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

Updated

Chances are you already have an idea how to find a grave in a cemetery. But the problem might be that you’re either stuck or backed into a corner. Or it could be that you’re looking for the easy button that’ll provide a list of great resources, with easy-to-follow directions, and no extra guesswork.

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With much older cemeteries, a mass of undocumented cemeteries, missing historical record-keeping, and even county line redrawing, locating a grave in West Virginia can be trickier than in some states. But don’t worry. We’ve found some of the best resources to help you throughout your geological journey.

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

The information you’ll need to begin the search for a grave in West Virginia is as simple as gathering a few names, dates, some family information, and locating a few geographical references. Take a look.

  • 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 worry about completing the entire list, though. Lots of people start with a few clear answers. The joy of the search comes in filling out the leaves on those family tree branches, one by one, with some dedicated sleuthing.

West Virginia-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave

When using the following resources, take note of contributor emails or links that offer support. That way, if you have questions as a result of your search, you can drop them an email for some help or to find out some useful tips.

Find a Grave, West Virginia

If you have all the information needed to find a grave (see bulleted list above), then check out Find a Grave.

  • Begin by logging on to Find a Grave’s website. Choose West Virginia. Locate the cemetery needed by clicking on State > County > Cemetery. 
  • Continue to fill in the blank boxes to narrow the search parameters, locating the correct gravesite within the cemetery. You’re in luck if the result gives you photos of the headstones as not all have them.

If you’re missing some information, play around with the data that you do have. You might still reach your goal if you can widen various search parameters for birth/death, nicknames, or siblings' names.

Pro-tip: Some living family members have opted to replace gravestone photos with pictures of their loved ones, while other links remain without pictures at all. 

Interment.net

The West Virginia section of the Interment is a great resource for those looking for cemetery records by county or town. Located on this website, you’ll also find:

  • 35 newspaper titles, dated 1791­–1904
  • Obituaries, dated 1999­–present
  • Funeral notices

Pro-tip: Not all cemetery records listed online are complete. That’s why the addition of oral histories available to each landing page can aid in your search for graves in West Virginia. 

For instance, the Silver Run Cemetery, a.k.a., the Saint Michael Catholic Cemetery, holds members from the first group of Irish immigrants escaping the potato famine. Note that no records exist after 1922. 

The Tombstone Transcription Project, West Virginia

Under the direction of volunteer managers, the Tombstone Transcription Project identifies, records, and creates historical records of the family, local, and regional tombstone inscriptions throughout West Virginia. 

Locate West Virginia’s pages by clicking on State Projects > West Virginia > County > Cemetery or Graveyard. 

Pro-tip: In addition to names, dates, and other vital statistics, consider the contributor notes found at the top of each page. There, you’ll not only gain firsthand knowledge of how to find the cemetery location but also what things you can expect to find once you get there. 

Contributors often include findings of unmarked graves, tombstone inscriptions, and any other relevant information for those genealogy or mystery seekers.

FamilySearch, West Virginia Cemeteries

FamilySearch is an ideal, one-stop database location for most of your genealogical search needs. For gravesite searches at every level in the state of West Virginia, follow these directions: 

For Statewide searches, LOG ON to the website, then CLICK these links in order: 

  • West Virginia > Search > Cemeteries

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

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

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

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

In addition to cemetery and gravesite location information, interesting links include:

  • County line revisions
  • Jewish, Hebrew cemeteries
  • Native American genealogy records – note that not all tribes have been recognized in the United States, so this list is likely inconclusive.

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Archives.com

Some websites charge you to use their database. Others are entirely free. This one offers you a seven-day trial at no charge, but you will have to pay to use their site afterward. 

Pro-tip: If you don’t want to pay for the service, then exhaust all other resources before you visit Archives.com. When ready, gather up all of your notes, take a weekend, and do as much research as you can until the trial period is over. 

Just set a reminder on your calendar or tie a string around your finger so that you remember to cancel the subscription before they charge you.

Cemetery Junction

Cemetery Junction provides an online directory of cemeteries throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia. Use its resources in a few different ways.

  • Search for cemeteries by alphabetical listing.
  • Search for cemeteries using partial names.
  • Use links to find information on West Virginia genealogy, obituaries, societies, vital records, funeral homes, and more.

Pro-tip: Help other history-seekers out by submitting any additional found information that the site might be lacking. Be part of the many novice genealogists improving data for everyone.

Steps for Finding a Grave in West Virginia for Free

Before you lose precious time chasing the wrong leads, read through this list. Keep it in mind when conducting your research.

1. Ask your family

In many cases, families will have the best route to answers for you. Some may have it all written down in the family Bible. Others could have an old hat box stuffed with clippings, leads, and more. But you’ll never know until you ask.

2. Online resources

From the resources listed above, take note of which ones provide you with the quickest answers using the least amount of energy. Take extensive notes, connect dots, and leave question marks wherever there’s a hole that can’t be filled. 

3. Post in online forums

If you get really stuck in your search, post to an online forum for some help. In reality, you may not find a single response. 

But, on the offshoot that someone out there has the information you need to connect the dots, you certainly won’t have wasted any time tossing out a question for someone to answer.

4. In-person research at libraries, courthouses, other historical archives 

After you’ve exhausted all online possibilities, head to a library, courthouse, or other historical archives for additional help. There, you’ll find databases of information unlikely to be found online, such as newspaper clippings, town flyers, photos, and more.

In addition, you might find it useful to chat with historical societies whose hobbies include gathering pertinent, regional information. After all, sometimes the oral history will lead you down the correct rabbit hole.

5. Compile a genealogical kit

For those days you are off to the country, traveling gravel and dirt roads, you’re going to need a set of supplies. Pack some food for your adventure just in case you miss that last greasy spoon, too.

  • Notebook – to jot down quick notes, brainstorm, and keep addresses or locations on file
  • Pen, pencil – for obvious reasons
  • Folder with pockets – for copies you don’t want to lose
  • Camera – you’ll need a camera in lieu of rubbing material
  • Audio device – to record those long-winded discoveries
  • Money – currency in small bills and coins for those just in case scenarios
  • ID – for municipal buildings and libraries
  • Copy of your family tree – handy to have around when brainstorming
  • List of contacts – just in case you lose cell coverage 
  • Plat book or GPS – a useful idea for rural locations
  • Contact information – maintain contact information for safety’s sake when out in unfamiliar places

Keep your kit in a sealable pack, like a backpack, with some comfortable shoulder straps.

6. Visit the grave

Now that you know where the grave is located, it’s time to visit the grave. So, grab that genealogical kit you put together and make a day of it. While you’re there, check out some of the nearby headstones to glean some historical references, giving breadth to the life your loved one once lived.

If you don’t know what to leave at a grave, leave a bouquet of organic flowers or something biodegradable.

More on Locating Native American Graves in West Virginia

For more information on finding ancestral data related to Indigenous Native Americans, start by accessing Native Land’s Digital website. Then, zoom into your location to find the name of the tribe that once inhabited the land. 

A few additional keyword searches later should lead you to the appropriate tribal websites for cultural and burial information.

If you're a West 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. Ancestry.com. “West Virginia, U.S., Cemetery Readings, 1941 [database on-line]”. Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000. ancestry.com
  2. Cemetery Junction. “West Virginia Cemeteries.” Daddezio, 2010. daddezio.com
  3. Family Search. "West Virginia Cemeteries." Family Search, 13 August 2021. familysearch.org
  4. Find a Grave. “Cemeteries in West Virginia.” Find a Grave, 2021. findagrave.com
  5. Internment. “Search West Virginia Death Records.” Internment.net, 2021 interment.net
  6. Native Land Digital, native-land.ca, 2021. native-land.ca 
  7. The Tombstone Transcription Project, usgw tombstones, n.d. usgwtombstones.org

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