Now that you've located that long lost cemetery and found it to be in dire need of cleaning and restoration work, the first and most important step that you need to take is to determine who currently owns the land the cemetery is located on. The main reason for this is to obtain permission to enter the property and do the work that you feel is needed. Cemetery records generally take two forms: records documenting ownership of plots, and interment registers which document burials in the plots in the cemetery. For genealogical purposes, interment registers are usually the most useful, though they vary in content from cemetery to cemetery. Plot ownership records may also contain data about the individuals buried in the graves. Please keep in mind that in many cases the cemetery will be located on private property and legally you will be required to obtain permission before entering. Saving Graves offers a template permission form that may be used to obtain permission. In many instances, the property owner will reside on the same land, or there may be others living nearby that will be able to assist you in determining ownership. However there will be many times where this will not the case and you will need to do some research to determine the cemetery ownership.
There are several resources that may be of assistance to you:
- Local Funeral Homes
Many times a local funeral home will retain records pertaining to a burial in a given cemetery that will include among other items, the name of the person that owned the land where the cemetery is located upon at the time of burial. You may also find other information regarding the cemetery such as plat maps showing the location of graves that may no longer be marked.
- County Courthouse
By researching the land records you should be able to determine who the current property owner is and how to contact them. You also may want to research the ownership history of the land to see how the cemetery was set up originally and by who.
- Historical and /or Genealogical Societies
Good resources for locating the history of specific cemeteries.
- Local Libraries
Yet another great resource for locating the history of specific cemeteries. An index to United States libraries can be found at the following location: