When I was in North Carolina a few months ago, my friend David Cortner and I talked about accessing cemeteries that are on private land. He has a Tennessee ancestor buried on a private farm, and wondered if he could get access.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but a bill ensuring family access to cemeteries on private property may soon make its way through the Tennessee General Assembly. Apparently, the bill allows access for cemetery maintenance, visits and genealogical research.
I was happy to read this news, as I know how much it means to be able to access family burial plots. As you may recall, a few years ago I was able to visit an old cemetery located on a private farm in Missouri.
Fortunately, Missouri law clearly states “Any person who wishes to visit an abandoned family cemetery or private burying ground which is completely surrounded by privately owned land, for which no public ingress or egress is available, shall have the right to reasonable ingress or egress for the purpose of visiting such cemetery.”
It isn’t that unusual for those of us with early American roots to have family members who were buried on small farm plots. Time has obliterated traces of many of those burials, and unfortunately some farmers have simply plowed under tombstones, law or no law.
I’m curious to learn about private-property cemetery access laws in other states, and I invite you to write if you know of such a law in your state. Let’s put together a list of states for all the readers to access.
In the meantime, this is what I’ve discovered about cemetery laws and cemetery preservation:
• Legislation to Protect Cemeteries
• Cemetery Preservation Resources
• FAQ: Virginia Cemetery Preservation
• Cemetery Preservation Organizations
• Texas Cemetery Preservation Mailing List Archives
• Cemetery Mailing Lists