How to Use Findagrave for Free Genealogy Research

How to Use Findagrave for Free Genealogy Research
You’ll see a fair amount of genealogy humor implying that we might consider dead people more interesting than living ones. That’s not entirely true, at least for me, since I find people fascinating in general.

However, if I had the time (and sometimes even when I don’t), I could spend hours looking up ancestors on the free site Findagrave.com. It’s among the best free genealogy research sites out there – chock full of information over and above what you’d expect to find.

How to Use Findagrave for Free Genealogy Research

At first glance, you’ll find a site listing the information from people’s grave stones, and often photos of the grave markers as well. As you poke around, though, you’ll see that many entries also include additional notations.

These may include full or partial newspaper obituaries, lists of other people in the person’s family with links to their Findagrave.com entries and even photos of the deceased. Some gravestones include military information, such as whether the person was a veteran of the Civil War, Revolutionary War or other conflict.

To get started, visit Findagrave.com’s online search page and enter your ancestor’s first and last name. You’ll see an option for searching maiden names, too, if desired.

How to Use Findagrave for Free Genealogy Research

It’s important to select a state, if known, or at least choose a country. If you don’t at least pick United States from the country dropdown, you might get results from a dozen other countries where you know your relative didn’t live.

If you select a state, you’ll also be provided with a dropdown list of counties, in case you have enough information to conduct a more granular search.

You can also enter the year of birth as in, before or after. I recommend leaving this blank for your first search, unless your ancestor has a very common name. If you want to put in a year, enter something like less than 1900 or greater than 1850.

The reason for this is that often gravestones are so worn off that the text is unreadable, or the gravestone doesn’t include a birth year. You don’t want to miss out on these possible hits to your search by eliminating everything that doesn’t match a known birth year.

The same goes for death year – not all gravestones have a readable year of death, either. If you know your ancestor died before, say, 1870, you can narrow down the search by using the “before” search field, and it’ll still show graves that don’t have years.

How to Use Findagrave for Free Genealogy Research

Findagrave.com’s search is quite versatile and flexible – you can do a really broad, general search if you’d like, then click Refine Search on the left if you get too many search results and want to try narrowing it down.

 

After entering your search information, click the Search button.

Once you find your ancestor, the fun really begins. Many entries have links to other relatives which you can click for additional information.

I also suggest clicking on the link to the cemetery where your ancestor is buried and searching for others with the same last name. People buried in the same cemetery in previous centuries were pretty often related. You might find information on dozens of relatives, all in the same location.

How to Use Findagrave for Free Genealogy Research

Peter Fleck, from the photo, was my 5x great grandfather.

You can find more of my genealogy posts at this link.

How About You?

What have you discovered about your ancestors using Findagrave.com? What are some other free genealogy research tools you’ve found helpful?

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9 comments

  1. Janet Smith says:

    I am a Family history buff too. I also love findagrave.com but I love Cemeteries..so when I know that I will visit one, I first go to findagrave and print off any photo requests that there might be for that cemetery. When I am done doing my research, I look for people on the photo request list. If I can find them, I take a picture and I posted for the requester. If there are other obvious family members in the cemetery, I take their photo too and post them. Or if there is an interesting grave maker..I take a photo of it to make sure that it is posted. Find a grave is totally volunteer….Enjoyed your post!

  2. Sara Theissen says:

    This is really interesting! I know some family of mine and my husband’s that are into genealogy. I may have to refer them to this source!

  3. Tiana Senn says:

    I was able to find several generations of my Mom’s relatives (of whom I knew absolutely NONE of) through this site! It is amazing! Vital for family tree making! Great post, people need to share this wonderful asset! 😄

  4. Kate F. says:

    Find a Grave is a great website! I stumbled across it a couple years ago and it has been so helpful in my genealogy research.

  5. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this great site. I have started working on my ancestry. This will help alot

  6. Jeffrey says:

    I never knew this information about this website before. I had only heard of the website in reference to locating graves of famous people, such as famous actors.

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