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Finding Families: How Cemeteries Can Aid in Genealogy Searches

How cemeteries are using innovative software solutions to help people with their genealogy searches.
January 25, 2022

Searching for long-lost—or even until-now-unknown—relatives is nothing new. When European immigrants made their way to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, genealogy was a way for them to prove their social status.

As decades wore on, more and more people became interested in becoming ancestral detectives, of sorts—learning not only their predecessors’ names, but their stories and culture as well. Where did their grandparents emigrate from? Why is their great-grandfather’s name spelled differently? Was there a veteran in their family tree? Could their Grandpa Jackson be related to Stonewall Jackson—or any other number of famous people?

Decades ago, genealogy searches may have been both utilitarian and fun ways to understand one’s self, one’s family and one’s heritage. And while they are still that, today searches also can be life changing—introducing families to ancestors they never knew. Yesterday’s vague stories or memories from an old scrapbook can turn into living, growing branches on an expanding family tree.

It’s human nature to be curious about the lives of ancestors and family members. People crave the connection and the emotions—even if they may not realize it. The death care industry can help facilitate that connection; technology is the key to open those doors of exploration for the custodians of information – cemeteries, funeral homes etc.

Genealogy for All

In the 1990s, digital technology revolutionized the way information could be accessed, reproduced, transferred and retrieved. According to a 2014 USA Today report, “Moving genealogical databases online made it possible for tens of millions more Americans to research their families in the comfort of their own homes.”

That meant that a hobby once dominated by the elite or only those with money, power or easy access was now available to a wider audience. And with that, interest in genealogy—for all those reasons—skyrocketed.

Google Trends data confirms that genealogy has seen an incremental rise in popularity since the inception of platforms such as Ancestry.com and companies such as 23andme.

And it’s not just a hobby anymore—it’s big business. According to online reports, Ancestry.com contains more than 30 billion records online and has 3 million paying customers.

But even with the rise of technology, increased number of online services and direct-to-consumer DNA testing kits, one place remains a very common, relatable and down to earth way to conduct genealogy research—the cemetery.

Quote "Only the cemetery itself can provide a tangible, potent reminder of ancestral history."

While genealogy research once meant a rambling walk through a cemetery or hours spent in the records archive of a courthouse, technology in the death care industry has streamlined and democratized those searches—and made them available to families no matter their geographic location.

OpusXenta’s RecordKeepr software provides cemeteries with a convenient and seamless access to the information families are looking for. Most cemeteries, for example, have an exciting history about both their community and its ancestors.

Using—and marketing—online tools to pinpoint graves can both create public interest and attract potential new customers. This can be especially helpful in smaller cemeteries or independent venues run primarily by volunteers or small staffs.

Software solutions like RecordKeepr offer effective searchable maps, but also records management—so it’s a win/win situation for cemeteries as well as for those seeking information about their ancestors.

And that information can include more than just gravesite or niche locations. Cemeteries can access rights of interment/burial rights, exhumations and supplemental documents in the databases, while images can be a treasure trove for genealogists.

Family walks through the cemetery are still worthwhile and restorative—and yes, those walks can still yield many valuable insights for ancestral detectives. But cemetery owners now have the power to serve those families in a more efficient and, hopefully, meaningful way.

There are few things more rewarding than unearthing a gem from the past—especially when that gem is a person who directly impacted one’s life. And yes, the internet remains a portal to scores of online information, but only the cemetery itself can provide a tangible, potent reminder of ancestral history. Why not make it more convenient for casual or serious genealogy buffs?

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