Preserving Old and Abandoned Cemeteries

From time to time, interest is awakened in an old or abandoned cemetery, and the interested person or group looks for information on how to pursue their preservation efforts. Their first goal is often to cut away the overgrowth of weeds and bushes that have overtaken the ancient stones and to straighten and clean the grave markers. Such work is admirable, but those engaged in it need to realize that without fundraising for future maintenance, the plot, in ten or fifteen years, will inevitably look just the same as it did when they began their clean-up project. It’s a hard truth to swallow, but Nature’s cycle cannot be stopped by a one-time or short-term effort.

If there is not sufficient interest to establish an adequate endowment for preserving an old cemetery into the future, a worthwhile alternative is to carefully record the information cut into the gravestones, and to photograph them individually in good light, as well as making photographs of the setting and mapping the arrangement of stones. When that basic information has been recorded and placed in a permanent archive such as the county historical society, further research into the community where the cemetery is located and the individuals and families who are buried there is the logical next step.

The Ewing Cemetery Research Project provides a template that others might follow in their efforts to preserve the memory of a cemetery that otherwise may disappear in time. One aspect of that research is to establish who owns the cemetery. Although a researcher may be told that no one owns it, members of the legal profession will insist that can’t be true. Someone has to own it, and the research to find out who that is may be long and complicated.

Ewing Cemetery Research

See:
http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/cemetery_recordation_and_preservation/1875
http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/guidelines_for_preservation_planning_for_historic_burial_grounds_and_cemeteries/1925
Copyright 2011© Huntingdon History Research Network

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