How to Find a Grave in Washington DC for Free: Step-By-Step

Updated

Are you trying to find a grave in Washington DC? The searching process can seem like a daunting task if you’re not sure exactly where in DC the grave you’re seeking happens to be.

Jump ahead to these sections:

There are numerous reasons you might not know the location of a grave you’re trying to find. Maybe you’re looking for a long-lost relative’s grave. Perhaps you’re working on a historical research project and are attempting to track down the grave of someone who died a long time ago.

No matter your reason, finding a grave in Washington DC can be easier than you might expect. Thanks to a range of free tools and resources, it can also be affordable. Keep reading to learn more.

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

Finding a grave in Washington DC (or anywhere else) tends to be easier when you start by conducting basic preliminary research. Information and documentation you might want to gather before getting more deeply involved in your research include the following:

» MORE: Make things easier for yourself in the future. Use Cake to help a loved one plan and navigate their loss when the time comes.

 

Basic identifying information

You will naturally want to know the full name of the individual whose grave you’re tracking down. It’s also beneficial to know the date or year of their death. If you can’t find this information, you may at least be able to get a general idea of when they died.

Try to find out where the deceased was living at the time of their death as well. It’s common for someone’s grave to be fairly close to where they lived at the time of their passing. If it isn’t, it may be close to where they spent most of their life. 

Information about membership in certain groups

Do some research to determine if the person whose grave you’re seeking was a member of any specific group. For example, they may have been a devoted member of a particular faith. Or, they may have been a veteran.

Many Washington DC cemeteries exclusively serve individuals and families who belong to select groups. There are cemeteries for veterans, members of certain churches, and more.

Groups such as fraternal orders and alumni associations also tend to keep records of the deaths and burials of their members. These records could point you in the direction of the grave you seek.

Miscellaneous documentation

Depending on whose grave you’re trying to find, you might be able to access or obtain additional forms of evidence or documentation to help you locate their burial site. For example, if you’re looking for an ancestor’s grave, relatives may be able to provide you with personal correspondence that can offer clues to the whereabouts of their burial location. This type of documentation may also be available if you’re trying to find the grave of a historical figure.

Such evidence and documents won’t always be available to someone trying to find a grave in Washington DC. However, it’s worth considering whether you may have access to any extra info like this that may guide you towards a gravesite.

Washington DC-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave

Finding a grave in Washington DC doesn’t need to be a challenge. Nor does it need to be expensive. These tools can help you find what you’re looking for:

Join Cake's monthly newsletter.

Learn all you need to know about end-of-life.

Find a Grave: Washington DC section.

The name of Find a Grave tells you exactly what this platform offers. It’s a database allowing users to search for cemeteries (and graves within said cemeteries). Although this tool is usually more helpful if someone knows the general region of a state where someone is likely to have been buried, you don’t need to know much about the specific part of DC where someone’s grave may be to leverage this tool to your advantage. DC is small compared to the other states in our country, making the grave-locating process remarkably easy.

As long as you’re confident the burial site of the person whose grave you’re seeking is in DC, Find a Grave can likely help you track it down. Check the site’s Washington DC section for more information.

Family Search: Washington DC section

Family Search offers a service similar to Find a Grave. The main difference is that Family Search does not allow users to search directly for the grave of a particular individual. Instead, it provides a list of resources and tools that can aid in their searches. Visit Family’s Search’s Washington DC section to find out if any of the resources it lists will help you.

Historical societies

Washington DC has long played a critical role in our nation’s history. It may thus come as no surprise to learn that DC is home to its fair share of historical societies.

Historical societies often keep archives related to death and burial records. If the person whose grave you’re trying to find was a historical figure, or if they died a long time ago, you might find valuable information in the archives of one of DC’s many historical groups and museums.

Libraries may keep similar records. Check with them as well when doing your research.

DC Vital Health Records Division

The DC Vital Health Records Division keeps death records dating back to 1874. Although rare, someone’s death certificate might also include documentation indicating where their grave is.

Just be aware that not everyone has a right to access death records via this service. To qualify for access to someone’s death certificate, you need to one one of the following:

  • Their spouse
  • Their domestic partner
  • Their parents
  • Their siblings
  • Their adult child
  • Their grandparents
  • Their legal guardian
  • Their legal representative
  • A member of a law enforcement agency
  • Another interested party (such as someone who needs a death certificate to address a property rights issue)
» MORE: Make things easier for yourself in the future. Use Cake to help a loved one plan and navigate their loss when the time comes.

 

Steps for Finding a Grave in Washington DC for Free

The steps involved in finding a grave in Washington DC can vary depending on whose grave you’re seeking, the date on which the deceased passed, and more. In general, though, the process may involve such steps as the following:

1. Find the deceased’s obituary online

Don't assume you'll need to conduct extensive and thorough research to find a grave in Washington DC. Although this is sometimes necessary, it's often possible to find a grave by searching for the deceased's obituary via Google.

In the digital age, many obituaries are now available online. An obituary will usually name the cemetery where the burial took place. Searching for someone's obituary online is also a method to consider if you're unsure how to find out if someone died.

If you know the name of the cemetery where you might find someone's grave, you can then check to find out if the cemetery has a website. The websites of many cemeteries now offer search tools that let you find the location of a specific grave. All you have to do is search for the deceased's name, and the site will provide information about their plot number. The site may also have a downloadable cemetery map to make your search even more straightforward. 

That said, not all cemetery websites offer this feature. Some cemeteries don't have websites at all.

Even if a cemetery doesn't have a web presence, a Google search should still provide contact information for the organization that owns or manages the cemetery. Reach out to the cemetery's operators and explain which grave you're looking for and why you're trying to find it. The odds are they will help provide the information you need. For more information on determining the precise location of a grave, check our guide on how to find a grave in a cemetery.

2. Use the resources here

Don’t worry if a Google search for someone’s obituary doesn’t turn up any beneficial results. The resources above can help. Although you may have to devote some extra time to researching a grave’s location when relying on these tools, you can eventually determine which Washington DC cemetery is home to the deceased’s burial site with a bit of patience and persistence.

3. Find the grave

You should now have a shortlist of cemeteries where you suspect you might find the grave you’ve been searching for. Follow the process Step 1 of this section identifies precisely where the tomb is within one of those cemeteries.

You’re probably looking for someone’s grave intending to visit it. You might thus want to prepare accordingly by thinking about how you will make your visit meaningful. One way to do so is to leave a unique item at the deceased’s grave. Our guide on what to leave at a grave can help if you’re having trouble coming up with ideas of your own.

Finding a Grave in Washington DC: Various Methods to Consider

Regardless of why you may be looking for a particular grave in Washington DC, finding it doesn’t need to be a challenge. Hopefully, this overview has helped you better understand how tracking down someone’s grave in virtually any part of the country can be easier than you might have thought.

If you're a Washington DC 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.

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.