants to be honored after they’re gone. By visiting a long-lost grave, you’re showing that remembrance goes beyond a single lifetime.
If you’re seeking a grave in Minnesota, you know now what steps to take. This is an accessible process that’s free for everyone, no matter your background. What grave will you discover next?
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