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In the old days, much of the genealogical information published was collected by dedicated volunteers from genealogical and historical societies.

Such groups still produce very useful resources, and family historians can find them by checking with a local group or surfing the Internet.

One such type of publication is the cemetery survey, sometimes called a cemetery census.

A survey can cover cemeteries and graveyards in a city, rural area or entire county. They are usually conducted as part of a project that can take years to complete.

Cemetery survey books and websites should be among the first sources genealogists consult when searching for ancestors' graves, something best done early in the genealogical search.

If you know the geographic areas where ancestors are buried, but not the specific cemeteries, surveys can tell you which ones.

To be sure, many cemeteries are missed or left out of surveys, but they usually are not limited to places where prominent citizens are buried. Many also cover cemeteries tucked away, untended or just plain forgotten. The surveys can include church, secular, plantation, family and other types of cemeteries.

The degree of detail found in the surveys vary, but they usually give the cemetery's name (sometimes unknown), show its location on a map and describe hindrances to visiting it.

Most also will have ancestors' names and birth and death dates as well as the condition of grave markers where that information was found.

As with all genealogical information, that found in a cemetery survey should be checked against other sources, including vital records, for accuracy.

When visiting a cemetery where ancestors are buried, take photographs and do gravestone rubbings in a way that is not destructive if cemetery rules permit.

Also, draw diagrams of family plots and study them afterward, since burial places within a plot often indicate degree of kinship.

Information on others, both for cemeteries here and across the nation, can be found by searching the Internet or calling libraries that serve ancestral communities.