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Genealogy- Old: Cemeteries

Cemetery Research Guides

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Cemetery Research

Painting of Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington, North Carolina

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.

Cemetery Resources

Shortened list of the Tombstones of Sussex County, DE


Identifying & Locating Cemeteries

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


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.

Genealogy Resources at the University of Delaware Library

Family tree

Although not aimed at genealogy and family history, the collections of the University of Delaware Library (Morris Library) include materials useful to genealogists and family historians.

This Genealogy Research Guide is provided as a service for genealogists. It presents topics and resources to assist researchers.

The UD Library does not specialize in genealogy and does not have staff responsible for genealogy. Library staff cannot conduct research.

For questions about library resources and holdings, use the Ask the Library service.

For questions about getting research assistance, see the suggestions on the home page of this guide or on the topic/resources pages.

Online Tombstone Inscriptions

Tombstone illustration


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.


Related Resources