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

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Whether you want to visit an ancestor’s grave or you’re searching for a specific plot, it’s not always clear how to find a grave. The process is different depending on your location and state. How do you find a grave in Washington state for free? Do you need any specific tools, resources, or information?

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There’s undeniably an allure to visiting graves. From uncovering your family tree to learning what to leave at a grave, you need to know what resources are available. Since most people aren’t typically familiar with graveyards and how they work, it’s normal to have questions about this process. In this guide, we’ll share how to find a grave in Washington state for free using this step-by-step process. 

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

First, you’ll need key information before you try to find a grave in Washington. The more information you have about the deceased, the better. While you might need to learn how to find out if someone died, when you have a specific grave in mind, collect the following:

  • The full name of the deceased (first, middle, last)
  • The maiden name of the deceased (if applicable)
  • Date of birth
  • Date of death
  • Location of death

There are some things that can really help you identify all of the information above. For example, a death certificate often has the burial location or funeral home. This makes it even easier to find a grave in Washington. Otherwise, you can look up key information using ancestry websites, census records, and family documents. 

Understanding your family history takes time. If you’re researching a grave from long ago, there are fewer resources available to help locate these. The good news is that many older records in Washington state have been digitized, making them possible to find online. 

Washington-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave

If you’re looking for a grave in Washington, you’re in luck. There are a lot of state-specific resources designed to help people find key records. These are used by researchers and genealogists alike, regardless of your relationship with the deceased. Better yet, most are available for free. 

Washington State Library

First, the Washington State Library has a variety of useful links and digital tools. You can request an Interlibrary loan to access old records from other libraries in the state. You can also browse the digital Washington State Obituary Indexes. These are available by county, making it quick to search online for the specific record.

Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs

For veterans deaths, use the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. This website is dedicated to those who serve the nation and their loved ones. With cemetery information, directions, and general information, this is a great first-stop resource for veteran burials. 

Interment Washington Cemetery Records

Next, Interment is a free resource for state death records. Their Washington state page has a lot of free search tools including cemeteries by county, special cemetery projects, and Washington funeral notices. These records begin in 1854 and span until the present day, so this is a very powerful tool. 

Family Search

Family Search is one of the most well-known, trusted resources for ancestry. Their Washington page links to relevant tools, cemetery lists, and search engines specifically for the state of Washington. This is a great starting point if you’re not sure where to begin, and their resources are all free to access. 

Find a Grave Washington

Lastly, Find a Grave is a compelling resource for finding specific graves in Washington. With 39 Washington counties listed, you can easily search for specific names, cemeteries, and more. While you’ll need to know key names about the deceased to locate the specific grave, you can create a custom, personalized map to tell your family’s story. 

Steps for Finding a Grave in Washington for Free

If you’re ready to find a grave in Washington for free, you’re in the right place. While the resources and websites above are a great first step, you might need clear step-by-step tips to get started. 

1. Compile key information

To begin, make sure you have all of the key information about the deceased. As mentioned above, the more information you have, the easier it will be to find the grave you’re looking for. At the very least, you will need a name and place of death. 

If you’re not sure where someone is buried, there are a few ways to discover this information. You might contact funeral homes that were in business at the time of death, or you can contact the county clerk’s office. However, if you need to contact Vital Records, there are specific requirements for requesting this information in Washington state. 

2. Use a search tool

Once you know the right information, it’s time to use a search tool to find the specific grave location. If you know the county the individual passed in, begin researching the cemeteries in that county. These cemeteries might be run by the community, a local religious group, or a private company. 

3. Discover the plot location

When you’ve found the right cemetery, search the individual’s name to find the specific grave plot. The standard cemetery is broken into blocks, lots, and sections. You’ll find these numbers engraved on many types of gravestones, and it’s how you navigate your way around a cemetery. 

It’s normal to wonder how to find a grave in a cemetery. If you’re able to review a map of the cemetery plots, this can be a helpful resource. As always, practice proper cemetery etiquette when navigating a cemetery. 

4. Visit the grave

Lastly, it’s time to visit the grave. Once you’ve found the location of the grave you’re looking for in Washington state, it’s time to plan your visit. Pay attention to cemetery rules, visiting hours, and what you can and can’t bring. 

Finally, make sure you keep a record of this grave so you can pass it along to other family members. Finding gravesites is a lot of work, but it helps tell your family’s story. 

What to Bring to a Grave

Now that you know how to find a grave in Washington state, what do you do when you visit? There are a lot of different practices you could explore related to visiting a gravesite. Ultimately, this comes down to your personal wishes. These tips below help you determine what you should or shouldn’t bring to a gravesite. 

Cleaning supplies

First, many wish to visit their ancestors' graves as a way to pay respect. Over the years, graves often get dirty, making it harder to read the inscription. However, you want to proceed with caution when it comes to cleaning supplies. 

It’s possible to clean a grave, but you want to use the right supplies to avoid damaging the stone. When in doubt, stick with a simple brush and water. In addition, check the specific recommendations for the type of stone to avoid damaging any potentially fragile sections. 

Flowers

The most common offering to bring to a grave is flowers. Be aware that cemeteries have their own rules and requirements about the types of flowers they allow visitors to bring, 

In many cases, you’ll need to have a grave flower holder or some kind of container to prevent the cemetery grounds crew from removing the flowers weekly. Still, there are many sentimental and meaningful flowers that pay respects to the dead. 

Wreath or decorations

If you’re visiting the grave of someone who died long ago, it’s likely their grave hasn’t been visited in a long while. Bringing grave wreaths or other decorations is an exciting way to add life to the space, creating a reminder that this person is remembered. 

Again, always check with the rules of your specific cemetery to make sure these things are permitted. They might only be allowed seasonally or on a temporary basis. The cemetery might also offer its own approved list of decorations. 

Letter or photos

Lastly, you might wish to bring a letter or photos to the grave. In many cultures, it’s common to visit the graves of dead ancestors to catch them up on family happenings. Bringing photos of the dead, family images, and handwritten letters can be very meaningful. Most importantly, it can help you reach a sense of closure. 

Find the Right Grave in Washington

Whether you’re looking for an ancestor’s grave or you’re simply seeking a long-lost friend, finding the right grave is a form of remembrance. In Washington state, there are many free resources to help guide your search. The more you know about the deceased, the easier it is to find exactly what you’re looking for. Still, regardless of your relationship, you can locate this specific grave with ease. 

Visiting graves is something humans have done for centuries. Taking the time to practice remembrance in your regular life not only strengthens your own relationship with mortality, but it also connects you with your family history. Have you visited any graves recently?

If you're a Washington 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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