Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 3: Burial & Cemetery Records

Continuing our series on the top genealogy websites that will save you time and get you 24/7 access to the data you need and will rely on in your family history research, our next category is the best websites for cemetery and burial records: National Gravesite Locator, Find-A-Grave, and BillionGraves.

National Gravesite Locator Search Adeline Kemp

Credit: National Gravesite Locator, http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/

This important website, created by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, lets genealogists quickly locate military and veterans’ burials from 1997 to today. This cemetery website is updated daily and includes all persons buried in the hundreds of officially-designated U.S. federal and state military cemeteries.

National Gravesite Locator Map - Adeline Kemp

Credit: National Gravesite Locator, http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/

These military cemeteries permit the burial of the service member and their spouse. The online index gives you the core genealogical information: each person’s name; dates of birth and death; name and rank of the person that served in the military; and the name and contact information for the military cemetery. All of this is available at your fingertips 24/7 online. This cemetery website is updated daily.

Billiongraves Find a Grave

Credit: Find-A-Grave, http://www.findagrave.com/
Credit: BillionGraves, http://billiongraves.com/

These essential online cemetery websites rely on crowdsourcing to grow. As the above photo shows, individual genealogists take pictures of the graves that interest them and upload them to these two websites.

“Many hands make light work,” allowing these cemetery websites to grow quickly.

BillionGraves has over 4.2 million photographs of individual gravestones.

Find-A-Grave has roughly the same number of tombstone images, but also has included indexes to the names of persons buried in cemeteries across the country—boosting its name count to over 102 million “grave records.”

Billion Graves Sarah Whitehouse

Credit: Billion Graves, http://billiongraves.com/

Find A Grave Addie Estelle Morris Huse

Credit: Find-A-Grave, http://www.findagrave.com/

Genealogists using Find-A-Grave routinely add an image of the tombstone, and also old family photographs and a biography of the deceased. Since this content is all online photographs, documents and similar items may be added to each individual’s memorial page by all interested persons.

Find A Grave John Henry Kemp

Credit: Find A Grave, http://www.findagrave.com

I decided to test how easy it is to add photographs of a tombstone and of the deceased to these cemetery websites. Bang. Within just a few minutes I was registered on Find-A-Grave and uploaded a photo of my great-grandfather John Henry Kemp’s grave along with his portrait.

This was simple and easy to do.

I encourage all genealogists to hold nothing back: put all of your family’s information, documents, and photographs on cemetery sites like these, and on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.

It is essential that we preserve and protect our family history information by putting our genealogy records on multiple websites. Ensure that the information about your family tree that you have gathered over years of genealogy research is not lost, but is permanently available for you and the rising generations.

Him Mark Lai – 麥禮謙 (1925-2009)

Him Mark Lai – 麥禮謙 (1925-2009), noted Chinese-American genealogist and local historian has passed away.

San Francisco Chronicle (CA) – May 29, 2009.

Edition: 5 star Page: B5(c) San Francisco Chronicle 2009. Reprinted here with permission.

by Carl Nolte.

Him Mark Lai, a noted historian of the Chinese American experience, died at his San Francisco home on May 21 after suffering from cancer and its complications. He was 84.

Mr. Lai was an expert on the history of Chinese and Chinese Americans from the time of the first Asian settlement in California just before the Gold Rush to the present day. He wrote and edited 10 books and more than 100 scholarly articles on Chinese American life – a field that was mostly ignored by non-Asian historians.

L. Ling-chi Wang, professor of Asian American studies at UC Berkeley, called Mr. Lai “the dean of Chinese American history.”

“Him Mark Lai’s contribution to Chinese American history is immeasurable” said Philip Choy, an eminent historian. “He was a pioneer who legitimized Chinese American studies, whose influence will carry on for many more generations.”

Mr. Lai led a complex life, reflecting the racial, legal and political currents of his time. He was both a trained mechanical engineer and self-taught scholar. He was a quiet and unassuming man, but his demeanor masked a fierce devotion to civil rights and to telling the often ignored story of how Chinese Americans fought discriminatory laws to become successful in a new country.

Mr. Lai was born in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1925, the first of his family to be born in this country. His father, Maak Bing, was born in China, but because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, could not legally immigrate to the United States. So he took the name of Lai, claiming to be the son of an American citizen.

These “paper sons” who had adopted false names, were among thousands of Chinese admitted to the United States until the Exclusion Acts were repealed in 1943.

His father, however, gave each of his five children the middle name of “Mark,” an Anglicized version of his own name, to remind them of their family heritage.
Mr. Lai attended Commodore Stockton elementary school and the Nam Kue Chinese School simultaneously, so that he had an education in both American and Chinese cultures.

While at San Francisco’s Galileo High School, Mr. Lai won a citywide essay contest in history; and he decided to go to college. However, his father discouraged that idea on grounds that racism would prevent him from being promoted. Instead, he urged his son to get a blue-collar job in the shipyards.

“San Francisco wasn’t always so liberal,” Mr. Lai said years later.
Instead, Mr. Lai worked his way through City College of San Francisco and graduated from UC Berkeley in 1947 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He then went to work for Bechtel Corp. as an engineer.

He also became interested in the civil war then raging in mainland China between the Nationalists and the Communist forces. His early support for the Communist-backed People’s Republic drew the attention of the FBI and political pressure common in the McCarthy era. His position was complicated by the fact that his father was a “paper son.”
“You had to be very careful,” he would later recall. “You did not want to bring problems on your family.”

However, Mr. Lai’s work in Chinese causes helped give him a new fluency in spoken and written Chinese, and he met Laura Jung, a new immigrant from China. They married in 1953.

In 1960, he took a course at UC Extension about Asian American history, and he realized that whole areas of Chinese American history had never been properly studied.
He began extensive research into what he called an “ignored past” and did careful landmark studies on the Chinese-language press in the United States and all aspects of Chinese American life.

He produced several volumes of monographs called “Chinese America: History & Perspectives.” His most important book is “Becoming Chinese Americans: a History of Communities and Institutions.”

His work is considered seminal in the studies of Asian American history.
He also taught at San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley. “Prior to 1969, when we taught our first class at San Francisco State University, ethnic studies did not exist,” Choy said.

“It was through Him Mark’s scholarship, research and collections that these courses now exist at major academic institutions in the country.”

Mr. Lai is survived by his wife of 55 years, Laura Lai of San Francisco.

A memorial service will be held at the Chinese Cultural Center, 750 Kearny St., San Francisco, at 2:30 p.m. on June 20.

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Wow – we found him!

Yesterday the GenealogyBank Blog wrote about using the old documents in the “Serial Set” that are in GenealogyBank.com. It has been very popular.

Today I received this note from a genealogist about what she found on her Revolutionary War ancestor – Captain William York.

Tom – We used this set (Serial Set) to prove our ancestor, Captain William York, was a Revolutionary Soldier. Forming his own Troop of Horse, he was, initially, said to be a ‘mercenary’, but after being denied his pension in 1832, he asked his congressman to pursue it.

After William’s death in 1837, his son, Josiah Cowan York, kept this request alive, and it was finally approved in 1860.

My cousins and I almost screamed when I found the page where the ‘heirs of Captain William York’ are approved for his pension. Actually, there were 7 or 8 different bills on his behalf from 1832 to 1860, and I think I have most of them, but will check, just in case.

I cried when I saw the ‘memory’ marker that is now placed beside the grave of Josiah Cowan York. Not only did we prove his service, we found the first name of his wife, the dates both died, and two daughters we did not know existed. It’s amazing how much you can glean from these pages.

Diane Stark Sanfilippo
May 30, 2009 5:30 AM

What will you find in GenealogyBank?
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