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Genealogy: Cemeteries

Related UD Library Research Guides

Cemetery Research Guides

Resources Sites

Cemetery Research

Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington, North Carolina

The first step in Cemetery Research is learning how to spell the word “cemetery.” There is no “a” in cemetery.


Types of cemeteries

There are many types of cemeteries, such as, church, government, corporation, association or fraternal order, public, family or private.

Cemetery Research involves many sources of information

Official records from a cemetery or organization, typically showing name of person, lot location, ownership, others in same lot, burial date, and perhaps death date. Sometimes they give cause of death, occupation, or relatives.

Other resources, such as lists of burials, deeds, transcripts (or rubbings or photographs) of grave markers and related records, such as birth and death records (Vital Records).

Cemetery information may not be available

There may be no record, information, or marker for your ancestor.

Cemeteries can change names and ownership. There are cemeteries that are active, historical, abandoned, moved, and lost.  Individual graves may be relocated (re-interment).

The tombstones or markers may have deteriorated or been stolen, defaced, or destroyed.

There may never have been a marker. Some bodies are in mass graves, a marker was never purchased, or other reasons.

Be aware that tombstones may have inaccurate information.

Search Suggestions

Search for articles in the options on the Database list (UD Genealogy Research guide), such as America: History and Life and the Digital Bibliography of Delaware.

Search or contact local resources, see Resources Sites suggestions.

Search Google and Google Books for names of cemeteries and churches.

Contact the church or the cemetery, if available.

Contact a historical or genealogical society or a library in the county or town.

Search the Libraries in the Extraordinary Collections list.

Finding Books: Search Examples

Search by Keyword

  • cemeteries delaware
  • [name of church]
  • [name of cemetery]
  • epitaphs pennsylvania
  • gravestones
  • funerary art
  • funerary symbolism
  • church monuments

Search by Subject Keywords (prefix su:)

  • "registers of births" pennsylvania
  • cemeteries [name of state]
  • [name of cemetery]
  • Funeral rites and ceremonies

Search by Author (prefix au:)

  • name of church

Subject keyword retrieves only records that have those words in the subject description.

Use the prefix or go to the Advanced Search box.

Search for Digitized Books

Many older publications are available full text in repositories and collections, such as, Google Books, Internet Archives, and Hathi Trust. Search for the publication in Google Books and in Google or your favorite search engine.

Cemetery Resources


Identifying & Locating Cemeteries

Excerpt from History of Delaware, 1609-1888 by Thomas J. Scharf.


Locating cemeteries can be difficult. There are no complete national lists and few local ones.

Many states or counties have inventories created by the WPA Grave Registration Project in the 1930s. Check with the state archives and historical societies.  The UD Library has extended notes from the WPA publication. They are available in the Special Collections Department in the UD Library.

Delaware has an ongoing Cemetery Registration project.

Also consult city directories and local and state histories. Example: Other Information in City Directories.

Subject Librarian

Rebecca Knight's picture
Rebecca Knight
Associate librarian
Reference and Instructional Services Department
Morris Library, Room 117H

Subjects: U.S. Government Information,
Delaware, census, family studies, RefWorks, APA style, and genealogy.

B.A., History. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 1973.
M.S., Library Science. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 1981.

Online Tombstone Inscriptions

Most online tombstone transcriptions are user-contributed lists. Some information is carefully collected and edited. Other information may be incomplete and not as carefully managed.