A Beautiful Snapshot of the Past…Cemeteries

I love cemeteries. Cemeteries to me are just silent communities; full of people who lived in that city archived in one place for eternity. I enjoy the peacefulness of cemeteries and the beauty of the intricately decorated gravestones.

Cemeteries can hold an enormous amount of information: birth, death, and marriage dates, a child you never knew existed, or a first wife that died during childbirth. Headstones can also provide clues to nationality, hobbies or interests, and clubs or organizations to which your ancestor may have belonged.

Besides the cemetery caretaker, there are other places to locate burial information. Some other sources can include the local funeral home, a church or religious organization, a local genealogical or historical organization, or library. Burial registers, plat maps and plot records can provide information for ancestors that either do not have a gravestone or who once had a stone that has since deteriorated.

I always check the area cemeteries of other towns where my ancestors lived to see if anyone was left behind. I also check for surrounding graves, as family members are often buried close by. Often times an ancestors’ gravestone is all you may have of their memory.

Listed below are several websites and Des Moines Public Library books and online indexes to help you locate your ancestors’ gravestone or obituary.


Find A Grave


Iowa Gravestones

Iowa WPA Graves

Association for Gravestone Studies

DMPL Book Resources:

Sanchez, Kaye. Buried in Woodland: Woodland-St. Ambrose-Emanuel-Odd Fellows Cemetery. Des Moines, 2009.

Redington, Rachel. Iowa Gravestone Records: Polk County. Des Moines, 1953-1955.

Beniot, Tod. Where are they Buried?: How did they Die? Black Dog, 2003.

DAR. Revolutionary War Soldiers and Patriots Buried in Iowa. Walsworth, 1978.

DMPL Online Resources:

Obituaries on microfilm located in Des Moines Register (1871 to date) & Des Moines Tribune (1907-1982) [DMPL Online Obituary Index (1960-date)]

Men & Women of Iowa Biographies. (1909-date) [DMPL Online Index]

Lynette, Rachel. Burial Grounds. Kidhaven Press, 2009. [eBook]

One Response

  1. Love this historical information and glad to see someone shares my interest in cemetaries. They bring me solace in a busy life.

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