Using Find A Grave To Find Undead People

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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