05 April 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - How to Find a Grave

Last Tombstone Tuesday, I showed you a picture of my great, great grandmother's eternal "room with a view". 

The first part of the journey to her grave was pretty mundane, but the details might help others looking for their ancestors' graves. My great, great grandmother Sarah Murtagh Grace died on the 4th of November, 1900 in New York City. Family tradition told me roughly when she died, but I found her exact date of birth and her death certificate number by searching the New York City vital records page on the Italian Genealogical Group website. After ordering and receiving Sarah's death certificate from the New York City Municipal Archives, I discovered that she was buried at Calvary. 

Next I had to find a Calvary Cemetery. Using trusty old Google, I found the most likely candidate nearby in Queens County on Long Island. There is a good description of Calvary Cemetery through the NewYorkGenWeb portal hosted by RootsWeb. A more complete history of Calvary is available on the Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page

View Larger Map

A phone call to the cemetery office confirmed that Sarah was interred in First or Old Calvary Cemetery. They also confirmed that there was a baby buried with her. This was sad news, but made sense as the cause of her death was placenta previa. They gave me the address of First Calvary and the physical location of the grave by section, avenue, plot and grave. Armed with this information and a map I found online. I felt good. I felt confident that we could find Sarah's grave. So, last May, when we headed to Long Island for the wedding of one of my first cousins, my husband and I took a little detour to Calvary. 

Unfortunately, there were a couple of questions I neglected to ask. Make sure you ask these before you head out in search of a grave. Are sections, avenues, plots and graves clearly marked? If so, how are they marked? If they are not marked, ask the office to mark the grave on a cemetery map. Don't wander blindly in an unfamiliar graveyard. While interesting, you might try the patience of your companion. Not everyone likes to read gravestones and wonder about the lives once lived. Last, for large cemeteries, ask where the office is located. It might not be on site as is the case with Old Calvary.

Luckily, or serendipitously, or with a little spiritual guidance and a tree I found Sarah's grave. Next time I will share how I believe my grandmother and a beautiful tree at the top of a hill helped me find it. Sometimes it pays to listen to that still small voice or subtle feeling. 

Happy Tuesday!

Scrappy Gen
Let's Remember!


  1. I should look to see when that baby died from placenta previa. My son was born with that complication. I am sure it could have been bad in another situation. I had taken only just a couple of asprins. I should have checked before popping them in my mouth.

  2. whoops, googled term and it was not the right thing, I guess.

  3. Good advice! I am mostly used to searching small cemeteries in my area, but there are a few large ones, and it really does pay to get a map, or a caretaker to help you find the grave!

    We went to Ft. Leavenworth National Cemetery, and I was most grateful for a kiosk computer outside, complete with map to help us find my gr-grandfather, the Civil War veteran's grave.

  4. Imagine that! A computer kiosk at a cemetery. I would love to see that. Glad you were able to find your great grandfather's grave.

  5. I would like to locate graves in three different sections of Old Calvary. Where can I find the office for Old Calvary? A map would certainly make for a shorter search!!


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