Cemeteries are usually thought of as places of sadness and death. As a genealogist you should change your thinking. Locating the burial place of your ancestors and visiting their gravesites can be a celebration of their life and legacy to your family. Remember a person’s true legacy to the world is in those he or she leaves behind, sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters.
Family historians should locate the gravesites of their ancestors and visit those sites if possible. It is amazing the connection you will experience during that visit. Stare at the headstone or grave marker and think deeply about that person, their life, who they loved, and their legacy to the family, then celebrate the fact that they lived.
To locate the place of burial for an ancestor it helps if you have determined the date and place of death. With that information in hand check for cemeteries in the area where the ancestor lived. Sometimes the death certificate or obituary will give the place of burial, but not always. It is also useful to know the ancestor’s religious affiliation because that can help in determining which cemetery the burial took place in.
If cremation took place determine if the ashes were scattered at a particularly significant location to the deceased, or whether the urn is interred or permanently stored somewhere. Many cemeteries have special repositories for cremated remains. You can visit those sites just as you would a gravesite.
Cemeteries in Canada have records of interments. Most of these are in hard-copy and not available online. Many genealogical societies and their member volunteers are transcribing grave markers in cemeteries and making that information available online or in publications. Many societies offer searches of these transcriptions for a small fee. Many cemeteries have begun making searchable databases of their interments available online.
Finding and visiting the grave of one’s great-grandparents can be a moving experience that makes all the genealogical research on that particular ancestor come alive. It will stimulate you to learn more and have pride in your family.
Some Canadian sources for Cemetery Records and Information
City of Calgary Cemeteries
Southern Alberta Cemeteries on CD (Alberta Family Histories Society)
Lethbridge & District Brance of Alberta Genealogical Society
British Columbia Cemetery Finding Aid (over 344,000 interments)
British Columbia Genealogical Society, Cemetery Committee
Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver – Index of Burials (over 100,000)
New Westminster Heritage, BC – Cemeteries
Rest of Canada
Cyndi’s List – Canada – Cemeteries
Interment.net – Cemetery Records Online
Ontario Genealogical Society – Cemetery Ancestor Search
Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid (over 3 million interments)
Toronto Branch of Ontario Genealogical Society
Toronto Mount Pleasant Cemeteries – Genealogy Requests
New Brunswich Cemeteries – Provincial Archives