Cemetery and Obituary Information

Harnett County
Harnett County Public Library

Now, genealogists and others who are curious about their Harnett Roots can use the Online Catalog to search for obituaries and cemetery information in Harnett County.  Here's the story of how and why the library has undertaken this project.  To send up updates/corrections please submit this form. 

FormCemetery ListSlideShow

These are instructions only.  This is what you see when you visit the Web Catalog.  The search screen looks like the picture below.  Select the Cemetery Database tab and type in your search term.  . 

You must change the database to Obituary by using the dropdown arrow where the search box is labeled Database.

Harnett County Public Library Cemetery / Obituary Database Project

Begun in 1989 with the encouragement of Lois T. Byrd, then president of the Friends of the Library, the staff and volunteers began indexing obituaries of Harnett and outlying areas.  The staff designed an Access® database in which to enter the obituaries.  The staff kept copies of the obituaries for a long time, but as the notebooks grew, the library ran out of storage space.  Staff decided it was time to go paperless.  Now all of these obituaries are just on our database.  Friends of the Library volunteers entered more than 10,000 obituaries in the past twenty years and they continue to do so daily. 

In 2008, the library decided to move the information from the Access Database to the library’s online catalog, Vubis Smart, so that the obituaries could be used by the public.  By adding the database to our online catalog the obituaries can be searched in a variety of ways: last, first, or full name, date of birth, date of death, cemetery, funeral home and many other combinations in the advanced search option.

As the library staff was working on obituaries, a Harnett County couple was diligently cataloging cemeteries in Harnett County.  Julie and Vernon Gambrell had compiled quite a database of cemeteries and photographs of tombstones. 

Julie’s story

The Harnett County Cemetery project started out as a way for us to help others find their ancestors.  Our family has always been interested in learning about our history for as long as I can remember. My aunt was a member of the DAR and made several trips to Europe to find out more about our ancestors. We have always been interested in more than just names and dates. We want to know as much as we can about those people: where were they from, what did they do for a living, what were they like, what did they look like?  While I was working on my husband’s family tree, researching his ancestors on the internet. I had come to a dead end, you see his family settled in Indiana and I needed someone to go to a cemetery there and take a couple of pictures. A stranger who lived in Indiana offered to take the pictures for me. Those pictures helped me to solve a puzzle in our family tree.  I started thinking that I would like to help other people find out more about their families. So I looked around at the cemeteries in the county where we live. The only records that I could find were two books written in the 1970’s by  Hugh B. Williams, “The Cemetery Man.” I thought it is a pity no one carried on his work,  so I voluntarily decided to go survey a few cemeteries. I took digital pictures and typed up the information on my computer.  These cemeteries were only the beginning; I found the gathering of this data to be therapeutic.  Once I started documenting, I just couldn’t stop until I’d found as many of the cemeteries in Harnett County as I could. Many of the cemeteries were in very bad shape due to vandalism and the forces of nature. Sometimes vaults were not used and the graves have fallen in. In several of the cemeteries, some of graves are marked with rocks, sticks, or metal markers that have deteriorated. I was distressed that their information has been lost. These were the reasons that made me want to persevere and save as much information as possible. My husband did all the work of putting the information that I gathered onto a website.  Eventually, we had more information than we could fit on our website.  When the Harnett County Library offered to take over the website, we decided that they had more resources than we did and that we could trust them to share the information gathered with those people who were seeking to find a piece of their past.

So, a partnership was formed and the Gambrells have entrusted this treasure to the County Library.  Julie and Vernon’s photographs and their cataloging of Harnett Cemeteries have also been added to the library’s online catalog. 

Here, genealogists, family tree searchers, descendents, or those who are just curious, can come and type in a keyword and find where an ancestor might be buried, an obituary, if one was found, and a picture of the gravestone.

The Cemetery Committee, appointed by the Commissioners of Harnett County, is working diligently on this project to keep it up-to-date and make it as accurate as possible.  We need help from others to keep this project going. 

If you visit and find errors in your family’s information, please let us know!  Until we have a form, you can email jfrye@harnett.org or melaniecollins@embarqmail.com with corrections.

If you have questions contact the library 910-893-3446 or email the Library Staff at library@harnett.org


This page was last updated 03/29/2012 02:16 PM                      V    Q