Louisiana Cemetery Preservation
Community and Organization support for Louisiana Cemeteries
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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.
- 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.
- Survey - Identifying, gathering data, photographing, transcribing and
mapping the cemetery. Determine the type of survey you would like to
- 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
- Long Term Plan - Additionally, create a long term plan for
the care and maintenence and management of the
- Historical and genealogical research
- Grave marker conservation
- Public Outreach
- Fund raising
- Master Gardener program or local group to
assist with identifying landscape vegetation.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Adapted from Andi MacDonald
- Name, alternate names of cemetery
- Driving Directions
- USGS Coordinates
- Number of burials
- Earliest record
- Latest record
- Condition and description
- Recorders Name / Prepared By
- Sketch of cemetery in relation to the nearest
- Visual Design - landscape,headstone
types and construction, symbols, motifs, unusual features
- Historical Narrative - religious affiliation,
period of use, historical association of cemetery within the local
- Bibliography and Resources
of Tombstone Headstone Graveyard Symbols
On-line Internet sources URL
Genealogical sources URL
Church records or History and Genealogical society records
How to participate in Louisiana Cemetery Preservation
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
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
Once you have joined the Louisiana Cemetery Preservation wiki, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
to be included as a contributor to the Louisiana Cemetery Preservation blog at this URL http://louisianacemeteries.blogspot.com.
There are many volunteer
opportunities in Louisiana Cemetery Preservation.
- Create and
- Create and
Share Plot maps
- Getting GIS
coordinates for unknown cemeteries
abandoned or neglected cemeteries to the mailing list
- Organizing a
- Organizing a
your cemetery visit through the Louisiana Cemetery Preservation blog
- Create a wiki page for your parish or chosen cemetery
to Saving Graves