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

Updated

How to find a grave in a cemetery in Virginia can be trickier for some than in other states. Still, we've pulled together a list of vital information, great resources, and some tips you'll need to know before you start your genealogical search.

Jump ahead to these sections: 

With new cemetery geomodelling, mapping, and mapping services, there are sure to be additional discoveries made to your favorite websites, so keep checking back. 

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

Use this list as a starting guide for your grave search in Virginia. Although you may only know one or two answers, that shouldn't deter you as the sources we’ve provided can help you gather more.

  • First, middle, and last names
  • Alternate name spellings
  • Exact birth/death year
  • Date of death or a range, before or after a date
  • Memorial or contributor ID
  • Parent, sibling, spouse, or child's name
  • Age of spouse at the time of death
  • Longevity of parents and grandparents
  • Name of cemetery
  • Date or place of funeral, burial

Don't fret, in some cases, if you know the cemetery but only have the first name, many of the resources below can help you compile more information about your family, its history, and your journey.


Get our free checklist for navigating loss 💙

Enter your email to get your free roadmap for the steps after loss in your inbox. 
Post-loss checklist

Virginia-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave

If you're looking for a grave in Virginia, you've got a lot of resources to support your journey. We've listed them A to Z for you, so take a look.

Access Genealogy

Access Genealogy offers free search tools for Black Virginia Genealogy. Use their website as a starting point or return point for links to:

  • Virginia African American Cemeteries
  • Virginia African American Census Records
  • Encyclopedia of Virginia Biographies
  • Virginia Wills Before 1799
  • Historical information such as Students, Tobacco, Schools, Society Papers, and more 
  • Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records

Pro-tip: Some graves, such as the ones in the Old City Cemetery, list first names only, “Slave of,” and whether the burial is “confirmed” or “unconfirmed.” Additionally, in the case of Old City Cemetery, the exact location of these graves is more understood than known. 

The Ancestor Hunt, Virginia Locations

Ancestor Hunt is a great tool for research that includes free links and resources for just about all of your genealogical searching needs.

You'll find:

  • Latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates for cemeteries
  • Microfilm links to miscellaneous town information like town meetings, road surveys, school reports, and more.

Pro-tip: While you’re there, click on other helpful links like the Tombstone Transcription Project or African American Cemeteries.

Arlington National Cemetery

Of all cemeteries located in the United States, Arlington National Cemetery is the most well-known, honored of them all. You can look online via a standard website from your PC or download their app for your smartphone.

To search their database, enter as much of the person's name as you know in the boxes provided.

Pro-tip: It may be easier to type in and search "How do I find a grave in Arlington" on your preferred Internet browser than to use the menus directly from Arlington National Cemetery's website as it gets a lot of traffic.

The City of Norfolk

Search the cemetery and burial database of the eight cemeteries provided for and maintained by the city of Norfolk. Satellite map locations within the cemetery are also provided for each grave listed. 

To support your efforts, the city of Norfolk offers search tips to enhance your results. 

  • Cemetery – Search all cemeteries or select a specific one.
  • Names – Use first, last, a combination, or an exact match. You can even enter the first letter of the last name plus the correct cemetery for all results matching those indicators.
  • Use % for search ranges, such as %son% to search names ending in -son such as Harrison, Thompson, and Jackson, et al.

Death Indexes, Virginia

Death Indexes is a useful site for a comprehensive look at obituaries, cemeteries by county, or how to obtain vital records in Virginia. Most of the links provided offer free search tools, but you may have to register with the website to use them. 

Pro-tip: Some maps that you’ll link to require a Macromedia Flash Player on your computer. Since Adobe retired Flash Player on December 31, 2020, you may have some issues trying to view the material. To get around this, contact the website’s administrator for support.


Download your free end-of-life plan.

Enter your email below to get your free checklist in your inbox. 

FamilySearch, Virginia Cemeteries

Common search engines like FamilySearch work for locating graves around the United States and in Virginia. To use this tool for: 

Statewide searches, log on to the website, then click these links in order: 

  • Virginia > Search > Cemeteries

County-level searches, log on to the website, then click these links in order: 

  • Virginia > Search > Cemeteries > Places in Virginia > [Select the County] > Cemeteries

Town-level searches, log on to the website, then click these links in the following order: 

  • Virginia > Search > Cemeteries > Places in Virginia > [Select the County] > Select Places within United States, Virginia, County Name > [Select the Town] > Cemeteries

While you're there, check out:

  • Vital statistics records
  • Jewish and Hebrew cemeteries
  • Military cemeteries

Pro-tip: For tips or support, check out their tool on Research Strategies. It'll help you get unstuck when conducting just about any aspect of your genealogical research.

Hollywood Cemetery

Log on or visit Hollywood Cemetery in person. Aside from notable presidents and people buried there, you'll search for the location of your loved one's grave. To do so combines any of the following:

  • First name 
  • Last name
  • Middle name
  • Birth year
  • Year of death

Pro-tip: Using a combination of someone's first name with a birth year will produce all people born with that name and in that year.

Interment.net

The Virginia section of Interment works well for those looking for cemetery records by county or town. You'll also find:

  • 208 newspaper titles, dated 1735 -1986
  • Obituaries, dated 1985-present
  • Funeral notices

Pro-tip: While the website offers a free search tool, you'll need to sign up to use it.

The Tombstone Transcription Project, Virginia

The Tombstone Transcription Project seeks to identify, record, and make historical records of the family, local, and regional tombstone inscriptions throughout Virginia. With normal weathering and wear, many tombstone etchings become illegible, so it’s up to volunteers to document these pieces of history.

For example, a volunteer submitted this information in Big Stone Gap, VA:

“Lipps Cemetery, Wise Co., VA was moved from it's [sic] original [sic] location beside Powell Valley High School in Big Stone Gap, Va. to Approximatly [sic] 1\4 mi. back, to make room for a New Store, I suspect alot [sic] more grave's [sic]were orginally [sic] there than were not moved.”

Pro-tip: To use this site in your search, first, you’ll need to know the county or city. From there, you’ll click on the appropriate location to find the list of known persons. Useful data includes the names of those buried in the cemetery, GPS coordinates, and more. 

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Suppose, during your search for graves in Virginia, you unearth an archaeological site. This resource will help you figure out what to do, who to contact, and what laws govern the land on which you've made the discovery.

Virginia Society, Sons of the Revolution

To find the grave search button, first, log on to the website. In the menu bar at the top, locate and click on "Programs." 

In the next menu, locate the "Revolutionary War Graves Preservation Program" and click on the "Here" link just below.

From there, scroll down to locate and launch the VASSAR Grave Database Viewer by selecting the Blue Folder icon.

The final step here is tricky because the boxes to fill in are hidden, so just click on the blank spaces located after "Last Name" and "County OR City," then click "Submit."

Pro-tip: While you're there, check out the local chapter designations for Newsletters, Community Events, and Open Board Positions.

Get weekly reminders to live life fully.

We'll send inspirational quotes directly to your inbox.

Steps for Finding a Grave in Virginia for Free

Some of the more well-known colonial sites, such as Jamestown, require you to pay a fee to access genealogical records from the first settlers. Of course, other websites work similarly, but you get around paying a fee. Here’s how.

1. Speak with family

Your family is the best and easiest place to start for hints and clues to your ancestry. But don’t get discouraged if some of the puzzle pieces don’t fit together right away. Just gather what you can, make a mind map, and fill in the blanks as you go.

2. Start online

Use as many free online resources as you can. When you get stuck, send emails to the website administrators for some support. 

Pro-tip: Keep a detailed log of the sites you visit, what you found out there, and what links were provided. This can be a roundabout search, which means that a thorough list could become your best friend.

3. Continue your research in archives, libraries, and more

When you’ve exhausted one avenue, always ask yourself what more you can do with other free services. Places like your local library, religious archives, and county data may be the next best place for how to find out if someone died, or even how they died.

Pro-tip: If you’re not familiar with microfiche or microfilm, ask your local “research professional” librarian to help you understand how to use it for your purpose. 

4. Online forums

Online forums are growing, useful resources. If you haven’t used one yet, basically, you ask a question and then wait for someone with shared knowledge to offer it up. In some cases, that information can pinpoint you to the answer, while in others, it merely offers a general direction for you to continue your journey.

5. Visit the grave

After all that effort, it’s time to visit the grave. Taking an etching is becoming more and more taboo, so bring along a camera instead. And if you’re not sure what to leave at a grave, flowers are always a nice touch.

What’s Happening with Graves in Virginia?

Through research, excavation, historical preservation, and more, the process of identifying unmarked colonial cemeteries, newly unearthed indigenous sites, and African American burial grounds is always afoot. 

If you're a Virginia 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.


Sources:

  1. "Arlington National Cemetery." Arlington National Cemetery, 2021 arlingtoncemetery.mil
  2. “Black Genealogy.” Access Genealogy, 2021. accessgenealogy.com
  3. “Cemetery Preservations; Frequently Asked Questions.” DHR Virginia, 2021. dhr.virginia.gov
  4. "Free Virginia Online Cemetery and Burial Records." The Ancestor Hunt, 16 October 2021. theancestorhunt.com
  5. “Online Virginia Death Records & Indexes.” Death Indexes, 2021. deathindexes.com
  6. “Search Burial Records.” Hollywood Cemetery, 2021. hollywoodcemetery.org
  7. “Search Burial Records.” Norfolk.gov, 2021. norfolk.gov
  8. “Search Virginia Death Records.” Internment.net, 2021 interment.net
  9. "The Tombstone Transcription Project." USGW Tombstones, n.d. usgwtombstones.org
  10. "Virginia Cemeteries." Family Search, 13 August 2021. familysearch.org
  11. Virginia Society. "Sons of the American Revolution." Virginia SAR, 2021. virginia-sar.org

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.