It's exciting when you discover the names of ancestors when researching your family tree. It is interesting to carry the search further and try to locate burial plots of your father's great-grandparents or your mother's great uncle who was a war hero. You may be a history buff and have a desire to visit the grave of an historical individual that you have studied about. The search may seem daunting, but you should be able to locate where someone is buried if records have been kept at the time the person died, on the local or state level. If you have knowledge that this person was a member of the military and died during war time, there may be different facets to your search.

Municipal Burial

Search through the death record of the individual who is buried in the grave you are looking for. You need the name of the municipality the person lived in when the death occurred. Death certificates are recorded in the municipality where a person is a citizen. Be aware that patients of a nursing home or living center may have become a citizen of the municipality where the home is located due to the longevity of the stay.

Write to the clerk, cemetery sextant or funeral home in the municipality to inquire if there is a record of death and burial in the town or city records. You can start with the Bureau of Vital Statistics in a state in the United States or a Canadian Province to make inquiries. You should know that the local level will be able to get information to you in a timely manner and the state or province can take months to get to your inquiry because of the volume of requests.

Ask if there is a fee that you must pay for the search time for the clerk who is helping you find the burial site.

Visit the burial site or ask if there is a person in the municipality that would be willing to photograph the grave site for you for a fee. A member of the Historical Society in the municipality may be willing to visit the grave for you for a donation to the group.

Write to the pastor or priest of any churches in the municipality to inquire if they have a burial ground on their property. Send information, including the name of the person whose grave you are trying to locate, and ask if the grave could be at the church cemetery.

Military Burial

Read the death certificate to learn if the person died in the country or on the battlefield and if the body was buried in the state where the person lived prior to enlisting or being drafted.

Contact the municipality of the civilian or military cemetery where the person was buried if the information has been found.

Contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs if you are still unable to find enough information on the burial of a military person killed overseas. The office should be able to direct you to any sources that provides documented information on burials on foreign soil.


  • Be aware that municipalities and military offices may have had loss of records due to fire and in some cases, the grave cannot be found.