Searching for the Final Resting Places of Military Veterans in the USA
Military veterans may be buried in several different types of cemeteries in the United States, including national cemeteries and state veterans cemeteries. Their names may also be mentioned on war memorials.
Federally-funded national cemeteries came into existence in the early 1860s and became the final resting places of many veterans of the Civil War. Since then, veterans of other wars, including World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War, have been interred in national cemeteries.
There are 123 national cemeteries. A state-by-state list of all the national cemeteries can be found at: http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/cems/listcem.asp
State veterans cemeteries have been set up by the individual states with or without the support of federal funding. They are all state-managed and may have extra criteria for accepting veterans for burial, such as residency requirements.
There is a list of state veterans cemeteries arranged by state at: http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/scg/lsvc.asp The contact details of each cemetery are included.
Both casualties of war and veterans who died many years after the conflict are buried in national cemeteries and state veterans cemeteries.
Whether you wish to trace the final resting place of a family member who died in the recent past or if you are looking for the grave of a military ancestor who died more than one hundred years ago, the nationwide gravesite locator of the Department of Veterans Affairs is a good place to start. It contains details of veterans and their immediate family members who are interred in:
• National Cemeteries
• State veterans cemeteries
• Other Department of Interior cemeteries
• Other military cemeteries
• Private cemeteries but only if the grave was provided with a government grave marker after 1997
Anyone can search the nationwide gravesite locator online and access the information it contains free of charge.
In order to search the database, follow these steps:
1. Go to http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/j2ee/servlet/NGL_v1
2. Fill in the form on this page:
a. The only required information is the deceased person’s last name.
b. You may search for results matching either the exact name or the first few letters of the name. The latter method of searching is especially useful if there are alternative ways of spelling the name.
c. In order to search for all records matching the first one or two letters of the name, change the selection in the drop-down box next to the name from ‘exact match’ to ‘begins with.’
d. If you know the cemetery in which the person is buried, you may select this from the drop-down box next to ‘cemetery’, otherwise just select ‘all.’
e. You can also enter the deceased person’s month and year of birth and death, if you have this information.
3. When you have filled in the form, click on the ‘go’ button
4. A list of search results will then appear.
The information contained on the individual records varies but you can expect to see at least some of the following information:
• branch of service
• war(s) served in
• relationship to the veteran (if the deceased person is a relative of a veteran)
• date of death
• exact location of the grave site
• name, address and telephone number of cemetery
Each record also contains a ‘view map’ button, which reveals the exact location of the grave within the cemetery. This information is particularly useful if you are planning to visit the cemetery.
If you cannot find the record of the deceased person you are searching for, you may address an enquiry directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs. In order to do this, send a letter detailing as much information about the person as possible, such as their full name and any possible alternative spellings of their name; their branch of service; the state from which they entered active duty; the date and place of their birth and the date and place of their death. Include your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address and mail the letter to:
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
National Cemetery Administration (41C1)
Burial Location Request
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420
It may take about four weeks before you receive a reply.
There are also online resources for searching for family members who were casualties of a particular conflict in the USA. For example, if you are searching for information on a family member who died on the U.S.S. Arizona following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, on December, 7 1941, an alphabetical list by surname of those who died can be found at: http://www.interment.net/data/us/hi/oahu/arizona/arizona.htm
The following information on each person is given:
• Full name
• Branch of Service
• Home state
This list contains 1,175 soldiers and sailors, representing almost all of the 1,177 who died. Only two casualties are unnamed.
Further online resources for locating the final resting places of military veterans in the USA include:
• Colorado Veterans’ Grave Registrations – there are records of the graves of all veterans buried in Colorado between 1862 and 1949. You can search online for basic information, and, once you have located the deceased person you are looking for, you can request their full record (excluding the cause of death) from the Colorado State Archives. Full details of how to do this are given on the website at:
• Minnesota Veterans Graves Index – this index contains records of the graves of veterans buried in Minnesota between 1857 and 1975, with the majority dating from the 1927 to 1969 period. It is not an exhaustive list of all burials taking place during these years, although it provides a good starting point for research. The index can be searched online at: http://people.mnhs.org/vgri/search.cfm?CFID=639160&CFTOKEN=93119315
• Veteran Grave Registration for Franklin County, Ohio – a database of the graves of veterans in Franklin County, Ohio, can be searched online at: http://www.co.franklin.oh.us/RCDR_Gravesite/Public_Default.htm
These online resources will hopefully reveal a lot of genealogical information on your military ancestors, all of whom deserve to be honored for serving their country.
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