Trying to find a grave in Wisconsin can seem like a difficult task if you don’t know where the burial site you’re looking for may be.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Wisconsin?
- Wisconsin-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
- Steps for Finding a Grave in Wisconsin for Free
There are many reasons you might want to track down someone’s grave despite not being aware of its location. You might be looking for the grave of a long-lost relative. Or, maybe you’re working on a research project.
Either way, finding a grave in Wisconsin when you don’t know where to start doesn’t need to be as challenging as you assume. It also doesn’t need to be expensive. This guide will help you better understand how you may find a burial site in Wisconsin using various free tools and resources.
What Information Will You Need Before You Try to Find a Grave in Wisconsin?
It’s best to conduct some preliminary research before actively searching for someone’s grave in Wisconsin. Your search will go much more smoothly if you begin by first gathering some basic information. Below, we will outline information that can help you easily track down the location of a grave in Wisconsin.
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Basic identifying information
You already likely understand that you should know the individual's full name whose grave you're searching for. It is also helpful to know when they died. If you don't know the exact date or even year of their death, having a general sense of when they passed can simplify your search later.
It may be helpful to know where the deceased spent most of their life. It would also help to determine where they were living at the time of their passing. While there are exceptions, in most cases, a person's burial spot will be near their place of residence where they died. If it isn't, it will often be close to where they lived most of their life.
Information about membership in specific groups
Many cemeteries exclusively serve members of specific groups and their families. For example, some cemeteries are strictly for veterans, cemeteries that only serve members of certain faiths, and more.
Some groups keep records related to their members' deaths, funerals, and burials. Examples may include fraternal orders and university alumni groups.
Before searching for their grave, list any exclusive groups to which they may have belonged. Knowing whether the person whose burial site you're seeking belonged to such groups may help you narrow down the list of cemeteries where you may potentially find their grave. You might benefit from referring to this list when conducting more thorough research later.
Miscellaneous documentation and information.
In some instances, you might have access to personal correspondence (or similar forms of documentation) that can provide you with clues indicating where you may find someone’s grave in Wisconsin. You might have access to this type of evidence and documentation if the person whose grave you’re attempting to track down was an ancestor or relatively significant historical figure.
You don’t need this type of documentation when searching for a grave. It can simply prove helpful if you do have access to it.
Wisconsin-Specific Resources to Help You Find a Grave
There are many resources you can use when looking for someone’s grave in Wisconsin. They include the following:
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Find a Grave: Wisconsin section
Find a Grave is an online database that precisely does what its name implies: it offers users access to a database of cemeteries across the country through which you can search for the graves of various individuals.
While there’s no guarantee Find a Grave will immediately provide the results you’re looking for, it’s worth checking the site’s Wisconsin section to see if it may help. Because Find a Grave lets you search for cemeteries and graves by county, it’s most likely to be helpful if you have a decent idea of the area of a state where the burial you’re looking for may be.
Family Search: Wisconsin section
Family Search doesn’t allow you to search for an individual’s grave directly. It does, however, offer a list of potentially helpful resources. Check its Wisconsin section for information.
Local historical societies
A basic sense of the location in Wisconsin where someone’s grave is could help you track down their burial site if they died a relatively long time ago or were some historical figure. If you know the region of the state where you will probably find the deceased’s grave, you can search for historical societies in that area.
Historical societies often keep death and burial records in their archives. They may thus help you find the grave you’re looking for.
Libraries may also keep such records. Consider visiting or contacting libraries in the part of Wisconsin where you believe the deceased’s grave is to find out if they offer any helpful resources.
County, city, and town websites
Checking county, city, or town websites is another option to consider if you think you know the general area of someone’s gravesite. Some counties and municipalities offer cemetery search tools via their websites.
Check the sites of the counties and towns or cities where you think you might find the grave you’re seeking. If their websites don’t offer cemetery search functions, you could contact town halls and county seats to inquire about any cemetery search resources or archives they may offer.
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Steps for Finding a Grave in Wisconsin for Free
The steps involved in finding a grave in Wisconsin can vary depending on several factors. They may include the following:
1. Search for the deceased’s obituary online
You might not need to conduct intense research to find someone's grave in Wisconsin. Start your search by Googling their name along with search terms like "obituary" or "death notice."
In the digital age, finding an obituary is easier than ever. If you locate a relative or friend's obituary online, it will probably offer information regarding where their grave is.
Their obituary almost certainly won't name the exact location of the deceased's grave. It will, however, probably at least name the cemetery where you can find the deceased's burial spot. Be aware that searching for someone's obituary online can also be helpful if you're not sure how to find out if someone died.
Once you know the cemetery's name where someone's grave is in Wisconsin, check to see if the cemetery has a website. Many cemetery websites now offer tools that allow users to search for the precise locations of graves by entering the names of individuals whose burial sites they are trying to find.
Don't worry if the cemetery you're researching doesn't have a website or if its website doesn't offer this feature. A little bit of Googling can still help you find the organization's contact information that operates the cemetery.
Reach out to the cemetery's operators directly to request information about the location of a particular grave. If you explain your reason for wanting to find a specific grave, they will likely be willing to help you.
Checking the website or contacting the owners or operators of a cemetery will help you find a grave without having to walk every inch of the cemetery in search of it. This process can also be helpful if you already know the cemetery's name but don't know its exact location. Check our guide on how to find a grave in a cemetery for more information on this topic.
2. Use the resources here
A Google search for an obituary won’t always help you find someone’s grave. You can use the various resources the above section of this article covers if it doesn’t.
Keep in mind that it may still take some time and effort to locate an individual’s grave. These resources can be valuable, but you may need to be somewhat patient when using them to find out where someone rests.
3. Find the grave
At this point in your search, you might know the name of the cemetery where you believe you’ll find the grave you’ve been looking for. At the very least, you may have a list of potential candidates.
Follow the process in Step 1 of this section to determine exactly where someone’s grave may be in a cemetery. Again, if the cemetery doesn’t have a search feature on its website or a website at all, those who operate the cemetery may still be willing to help. They might also be able to provide a map of the cemetery to make your search easier.
You should now begin preparing by thinking about what you might do when you visit the grave you’ve spent all this time looking for. Our guide on what to leave at a grave may provide you with some valuable ideas.
Finding a Grave in Wisconsin: Numerous Methods to Consider.
The fact that you don’t know where someone’s grave is in Wisconsin doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to locate it. As this guide illustrates, there are many ways you can find a grave not only in Wisconsin but in any state.
If you're a Wisconsin 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.