How to Use Find A Grave to Locate Ancestors in 9 Steps

By Diane Haddad

Find A Grave, the free burial database owned by Ancestry, has long been an online staple when it comes to tracking down information on ancestors. Here is a quick rundown of its nine main features.

Search burials

Find A Grave Search

1. Search for a memorial here. A surname is required, but you can leave off the first and middle names.

For birth and death, a year range isn’t available. But you can narrow results by typing the year before the earliest possible birth year and selecting After from the dropdown menu. (Or enter the year after the latest possible birth year and choose Before.)

Enter the cemetery location if you know it, and select the best-fitting place from the type-ahead menu that appears.

2. Click More Search Options to search on a partial last name, include nicknames or maiden names, look for burials added in the past one, seven, 30 or 90 days, and more.

3. These links let Find A Grave members submit memorials, add or transcribe gravestone photos, or access the Forums.

4. Click here to watch tutorials or submit feedback about the site.

Find A Grave search results

Find A Grave Search

5. Click an X by a term to remove it from your search (much quicker than returning to the search screen). If I remove the death in 1923, for example, the results will change to include all Seegers born after 1850 and buried in Ohio.

6. Click on a name to see details on that person.

Viewing a Find A Grave memorial

Find A Grave Memorial Page

7. On a Find A Grave memorial page, you could see the following information (not every memorial includes every item):

  • the cemetery name and location
  • a gravestone photo
  • information from the gravestone
  • GPS coordinates
  • the memorial ID (which you’ll want to include with source information in your family tree)
  • biographical information (which this memorial doesn’t include)
  • links to view other Find A Grave memorials with this surname in the same cemetery, county, state, country or anywhere.

8. You can save the memorial to a person in your Ancestry family tree or to Virtual Cemetery (which requires a Find A Grave account), copy it for pasting into a document, or to print it with the photo and source citation. (The printing option also lets you save the memorial page as a PDF, depending on your printer.)

If you have a Find A Grave account, you can suggest corrections and additions to the memorial owner.

9. Find A Grave members also can add or request gravestone photos.