A couple of years ago, I was driving through a small town on Memorial Day. I noticed cars by the side of the road and thought someone was having a party. As I got closer, I realized it was the local cemetery. I’m convinced more people were visiting the cemetery that day than could have possibly lived in that small town. I found out that families go to the cemetery on Memorial Day to remember those who died in service of their country. Many families take a picnic and share stories about their ancestors. It sounded like a great tradition!
I love to visit cemeteries—even if it’s not close to Memorial Day (only a genealogist would make a statement like that!). Cemetery records such as sexton records, burial permits, or tombstone transcriptions can provide a genealogist with a wealth of information. You can often find birth, death, and marriage information, and you may even find clues about military service or religion through cemetery records.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Elmwood Cemetery in Kansas City. Did you know that this cemetery is the second oldest in Kansas City and that for many years it had the only crematorium between St. Louis and Denver? If you think your ancestor was buried at Elmwood Cemetery, begin by searching for their death certificate on Missouri Digital Heritage to check the burial location. Next, look through the book Records of Elmwood Cemetery, Kansas City, Mo., with Burials from 1832 through July 1984 for your ancestor.
The interment cards from the cemetery were the source of information for the book. If the death certificate listed Elmwood Cemetery but you did not find your ancestor in the book, a couple of possibilities exist. Your ancestor could have been kept in one of the holding vaults, or they could have been cremated. Elmwood Cemetery had many holding or receiving vaults to store bodies temporarily in the winter months when frozen ground prevented digging a permanent grave. In the summer months, vaults kept bodies cooler until family could be located. No records exist at the cemetery for those kept in the holding vaults. For cremation records, you will need to contact Elmwood Cemetery. The cremation records held at the cemetery will give you details about the location of the remains.
Midwest Genealogy Center
I just wanted to say that I appreciated your article. I have also noticed when traveling around Memorial Day that people in small towns seem to decorate or visit their graves much more than those in the city. I guess we city dwellers always seem to be in a much bigger hurry unfortunately.