Planning a cemetery research trip

Planning my tour of southern cemeteriesI’m going to an organizers’ conference in Nashville next month and I’ve decided to drive there so I can add on some time for some cemetery research. I’m excited to step away from my desk a bit more!

The branch of my family tree I’m focusing on this quarter is Rasco, my paternal grandmother’s family. They lived in Alabama until about 100 years ago when my great grandparents moved their family to Texas and then to Washington state. My research indicates that some are buried in the Rasco Cemetery in Dallas County, Alabama. Others are buried at the Mount Pisgah Cemetery in Cullman County, Alabama.

In addition, my Adams line lived in Kentucky before moving to the Pacific Northwest. So I plan to visit two cemeteries in McLean County, Kentucky, as part of this trip. At least one of the gravestones, whose picture I saw on Find A Grave, is very hard to read. I’m anxious to work the aluminum foil magic on any particularly worn stones and see whether the data on the stone will become legible.

When I think about planning for this trip, I know I want to capitalize on the opportunity. That means that I need to know who I’m looking for. I also need to look for folks who might be their kin, even if I  don’t have good enough sources to have added them to my Reunion software. That way I can photograph gravestones for potential future use. I obviously need to get my directions together–the fact that Find A Grave often gives GPS coordinates (longitude and latitude) for cemeteries is tremendous! Even though my time is somewhat limited prior to the trip, I do hope to devote some time to researching these lines so that I can bring as much knowledge to the table as possible. I also want to do a little research on best practices in cemeteries.

I wish I could incorporate some courthouse research on this trip, but I simply don’t have time before or after the conference. So, for now, I’ll settle on cemetery research and plan a future trip for courthouse documents. I’m excited!

If you’ve done cemetery research, do you have any tips for me?


  1. Roberta Martin says:

    I keep a cemetery kit in my car. It has a sprayer full of water, a soft bristle brush, popsicle sticks to gently scrape some of the super thick lichen, gloves, garbage bags, clippers, and most important – handy wipes to clean me up after I am done! Have fun and be safe!

  2. jerry brown says:
  3. Maria Tello says:

    I learned the hard way, to check to see if there is a cemetery registrar. I looked for someone several times in a cemetery about 1200 miles from me. I finally reached out and called the number, which was posted at the cemetery and she was so helpful. I believe that there is usually a listing, perhaps on BillionGraves or Find A Grave, or even the nearest city offices. If you can find one and get tips from that person, you might save yourself some time.

  4. mackenzie says:

    Hey I see you will be in Nashville the same weekend the Genealogy Conference is coming to Nashville on Sept 20 at the Sheraton Downtown. Just FYI

  5. Jean VanLeeuwen says:

    I recently visited two old cemeteries in Holland, MI. Find A Grave provided me with plot numbers for several of the graves, however when I researched the cemeteries on line, I couldn’t figure out what all the plot numbers and letters meant. The cemetery plat maps were huge and I had no idea where to start looking. I called the phone number for the Holland Parks & Cemetery Department and spoke with a helpful employee who suggested I stop by the office before visiting the cemeteries. She indicated it would be very difficult to explain the cemetery plats over the phone . Since I was driving in from several hundred miles away, luckily I arrived at their offices just before closing on a Friday. She pulled out the plats, looked at the numbers I had from Find A Grave and was able to show me the sections & areas I should search in. With her help I not only found the graves I was searching for, but by showing me how to interpret the plot numbers for these two cemeteries, my husband and I found his great, great grandfather’s grave as well as his maternal great grandparents. I did try the aluminum foil trick, but to no avail. The windy day did not help. I will need to practice on some local gravestones.

    • Jean, thank you so much for your comment! Thanks to you and Maria I now know that I need to make inquiries of the cemeteries before traveling! How exciting that you were able to find an unexpected grave! I’m sorry to hear the aluminum foil didn’t work…but I could see how wind would make that tricky.

  6. Nancy Kucharski says:

    Bug spray.

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