The Value of Cemetery Records in Print
In the twenty-first century, helpful websites, such as Find A Grave and BillionGraves have made it easy for researchers to find records of gravestones online. Before the advent of the Internet, it was common for genealogical societies and organizations, such as the DAR to publish cemetery records in books and periodicals. These old publications can still be of great value to genealogists and provide information not available on the large cemetery websites. Such publications may have had very small publication runs, or been self-published. They can usually be found at local public libraries, or in regional or national genealogy libraries, such as the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah or the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library in Washington, D.C.
Some of the ways cemetery records in print can be of value to genealogists include:
- They may contain transcripts of tombstones that are no longer legible
- Websites that require recent photographs of tombstones miss tombstones that have been vandalized or moved and are no longer physically present to photograph at a cemetery
- In some cases, cemeteries have disappeared (may have been removed for construction, mining operations, creation of lakes, etc.)
- Local experts involved in these projects had local knowledge to find small family cemeteries that may now be in overgrown wooded areas and inaccessible
- They provide geographic data about which tombstones are situated near each other, which may suggest family relationships, and which data is lost on websites that alphabetize names
- They provide evidence that a tombstone existed at a certain point in time (some tombstones may have been erected at a later time and be less reliable as genealogical evidence than a tombstone erected at the person's time of death)
In short, cemetery records in print may contain tombstone information that has been lost over the years and is unavailable online. They may provide the only record of a destroyed tombstone.