Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

When questioned as to what I got up to on the weekend, I usually omit the fact that I visited a cemetery.  Most people are interested in the family history part of my research but when I start mentioning that I spent time looking for graves and taking photos of headstones I generally start receiving strange looks (especially if they know my cemetery visits are regular occurrences).

Nevertheless, cemeteries are one of my favourite places to visit.  I’m fascinated by the history attached to them and often stop to read headstone inscriptions, musing on the lives of those that are no longer with us.  They are places that are only ever associated with death however once you start visiting them on a regular basis, this feeling soon disappears.  I now find cemeteries to be quite calm and peaceful places.

I keep a list saved and whenever I find a new relative who is buried in one of the metropolitan cemeteries in Western Australia, I dutifully add them to it so that when I finally make my way to the cemetery, I’ll be able to find their grave and look upon their headstone in the hope that they’ll yield some new clues.

The metropolitan cemeteries are firstly organised by denomination and the denominations are then broken up into sections such as AA, BA or CA.  The graves are located within these sections and have numbers at the front of them which are organised numerically.  It is no good setting off in the hope that you’ll be able to simply walk around and stumble upon the grave you’re after.  In a cemetery the size of Karrakatta, this would be impossible.  The very first step is to search the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board (MCB) website to find the burial details of the person you’re looking for.  The ‘Summary of Record Information’ on the site not only lists the name of the deceased and the date and place of their death but also lists the exact location of the grave.  You should also take note of the grantee (if there is one listed) as this person could be a relative.

Summary of Record Information

Jot down or print these details and if you follow the map of the cemetery carefully, finding the grave should be a piece of cake.  There are signs throughout the cemetery which state which section is which and once you enter the right section all that is required is that you follow the numbers until you find the grave you’re after.

I would advise that before you set off for the cemetery, you start with a clear plan.  I like to print off a copy of the map so that I can circle the required sections that I aim to visit that day.   This saves me from going backwards and forwards and means I can start from one area and work my way to each gravesite in a concise manner.

Cars can be driven through the grounds and there are parking spaces dotted around however I suggest that you occasionally take the opportunity to walk.  There is no better way to take in the surroundings than on foot and it also provides a fantastic source of exercise!

Always remember to take:

  • A list of graves to visit
  • The map of the cemetery
  • A notepad and pen in case you need to take notes
  • A camera

The MCB website lists the details for persons buried or cremated in the following cemeteries:

  • Karrakatta Cemetery
  • Fremantle Cemetery
  • Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park
  • Midland Cemetery
  • Guildford Cemetery
  • Rockingham Regional Memorial Park

It also provides easy to follow, colour coded maps of the grounds which can be downloaded.

Metropolitan Cemeteries Board website: www.mcb.wa.gov.au

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