Do you wish to find a grave in Texas? Then, of course, you could hire a genealogy expert from the area to scour through old newspapers and public records to find the headstone you are seeking.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Texas?
- Texas-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
- Steps for Finding a Grave in Texas for Free
However, you might be surprised by the amount of information you can find online for free. So before you reach out to a family tree expert to help you with your research, try these free methods for finding a grave in Texas.
What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Texas?
The more information you have about the deceased, the greater chance you’ll have to find a record of their burial. Here’s the essential information you should gather before trying to find a grave in Texas.
There are all sorts of pitfalls that leave people frustrated when trying to find a grave. Here are just a few.
A person’s given name may not be the same as the one on their headstone. For example, your great-grandfather “Richard” may have been listed on the grave marker as “Richard,” “Rich,” “Dick,” “Rick,” “Richie,” or “Ricky.”
Some people use their middle names rather than their given first names, which means that the name on the birth or death certificate may or may not match the name on the headstone. In addition, name changes following marriage or divorce may complicate your search.
Names are often repeated throughout multiple generations of families. For example, there might be a Thomas Jefferson Smith in your family born in 1805 and another born in 1845.
Also, some names are extremely common. This makes finding the correct headstone almost impossible unless more information about the person is known.
Date of Death
While knowing your ancestor’s date of birth may be helpful, it’s more beneficial to know the month and year of when they died. This is because birth dates may have only been recorded in a family Bible before hospital births were common. Since the date of death is closer to the modern era when record-keeping improved, knowing this date might make it easier to find a specific burial spot.
Location of Death
Although there are certainly exceptions to the rule, people tend to be buried where they died. This is because moving a body across the state lines (or international borders) would have been difficult and expensive in the past several centuries. In addition, cremation wasn’t widely practiced until the last several decades, so a body was typically buried near the place of death.
Any information you have about the place of death would help find the grave of your family member. Online resources typically ask for the state and county of the death. Of course, being able to provide the name of the cemetery would further increase your chance of finding your ancestor’s headstone. However, some people are buried in unmarked graves.
Texas-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
Here are a few resources to help you find a grave in a cemetery. Some are specific for the state of Texas, while others are national or international resources.
Find a Grave is one of the most widely-used resources to help people find a burial site. Volunteers have tracked over 190 million memorials through this website since 1995. You can search the database by using the full name of the deceased, the year of the person’s birth and death, the cemetery location, and the name of the deceased’s spouse, parent, child, or sibling.
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Billion Graves uses searchable GPS cemetery data to provide headstone images and information for website visitors. Users can enter the person’s name, birth year, death year, and the place of death to find the grave of their loved one.
Interment offers a wealth of information for those looking for a grave in Texas. Besides providing links to the records of dozens of cemeteries in Texas, the website allows you to search Texas newspapers and county records for obituaries and death notices.
Try Ancestry’s Find a Grave index to look for a grave in the U.S. from the 1600s to the present. Even though the information you find through Ancestry is the same as what you would discover from Find a Grave, the search interface is a little different through Ancestry – which may yield better results.
Besides utilizing Ancestry’s Find a Grave index, you can also get a lot of information from the family trees Ancestry users post online. For example, by linking with the tree that your second cousin twice removed posted, you might be able to discover your great-great grandfather’s correct date of birth (or find specific information regarding their burial place).
Nationwide Gravesite Locator (provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
If your loved one was a U.S. Veteran, consider searching through the database offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The last name, date of birth, and date of death are required fields for the search.
You can also search for your soldier’s grave through the American Battle Monuments Commission website.
Were you unable to find your loved one’s burial site from the resources we provided?
Here are some reasons that their grave didn’t show up in any of your searches.
The person is still living
Could it be that the family member that you are searching for is still alive? Learn how to find out if someone is still alive before spending a lot of time searching for a grave.
The grave hasn’t been recorded yet
Volunteers record some of the information found on these websites. There may be more volunteers in some areas than others.
The headstone is difficult or impossible to read
Unfortunately, some of your family’s history may be lost because the headstone broke or deteriorated to the point that the text was impossible to read. This may have been caused by normal weathering or overzealous volunteers using incorrect methods to clean old headstones.
Your loved one’s grave wasn’t marked
Some burial sites were not recorded. In other cases, cemetery records may have been lost or destroyed.
Your loved one was buried on private land
Your loved one’s grave could be marked with a beautiful headstone. However, if the burial site is now on private land, you might never see the burial spot. Small cemeteries for families and religious communities are scattered throughout the country on privately-owned ground. Some landowners may be happy to share the cemetery with the deceased’s family, while others may view this as an inconvenience.
Steps for Finding a Grave in Texas for Free
Hopefully, you could find the grave for your loved one by using one of the websites from the previous section of this article. However, the process of finding a grave isn’t always that cut and dried.
Here are some other steps to consider for finding a grave in Texas for free.
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1. Collect additional information about the deceased by asking family members and members of the community
If you were searching for a grave with incorrect information, you might have hit a roadblock when using the previous resources. Before you continue with the following steps to find a grave in Texas, ensure you are working with the most accurate information.
Start looking for information that is available at your fingertips. Ask your oldest family members for input. Look through your family’s archives (which may be a shoebox full of funeral notices that your grandma kept in her attic). Also, look for lists of names or dates in the family Bible.
2. Expand your search online
Search Ancestry websites to find family genealogy information collected by extended family members.
Next, look for printed obituaries in newspapers, census records, and birth or death certificates from the Texas Vital Records Department of State Health Services.
3. Visit local communities where your family member lived or died
You might have to visit libraries or historical societies in the Texas communities where your family lived to look at old copies of newspapers or official records. You might also consider seeing if any local funeral homes can help you uncover death records in the local community.
You might also need to visit cemeteries located near the place of death. If you know the religious preference of your family member, you might want to visit cemeteries affiliated with particular faith groups in the community where they died.
Talk with the cemetery superintendent at each of these places to learn how to find a grave in a cemetery. Remember, your loved one’s headstone may have been destroyed over time, so you may not find the grave without additional help.
What To Do When You Discover Your Loved One’s Grave in Texas
Once you have found your loved one’s grave in Texas, you might consider sharing this information with other interested parties. Take photos of the headstone and upload the data to grave and ancestry websites.
You might also find yourself becoming emotional as you stand near the burial spot of your ancestor or loved one. Take a moment to reflect on the individual’s life. Even though they may have lived and died long ago, they were people who lived full lives, sometimes facing similar struggles to what we face today.
If moved to do so, you might consider leaving a gift at the gravesite. Common gifts include flowers or plants.