Genealogy research is built around the collection of vital stats because marriage, birth and census and other records help you verify a person’s identity. And death records are some of the more helpful records because death certificates often contain the name of parents and additional clues.
Beyond those records, of course, are the graves and tombstones. If your family has lived in America for any length of time, you will quickly discover that even though there are regions where they settled, it may not always be close to where you live. That’s one of the reasons why Find A Grave is such a valuable resource. It brings the tombstone to you.
When the site was founded by Jim Tipton, genealogists were not the target audience.
Jim created the Find A Grave website in 1995 because he could not find an existing site that catered to his hobby of visiting the graves of famous people. He found that there are many thousands of folks around the world who share his interests. What began as an odd hobby became a livelihood and a passion.
When you visit the site, you will immediately notice its barebones layout — and you will see the home page is divided into two groups. The left side is about famous people and their graves, but the right side is what most family historians will be interested in. At the time of this writing, more than 112 million graves were listed in the database.
The information is created by volunteers and at the bare minimum an entry will have a photograph of the tombstone. Many though offer quite a bit more. It is not uncommon for the entry to include a photo of the graveyard’s entrance and sometimes the entry will include a photo of the deceased and possibly an obituary.
When I look up my great-grandfather Joe Lee Claywell, I find his death certificate information, 1910 and 1930 Census records, and links to some of his children (including my grandfather). Sometimes, the entry will also include links to the person’s parents — like in the case of Ed Claywell (Joe Claywell’s father).
As with any research, always doublecheck and verify the information. If, you use this site more as an investigative tool than as a source of fact, it will help point you in the right direction.
The site’s original purpose is quite intriguing as well. You may be surprised by some of the tombstones of the rich and/or famous.