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Louisiana Cemetery Preservation
Community and Organization support for Louisiana Cemeteries

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Please read the discussion tab about this page located to the upper right of the wiki page.

These steps were adapted from "Rescuing a
Neglected Cemetery", Texas Historical Commission., "Preservation Hotline #7", South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, Louisiana Voices - Cemetery Preservation Guide, by Sheila Richmond and Cemetery Documentation, by Andi MacDonald. All of these documents are available as files at the wiki.

  1. Research - What are the facts concerning the cemetery? What is the history of ownership of the cemetery? Are there deeds, tax records, newspaper article, historical records etc. available? Can you identify the time period or any cultural traditions of this cemetery or historical significance? Some of the places to begin research: libraries, courts, deeds, funeral homes, newspapers, property maps, appraisal office, auditors office, churches, genealogy societies and historical books.
  2. Survey - Identifying, gathering data, photographing, transcribing and mapping the cemetery. Determine the type of survey you would like to conduct.
  3. Designate - Involve local history commissions, organizzations, genealogy groups, church groups. Notify Mailing lists, transcribers, genealogy societies, history societies, newspapers, LA Dept. of Culture Recreation and Tourism, Louisiana Cemetery Preservation, Save Our Cemeteries, Louisiana Cemetery Board.
  4. Long Term Plan - Additionally, create a long term plan for the care and maintenence and management of the cemetery.

Create Volunteer Opportunities

  1. Maintenence
  2. Historical and genealogical research
  3. Grave marker conservation
  4. Public Outreach
  5. Education
  6. Fund raising
  7. Master Gardener program or local group to assist with identifying landscape vegetation.
  8. In recording the GIS GPS location of graveyard, cemetery, or unknown cemetery.

When preparing for a cemetery visit you should keep these items in mind. Excerpted from Sheila Richmond at URL above:
Do a Safety Check!

Safety is always a primary concern when planning a field trip. Teachers should visit a cemetery before bringing students to identify safety concerns.

  • Check for uneven terrain, sunken areas, and holes
  • Look for broken gravesites, protruding tree roots, broken fence posts, and other sharp objects.
  • Identify hazardous grave markers and be aware that markers that appear stable may be hazardous.
  • Avoid poison ivy or poison oak.
  • Watch for snakes, ants, mosquitoes, spiders, bees, wasps, and other harmful pests.
  • Mark boundaries so your students know which areas to avoid.
  • Consider the need for sun screen, bug spray, or rain gear.
  • Bring lots of water.

NEVER do a gravestone rubbing!

The practice of rubbing a gravestone to gather information is extremely harmful to these storehouses of history. When one considers that it is usually the oldest, most delicate ones that are popular, the concerns are compounded:

  • Many gravestones look sturdy, but in reality are not. Often the slightest nudge will not only shift a stone on its base, but may just as easily topple the whole structure. The pressure of pushing onto a gravestone to do a rubbing can cause significant structural damage.
  • When attempting a rubbing, often people not only push against upright gravestones, but they also sit on the grave itself to do a rubbing. Don't assume that because the material looks sturdy that it is. Sitting on the stone can cause sections to break off.
  • Because gravestones are made of natural materials and are exposed to all types of weather -- especially freezing and thawing -- cracks begin to develop. The pressure of rubbing can not only increase unnoticeable cracks on a gravestone, but it can also create cracks that lead to deterioration.
  • The materials used to do the rubbings can be extremely harmful. Glue from the tape, acid from the paper, and minute particles of the chalk, pencil, pen, or crayon will remain on the gravestone. These traces can cause a chemical reaction that will weaken the stone, will sometimes stain the stone, or will serve as incubation area for bio growth such as lichen and algae which also lead to the destruction of gravestones.

When trying to gather information from a gravestone, consider proven alternatives! A picture can provide great documentation; even better is the technology of a digital image. These electronic images can be manipulated with computer software to highlight areas and help make the inscription readable. If you think that you may have trouble reading an inscription on a gravestone or gathering other information, consider the following tips:

  • Time your visit so that the sun provides optimum light.
  • If the gravestone never gets great light, take a mirror to reflect sunlight. A piece of cardboard wrapped with foil can also be used.
  • Use a spray bottle to lightly spray water across the inscription.
  • Do a drawing of the gravestone.

Careful Maintenance is the Key!

People who are interested in cemeteries want to make sure that these sites not only look good, but provide easy access to information on the gravestones. Too often this interest in beautification results in inappropriate cleaning and maintenance.

  • Carefully consider what to plant and where and bear in mind what the plant will look like in the future. You have seen evidence of flora destruction -- trees growing over or through gravestones, shrubs covering the gravestone, roots toppling fences, branches scrapping gravestones, and others.
  • While you do want to trim branches that are rubbing against or otherwise harming gravestones, keep in mind that in certain traditions, the plant is an integral part of the memorial and removing it would be desecrating a grave.
  • Cutting grass and trimming weeds are necessary to maintain a cemetery so that the grave sites are accessible to visitors. Extreme care should be taken, however, to ensure that the machinery does not cause harm. Lawn mowers and weed-eaters can scrape, scratch, and chip the gravestone. Any grass next to gravestone should be hand-trimmed.
  • Never use a weed killer next to a gravestone as it is absorbed by the stone and causes chemical damage.
  • The safest method of cleaning a gravestone is plain water with a soft brush. Never use bleach, harsh detergents, chemicals, pressure washers, hard-bristle brushes, or scrapers. Often the material on the stone is lichen or algae, not dirt. Consult with a professional about cleaning if plain water doesn't do the job.
  • Never remove pieces of a gravestone; professionals have successfully repaired gravestones that were jumbles of pieces that had to be fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Carefully consider local burial customs and traditions before removing items from a grave site. Mementos such as toys, pictures, cigarettes, stones and even soft drink cans or beer bottles can be signs of respect left by friends and family.

Cemetery Documentation
Adapted from Andi MacDonald

  1. Name, alternate names of cemetery
  2. County
  3. State
  4. Place
  5. Address
  6. Driving Directions
  7. USGS Coordinates
  8. Ownership
  9. Number of burials
  10. Earliest record
  11. Latest record
  12. Condition and description
  13. Acreage
  14. Setting
  15. Recorders Name / Prepared By
  16. Organization
  17. Date
  18. Sketch of cemetery in relation to the nearest road.
  19. Photographs
  20. Visual Design - landscape,headstone types and construction, symbols, motifs, unusual features
  21. Historical Narrative - religious affiliation, period of use, historical association of cemetery within the local community
  22. Bibliography and Resources

Book of Tombstone Headstone Graveyard Symbols
Headstone Types
Historical Newspapers
Ownership Documentation
Previous Transcriptions
On-line Internet sources URL
Genealogical sources
records or History and Genealogical society records


How to participate in Louisiana Cemetery Preservation


Documentation of your selected cemetery includes not only a transcript of those interred, but also photographs. Taking photographs will assist future generations and provide documentation of the condition of the cemetery currently, which is very important as cited by Save Our Cemeteries. The LAGenWeb Gravestone Photograph Project discusses deteriorating headstones, and illegible inscriptions and epitaphs. Over a period of time this information is lost. Lost too, is the original state of the cemetery before some form of neglect, vandalism, or abandonment has taken place. To this end the Louisiana Gravestone Photograph Project has provided an area to submit a photograph of headstones and cemeteries. In addition to this project is the Louisiana Tombstone Transcription Project that provides links also to photographs of either particular headstones or cemeteries and additional transcripts of those interred. It is strongly suggested to provide photographs and transcripts to both of these projects in addition to providing the same to your local library or historical association. There are many cemeteries that are documented on various photo sharing websites on the internet. The Louisiana Cemetery Preservation wikispace offers a centralized location for all of this information to be accessed. In many of the transcripts from LAGenWeb it is noted of the cemeteries condition. Not only should these cemeteries be identified by local parish government officials, but the cemetery should also be reported to the Louisiana Cemetery Preservation mailing lists, message board, identified by Louisiana Cemetery Preservation wiki and blog, and local news media. In this manner, the cemeteries can be identified so that a project to restore, preserve and document can be achieved.


Creating volunteer opportunities


Creating volunteer opportunities in your local community is as simple as gathering a group of friends or family members and taking on the task yourselves. Church groups, clubs, and various organizations can also be contacted to spark an interest in a cemetery project. Here are a few other suggestions: involve local history commissions, organizations, genealogy groups, church groups, notify mailing lists, transcribers, genealogy societies, history societies, newspapers, LA Dept. of Culture Recreation and Tourism, Louisiana Cemetery Preservation, Save Our Cemeteries, and consult with the Louisiana Cemetery Board to see if this cemetery is under its jurisdiction or within a particular cemetery district. When you have created a cemetery project please update the wiki with your contact information, the specific cemetery, parish location and begin to blog about your cemetery project at the Louisiana Cemetery Preservation blog. Once you have joined the Louisiana Cemetery Preservation wiki, send an email to to be included as a contributor to the Louisiana Cemetery Preservation blog at this URL


There are many volunteer opportunities in Louisiana Cemetery Preservation.

  1. Create and Share Photos
  2. Create and Share Plot maps
  3. Historical surveys
  4. Transcriptions
  5. Getting GIS coordinates for unknown cemeteries
  6. Reporting abandoned or neglected cemeteries to the mailing list
  7. Organizing a clean up
  8. Organizing a preservation group
  9. Documenting your cemetery visit through the Louisiana Cemetery Preservation blog
  10. Create a wiki page for your parish or chosen cemetery


*Reported to Saving Graves



Starting A Cemetery Preservation Association

To give you a basic idea of what's involved in the process of starting a Cemetery Preservation Association, we have set up a "bare bones" guide that may be of some help to you in getting started. Thanks go out to the members of the Indiana Pioneer Cemetery Restoration Project mailing list for the valuable input they provided in putting this together.


Before doing anything else

  • Check to make sure that there is not a pre existing group in your focus area. A local Historical Society if there is one would be a good source for this information.

  • Find out if there are existing readings of the cemeteries in your focus area. If they do exist you might want to see about updating them.


Prior to holding a first meeting

  • Promote the fact that you are interested in exploring the possibility of starting up a Cemetery Preservation Association for your focus area to determine if there are others in the area that share your concerns and interests. Make sure that you give them a easy way to contact you, such as both a phone number and a email address. Collect both information and the names, addresses and phone numbers of people who want to be directly involved in organizing a cemetery preservation association.


  • Once you have a core group (say 3 to 6 people) that have expressed a desire and a willingness to get involved , you can schedule a private meeting with them to discuss the most pressing issues that could be solved through a cemetery preservation association and how each of them wanted be involved in the organizing committee.


  • At this stage, it is very important that this becomes a group project, rather than just your project.


  • The organizing committee needs to set the date of the first public local association meeting, decide on a location, decide how to promote attendance, choose the issues to discuss and lead the discussion as to why a cemetery preservation association is needed.


  • Start to develop a plan or organization, thinking about issues such as incorporation and such.

  • For a location, try to choose a free public location such as a local library meeting room.

  • You cannot do too much to promote this first meeting. Do everything that you can think of to get the word out to those that might share your interests.


Your First Meeting

  • At the first meeting, it is important to collect the names and addresses of those attending.

  • Have a preprinted interests survey to pass out to the people in attendance that is short and can be completed and returned before they leave.

  • Make sure that someone is assigned to record the minutes of the meeting.


  • Once you have had at least one more meeting, and everyone is in agreement that you need a cemetery preservation association, it is time to get organized. You need to establish bylaws, elect officers, set up committees, and establish an action plan.

  • You may find that it is to your advantage to establish yourselves as a non profit corporation. While this is a simple process, the law on how to go about this process varies from state to state so you should check with your local state for the correct information.

  • You also may want to file to establish your association as a 501c3 federal non profit corporation.

  • If you are going to be dealing with money, you need to set up a bookkeeping system. You should also apply for a business name to protect the identity of your cemetery preservation association. In order to open a bank account, you will need to have a Tax I.D. Number.

  • If you want to be eligible for certain grants and to receive a special bulk mailing rate, you may want to apply for tax exempt status. As you work through the process, you will want to become familiar with the resources, including local and regional as well as the various online resources Make plans to promote the association. One good place to start is by registering your Association with the Saving Graves Association Registry.


Regular Meetings

  • Plan on holding regular monthly meetings (general consensus as to a mutually agreeable date).

  • Try to hold short meetings (about a hour) in which you run down what projects you are currently involved in, what in the works, legislation, etc. and then review what we know about the cemeteries in your focus area.

  • One of the first projects that you should undertake as a group is to IDENTIFY the cemeteries in your specific area. Until you catalog what you KNOW, you won't know where to start trying to learn new information. One problem here that you will want to be aware of is that in many cases cemeteries are known by multiple names. One person will talk to you about the "Smith" Cemetery and another will talk about the "Jones" Cemetery. In the end, you finally figure out that they are talking about the same piece of property! This can be accomplished by starting with the USGS topographical maps for all the quads in in your county, or region. You will want to have them laminated and possibly mounted on a backing board. Because of the tremendous detail on the USGS maps, you can usually pinpoint a cemetery's location with a high degree of accuracy. Not all of the cemeteries in your focus area will be found on the USGS map. The rest can be added with Sharpie type marker. Because the maps were laminated prior to mounting, you can take a Q-tip and some alcohol and change any "mistakes".


  • Create a website. This alone can take up the majority of the time that you devote to the association.

  • Plan cemetery clean-up dates. When one of the group gets involved in a cemetery clean-up, they can call on the others in the group or labor, assistance and advice. Try to make use of community volunteer groups for help when possible.

Cemetery Organizations Near You



Reprinted from Saving Graves: Starting A Cemetery Preservation Association

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 January 2013 07:51