How To Use Cemetery Plot Maps for Genealogy Research

Have you looked at a family tree and discovered several branches with generations of relatives you never knew you had? Perhaps you’ve wondered which branch of the family you got your artistic talent from or if you have any famous or royal ancestors.

In many cases, a great deal of information and clues about your relatives are available from cemetery records and other sources.

Whether you want to know more for entertainment purposes, to share with other family members, or for some other reason, researching genealogy using cemetery plot maps might provide the key to unlocking your family mysteries.

What is genealogy research?

When people mention genealogy, they’re referring to a practice that goes back centuries. The 12th-century French word “genealogie” described a line of descent or pedigree of descent. Today, genealogy research refers to the act of tracing one’s ancestry or the science of studying family history.

Genealogy Research: The act of tracing one’s ancestry or the
science of studying family history.

Genealogy research typically involves tracking down various documents and other informational clues from different sources to piece together the story of a family’s relatives and their heritage. It makes a great hobby for many, especially those who love to follow clues and solve mysteries.

To research a person’s background, you might look at some or all the following:

  • Military records, census records, city directories, notices from newspapers (like obituaries and marriage, birth and death announcements)
  • Important personal records such as birth certificates, baptism certificates, adoption records, marriage and divorce records, and death certificates
  • Newspaper article clippings about people involved in community events or sports teams
  • Immigration/naturalization records
  • Cemetery plot maps and records

Why do people research their genealogy?

Many people research genealogy as an intriguing way to find out more about themselves and their families and to make connections with others. Researching your relatives often costs nothing more than the price of an Internet connection, and it makes a great pastime for individuals in retirement who want to share their family history with the younger generations.

Due to a wealth of online informational and genealogy websites, you can explore a great deal about your genealogy without even leaving the house. Researching genealogy also offers many social and emotional benefits.

It allows you to:

  • Connect with family members. Family matters to most people, and past generations can teach living family members much about their familial history and themselves. Making these connections could even result in forging relationships with new relatives you’ve never met.

  • Connect to the larger community. Genealogy exploration can help people feel more connected and offer social opportunities through online and offline friends and family who also engage in genealogy research. Internet forums and groups can provide companionship, support, assistance and conversation. Some people take their genealogy hobby even further and engage with their community by giving talks about their exciting family history or using it as the basis for history lessons for school children.

  • Learn important family medical history. Some people learn crucial medical knowledge, such as the history of certain genetic diseases or predispositions to specific conditions. Collecting medical information on living relatives and deceased ancestors can uncover valuable risk factors that help living family members better manage their health.

  • Find meaning and purpose. Genealogy enthusiasts can gain a much deeper sense of who they are in the context of their own family and the larger scheme of life. The sense of purpose and mental stimulation from researching and attempting to solve family puzzles can feel meaningful and fulfilling.

What is cemetery mapping?

Cemetery mapping is a way of tracking the details related to cemetery plots. It’s beneficial for people doing genealogical research because they can often look up a person’s gravesite by name, city, birthdate or other details. Many cemetery administrators use a paper ledger; some use spreadsheets, and others have moved into the digital age by using software designed especially for cemeteries to track detailed information.

Visitors can locate specific graves, memorials and monuments on the property by viewing a map of cemetery plots. The accuracy of the record-keeping can vary significantly from one cemetery to the next, but it’s still helpful to many.

Additionally, cemetery mapping helps the cemetery manage its plots more efficiently and effectively. A documented map of all the grave plots enables accurate records of which spaces remain unoccupied and the individuals interred in existing graves. The mapping is also helpful for managing other day-to-day tasks involved in cemetery operations.

With Axiom, preparing your cemetery’s financial or operational data has never been easier.

Using a Digital Platform to Manage Cemetery Plots and Interment Records

Cemetery managers often inherit the cemetery records and systems of those that came before them. That can mean everything from worn-out paper notebooks and hand-drawn map templates to spreadsheets.

Streamline your work, minimize human error,
and save time with Axiom.

How has digital cemetery mapping improved accuracy?

In the past, cemeteries often kept records on paper in books and tied each set of records to a plot number on a hand-drawn map. In many cases, this system worked well, but in others, the cemetery workers’ lack of attention to detail, unclear writing, incomplete records, and more created ongoing issues.

Cemeteries that have existed for several decades or longer often have recording systems and management changes that create inconsistencies in the method and accuracy of record-keeping.

Digital cemetery mapping has dramatically improved the accuracy and precision of these plot maps.

  • It has provided a software-driven database to consistently connect plot identifiers to the plot owner’s other details over time.

  • The digital nature lets users sort records to deal with duplicates and comb through the data to fill in missing or incorrect information, among other things.

  • Software made for cemetery mapping also has set data fields and typed information, allowing cemeteries to keep more consistent, complete and usable data on each person.

How can cemetery plot maps help people with their genealogy research?

A cemetery plot map gives an overview of the entire cemetery and provides detail on the layout to help visitors better visualize the areas they want to research. Some cemeteries have digitized their burial records and have a website where people can log in and search all of the cemetery’s burial and plot details. In this case, when a genealogist researches and locates a grave online, they will be able to know the exact location of the grave before they even visit the cemetery.

For genealogists, burial and other cemetery records hold the key to many discoveries regarding their ancestors, both known and unknown.

The individual who bought the plot or plots initially, the people buried in the plots, and their proximity to others (possibly relatives) in or around the same plot can reveal a lot of helpful information about ancestors’ relationships with each other and their connection to living relatives.

The trail of plot ownership, from the original buyer to the current day, can provide information that may open up new leads to additional family members.

It’s also important to understand that cemeteries often have at least some unmarked graves. When a cemetery decides to go digital, they may use a specific type of non-invasive scanning to locate any additional graves that might have been excluded or inaccurately recorded in historical records. This information could result in a huge victory for you and your genealogical research.

Be aware that plot ownership and headstones may change over time

Generally speaking, the rights to a cemetery plot are sold for a period ranging from 25 to 100 years. If the plot ownership is not transferred to a next of kin, the interred body will remain in the grave, but the cemetery will remove the headstone. This same plot may then be sold to someone else and used for another body, along with a new headstone.

Due to this practice, visitors attempting to identify family graves from decades ago may not see any headstones for their family. The cemetery plot map and related records could provide the only evidence of their relative’s burial site and details.

If a cemetery plot map does not immediately reveal the information on your relative that you expected, don’t give up. Ask if the cemetery has changed lot numbers or other details while updating an antiquated system, and ask for more information on mapped plots that no longer have headstones.

You can also ask about any other records the cemetery may have, such as deeds to plots or other cemetery paperwork that might have recorded information for your relative. This information is usually available, especially for larger city cemeteries, for the past 150 to 200 years. The additional research may pay off and reward you with many new finds to add to your extended family history.

Get the right cemetery software to help with all your cemetery management needs

If you’re a cemetery administrator in search of effective cemetery mapping software or other cemetery management solutions, contact the experts at Axiom today. Our team can help you streamline sales, marketing, cemetery mapping, customer service records and finances—all from one central hub.

What Sets Our Cemetery Management Solution
Apart From the Rest

Learn more about Axiom Cemetery Management Solution: a unique, centralized software solution that seamlessly integrates all of your core cemetery management functions into one easy-to-use interface.

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and more time with your families during their time of need.