Guide or Instruction
Cemetery Records Research Tips
Cemetery records are not always easily located or organized. You must be persistent and check a variety of sources. Cemetery records include gravestones, sexton records, church burial registers and indexes of gravestone inscriptions compiled by various authors. They are especially useful if you cannot find a death record or certificate.
Research Cemeteries by Name
If you know the name of the cemetery where you ancestor was buried you can start researching that cemetery for your ancestor's information.
Search for Cemetery Names on Commercial Websites
Many cemeteries are listed on commercial websites. Search for cemeteries by county.
- Find a Grave
- Findagrave.com is a commercial website providing free access and input to an online database of cemetery records. It was founded in 1995. It currently contains information for over 300,000 cemeteries in over 170 different countries.
- U.S. Gen Web
- Usgenweb.com contains indexes that volunteers have compiled.
- Launched in 1996, Interment.net is a free online library of cemetery records from thousands of cemeteries across the world for historical and genealogy research.
- Google.com (or other search engines) can be used to search for the name of the cemetery to see if that cemetery association or office has put its listings online.
Visit the Society to Research Cemetery Records Resources
- Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Newsletter (WSGS)
- A periodical with listings submitted by volunteers who walked the cemeteries. They either copied the information from gravestones, or compared the information to the actual cemetery records. These periodicals can only be used at the Society. Members of WSGS have access to online copies of this periodical.
- Guyant Collection
- Contains inscriptions from gravestones found in 17 Wisconsin counties. These microfilm records represent every known cemetery in Florence, Langlade, Portage, Waupaca, and Waushara counties and many in Adams, Barron, Forest, Green Lake, Juneau, Lincoln, Marquette, Oneida, Outagamie, Shawano, Winnebago, and Wood counties. Check the master cemetery list, in our online collection of archival finding aids.
- Index of Cemetery Listings by Pat Haarsch
- This 177 page guide will help you navigate the Society's copies of Wisconsin cemetery inscription lists. The guide and all the cemetery lists are available at the Society's Library. See more information on the Index of Cemetery Listings from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library Catalog.
Research Cemeteries by Location
If you don't know the name of the cemetery but know the geographical location where you ancestor is buried, do a history of the town and years in question. Create a list of names and locations of cemeteries that existed at that time and place.
Newspapers, city directories and published county histories are good resources to find cemetery names.
If you know the county, our staff may be able to provide you a list of cemeteries for that county.
Information that May be Found Researching Cemeteries
- Date of birth and death
- Military service
- Description of relationship in the family
- Cause of death
- Religious affiliation
In Cemetery, Sexton or Church Records
- Who is buried in a cemetery
- Who purchased the lot
- Names of next of kin
- Records of church cemeteries are often found in the church records either at a local or regional level.
- Public cemeteries have records maintained by a sexton, caretaker or town clerk.
- Family cemetery records are not always maintained and the lots are generally located on private property with no records to show who is buried there. Research the family manuscript collections to look for cemetery information.
- Consider that cemeteries have been moved, stones have been vandalized and records have been lost. Local libraries or historical societies may have information about relocated cemeteries.
- Surveys of cemeteries are not cemetery records. They are secondary sources and should be checked against the actual source.
- Family members may be buried next to each other.
About our Cemetery Records
The Society owns many small groups of published and unpublished records from churches and public and private cemeteries around Wisconsin.
Cemetery records can help make connections across generations. Cemetery records provide clues about your lineage and can point you to other resources to investigate.
Researching your family history
See more articles about researching your family history.
Contact our Library and Archives staff by email.