Cemetery Guide

Credit Sarah K.

Plan your trip

Wherever you are, you can generally find a cemetery nearby. Volunteers often look locally to find cemeteries to visit, but if you are traveling, search in those areas. Search for cemeteries here on Find A Grave and also the Find a Grave app.

It’s important to ask permission before you arrive at the cemetery. Ensure that you follow any cemetery policies and guidelines.  

Go Prepared

When it comes to cemetery visits, the Boy Scout motto “Be prepared” really comes in handy. While you might feel like you’re packing for a trip to the top of Mt. Everest, the supplies you bring may well determine the success of your trip. Here are some items to consider:  

  • Camera/phone with GPS turned on– Smartphones and Digital cameras are great for capturing photos of tombstones because you can see in real time whether you’ve captured the image you want. Take high-resolution photographs. Be sure to also bring plenty of memory, extra batteries, or chargers.
  • Sun Protection– A hat and sunscreen, whatever you need for your area.
  • Small towel, old clothes and shoes– Towel to help gently wipe dirt off a stone.
  • Spray bottle with plain water– Wetting tombstones can make them more readable. 
  • Small sweeping brush– Paint brushes work well to brush loose dirt off without harming fragile stones. 
  • Mirror– Use the mirror to reflect sunshine and throw shadows off inscriptions. Foil-covered flat surfaces are less breakable and can also help when mirrors aren’t available. 
  • Scissors or clippers– You’ll need these to trim away grass that has grown over the gravestone. 
  • Small kneeling pad– You may need to kneel or even lay down while taking eye-level shots of smaller stones. 
  • Notepad and pencilYou may want to take some notes.

Remember to use non-invasive methods when it comes to reading tombstones. Shaving cream and chemical solvents should not be used because they can harm the stone. The Association of Gravestone Studies has a FAQ page with more information.

Check out

Best Practices and Tips for Find a Grave headstone photography

GPS on Find a Grave

Be Safe 

While we might think of cemeteries as a peaceful refuge, they can also be dangerous, so grab a friend or gather a group from a local society—the more the merrier. Criminals sometimes target cars in cemetery parking lots, so don’t leave purses and other valuables in the car and never wander a seemingly empty cemetery alone. 

In addition, cemeteries are home to biting insects, snakes, ticks, and other not-so-nice residents, so dress appropriately with sensible shoes and long pants, and bring a first aid kit to take care of minor injuries. Fully charged cellphones are also a must. 

Be Respectful 

Practice common courtesy, thoughtfulness and respect for the grounds. Steer clear of funeral processions and offer them privacy.   



  1. At 8 years old, I went with my brother and Donald Stoddard Sr, our biological father, to My Grandmothers'(Anna
    Regina Stoddard’s) funeral. Nasty Rainy day. I am now 82 and have lost parents, grandparents, So my turn soon.

    • Sounds like you need a hug or someone to talk to. And you’re still breathing – try to be positive every good a good above ground. I always try to count my blessings. And I know one day that I will see my loved ones again in heaven and the family chain that’s broken. But not today…peace be with you

    • Ms Stoddard, I hope you have some friends to spend the New Year’s with! Not necessarily New Year’s Eve-too many crazies out there, and the restaurants are always so full and noisy! But, New Year’s Day, might be a good day to pay a few visits to friends and family, or to volunteer, and visit people who might not be able to get out, due to physical disabilities. I suffer from depression, and PTSD, and I have found that volunteer work really raises my mood and my self esteem. And, it gets me out of the house, where I’d just sit and watch tv and eat.

      i was thinking, that as soon as local cemeteries aren’t either buried under snow (I live near Buffalo, NY, haha!), or encased in mud, I think I will go to our local cemeteries, to take photos of gravestones, requested by people on Find A Grave. I have a few friends who have said they would be interested in accompanying me. I’m 61, and have a knee that is soon scheduled to be replaced (arthrtitis, ugh), so I bet that the walking would be great physical therapy for me!
      My friends and I, when we were kids, used to ride our bikes to Cold Springs Cemetery, and just sit, to see how many different birds we could see. I’ve done this, when I get the time, all my life. Last time, I saw many deer, with half grown fawns, woodchucks (one of the cemetery workers said they are the bane of his existence-he can’t keep up with filling in their burrows, which have a tendency to trip people up, and damage lawn equipment), racoons, a lot of field mice, and even what I think was a fisher. Cemetery workers have told me, that due to the Erie Canal and related tributaries being so close, they do see beavers, muskrats, weasels, and yes, the occasional fisher! I saw a beautiful mature red tail hawk, robins, blue jays, starlings, red wing blackbirds, and heard owls. If you drive, and the cemetery roads near you are clear of snow, take a very slow drive through an older, treed cemetery. Stop the car, roll down the window, and just look for wildlife and birds. I’ve even seen numerous deer, and unfortunately a coyote, in Forest Lawn Cemetery, which is in the middle of Buffalo! Many older cemeteries with many older trees have created a complete ecosystem for many plants and animals, and some cemeteries even offer tours, and point out the animals and native plants. I’ve been on a few, in larger cemeteries, and they had trollies with a docent who pointed out interesting sites.
      Have a Happy New Year!

  2. I am italian, I am search an old parent . He is died in plata lajas puerto rico usa in 8.6.1948 . He was born in Italy in 28.10.1886 in Mori Trento. His figlia was my mather in law. and a married her figlia. Wow. Can you help my. I find that in Ancestry web this night. I live in Bolzano Alto Adige Italy Thank You

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