How To Use Your GPS to Find Small Family Cemeteries

While I’m pretty good with computers and I’m great in a research library finding genealogical gold nuggets, I’m a bit behind in my automobile technologies. Until a few weeks ago, I used Blackberry Traffic to get me from place to place without getting lost. I’ve a 1990 Honda and I’m not getting any younger, so I plead appropriate ignorance.

I needed to roadtrip across country recently so I decided to pick up a GPS. I got a Mio DigiWalker C220 but had no idea how to use it. Since I hate manuals, it was frustrating for a while, but suddenly I made an extraordinary discovery: GPS units can be very helpful in genealogical research. More specifically, they are a fantastic aid in finding small, family-named cemeteries.

I am researching the Bowers family in central Indiana. I knew that an entire generation farmed in Montgomery and Boone Counties, so I decided to see how far the county seats were from my home in Indianapolis. I entered the data for a generic address on Main Street in Lebanon, Indiana, the Boone County seat. And there on my screen were icons that, when tapped, gave ways to find restaurants, hotels, gas stations and more in the Lebanon area (remember, I’m a novice; this may sound obvious to you but for me it was a big surprise). Under Points of Interest, there is a tantalizing option – Artificial Landmark. I tapped it and the only option was Cemeteries. I tapped Cemeteries and found the names and locations for all of the cemeteries in a 50 (or so) mile radius of Lebanon, Indiana.

One was called Bowers Cemetery.

I wasn’t even looking for a Bowers Cemetery when I made this discovery. I was looking for whatever was listed under Artifical Landmark. The search showed me that GPS technology can point a user to items by their names. This offers a whole new way of finding cemeteries. Instead of searching geographically for that which you already know by name, you can seek out all cemeteries in a given area that might match your family names. Pretty cool.

Now I have to go through each record at the Bowers Cemetery and see if any match my lines. I’m not sure what I’ll find, but I learned a valuable lesson about technology – play with it and see what happens!

If you are seeking family-named cemeteries, or you’re not even sure whether they exist for your ancestors, try your GPS. Tom Tom, Mio, Garmin, Magellan, whatever – you might come up lucky.

Of course, I’m not the first person to discover this. For more information, see the following links:

Or, Google your own.