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How to Find Unmarked and Marked Graves in North Carolina

Ms. Inglish has spent 30 years working in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, and aerospace education for Active USAF Civil Air Patrol.

God's Acre Cemetery; Salem, North Carolina. Founded 1780.

God's Acre Cemetery; Salem, North Carolina. Founded 1780.

Unmarked Graves In North Carolina

A new Hubber asked HubPages to help find the location of an unmarked grave of a loved one in North Carolina. The death occurred in 1966, so we hope that the cemetery has a grave plot index of those interred within its borders.

Barring that, the North Carolina State Archaeologist's office is immersed in an ongoing project that is helping to identify unknown remains and unmarked graves throughout the state. It seems that the state probably has more unmarked graves in it than any of the 49 other states. The project should be quite informative as it proceeds.

Tracing ancestors and other loved ones can be a gratifying hobby, but the State Archeaologist's identification project in North Carolina sounds particularly interesting.

See the original HubPages Question at the embedded link.

The south slope of the Cataloochee Divide in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.

The south slope of the Cataloochee Divide in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.

Cemeteries, Church Burial Grounds, and Hospital Graveyards

This HubPages Question intrigued me, because of my own attempts at finding gravesites recently. It is an interesting activity, but very frustrating at times.

In addition, some graveyards in my area are so large that I need to consult the map plot of the grave sites every time I wish to visit a grave of an ancestor. It would be convenient to be able to purchase a map plot.

Methods of Finding Unmarked Graves

Certificates and Records

As some other individuals have explained, a Death Certificate and the name of the cemetery in question are useful in finding an unmarked grave. The gravesite map plot I mentioned would ideally show the name of each person buried without a marker in a particular graveyard.

If there is no mention of a specific cemetery anywhere to be found, one needs to look at all the cemeteries in the place where the deceased died, including church graveyards. Many people are buried in the town where they died or very near to it.

NOTE: It has been found that some hospitals, especially mental hospitals, also have their own graveyards. In one such place in Columbus OH, none of the graves were marked, the graves being dug from about the time of the Civil War to about WWII. Look at hospital graveyards as a possibility, if other places fail to produce the person you seek.

If not in any of those burial places, the place of birth may help, because many people wish to be buried where they were born. In that case, the Birth Certificate or a Church Record would list the birthplace. All the cemeteries there could be examined and hopefully, they have updated gravesite map plots.

Gravesite Research Companies

I located an unmarked grave at Find A Grave once on the Internet and even came up with a photo of the grassy spot where the grave was placed. A number of these research companies exist.

These companies usually charge a fee for individuals to access their databases and look for locations of gravesites by using the name of the person in question, birth and death dates, location of death, and other information.

Unfortunately, some people spend quite a bit of money this way and never find what they are seeking. Check with your local libraries to see if they have free public access to databases from the following companies. The last one mentioned offers substantial information at no charge.

  • Ancestry.com
  • FindAGrave.com (Recently purchased by Ancestry.com)
  • MyHeritage.com
  • WorldVitalRecords.com -- This one works best for me and includes free information and grave photos. For cemeteries, it often gives the plot location.

More About NC Unmarked Graves

The State of North Carolina has a large number of unmarked graves, because of Native American and slave burials without markers and some instances of Civil War casualties buried without knowledge of the individual's name.

The State Archaeologist's Office is working to map all the cemeteries in the state, including unmarked graves. In addition, staff is interested in any and all human remains accidentally turned up in construction.

Example: Searching a Specific Cemetery

Hubber Serbennia wants to find the unmarked grave of a loved one that is said to be in Resthaven Cemetery in Dunn, North Carolina (40 miles south of Raleigh), although government records have been lost.

The following are steps to take in order to find whether a specific person is buried in an unmarked grave at that cemetery.

  1. The cemetery is located at the end of Burke Street in Dunn NC and is listed at Find A Grave at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=48552
  2. On that cemetery page, the "View all interments" link reveals 142 graves with the decreased in each grave named. None of these entries indicates that the grave is unmarked, so looking at the 142 names that are in alphabetical order, according to the last names, is the place to start a search. (NOTE: Serbennia is looking for someone who died in 1966 and the list of 142 names includes only one person that died in that year: SGT John D Morgan, Vietnam Veteran, died June 30, 1966).
  3. If the name of the specific person is not found in the list in #2 above, then call the cemetery at (910) 892-2948 and ask a) if they have more than 142 people buried there, b) if they have any unmarked graves, and c) if they have names to go along with any unmarked graves. Ask all of these questions, even though the records to the specific person in question have been reported lost. Records may have turned up.
  4. If Resthaven Cemetery has no unmarked graves or does not have the name being sought actually connected to any of the unmarked graves it does have, then call the State Archeaologist's Office to ask about the Cemetery Survey Project - specifically, ask a) if Resthaven Cemetery has been surveyed yet, b) if any unmarked graves were found, and c) if any names were found to go with the unmarked graves. That phone number is (919) 807 - 6552 and the office is located at 109 E. Jones Street in Raleigh NC.

If, after all this research, you are left with only some unmarked graves in Resthaven Cemetery and there are no names to go with them, you can ask the State Archeaologist's Office what to do next. Ask them for help and suggestions.

One option is to have those graves exhumed and dental records matched or DNA analysis performed if possible, but this is not likely to be done, because of costs.

I would also try the same steps with the other two cemeteries in Dunn NC, just in case the wrong cemetery name was provided. These other two cemeteries are:

  • Greenwood Cemetery. Corner of South McKay Avenue and Susan Tart Road. (910) 892-2948.
  • Memorial Cemetery, for Veterans. On Fairground Road at the split of Meadowlark Road. (910) 892-2948

Dunn NC Cemtery Locations

Questions & Answers

Question: If you think a grave or cemetery is one that is unmarked and located close to you, and someone is about to build over it, to whom do you go to stop the destruction of graves?

Answer: First, look for a Department of Historic Resources or some similar type of government offices associated with historic preservation in your county, if you are in the United States. To do this, search online or call your local government offices, either city or county. National acts have been passed to protect unmarked graves as well, including those of Native Americans (NAGPRA). Graves can be found with a ground penetrating radar, of which the government might or might not pay for. If your city/county offices cannot help you, you may need to turn to your Governor's Office to ask whom to contact.

© 2013 Patty Inglish MS


Shyron E Shenko from Texas on November 22, 2013:

Congratulations on HOTD! Patty some of my ancestors are from North Carolina and I did a lot of digging, and did find my gg grandmother’s Dawes roll number, but could not find her parents and they could and probably did die in the Trail of Tears on the way to Oklahoma.

Voted up, U/A/I, Shared and pinned.


Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on November 21, 2013:

Patty, if you need the contact info for "Grave Concerns", it is at the bottom of my hub "Suffer The Youth Of Pennhurst State Hospital". Laurel Lemke is the friend I spoke of in my earlier post here -- her contact info is on that hub also.

A big, hearty, congratulations on HOTD for a well-deserved hub. Good for you, Patty.

Hui (蕙) on November 21, 2013:

A vagrant says, 'it is the homeland where relatives were buried.' We all remember!

Jade Williams on November 21, 2013:

Okay that is something that is fun to read about.

Levertis Steele on November 21, 2013:

Congratulations on getting HOTD. The beautiful autumnal picture is enough alone to earn this honor. This photo has prompted me to write a question.

I think that all burial places should be required to maintain thorough records of all burials. Pictures, when possible, would be helpful in helping survivors to identify remains, especially

"Jane" and "John Does."

What a useful hub! I am sharing.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 21, 2013:

I am a huge Civil War buff, and I have often wished I lived on the east coast because of the history that is seemingly everywhere you turn back there. What an interesting hub; thank you for this and congratulations on the HOTD.

Koraleep on November 21, 2013:

Thank you for the great tips on how to locate an unmarked grave. My father is buried in an unmarked grave, and in the spring my brother and I want to have his urn moved to where our mother is buried. We haven't planned out the details yet, but your hub will give us direction on how to find him. I'll have to bookmark it.

Thanks again, and congratulations on your well-deserved HOTD!

Shasta Matova from USA on November 21, 2013:

Congratulations on HOTD. Finding a burial marker or even the location of a grave can be difficult, but you have provided some great ways to proceed in the search.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on November 21, 2013:

Congratulations on your HOTD for your very informative and useful hub. So many people are interested in tracing their ancestors, and it must be frustrating to come to a dead end when records are not available. We've lived in NC for 5 years and I'm still amazed at how many grave sites there are. It is so common in our area along the coast to see three or four grave markers in someone's lawn, along the roadsides or in a field. I don't know if all of these graves are marked, but they must be hard for relatives to locate if they don't happen to live in the state.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 21, 2013:

@ Phyllis Doyle, CassyLu1981, and Randy Godwin:

Thank you for reading this Hub and posting your comments!

"Grave Concerns" is just the type of organization we need to examine the psychiatric hospital graveyards across the nation and to clean up old grave sites. Thanks for letting us know about it!

We still have some unmarked graves in Central Ohio that need to be examined - bones from unmarked graves still show up in new construction sites around the Downtown area where the old psychiatric complex was located.

I admire the NC movement to find all the unmarked graves and index the deceased associated with them. The Civil War casualities that have been lost to us hopefully will all be recognized through these types of projects around the USA.

Thanks for your kind comments, all!

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on November 21, 2013:

Great information for those of us with ancestors who served in the Civil War as many died far from home and were buried in assorted grave sites across the country. Excellent HOTD choice!

CassyLu1981 from Spring Lake, NC on November 21, 2013:

Wow, I will now be on the lookout :) Living here in NC it gives me something new to check out! Great information. Voted up and shared!!!

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on November 21, 2013:

This is a very interesting and helpful article, Patty. Somehow I had missed that question, so I am glad you picked it up and wrote and article on it. I have a friend in the Pacific Northwest who works at 'Grave Concerns', an association that works at cemeteries on old psychiatric hospitals grounds. This agency is dedicated to identifying each patient that was buried in unmarked graves -- they also have volunteers who help clean up the old cemeteries. They have fund raisers to help pay for new plaques for each grave where they have identified the patient buried there. I wrote an article on this quite some time ago and became very interested in this type of work.

I enjoyed reading your hub and find it very helpful and well-written. Well done, Patty.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 07, 2013:

Thanks very much!

Sandra Mireles from Texas on October 07, 2013:

Cyndi's List is available on the internet and has been around for a long time with information on many free sites for finding genealogy information. www.cyndislist.com and The Olive Tree is an excellent free site.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 07, 2013:

@Smirles - Thanks for the LDS information, because I did not realize that the organization had a website! Your family story is quite interesting and I like hearing about it.

@randomcreative - There are probably additional websites to be seen, too. I hear that the Catholic chuch has some extensive records, but probably not as complete as the LDS.

One fun thing to do is to come across an old diary in a museum and find out that you ar related to the writer! I just heard on TV's "Pawn Stars" that many Civil War diaries are floating around and we have a big Civil War museum here to visit. I like Pawn Stars for the history they provide!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 06, 2013:

I had no idea that there were so many resources for finding both unmarked and marked graves. Great information!

Sandra Mireles from Texas on October 06, 2013:

FamilySearch.org is the web site of the Latter Day Saints and it is free. You can find almost any record you want there. It is interesting that you have family links to Limbaugh and Obama as well as Elvis Presley. My Great GrandMother was a Presley/Preslar in Tennessee. The family story was that we were closely related to Elvis Presley but my research shows that we are descended from the brother of Elvis' earliest direct ancestor. The truth is that those of us whose ancestors were here during the early days of the Colonies have a very great likelihood of connecting up because of the size of the population. I know it is weird, but I love this stuff.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 06, 2013:

@Smireles - Ancestry is buying up everything, isn't it? I can't even find a street directory for my city online anymore without an exhorbitant payment. TV shows about tracing ancestors feed into that big business, I think.

It looks like I had relatives fighting each other in many of the wars you mention, or at least some of the battles - Native Americans on one side, European Americans on the other, from the French and Indian War on down the line. I think the military actions in the family ended during WWII with two of my uncles.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 06, 2013:

@PegCole17 - I agree that visiting the grave plots is interesting, but I wish I'd known where any of our family plots were on both sides of the family. On my father's side, I had dozens of Cousins, aunts and uncles I never met and many lived into the 1980s and 1990s. All dead now.

Someone distantly related by marriage and not by blood did a huge family tree at one time and that is where I found that my father's mother descended from the Tyrells of Virginia, along with Barack Obama and Rush Limbaugh. More research found that Elvis Presley was a distant relation to Obama and my mother's side of the family.

So, the closest links I have to a living relative are Limbaugh and Obama. I'll probably never meet either one.

Sandra Mireles from Texas on October 06, 2013:

Interesting to me as well, but I have been researching my ancestors for more than 35 years. Even though I find no distinguished ancestors, the fact that some of my ancestors served during the American Revolutionary War, the War with Mexico in 1847 (I think the date is right), on both sides of the Civil War gives me great satisfaction. I was especially impressed when I began to count the number of relatives in my family who have served in the military during modern times. It is even more strange when you understand that we do not consider ourselves a military family. I am sorry to learn that FindaGrave was purchased by Ancestry. I and others contributed much information to Ancestry during the early years and I am sorry to see them charging for that information now. Thank you for this interesting hub.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on October 06, 2013:

This is great information for any search of gravesites whether in North Carolina or elsewhere. The methodology is quite useful. Thank you for the detailed explanation. Visiting the family burial plot has always been a valuable learning experience where I found out interesting things.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 06, 2013:

Interesting and strange for me as well - the first time I ever heard of even some close relatives like aunts and uncles was when I found their grave markers on the Inteernet.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 06, 2013:

Interesting but to me quite strange. While I find graveyards interesting I have no attachment to any ancestors. Maybe I should see a shrink about that.

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