We know Grandma lived in Iowa City, Iowa as an 80 year old widow in 1930 according to census records. She was living in the same house in 1932 according to the Iowa City Directory.

I've searched Find-a-Grave in Iowa, but find no reference to her. Another web-site searched with her name, DOB, DOD and also turned up nothing. I don't know how to search if she ended up in an unmarked grave or a pauper's grave.

  • If you find her obituary or obtain her death certificate, it might give the name of the cemetery and/or the funeral home, either of which would lead to additional records. What other family members are buried in that county? (She may be in the same plot or nearby).
    – bgwiehle
    Feb 16 '16 at 1:03
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    Hi, welcome to G&FH.SE! Do you have a date of death for her? If so, what is your source? When you say 'another website searched' do you mean you asked on a forum or another query site?
    – Jan Murphy
    Feb 16 '16 at 1:14

From the information provided it sounds like she likely died in Iowa in the 1930s; this falls within the state of Iowa's currently available public death certificate request timeframe. As of February 2016 this is up through 1938.

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I would recommend requesting a copy of her Death Certificate from the Iowa History website or the applicable county records. The death certificate for her should minimally list who the county passed her remains onto, such as a funeral home, and also quite possibly where she was buried. It may also list if she was cremated.

The following is a extract of a more recent Iowa death certificate I found on the internet for example purposes.. this section is usually located on most state's death certificates on the bottom.

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It is also possible she may have for some reason chosen to be buried in another state besides Iowa so I would expand your Find-A-Grave search as well as search on mis-spellings, her maiden name, and just her first initial and last name.

  • 2
    2 points to add 1) Find-a-Grave is not the only site for cemeteries, also check BillionGraves, and local history and genealogy sites, 2) once the cemetery is known and it is sure there is no Find-a-Grave memorial, you can add the memorial and request a photo.
    – bgwiehle
    Feb 16 '16 at 12:04
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    A minor quibble. Someone might choose to be buried in a particular place, but once they are gone, they have no say in the matter.
    – Jan Murphy
    Feb 17 '16 at 4:31
  • I have been checking newspaper records looking for her and am confident that she was living in 1932 in her own house, but can find no reference for her after that. There seems to be a gap in available information after 1932. I'm thinking that if she died between 1932 and 1938, her information may not be available yet.
    – AM Carlton
    Feb 17 '16 at 22:42

When searching for a person's burial (in whatever place or country), there are often a couple of "routes" you may have to try out to find this information.

A good place to start (as you have already done) is looking for a gravestone on various sites like Find-A-Grave. Also take a look at more local websites like the Iowa Gravestone Photo Project and IAGenWeb Project (Johnson County). But keep in mind that coverage on these sites is far from perfect. Many cemeteries are only partially indexed. Some gravestone have been destroyed. Some are still there but illegible. Some people – probably most people – never had a gravestone erected to their memory. So there are numerous reasons why this can be an unreliable way to find where someone is buried. Note that even if you find a gravestone you cannot be certain a person was actually buried there; their name may just have been added to the family gravestone.

If you cannot find a gravestone on one of the popular grave websites (which is often the case), you need to look for cemetery records. These can vary greatly in availability and content. Many cemeteries kept burial registers of some sort, as well as deed records to keep track of who owned which burial plots. Once you have found a paper-trail in cemetery record you can go back on the hunt for a gravestone, because then you should know which cemetery and hopefully have a plot number to make locating the gravestone much quicker.

For locating cemetery records it really becomes a game of probabilities. I am assuming you don't have any clues from a death certificate or obituary that suggests where she was buried. What was your grandmother's religion? This can play a major role in determining where someone is buried. Take a look at a map and do a quick Google to locate the nearest large cemeteries to where your grandmother lived or died. Make a list of the most probable places your grandmother might be buried, remembering that sometimes people were not buried where they died and often were buried with or near to other family members (parents, spouse, children, etc).

Knowing nothing else about your grandmother's circumstances, my first place to search for someone who lived in Iowa City would be Oakland Cemetery. Luckily, this cemetery has an excellent online database and map that you can fully search by burial and owner.

If your grandmother was Catholic then a starting cemetery to search would be St Joseph's Cemetery. If she was Jewish, then Agudas Achim Cemetery looks to be a likely bet.

Finding a person's burial place can be very difficult in some cases since there is no centralised repository or records. It can be hit or miss what kinds of records were kept and survive, and in cases where there are no online records you may have to contact the relevant cemetery directly.

  • I've checked Oakland Cemetery before. She was Methodist. I'm thinking the logical place for her to be buried is next to or near her last husband in Johnson County IA, but he is there and she is not noted. Her children scattered, and I have started looking at cemeteries near them, thinking she went for a visit and died while there and not at home in Iowa.
    – AM Carlton
    Feb 17 '16 at 22:55

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