You would think a site with a name like Find a Grave would be useful mostly for finding graves, right?
Nope. I’ve been using this site a lot lately to find people on this side of the grass. Who knew?
I am amazed at how often people have left “flowers” or tributes for people I’m researching. Some of them are strangers (and children’s graves in particular seem to get a lot of those “flowers”), but every so often you’ll find a descendant who has written about their memories of the person in question. That’s a huge help when you’re looking to connect with living descendants to share information…and it gives you a big leg-up in terms of determining which of those descendants is most likely to respond favorably to your out-of-the-blue email. Anyone who is spending time on Find a Grave and writing tributes to their Aunt Mabel is more likely than most to be excited to hear from a family historian.
One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that more and more people are posting whole obituaries, even for complete strangers. I just connected with a descendant who would have been very hard to track down if I hadn’t seen a full obituary posted for the wife of the person I was researching. I might have eventually found that obit myself, but not without a great deal of work (and at least one research trip, since it’s from a newspaper I can only access at a library 400 miles away).
If you haven’t looked up people whose graves you’ve already located, try it. You might be surprised to find a connection with a real live person.
Photo by Orin Zebest
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