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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Cemetery Books May Hold Clues to Your Genealogy

Do you have any ancestors born prior to 1900 whose death or burial you cannot find? It can be frustrating to research an ancestor who might appear on the 1880 Census but not on the 1900 because of the huge gap between 1880 and 1900 without a surviving census. This is where local cemetery books can lead you to important clues about your family history.

Union County, SC cemetery listings
It was fairly easy to research the life of James A. Tucker, born in 1802. His parents, Joseph and Fanny Tucker migrated to Union, South Carolina from Virginia. By 1880, he had only his grandson, George Epps Tucker (1860-1927) living with him. It was difficult to discover the names of James’ children as well as the dates and places of burial because of the scarcity of records before 1900. While not the case in this example, sometimes the cemeteries where ancestors were buried no longer exist. This makes cemetery books an important resource.

Turning to cemetery books for Union County held in the local library helped to fill in a great many pieces of the puzzle. One book in particular was quite helpful: Union County Cemeteries: Epitaphs of 18th and 19th Century Settlers in Union County, South Carolina and their Descendants, by Mrs. E. D. Whaley, Sr. This book also contains listings from cemeteries in surrounding counties:
  • Cherokee
  • Chester
  • Fairfield
  • Laurens
  • Newberry
  • Spartanburg
  • York
Several people with the Tucker surname were listed in the index, but most importantly James A. Tucker was listed as well as his grandson, Epps. Several Tucker’s and members of their extended family were buried in at least two different cemeteries in Union County, the Tucker Cemetery and Kelley Chapel Cemetery.

Finding deaths and births for three generations
Proudly, the names of some of James A. Tucker’s children were discovered and proven. It was helpful to find the names in these listings and to research them to see how they were related. Wills and probate records were the main historical documents used to prove the relationships.

Now, the death and burial dates for three generations of Tuckers was no longer a mystery:
  • James A. Tucker (9 February 1802 to 9 November 1885)
  • George A. Tucker (23 November 1827 to 11 November 1860)
  • George Epps Tucker (14 April 1859 to 5 April 1927)

Fleshing out the family group
You can also use cemetery listings to discover the names of members of the family group whom you may have missed between census years. In addition to George A. Tucker above, James and Anna Tucker had other children who were born between census years before 1850 when the names of family members living in the household were enumerated:

  • Frances Elizabeth Tucker (3 May 1843 to 10 May 1844)
  • W. J. Tucker (22 October 1825 to 11 April 1883)

Fortunately, the names of the parents were included in most cases for this cemetery listing. If you are in need of clues about death dates prior to 1900, find out if there are any cemetery books through the local library or genealogical society where your ancestor lived.


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