How to Find a Grave in New Mexico for Free: Step-by-Step

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Are you on the hunt for a long-lost relative’s grave? Perhaps you’re doing some amateur detective work and piecing together a timeline of your family’s history. Maybe you’re simply looking for a loved one’s grave so you can pay your respects.

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Whatever the case, finding a grave can be a surprising challenge unless you’re armed with the right information and know-how, and that’s what we hope to provide you with. Read on for helpful steps, tips, resources, and information that will assist you with your grave search.

What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in New Mexico?

Successfully finding a grave starts here, with the information you need to collect before starting your search. All gravesite databases will require a minimum of a first or last name to start your search. While this may sound simple enough, you really do need more than that. Here’s why.

If your relative’s name is Susan Jones, and you type that in a gravesite database search, you’ll be given every result for every Susan Jones that ever lived. While it can certainly be exciting to see so many potential results fill your computer screen, you likely won’t want to comb through the thousands of entries that have nothing to do with your family’s Susan Jones.

To avoid the issue of a massive data dump, you’ll want a little more information about your relative. This information includes items like:

  • First, middle, and last name
  • Spouse’s name
  • Children’s names
  • Birthdate
  • Death date
  • State, county, and city where they died
  • Cemetery where they were buried

We know you may not have all of these pieces of information and if you knew which cemetery they were buried in you probably wouldn’t be looking for help to find their grave. However, these are the pieces of information that are helpful to have, if you can find them. Let’s take a look at why these things are important.

Names

Names are a critical piece of the puzzle when searching for a loved one’s grave. Naturally, you need a first or last name to get started, but you should also have any alternate spellings they used, nicknames, and maiden names if they were married. 

Advanced search engines allow you to search for both their formal name and a nickname or alternate spelling. This can be incredibly helpful if your ancestor ever changed their name, if you’ve found documentation of a misspell, or if they ever used nicknames for official paperwork. 

Dates

Knowing when your relative was born and when they died can help you narrow down search results. Even having an “about” date can prove helpful. Let’s say you think they were born around 1785 and they died around 1845. With this information, you can search for grave records for your loved one’s name from those two dates.

Rather than being given search results for every Susan Jones that ever existed, you’ll find results dramatically narrowed to only the Susan Joneses that lived from 1785 to 1845. 

Family members

Knowing the names of your loved one’s spouse and children can dramatically help narrow down search results. This is especially helpful for common names such as Susan Jones. With a spouse’s or child’s name, you can now look for Susan Jones who was married to Arthur Jones and had a child named Bethany Jones. The more factors you have to add to your search parameters, the fewer results you’ll receive that have nothing to do with your relative.

Location of death

Location of death is always helpful since most people were buried in the county where they died. This is especially true of deaths that occurred in the 1900s and before. Transporting a body for burial across county or state lines is an expensive proposition and one that many can’t afford. Cremation has also not been a popular choice until fairly recently, so it’s unlikely that relatives from long ago were cremated and moved.

Staring with the location of their death can help you in determining which cemeteries to start searching through for records of your loved one’s grave.

New Mexico-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave

Thanks to the increasing interest in family history and ancestry research, there are many online resources that can help you with locating your loved one’s grave.

New Mexico Gravestone Photo Project

Most states have their own chapter of the gravestone photo project and New Mexico is not an exception here. The New Mexico Gravestone Photo Project is volunteer-run, and its goal is to take a photograph of every gravestone in New Mexico. Volunteer photographers also transcribe what is written on the gravestone.

The project currently has over 5,000 records uploaded to its online searchable database. You can search with only a first or last name and by county. If you find a photo of your relative’s grave, you can email the site administrator to request a copy for your personal use.


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Interment

Interment is a website that allows you to search through records across several platforms at once. While Interment itself is free, you might find that your search results take you to a website that is not. The site links to popular partners such as Ancestry and Genealogy Bank, both of which offer short free trials but paid subscriptions to access documents after the trial ends.

Find a Grave

Find a Grave is one of the most well-known and well-loved free online databases for gravesite records. You can search with as little as a first or last name, or perform an advanced search that includes a person’s spouse, children, and alternate spellings in the search parameters.

The website boasts an astounding 190 million records and growing, all free to search through. Most records have a picture of the gravestone, the cemetery location, and a transcription of what is written on the gravestone. Some even have plot numbers recorded, as well.

LDS Genealogy

LDS Genealogy is primarily a directory website that can provide a one-stop location for searching through many records across the web. While the multi-search function can be helpful, you might also find that the site links to other websites that require a subscription to access documents.

Military Grave Locator

The Military Grave Locator is run by the National Cemetery Administration under the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. This database solely contains records for military graves. You must have a last name in order to search. You can also enter a birthdate, death date, and middle name into the search parameters.

Records will provide you with the name and address of the cemetery where the person is located. In some cases, plot numbers and a corresponding map are also available.

Steps for Finding a Grave in New Mexico for Free

Ready to start your search for a grave? Follow the steps outlined below. These steps are helpful for finding a grave in a cemetery and even if you’re trying to find out if someone died

1. Do some preliminary research

Do you have all the information you need to search for your relative? If the answer is no, then it’s time for some research. Look through family records or genealogy websites such as Ancestry to find documents that can help provide the information you need. Helpful documents include:

  • Birth certificate
  • Death certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Military records
  • Land deeds and property titles

2. Start your online search

Choose one of the resources mentioned in this article and begin your online search by entering as much information as you have. If one search engine comes up empty, don’t get discouraged. Simply try another, and another after that. 

If you hit a true dead-end, consider pausing your search for a few months and trying again later. Information is being uploaded to databases daily, so you never know what will come up later.

3. Conduct in-person research

Many counties have archives and records that haven’t been uploaded to a searchable web database. In this case, you’ll need to visit in person. 

In-person research might prove helpful if you already know the county where your relative died. Visit the county library and ask about archives. They’ll point you in the right direction, whether the library is the archive site or another county office holds the records. 

You could also check with area cemeteries for archived records. Even if you don’t know which cemetery your loved one is in, you could search each cemetery’s records to try and find some information.

4. Prepare for your visit

If you’ve located your relative’s grave, it’s time to plan a visit! Depending on how large or old the cemetery is, it could be helpful to print out maps, locate the plot on the map, and figure out a route to the grave. If your loved one’s grave is marked with GPS coordinates, be sure you have a smartphone or GPS device with you to plot out your route.

5. Visit their gravesite

Congratulations on reaching this step! If you’re visiting your loved one’s grave that means your hard work paid off! When there, be sure to document your findings, take plenty of pictures, and correct plot and map information. Finally, leave a flower or another approved item to leave at a grave to honor their memory. 

Honoring a Relative

Finding the grave of a relative can help you with documenting your family’s history and honoring your ancestor’s contribution. While it may take a bit of detective work, all of your hard work will be well worth it when you finally stand before your loved one’s grave.

If you're a New Mexico resident and ready to start preparing your own end-of-life planning documents, Cake has Advance Care Planning forms you can download. To help ease your planning, we have all the documents you need in one place.

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