Cemetery records, such as tombstone and sexton’s records, have value in that they may give birth and death dates, age at death, name of spouse and children, a maiden name or, occasionally, a birthplace. Tombstones may have symbols or insignias indicating military service and social or religious affiliations. It is important to look at surrounding tombstones because family members may also be buried nearby.
Cemetery records, or sexton records, are usually found in the current sexton's charge, but may be in the town or county clerk’s office. They may also be in the custody of private individuals.
Sexton records do not have a standard format and may vary in content. They may include the birth date; birthplace; parents' names; spouse’s name; death date and place; cemetery name; and if previously buried, the name of the cemetery removed from and the date the current lot was purchased. Remember that the information is only as reliable as the person who gave the information.
The Minnesota Cemetery Project, sponsored by the Minnesota Genealogical Society, is compiling a master list of all cemeteries in the state of Minnesota (with full location and contact information) as well as a statewide inventory of available cemetery resources such as transcriptions and indexes.
Genealogical society members often copy and publish tombstones inscriptions. The USGenWeb Archives have records from more than 70 cemeteries listed on their Internet site at:
- The Minnesota Tombstone Transcription Project. In USGenWeb Archives Digital Library [Internet site]. N.p.: USGenWeb Archives, 17 February 1999– [cited 26 October 1999]. Available at: www.rootsweb.com/~cemetery/minnesota/ This is a county-by-county list of scores of cemeteries. The highlighted cemeteries include tombstone abstracts. Abstracted cemeteries are indexed in:
- Search the USGenWeb Archives Digital Library In USGenWeb Archives Digital Library [Internet site]. N.p.: USGenWeb Archives, 22 September 1997– [cited 26 October 1999]. Available at: http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/newsearch.htm. This indexes cemetery abstracts and other items. Select the state, type the name of your ancestor in the "Query" field, and click the Search button. For best results use the "Search Tips" and examples at the bottom of the web page. The computer will list any matches it finds and give you the option of viewing the full transcript.
The DAR collection contains tombstone inscriptions from Minnesota cemeteries (see the "Genealogy" section). The Minnesota Historical Society Library has a Works Projects Administration card file that lists the locations of cemeteries in the state. This file is not available at the Family History Library. A bibliography of published cemetery inscriptions is:
- Pope, Wiley R. Minnesota Cemeteries in Print: a Bibliography of Published Cemetery Inscriptions, and Burials, etc.(St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Family Trees, 1986; Family History Library book 977.6 V33p; microfiche 6104220). This includes out-of-state burials. Statewide and county listings are subdivided by city or township.
Wiley Pope and Sarah Fee have published the following book on the location of many Minnesota cemeteries:
- Minnesota Cemetery Locations. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Family Tree, 1988. (Family History Library book 977.6 V34p; microfiche 6110646). Identifies over 4,000 cemeteries arranged by county. This book was revised and reprinted with the same title and authors in 1998. It is available at the Minnesota Historical Society Library but is not yet at the Family History Library.
The Minnesota Genealogical Society has had an ongoing project for the last 20 years of identifying transcribed cemetery records and who holds the transcriptions. These lists are organized by county. They have some of these transcriptions.
Minnesota Veterans Graves Registration index - a list of Veterans buried in Minnesota - 1857 - 1975. It also includes a birth and death index.
Dalby, John. Minnesota Cemetery Inscription Index, Select Counties [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2003.
Original data: See cemetery name and location provided with each entry.
For a statewide cemetery database search of 875,000 entries see the Dalby Database.
- Find A Grave can be searched by the name of a person, family or cemetery. Usually gives birth and death dates and often comes with a picture of the tombstone. May also give obituaries, biographical information and names of family members with links to their information in Find A Grave.
Family History Library Collection
A county-by-county list of cemetery transcripts at the Family History Library as of 1988 is:
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family History Library (Salt Lake City, Utah). Index to United States Cemeteries. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1988. (Family History Library microfilms 1206468-94.) Film 1206477 includes Minnesota, along with Michigan. Information is on index cards arranged alphabetically by state, county, and cemetery name. Some smaller cemeteries list the individuals buried there and their death date. The cards may list locations or sources of information. Each card gives the Family History Library book, film, or fiche call number.
The Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog lists more cemetery records under:
MINNESOTA – CEMETERIES
MINNESOTA, [COUNTY] – CEMETERIES
MINNESOTA, [COUNTY], [TOWN] – CEMETERIES
Several periodicals have published inscriptions and inventories from Minnesota cemeteries. These are referenced in the "Places" portion of the Periodical Source Index (PERSI), described in Minnesota Periodicals.
- The Family History Library Catalog lists published records of Minnesota cemeteries. Thorough "Place Searches" should include counties and towns. Some of the books referenced here may be available on Google Booksand in public libraries.
- Worldcat is a comprehensive online library catalog covering hundreds of libraries. You can narrow searches to retrieve cemetery books for specific states and counties.