Getting Started

Getting Started (6)

Friday, 02 January 2009 14:33

Sample Permission Form

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When attempting to gain permission to visit, clean and/or restore a cemetery located on private property, you should always first obtain permission. To assist in this, it can be helpful to present to the property owner a written permission form that will clearly define the objectives you have in mind, responsibility for damages to the private property  (including the cemetery)  or injuries occurring while on the land.  It is advised that you should take two copies of the permission form  and have both signed by the property owner and yourself. A copy should be presented to the property owner.

Permission to Visit, Clean, and/or Restore

The undersigned land owner hereby grants permission to the following named Volunteer named below and other persons acting in a volunteer capacity under the supervision of said volunteer to cross my land in order to gain access to clean and attempt to restore the _______________________ Cemetery, located in the county of_________________, in the state of_____________ , with the understanding that such efforts may include (but are not limited to) removing all noxious and detrimental vegetation (including trimming trees), general lawn care (including lawn mowing and weeding), removing accumulated trash, probing for buried gravestones and markers,  the excavation and repair of gravestones and markers, and the straightening and resetting of gravestones and markers.

Signature of Owner

Date Signed: ______________________________
Printed Name of Owner: _____________________________________________
Location of Cemetery: _____________________________________________
Address of Owner : _____________________________________________
Phone Number of Owner : _____________________________________________
Email Address of Owner : _____________________________________________

Special Instructions to Volunteer



The volunteer named below agrees to perform the tasks set out herein to the best of his/her ability, promising to act in good faith to clean the above named cemetery, to be responsible for the acts of any persons working under the volunteers supervision, to exercise due and diligent care to prevent injury to the site or any persons, and to be responsible for any damages or injuries sustained at the site (either to the site itself or the volunteer or persons working under the supervision of the volunteer).

The volunteer named below certifies that neither he/she nor any person operating under the volunteers supervision shall remove from the location any stone, monuments, markers, artifacts, ornamentation, enclosure or other objects.

The volunteer named below further agrees that his/her efforts shall comply with the generally accepted cemetery conservation and restoration techniques as promulgated by Saving Graves, The Association for Gravestone Studies, any state or local preservation organizations and the current laws of that state as may be applicable.

Signature of Volunteer

Date Signed: ______________________________
Printed Name of Volunteer: ____________________________________________
Address of Volunteer : _____________________________________________
Phone Number of Volunteer : ___________________________________________
Email Address of Volunteer : ___________________________________________
Friday, 02 January 2009 14:32

Cemetery Budget Planning

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Budget planning for a cemetery restoration project can be a tricky thing.  Each cemetery will have different needs resulting in different costs and it would be difficult to estimate without actually seeing the cemetery and the stones. While there are no "general guideline" or "rule of thumb" figures, and it would be difficult to estimate without actually seeing the cemetery and the stones. The following are are some estimated figures that may help:

        * Ten cents (.10) per foot for cleanup. If your cemetery is 30' X 50" which is 1500 sq.ft., figure $150
        * Large trees and heavy brush will cost more.
        * Stones needing re-leveled or re-set, figure $25 each. ($5 material, $20 labor)
        * Stones needing cleaned, add $25 each. ($5 cleaners $20 labor)
        * Broken stones needing repaired, add $60. ($20 materials $40 labor)
        * Large stones may increase the above estimates.
        * Grading and seeding, five cents per sq. ft.
        * Fencing and signage will vary, obtain price quotes from local vendors.
        * Donated labor will greatly reduce your cost.
        * Donated material such as sand, pea gravel, cement and concrete will reduce your cost
        * You may already have many of the tools, brushes and cleaning materials
          needed, reducing the cost.

    Information from Ernie Lasley, Coordinator Gibson County  Indiana PCRP
Friday, 02 January 2009 14:23

Scouting Assistance

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For those looking for assistance with American cemetery preservation or restoration projects, Saving Graves highly recommends and encourages the involvement of either the Girl Scouts or  Boy Scouts of America. Their work with historic cemetery projects has proven to be invaluable.

To arrange for Boy or Girl Scout involvement in your cemetery project, you should contact your local Scouts Council, and inform them of the project you have planned and request assistance.  Let them know that the project is a possible Eagle project just waiting for the right boy or girl to tackle.

Boy Scouts

Any Eagle Scouts that may currently be working on their Eagle Service Project would be a good candidate for this type of service. Eagle projects requite a minimum involvement of 100 hours.  Once a Scout has decided to work on your project, he must  submit a written proposal to the Scout Troup Committee for verification prior to starting on the project. It is recommended that you attach an approval letter along with the Scout's proposal.

Just enter your zip code and the council contact information and website (if available) will be displayed. It can also give you the contact information for the Order of the Arrow. Among other things, the OA is a community service-oriented brotherhood of Scouts and adults.

Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts can take on a cemetery clean up project for her Gold Award.

Previous results of Scouting involvement in cemetery restoration and preservation projects have resulted in amazing results in many areas.

Other Links pertaining to Scouting involvement.

    * Boy Scouts and Cemeteries
      OFFSITE - Oregon Historic Cemetery Association
    * Your Role as Scout Cemetery Project Adviser
      OFFSITE - Oregon Historic Cemetery Association
Friday, 02 January 2009 14:20

Media Promotion

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By contacting local media outlets (radio, TV, newspapers, etc) you may discover that you can obtain a vast amount of free publicity for your cemetery event. However, in order to obtain this publicity it will require a fair amount of work on the part of someone. Here's what you need to do to gain the most publicity for your event:

Designate a media coordinator in your family, group or organization to serve as the primary contact for all media inquiries. You will benefit from having one person develop relationships with the media, and will be assured that the correct information reaches everyone. Any information on the event that you wish to make known should be passed on to this designated media coordinator.

Prepare a complete list of all radio and television stations in your community (including cable), daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, online news forums and community newsletters. Call the media and identify a reporter/editor who would be interested in cemetery preservation news and issues.. Include education, real estate and architecture editors, assignment editors, feature writers and the editorial page editor.

Plan your cemetery  event so that it will generate the most media interest. Make plans  that are visual and involve a number of participants. Invite local, county and state officials. Invite the press. Prepare a media advisory, answering who, what, when, where and why. Send it out at least one full week in advance.

Follow up your advisory with a personal phone call to each reporter or editor to remind them of upcoming events. Keep it fresh in their minds.

Prepare a news release to distribute at your event and to send to press that cannot attend. Releases should be concise and factual, typed on your organization's stationery. You should be sure to include a headline, release date, contact name and phone, a brief description of your organization, and what you hope to accomplish at this event.

Set up an interview for your designated media coordinator or spokesperson with a local radio or television talk show. Many broadcast stations have programs that focus on community and public affairs issues; they are often taped in advance to air on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Call at least three to four weeks in advance. Ask whether there will be other guests and how long the segment will last so you can be better prepared.

Get your activities into radio, television and cable community calendars. Call each station and ask for the public service announcement (PSA) director who is responsible for informing the public about community events. Send them 15- or 30-second scripts about your activities. Include an interesting lead sentence with basic information about the event, location, time and phone number for more information. For accuracy, make sure you read your script aloud and time yourself with a stopwatch.

Develop a list of newspapers, newsletters and magazines that publish community calendars. Contact those editors to determine publication deadlines and submit pertinent information about your event (date, time, brief description of event, fees, contact name and number).
Friday, 02 January 2009 14:12

Finding Project Help

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One of the largest problems that you will find in taking on a cemetery restoration project is finding people to assist in the work. There are Many volunteer organizations are already established and may be willing to assist in this project.

  • Historical Societies     
As a general rule, Historical societies may not have the funds to do cemetery restoration and as a result may be unwilling to get involved in the cleanup of one specific cemetery for fear that it may mean having to restore all the other ones in their county. However, this is not the case in all areas and you should contact a local Historical society to find out their specific policies.
  • Genealogical Societies
If there is a local or County Genealogical society in the area you should by all means contact them. In many cases, they will be ready and willing to assist in cemetery clean up and restoration projects.
  • Historical Preservation Groups
  • Boy Scouts
  • Girl Scouts
  •  DAR - Daughters of the American Revolution
If you can prove that a veteran American Revolution is buried in the cemetery, you might be able to enlist them for some assistance.  However, more often than not it's been proven that they are unwilling to get involved
  • SCV - Sons of Confederate Veterans
  • Veterans Organizations
  • American Legion - In some cases, they may also offer funding assistance for repairs to cemeteries where veterans are buried.
  • Local Kiwanis Club
  • Local church youth groups
  • Community Service workers  
The use of people working off "Community Service" sentences (non-violent offenders who are sentenced to work off X-number of hours of community service). These can be a ready source of free labor, especially those folks who want to work off their community service sentences on Saturdays because they don't want to lose time from their Monday-Friday jobs. Check with your local law enforcement to see if this option is legally available in your area.
  • Inmate Labor Crews
More and more, groups are working in conjunction with the County Sheriffs. They are pretty willing to provide supervised inmate labor. These are not "chain gangs". Doing this kind of work is purely voluntary. The inmates get to get outside for a few hours, they get some fresh air and sunshine, they get some exercise, they get to do something productive, and the community benefits from their labors. These crews from the Sheriff's Office can also be very important to long-term maintenance of these cemeteries after the initial clean-up is done. Check with your local law enforcement to see if this option is legally available in your area.
  • Media coverage
Place an ad in a community newspaper, see if your local radio or TV stations will place a public service ad for you. People want to be involved, they have just never been asked. And you never know who may show up.

Free labor means you can dedicate what financial resources you are able to muster to materials, supplies and professional services. No matter where you get your volunteers from, one thing that you should do is to provide lunch for these crews --- such as  deli sandwiches and soft drinks.  
One vital thing to keep in mind is that in most, if not all cases the free labor that you will find from these and other sources will be untrained in the field of cemetery restoration. For this reason alone, you should plan attending at least one stone repair workshop where you can see first-hand how repairs are done in usual circumstances prior to starting your project.

And don't forget approaching local businesses up for donations on materials and supplies -- mortar mix, sand, gravel, shovels, etc. Be sure to give the donors lots of free publicity.

Friday, 02 January 2009 14:07

Determine Cemetery Ownership

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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: