Anyone can be a genealogy sleuth these days thanks to the advent of websites that provide a wealth of search materials for free. Finding a long-lost relative’s gravesite can be as thrilling as finding out you were related to a famous historical figure.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in New Hampshire?
- New Hampshire-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
- Steps for Finding a Grave in New Hampshire for Free
Searching for a gravesite can be tricky, however, and you’ll need some specific information to be successful. Whether you’re a budding family historian or you’re trying to locate the grave of a loved one, read on for all the info you need to know.
What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in New Hampshire?
Finding a loved one or relative’s grave may not be as simple as it sounds. When searching for the grave of a long-lost relative, especially, information can become muddied and hard to pin down. Finding as much information about the person you’re searching for is going to be your best bet for a successful search.
Information you should have on hand includes:
- Full name (first, middle, last)
- Spouse’s name
- Names of children
- Date of birth
- Date of death
- State, county, and city of death
Since you’re going to be searching databases that contain grave records for the entire state of New Hampshire or the nation, the better info you have on hand, the more you can narrow down your search results.
Here are a few notes on each of the items listed above.
Names can be tricky, especially since the name on a gravestone might not be the exact name you have on record. Many people chose to go by nicknames during their lifetime, and those nicknames were transferred to gravestones. Bethany, for example, might have gone by Betty and had that name put on her gravestone.
Other name issues you can run into include misspellings or alternate spellings, and last name changes. Misspellings are a common issue for particularly old records and especially so for those who immigrated. Spellings got changed upon entry by port agents due to misunderstandings or by families in order to sound more “American.”
Last name changes tend to be more problematic for women since many change their name once married, and some change their name back to their maiden name when widowed or divorced.
To put all of this together, if you have an Aunt Bethany Jameson who got married, was widowed, married again, and then divorced, you might not know if her grave is under Bethany Jameson (formal maiden name), Betty Thornton (nickname and first husband’s last name), Bethany Covington (formal name with second husband’s last name), or some other variation.
Spouse’s and children’s names
Having a record of a person’s spouse and children can help for a few different reasons. If they were buried with their spouse, you might be able to locate the grave by looking up the spouse’s name. If they had a family plot, you might be able to find them by searching for their children’s graves. Supplemental information such as this is helpful if you run into a roadblock when searching for your relative’s name.
Dates of birth and death
While you may not need the exact birth and death dates to be successful in your search for a loved one’s grave, having these two pieces of information is incredibly helpful. Not only will these dates help you confirm that the gravemarker is, in fact, your relative’s, but they’ll also help you narrow down search results during the process.
Even if you only have the year or an approximate date, you’ll be able to narrow down results better than if you searched for every “Betty Jameson” that ever lived.
Place of death
Knowing the state, county, or city where a person died can help narrow down your search and eliminate results that have nothing to do with your loved one or relative. This information can also help narrow down your search to a few specific cemeteries or graveyards in the area.
While this is less true today, back in the day it was quite cost-prohibitive to move someone to another city or state after they died. Since cremation was less popular, most people were buried nearby where they died.
The farther back in history you go, the more true this is. Civil War soldiers were sometimes sent home, but more often, they were buried on battlefields or cemeteries in nearby towns. Rarely did families get to bury their loved ones in a family plot when they died in battle.
New Hampshire-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
There are plenty of resources to help you search for your loved one’s grave in New Hampshire. Here are several of the best.
New Hampshire Gravestone Photo Project
The New Hampshire Gravestone Photo Project is a volunteer-led project whose goal is to photograph every gravestone in New Hampshire. Along with the photograph, the gravestone is also transcribed in order to preserve the rapidly fading etchings found in older stones.
The database currently has nearly 900 photos from cemeteries in four counties, and the record continues to grow. Searching is available by county, by cemetery, and by first or last name.
Find a Grave
Find a Grave isn’t a New Hampshire-only resource, but it’s one of the best resources available. The database contains 190 million records worldwide. You can narrow your search several ways by searching state databases, using alternate spellings, and providing spouse’s and children’s names during an advanced search. If you think your relative is buried in New Hampshire but you’re not quite sure, use this resource first.
Interment is another nationwide database that allows you to search for records within a specific state. Once on the New Hampshire page, you can browse through records by county, cemetery, or by searching for someone’s first and last name. If you’re uncertain of where your relative is buried, you can also search all records on the home page by entering their name.
LDS Genealogy provides a compilation of over 1,500 genealogy websites that forms their database. When you search for a name, the site will comb all of the connected websites for information.
You can search by state to narrow down your results or search the entire database. This is one of the best spots on the web that combs through massive amounts of data and compiles it all into one place.
Local New Hampshire Archives
Check with the local communities where you believe your relative to have been buried for local archives. Many libraries have archived records that are searchable in person. Cemeteries that have become historical sites also tend to have in-person searchable archives.
Steps for Finding a Grave in New Hampshire for Free
Ready to get searching? Follow these steps to find your loved one’s grave.
1. Gather information together
Whether you’re trying to find a grave in a cemetery or find out if someone died, you’ll need to conduct some preliminary research before you pull up your favorite resource from the list above. Naturally, the more information you can find, the better.
If you’re uncertain where to find information for your relative, try searching through documents on genealogy websites such as Ancestry.com. Look for death certificates, birth certificates, marriage records, birth records, bills of sale, titles, and land deeds. These records should have key pieces of information such as formal names, spouse and children’s names, birth and death dates, and more.
Should your online document search prove unsuccessful, consider asking family members if there is a family Bible. Some families used a Bible to record births, deaths, weddings, and baptisms.
2. Perform an online search
The first and easiest place to start your search is online. There are plenty of helpful online resources such as those mentioned above. Many allow you to start with a simple search by using the person’s name. You can use the advanced search features to include options like spouse’s and children’s names or alternate name spellings in your search parameters.
3. Check local in-person resources
If you haven’t found the information you need but you have an idea of where your loved one might be buried, check with local resources in that area. Go to the county library or records office and ask if there are any searchable archives you can gain access to.
If you found the cemetery where your loved one is buried but you’re not sure of the exact location, check to see if the cemetery has an archive of burial records. Many do.
4. Plan a trip to the cemetery
When you’re getting ready to find the grave in person, prepare as much as you can. Download or print out a map of the cemetery to help you navigate to your loved one’s grave. If their grave is marked with GPS coordinates, download a GPS tracker to your phone so you can input the coordinates and navigate to the grave once there.
5. Locate and visit the gravesite
Once you find the gravesite, it’s time for a visit. Be sure to document your findings by taking plenty of pictures when you’re there, updating maps, plotting GPS coordinates, and making notes of the surroundings. Doing this will ensure other relatives can visit even if the stone wears away.
Finally, before you leave, prepare to leave a flower at the grave in the person’s honor. Be sure, however, to check with the cemetery first for their rules for what to leave at a grave.
Find Your Family’s History
Finding the grave of a loved one might be a labor of love, but one that is well worth it once you find the location. Enjoy the deeper connection to your family’s history, gain a sense of closure, and compliment yourself on your sleuthing skills for a job well done.
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