Historical Research Maps: Cemetery Plot Maps

Historical Research Maps: Cemetery Plot Maps

Cemeteries are some of genealogists' favorite haunts. Learn about cemetery plot maps and how they can help your research there.

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You can find a handful of maps in a cemetery, but the most useful is the cemetery plot map. With a plot map, you can quickly find your ancestor’s grave in the broader context of the cemetery.

Plot maps break down the layout of a cemetery, allowing you to visualize where you’ll be researching in a cemetery. With some luck, you may find the cemetery you’re researching has an online form that allows you to search graves by name. And even if a cemetery hasn’t digitized its burial records, you can find burial information on the free website Find A Grave. Use plot maps in combination with these tools to make finding your ancestors’ graves a breeze.

This map (created by the cemetery and available on its website) shows St. Joseph New Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio, where many of my maternal ancestors lie. I’m looking for burial information about my great-great-grandfather James Carrigan and his wife, Rose. Thanks to the cemetery’s online search form, I already know the location of their graves. James lies in Section 15, Lot 5, Part N, Range 4, which (according to the map) places him near Nebraska Avenue in the cemetery’s northeast corner. His wife, Rose, died 15 years prior, and her grave (while nearby) sits south in Section 16.

Cemetery plot maps can show more granular detail as well. Some cemeteries may have maps that identify individual lots or even individual graves. Scour a cemetery’s website to find out if it has these more-detailed maps, particular for times passed.

If you still have trouble finding your ancestor’s grave, check with the cemetery office to learn if lot numbers have changed since your ancestor’s time. In fact, you might find other old documents related to your ancestor’s burial, such as plot records or cemetery deeds.

For more on researching in cemeteries, check out The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide (Family Tree Books, 2017).

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