Using Find A Grave To Find Undead People

Using Find A Grave To Find Undead People

by Kerry Scott on 18 October 2010

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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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Boland October 18, 2010 at 11:04 am

Oooh, I’m going to look up estranged family members and see if anyone I knew is dead yet.


Kerry Scott October 18, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Ooo, that inspired tomorrow’s post, because I have a better site for stalking estranged family members to see if they’re dead yet. Stay tuned.


Cori R. October 18, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Thank you so much for that site! I tried it on a few of my father’s family and within an hour, I’d found a wealth of information on my grandfather’s family. One of his sister’s tombstones even noted that she’d written a book, which, interestingly enough, I found an inscribed edition up for sale! And just a few minutes after that, I found a photo for sale on Etsy that just might be her with her friends from 1899. Amazing.

I’m such a newbie at genealogy, it’s not even funny. This was so much fun! Even if the photo isn’t of her (I have no way to tell unless by handwriting comparison, if by chance she’s the one who wrote the names on the photo’s edge), it’s fun to imagine.


Kerry Scott October 18, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Holy cow—that’s really cool!


Debi October 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm

I love findagrave and use it often. I have found some obits from the 1700′s! And then to see a photo of the tombstone is very, very cool. I can’t wait to read your next blog post about finding out if people are dead yet – should be interesting.


Greta Koehl October 18, 2010 at 8:47 pm

I’ll add my praise for Findagrave. I’ve followed up on lots of people who add items, and I also love the connections that are often added to other persons on Findagrave. It’s becoming one of those forums for sharing that some of the other sites attempt to become with varying degrees of success.


Free Genealogy Resources October 19, 2010 at 1:55 pm

It must be because Halloween is quickly approaching, but when I read your post title, the thought popped in my head that I’m not sure I want to find the undead (AKA zombies). With that random thought out of the way…

It’s also a good idea to look at what FindAGrave member has posted the memorials or maintains them. In some cases, the member is a descendant. I have added several of my and my husband’s family members to FindAGrave after finding they were not listed. In addition, I maintain some family memorials that were originally posted by other people.

When looking at a member’s profile, you might check to see if they have virtual cemeteries listed. I have one virtual cemetery set up that contains all the family member memorials that I have found so far on the site.


Kerry Scott October 20, 2010 at 6:52 am

Great tips!


Nancy October 19, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Ah, you guys are so lucky! I have not found a single soul (who is a family member) on find-a-grave. At least not yet. I suppose I shouldn’t give up, though.


Kerry Scott October 20, 2010 at 6:52 am

Don’t give up. With those user-generated-content sites, the more popular they get, the more there will be. You just have to be disciplined about going back and checking periodically.

I’m amazed at how much more stuff there is now versus even six months ago, when I restarted my research. People really spend a lot of time adding content there.


Beverly September 13, 2013 at 6:02 pm

I’m a huge fan of and have found it both good therapy for me when I lost my parents and a great genealogical resource. I’ve found great pleasure adding photo’s and full bios on my parents, in-laws, grandparents. And have been thrilled to find photo’s of ancestors I’ve never seen pictures of before. It’s amazing how many genealogy clues are on the site. I’m a both a contributor, listing several complete cemeteries, adding obits when I have them for family and non-family, and use it for own research. I encourage everyone to use this site if for nothing more than leaving the little flowers for strangers, it would surprise you how much joy it gives the family members who look at their loved ones listings daily to see someone left them a small token flower and message for them. And it doesn’t take but a few minutes to do this for others.


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