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Cemetery & graveyard research

There is something intrinsically rewarding about standing on the spot where your ancestor is buried. Celia Heritage’s guide will help you track down these precious final resting places

Expert guide


Finding your ancestor’s grave for the first time can send a shiver down your spine and give you a tremendous sense of connection with your roots. A gravestone may also provide you with useful genealogical information. How easy a gravestone is to locate, and what to expect when you get there, depends on several factors, notably the period in which your ancestor died and where he lived.

Jargon busting

To start with let’s clarify some terminology: the words ‘graveyard’, ‘churchyard’, ‘burial ground’ and ‘cemetery’ are all words used to denote burial places and most of them can be used interchangeably. However, some have come to be associated with a particular type of burial place over the years.


Strictly speaking, a cemetery is a generic term to describe a place where people were buried. In the 19th cemetery it began to be applied more specifically to one of the many large privately-run or municipal cemeteries that grew up outside town centres as graveyards around churches became full or closed for other reasons.

A gravestone in Sedbergham, Cumbria. Gravestones can be useful in providing details of previously unknown family members, such as babies who died in infancy


To study the inscriptions and photos in this article in greater detail, visit h ttps: //f am i l y tr.e e/ CeliaGravestones

Search the web, plan your trip, find your ancestor’s grave

A gravestone in Banff, Aberdeenshire, from which we can calculate the birth year of the deceased was 1693, and his occupation was a ‘white fisher’
A stone in Brookland, Kent. You may be able to piece together information about unknown siblings for your ancestors in the graveyard
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About Family Tree

There's something undeniably special about visiting our ancestors' final resting places. Read the guide in the latest issue of Family Tree about graveyards and we will help you step back in time. Graveyards and cemeteries are a very real reminder of earlier generations and visiting them will not only spark thought-provoking memories - they may also provide you with new clues and details... And speaking of 'new clues' - don't miss our brand new series 'Taken a DNA test? Now what?'. This is the advice you need if you want to get the most from your DNA test. Discover how to make sense of the results, find more details and grow that fabulous family tree of yours! Join in with the DNA adventure today! We also have a fabulous free guide for you in this bumper issue, Heritage Days Out, packed full of ideas for family and local history trips to take this summer. Enjoy your travels through time!