How to Find a Grave in Rhode Island for Free: Step-by-Step

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Are you looking for a gravesite in Rhode Island? Maybe you wish to visit the burial site of a person so you can say your goodbyes or obtain closure. Perhaps you are researching your genealogy and trying to track down information that you hope will be found on a headstone. 

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Regardless of your reason for trying to find a grave in Rhode Island, we would like to help. We’ll provide you with a few resources – websites that will help you in your search. Please understand that this article will not teach you how to find a grave within a cemetery. Instead, we will give you some ideas on finding which Rhode Island cemetery is the permanent resting space of your loved one or ancestor.

What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Rhode Island?

If you are looking for the grave of someone who died within the past 20 or 30 years, you probably will have a pretty easy time of it. If someone wrote an obituary for the deceased (and if the funeral information was public), you probably will be able to find the burial site online. Try doing a simple internet search to find the burial details you are seeking. However, tracking down the burial site of a person who died before the digital age may be a bit more challenging.

The more information you have about the deceased’s life and death, the more likely you will find their Rhode Island grave. Here’s information that will assist you in your search:

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Name

Of course, the best way to begin your search for a headstone is to find out everything you can about the deceased’s name. What name did they use at the end of their life? Then learn what you can about their name given to them at birth, possible nicknames, maiden names, and alternative spellings of the name.

Finding official records of the person’s death might help. However, death certificates weren’t standard at the state level in Rhode Island until 1853. Some death certificates have the burial site recorded. Others may have the place of death.

Searching cemetery records for the deceased’s name may uncover the burial spot. Just realize that any name can be engraved on a headstone it’s up to the family. For example, your great-great-grandfather named Frederick Alfred might be buried under the name Fred, Rick, Al, or another nickname that you wouldn’t have considered. 

Dates

Knowing the date of death may help you find a grave in Rhode Island. It may also be beneficial to know the birthdate of the deceased to help you narrow down the options. This is especially important if the deceased had a common name for the area. 

Also, if you aren’t sure what name may have been used on a cemetery headstone, knowing the date of death may help you efficiently look through newspaper archives, newspaper records, or funeral home records to find a record of the death.

Location of death

Another helpful piece of information that may help you find a grave in Rhode Island is the location of the death. There are exceptions to the rule, but 100 years ago, people tended to be buried near the place of death because moving the body may have been too expensive of an undertaking for a typical family. Also, cremation was not a standard option until the last several decades in the U.S., so it would be doubtful that the body was cremated and then transported back to Rhode Island for burial.

So, if you find an obituary, death notice, or death certificate that indicates the person died in another state in another region of the country, you might look at the cemetery records near the location of death to find the grave.

Rhode Island-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave

Once you know the possible names, birth and death dates, and location of death, you can utilize one of the following websites that will help you find a grave in Rhode Island for free. 

Find a Grave

If you are searching for a grave in Rhode Island or anywhere else in the U.S., begin your search at Find a Grave. Find a Grave allows users to search for the headstone using the person’s name(s), the year they were born, the year they died, and the location of the death. You can also add other keywords to the search, such as the names of the deceased’s parents, siblings, or children.

Within seconds, you might see an actual photograph of the headstone as well as the name of the cemetery where the person was buried. The pictures and locations for Find a Grave are taken and recorded by volunteers. 

Billion Graves

Billion Graves works the same way as Find a Grave. Volunteers take photos of the headstones and enter the information for this website. The only difference is that the volunteers working with Billion Graves record the GPS location of the burial site. 

Visitors to the website access the information using a similar type of search – the name of the deceased, years of the birth and death, and the approximate location of the burial site. 

Interment

You might be able to find a burial site in Rhode Island using Interment. This website has a page specifically for Rhode Island, and it includes the partial cemetery records for Bristol, Kent, Newport, and Providence counties. In addition, it includes archives of 73 Rhode Island newspapers published between 1732 and 1921, a Rhode Island obituary search from 1981 to current, and Rhode Island funeral notices.

The only drawback to this website is that not all the records are available for free. However, you might be able to access the information you need by signing up for a free trial and then canceling before you are charged. 

» MORE: Need help with funeral costs? Create a free online memorial to gather donations.

Ancestry

If you know very little about the deceased family member you are seeking, begin your search at Ancestry. Ancestry is extremely helpful because it enables you to connect with family trees completed by members of your extended family. One of these extended family members may have already found the burial site and recorded it in the deceased person’s profile. 

Nationwide Gravesite Locator 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has created an online national gravesite locator for service members buried in a National Cemetery. This database allows you to search for the burial records using the person’s last name, birth date, and date of death.

You can also search for your soldier’s grave through the American Battle Monuments Commission website. 

Rhode Island Cemetery Commission

The Rhode Island Cemetery Commission has a searchable online database that may help you discover the burial site you are seeking.

Rhode Island Vital Records

Rhode Island vital records from 1853 to 1920 are available on this website. 

Rhode Island College Library

Other helpful resources, including archived copies of Rhode Island newspapers, can be found on this website. 

Reasons You Can’t Find a Gravesite in Rhode Island

We’ve given you a lot of resources for finding a grave in Rhode Island, but you may not have found any record of the person’s burial. Here are some possible reasons why. 

The person is still living

Could it be that the headstone you are searching for does not exist because the person is still alive? Verify the person’s birth date to see if that is a possibility and then learn more about how to find out if someone is still alive.

The cemetery records aren’t online

More historical records are available each year, but it could be that the information you are seeking hasn’t been digitized. 

The headstone is unreadable

The headstone marking the burial site may have crumbled or deteriorated to the point that it is difficult or impossible to read. And even if cemetery records did exist, they may not be available online.

Your loved one’s grave wasn’t marked

If your loved one lived in a rural Rhode Island community over 100 years ago, they might have been buried on private land in an unmarked grave. Even if your ancestor was buried in a cemetery, the family might not have installed a permanent headstone at the site. Cemetery records may still show the burial location, but you may need to visit the cemetery to access those records. 

Steps for Finding a Grave in Rhode Island for Free

Hopefully, you were able to discover the burial site of your loved one using one of the previous resources. However, If you were unsuccessful, we have other advice on finding a grave in Rhode Island for free.

1. Ask for help from members of your extended family

Reach out to your oldest living relative and the person in your extended family interested in family history. They might know where the grave in Rhode Island is located or know another person who might help you in your search. If they don’t know the burial site, you might ask to see if they have a box full of obituaries, funeral programs, or other records that you could look through to get the information you are seeking. 

2. Visit the Rhode Island community where your ancestor lived and died

Not all historical records are available online. However, you might be able to find the obituary of your ancestor by looking through bound periodical archives or those recorded on microfilm or microfiche.

3. Visit Rhode Island cemeteries

Visit the Rhode Island cemeteries near where your ancestor lived or died. Look through cemetery records if they are available. Also, don’t forget to visit cemeteries affiliated with your ancestor’s church or other religious institutions.

Did You Find Your Loved One’s Grave in Rhode Island?

If you found the gravesite in Rhode Island, you might want to leave a gift at the gravesite to honor your loved one. Even if you never had the pleasure of meeting the person, you might find that visiting their grave is an emotional experience. 

If you're a Rhode Island 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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