Barnstable County, Massachusetts, is a treasure trove of genealogical information, with numerous old cemeteries scattered throughout the region containing countless individuals' final resting places.
Cemeteries can be an invaluable resource for those looking to trace their family history and uncover previously unknown connections.
This guide will explore how researching cemeteries in Barnstable County can reveal valuable genealogical discoveries.
Cemeteries are an essential source of genealogical information, as they often contain vital information such as birth and death dates, family relationships, and other biographical details.
Cemetery records can supplement other genealogical sources, such as census and vital records, and help fill in gaps in family histories.
While cemeteries can be a rich source of genealogical information, there are also challenges associated with researching in these locations.
One of the biggest challenges is locating gravesites, particularly in older cemeteries where headstones may be weathered or illegible. Additionally, some cemeteries may have yet to keep comprehensive records, or records may have been lost or destroyed over time.
Online databases that provide information on cemeteries in and outside Barnstable County are available.
By searching these databases using various criteria such as name or location, genealogists can effectively identify potential gravesites and gather information on individuals interred in the cemetery.
Two such databases are the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) and Find a Grave®.
Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is a database of place names in the United States. It includes information about the names, locations, and characteristics of physical and cultural features such as mountains, rivers, cities, and, luckily for us, historical sites like cemeteries.
Government agencies, businesses, and individuals use the database for various purposes, such as land management, emergency response, and map-making. The information in GNIS is maintained and updated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to ensure accuracy and consistency.
Find a Grave® is a website that provides a virtual cemetery experience to its users. It was founded in 1995 by Jim Tipton, and it allows people to search for and find the graves of deceased individuals from around the world.
Find a Grave® was purchased from Mr. Tipton in 2013 by Ancestry.com. The website contains over 200 million worldwide grave records, including photographs, biographical information, and interactive maps.
Users can also create and manage virtual memorials for their loved ones or those they admire and add personal messages or photographs to the memorial pages. Genealogists, historians, and individuals seeking to connect with their ancestors or pay tribute to loved ones use Find a Grave®. The free site relies on user contributions to maintain and update the records.
The site also offers features such as the ability to request grave photos, volunteer opportunities to take and upload gravestone photos, and a forum for cemetery research and preservation discussions.
Genealogists can benefit from transcriptions of cemetery headstones, especially when the original monument is missing or illegible. These transcriptions can serve as a valuable resource for research. Scholarly articles are an excellent source for this type of information. For example, this one study, researched and written by Stephen P. Broker of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, titled “Death and Dying in Puritan New England: A Study Based on Early Gravestones, Vital Records, and other Primary Sources Relating to Cape Cod, Massachusetts” offers a fascinating look at early Barnstable County gravestones and contains many stone transcriptions of family names.
In addition to published material, many genealogical societies and organizations have undertaken the task of transcribing local cemeteries, and these transcriptions can often be found online or in local archives. For example, the Cape Cod Genealogical Society offers transcriptions through its research library in Dennis. Another source of gravestone inscriptions is genealogy blogs, such as Bob Carlson’s remarkable “Cape Cod Gravestones.” His blog lists more than 40,000 epitaphs.
Cemeteries often keep meticulous records that can provide valuable genealogical information. These records may include plot maps, the original owner's name, address, and purchase date, burial registers that list the names and dates of everyone buried in a plot, and other documents that can assist in locating gravesites and collecting biographical data. You can quickly access this information by contacting the cemetery's business office.
When conducting genealogical research in local cemeteries, it is crucial to remember a few essential tips. These include:
To prepare for a cemetery visit, one should plan and actively gather ample information about the individual or family of interest. This information-gathering process can include obtaining birth and death dates, exploring family relationships, and researching known cemetery plot information.
Bringing the right tools for the job is essential when visiting a cemetery. Some valuable items for a cemetery visit could be a notebook, a camera, a cemetery map, and small digging tools such as a trowel to uncover buried headstones.
When visiting a cemetery, it is essential to respect the gravesites and the families of those buried there. To appreciate the cemetery and its surroundings, avoiding walking on graves, disturbing the area, and adhering to any posted rules or regulations is essential.
When conducting research in a cemetery, it is important to take detailed notes on any information gathered. The information collected may comprise the cemetery's name and location, the names and dates inscribed on headstones, and any pertinent details like military service or fraternity membership.
Genealogical research often involves following up on leads and clues discovered in other sources. For example, searching other records or sources may be necessary to verify or supplement the information gathered after conducting research in a cemetery.
Barnstable County cemeteries contain a wealth of genealogical information for those willing to research and explore their family history. While studying in cemeteries can be challenging, the rewards can be great for those who can uncover new connections and discover previously unknown family members. By utilizing the tools and tips outlined in this guide, genealogists can begin their journey of discovery in Barnstable County cemeteries.
We intend for this guide to be something other than an all-inclusive directory of all cemeteries in the area.
The government agency, GNIS, reviewed cemeteries and found 68, but they must list them in the correct towns. The lack of accuracy in the listing was not intentional by GNIS but rather a result of the original design of their software.
In many cases, we conducted further research, corrected the town listings, and provided embedded links to the cemeteries, attempting to find direct links to a cemetery office. However, many of these cemeteries are no longer active, so we chose links to FindAGrave© that give you the most information.
If you find a better link than we provided, please get in touch with us, and we will update the page accordingly.