Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
By Frank Passic
There is a special website on the internet which focuses upon the burial places of people: www.findagrave.com. This site provides a great opportunity to list the burial places of friends and loved ones, and help with genealogical research. This website is the 5th largest looked-at genealogy site in America and is becoming increasingly popular. What is great about it is: IT’S FREE! You can post the burial sites of your loved ones, neighbors, friends, or just tombstone transcriptions in your local cemetery. You can add biographies, and even photographs of the person. You can leave “virtual flowers” or other symbols, leave public messages--all on their burial site listing.
I’ve recently posted a couple of prominent Lithuanians interred here in the U.S. as examples, which I’d like to share with our readers this month as an encouragement for you to start posting burials on this website. One is Lithuanian President Antanas Smetona, and the other Lithuanian numismatist Dr. Aleksandras Rackus. Their full burial listings as found on www.findagrave.com are reproduced here as examples to follow.
To access these listings yourself, go to the main page of the site. On the right you will see “Search 6.7 million (or whatever the total is at that time) graves. Click on that. You will then get a form to fill out. Type in the name “Antanas Smetona,” and below choose “Ohio.” You don’t have to fill in the dates. Click “Search” at the bottom, and you will get his name on the left, with the name of the cemetery on the right. Notice Smetona’s name has a star after it. That means he was a famous person. Next will be a flower, meaning people have left “virtual flowers” and notes with this listing. There also appears a small picture frame, meaning there is a photograph of the person on the listing. Another emblem which could appear, a tombstone, means that there is a photograph of that person’s tombstone with the listing. Sometimes a red heart will also appear. That means the listing has been sponsored for a small one-time fee and will never have an advertisement placed on the top of it.
Continuing with our instructions, click on the name of Antanas Smetona on the left. You will then get the actual burial listing as posted on the www.findagrave.com website. As a numismatist, it was important for me to illustrate some collector items featuring this legendary Lithuanian President. For his photograph, I placed the 1930 portrait of him wearing the Order of Vytautas the Great. Below that, I added the 1938 10 litu silver coin featuring his image, and finally, the rare 1938 10 litu banknote which features a picture of Smetona on the left, and the Lithuanian Declaration of Independence which includes his signature, on the right.
Page from www.findagrave.com for Antanas Smetona
On the bottom right you will see an option in a box which states, “Leave Flowers and a note for this person.” People across the country have already been leaving flowers and notes at this particular grave listing. The findagrave site has stock photographs of flowers you can use, or you can add your own from your own computer. Some people add flags, emblems, and other artwork in this section. In order to submit flowers and notes, as well as burial listings yourself, you will have to register on the site. It is easy to do, and again, it is FREE!
Let’s try another name. On the grave search section, type in Aleksandras Rackus. For those who might not know this, it was his Lithuanian cultural collection that was purchased by Stanley Balzekas which became the basis for starting the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in 1965! Choose Illinois, and click “Search.” You will get Rackus’ name, and the name of the cemetery, Saint Casimir Lithuanian Cemetery in Chicago. By the way, if you click on the name of the cemetery, you will get the cemetery home page where you can view the names by alphabetical order, of every person interred in that particular cemetery whose burials have been posted on Findagrave.
Click on Rackus’ name on the left, and you will get his listing. Notice that on the biography of Račkus, I made sure to mention he was a member of the American Numismatic Association, and that his collection was acquired by the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture. In addition to a photograph of this legendary Lithuanian hobbyist and promoter, I included one of Rackus’ 1950s era Christmas cards, and one of his political cartoons as illustrations.
I encourage of Museum Review readers to “give it a try” and post flowers and notes to these aforementioned listings on the www.findagrave.com website. We will be looking for them. Feel free to mention that you are a member of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture.
With over 6 million gravesites already listed, the www.findagrave.com website is a great place to search for ancestors and relatives who may be buried in the United States. I encourage our readers to submit your own family burials, which again is FREE and easy to do. There are two ways you can do this. First there is the longer “Family and Friends” method where you take the time to put biographies and photographs of the persons on a standardized form. Some people however, like to go to their own local cemetery and transcribe tombstones row-by-row and submit that information using the “Quick” method. Others have cemetery records on computer and there is a way to submit that information “en masse” on the site also.
People have been able to locate “lost relatives” using this site, and make contact with persons doing genealogical research on the same families. Others have been able to obtain photographs of tombstones of loved ones who are buried across the country, by willing ‘gravers (that’s lingo for submitters on findagrave who go to cemeteries and transcribe tombstones, and will take a photograph for you) who submitted the information and live near a particular cemetery.
Are you searching for “what happened” to your Lithuanian relatives who came to America a century ago? Have you tried typing in various spellings of their surnames for particular states? (Tip: you don’t even have to type in a first name in the search. Just type in a last name, which being Lithuanian, probably won’t be duplicated like the surname Smith or Jones would.) Most importantly, have you submitted the information about your ancestors and where they are buried on the www.findagrave.com website? If you do, you will be insuring that present and future genealogists will have access to this information, and it may just help with your research, too!
There is also another side to this site. On the main www.findagrave homepage, you can click on the “Discussion Forums” option at bottom right and read/participate in correspondence from members who are more than eager to help you if you are having problems understanding how to do something or need information about a particular topic. You’ll have to register separately on that side of the website; again, it is FREE! Most people use a public webname for posting here. There are various categories to participate in discussions such as: Cemeteries and Genealogy, Help with Findagrave, Famous Listings, the Civil War, and others, and even States of the U.S. forums for questions regarding burials in each state.
In any event, I hope our Balzekas Museum Review readers will start utilizing this site. Please “spread the word” to the Lithuanian community about this new avenue to promote our history, genealogy, and heritage.
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic