Cemetery Tool

Cemetery visits can provide a wealth of information to the traveling researcher. An obituary or death certificate can provide the name of the cemetery. Internet sites can help you locate the cemetery, but only the cemetery records will really let you know what is below ground!

Also see the article Search High & Low, Above & Below.

Calling the cemetery to find the exact location of the grave can be helpful but make sure that you get every detail correct.

Sometimes the only way to find out what is below ground is to do a little probing. Here is a humorous helpful hint.

Attached is a list and some photographs of the stones that I found and uncovered.

Bad Lug Wrench - Good Cemetery Tool!

By Jeffrey A. Bockman

Original article posted May 17, 2010.

As a ten year old, hanging out at the local garage, I could easily take a tire off using one of the old X shaped lug wrenches that had wrenches for 3 lug sizes and a pointed end for taking the hub cap off.

Now it is almost impossible to take a tire off using the toy wrenches that are provided with every car. I have had to try and jump on it to budge a tire that was installed with a pneumatic wrench at the dealer or tire shop. Well, I finally found a good use for it!

On Sunday April 25th, 2010, I was at a cemetery in Detroit looking for the grave of my grandfather Alvar who had abandoned the family when my father was five-years-old. I had called them a month before and was told that Alvar Anderson (he changed his last name) was in Section 45 grave 235. She had also said something about him being along the back fence.

I easily found Section 45 but the markers stopped short of 235. Behind the marked area were several rows of graves. After looking around it looked like the burials were in chronological order. I found several graves with deaths in January 1965 but no Alvar (see the list below). They were a row or two away from the fence. Many of the graves had leaves and dirt covering the markers. A one inch in diameter broken tree branch easily cleared the leaves to read some of the markers. I had been told that a nearby cemetery had a problem with sunken or actually buried markers.

Before the trip we had cleaned the car and removed all of the gardening tools. The tire iron turned into a handy tool to probe up to six inches deep looking for markers. Several were found about 3 to 4 inched down. The handle lets you twist it back and forth to slowly dig down so that it does not hurt the marker. Once a marker is found the sharpened edge can be used to cut the sod and then the handle can help to pull up pieces of sod while also pulling on the grass.

One was for a Paul Willeford, a WWII Bronze Star Medal veteran, was completely covered by several inches of dirt and grass.

After clearing several markers I thought that I had narrowed down my search for Alvar to either one of two graves to the right of Benjamin Rusenstrum or one of three to the left. Once back at the hotel I check the SSDI and found that Benjamin had died in Feb 1965 so I thought that Alvar was one of the two to the right.

On Monday morning I called to find out the grave number for Benjamin. When told it was 142, I realized that I had to return to the cemetery and visit the office. They gave me a map showing where 235 would be. All of the burials in that area were 1969 and there was no marker for 235. The diagram also showed a "Start W141" with an arrow just inside the fence. Following the numbers, W235 ended up behind Section 38 well to the west.

I went back to the office and they checked and said that nobody was buried in Section 45 grave 235. Knowing the burial date from the death certificate helped them determine that he was buried in W235. This row was for State burials. Only a few of them had memorial markers.

It is somewhat ironic that Alvar Bockman and then known as Alvar Anderson had two names in life and ended up buried as W235.

W235 - Alvar Anderson is located between the trees after the large monument in the distance.

Forest Lawn Cemetery

Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan

11851 Van Dyke Ave.

Detroit, MI 48234


Lat: 42° 24' 42"N, Lon: 083° 01' 41"W

Established in 1888.

The following grave markers were found in Section 45 and buried in Jan-Feb 1965.

While looking for Alvar I uncovered several markers which had been buried.

Other Photos are available at http://picasaweb.google.com/JeffBockman/CemeteryTool#

John Ross McMath Nov 10 1897 - Jan 6 1965

Michigan PVT Med DET 4 SVC COMD World War II

Anne I. Van Ducker July 16 1934 – Jan. 8 1965

Daughter / In Loving Memory

Paul Willeford Nov 13 1905 – Jan 11 1965


Sgt. Co A39 infantry World War II BSM (Bronze Star Medal)

Wilburn A. Cathers 1909 - 1965 (SSDI: Jan 29 1965)


Sophia Wigley Goonis 1897 - Jan 18 1965

Edward B. Kane (SSDI: Oct 1965)



Benjamin Rusenstrom (SSDI: Feb 1965) - grave #142




Walter Schultz 3/15/1965

Loftta Barker

Kaiser 3/9/1965

Links to websites with entries for Forest Lawn Cemetery

Michigan American Local History Network


US GenWeb Archives, Michigan




Find A Grave

info: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=546&CScn=forest+lawn&CScntry=4&CSst=24&

interments: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gsr&GScid=546