Cemetery Tourism

Cemetery Tourism

Cemetery Tourism

Cemetery tourism, also known as tombstone or dark tourism, is a growing trend among travelers seeking unique and intriguing destinations. It involves visiting cemeteries for various reasons, from historical and cultural interest to a fascination with death and the afterlife. With its eerie and evocative atmosphere, cemetery tourism offers a distinctive way to explore the past and contemplate the mysteries of life and death.

Did you know that graveyards are not just for mourning? They can also be an excellent place for photography or to learn about the history of a particular area. And if you’re into genealogy, visiting the tombstones of your family can be an exciting way to explore your roots. Have you ever taken a moment to appreciate the beautiful architecture of the stones and monuments? The intricate designs and details can be truly mesmerizing. So, why not plan a visit to a local graveyard and discover all that it has to offer?


A taphophile describes an individual who is passionate about and enjoys cemeteries, epitaphs, gravestone rubbing, photography, art, and the history of Cemeteries have always held a certain charm for me – a sense of peace and connection to the past that I find deeply alluring.

Perhaps it’s because I never had the chance to know my extended family, honestly. But standing before their headstones, I feel a sense of closeness to them that I cannot describe. It’s as if they are still a part of my life, guiding and shaping who I am. The stories of their lives, etched into the granite or marble, remind me of their choices and how those choices have affected my life.

In a way, we are all products of our ancestors – their blood runs through our veins, and their legacy shapes our own. And so, I find myself drawn to cemeteries, seeking out those who have gone before and feeling grateful for the connection they have given me to my past.

Genealogy & Cemetery Tourism

Cemetery Tourism

The study of genealogy holds immense value as it offers a unique perspective into the lives of our ancestors. Each lived a life full of experiences, struggles, and triumphs, and it is only fair that their voices are heard.

As someone deeply invested in this field, I desire to give our ancestors a voice and share the lessons they learned and the guidance they can offer us. Their stories provide a glimpse into the past and can help shape our future.

Whatever reason you choose to visit a cemetery, be respectful. A perfectly manicured cemetery is a quiet place to contemplate life itself, a bridge to the past, to fill the gap between life and death.

Maybe you want to visit the graves of famous people. Why not? Stevie Ray Vaughan is buried in the same cemetery where my grandfather was buried. Stuff like this fascinates me. Stevie was a rock and blues singer who died way too soon in a helicopter crash at the age of 35 in 1990.

Difference Between Cemetery and Graveyard

Is there a difference between a cemetery and a graveyard? Don’t they mean the same? Technically, no.

There are some differences, which include location, space, religion, and headstone restrictions.


Affiliated with churches, graveyards are typically located on the church property. They tend to be smaller in space and are only for members of that religion.

“Grave” derives from a proto-Germanic word “Graban,” which means “to dig.” The church dictated what the tombstones looked like: the size, inscriptions, the wording, etc.


Webster’s Dictionary defines a cemetery as a burial site. It is not associated with a church or a religion. Anyone can be buried there.

The word cemetery has 14th-century roots dating back to an old French word, “cemetery,” derived from the medieval Latin word “cemetery.” The literal translation is “a place set aside for the burial of the dead.”

Cemeteries have fewer restrictions on headstones. You can get as creative as possible regarding the headstones’ size, color, or inscription.

Many people don’t give much thought to the word cemetery or graveyard. Preference plays a big part in where to bury their loved ones.

Cemeteries come in all shapes and sizes. There are cemeteries for every group of people, it seems. Below are a few different types.

Cemetery in Longview, Texas

Types of Cemeteries

  1. Municipal: County, Township, City: Land set aside by towns, cities, counties, and states for the dearly departed.
  2. Churchyard: Many church cemeteries are victims of urban sprawl. Finding records will require the determination of the parties responsible for overseeing the cemeteries.
  3. Faith-Based Cemeteries: Some of these cemeteries do not belong to a single church. Who managed these cemeteries?
  4. Family: Many family cemeteries reverted to municipality-run. Check with the Genealogy Society for the area in which you are looking for family.
  5. Private (Commercial): Some have one-stop shopping for your loved ones. Smaller ones are more like boutique-style garden cemeteries.
  6. Military, Veteran: Most people are aware of these types. They are referred to as National Cemeteries.
  7. Ethnic Cemeteries: Private burials absorbed by municipalities.
  8. Fraternal: Usually open to the public. (Masonic Orders, Oddfellows, etc.)
  9. Institutional (Hospital, Asylum, Prison, Poor Farm): These places are creepy and mostly sad.

As with all records, look online for any information regarding your ancestors. You can sometimes find pictures and memorials of your ancestors.

I can travel for you if you can’t find what you want on Findagrave.com or Billiongraves.com. If your ancestors are in the southern states, I would be happy to travel there and take pictures for you (for a small fee, maybe just gas).


FindaGrave.com is one of the best sites that provide tools to let people worldwide work together, share information, and build an online, virtual cemetery experience.

This will be where you will find details about cemeteries and individual memorials. People post monuments, for example, birth, death, and burial information, and may include pictures, biographies, family information, and more. Family members can contribute what they know and leave remembrances via ‘virtual flowers’ on the memorials they visit, completing the virtual cemetery experience.

Its mission is to help people worldwide work together to find, record, and present final disposition information as a virtual cemetery experience.

My great, great grandfather was buried in Rice Cemetery. I found this record on FindAGrave.com.


According to BillionGraves.com – “Our goal is to preserve precious records found in cemeteries throughout the world.” Modern technology is used to capture images of headstones. The use of GPS helps you locate headstones anywhere. Its mission is to find a billion graves worldwide.

Anyone can “adopt” a cemetery and start uploading coordinates and pictures of headstones and markers into the app on their phone. If you enjoy spending time in a graveyard, how fun it would be to be able to help others find their loved ones.


Search Internment.net. For more cemetery records. It has a free online library of cemetery records from thousands of cemeteries worldwide for historical and genealogy research.

This website is a single source, not a crowd-sourced resource for finding cemetery information. They publish transcriptions from a single source, be it the cemetery office, government office, church, archived document, or a tombstone transcriber. The genealogist can see the original records from a single source.

Ash Cemetery

What documents can you find at a cemetery?

Burial Records
  • Burial Permits and Records
  • Grave Opening Permits
  • Grave Closing Records
  • Burial Transit Permits
Gravestone Records
  • Tombstone Inscriptions
  • Cemetery Deeds
  • Plot Records
  • Plat Maps
Other Records
  • Sexton’s Records
  • Cemetery Ledgers
  • Death Certificates
FamilySearch.org List of Online Sources in Scotland

Below are lists of online websites for Scotland and Ireland taken from the FamilySearch.org Wiki page. They have great resources and are well worth checking out.

Canisbay Cemetery in Northern Scotland

Online Resources for Ireland – FamilySearch.org Wiki

Final Thoughts

Cemetery tourism, graveyard tourism, and graveyard genealogy are all the same. People who love to visit cemeteries for whatever reason can find what they want: peaceful contemplation, visiting loved ones, or just the art of tombstones, etc. What are your favorite reasons for visiting? Mine is to find a connection to where I came from.

Thank you for taking the time to explore this fascinating journey with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment below. Happy meandering. Sláinte!

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