Sunday, April 08, 2007

Cemetery cleaning on private land

Can you please send any information regarding the cemetery law in West Virginia? I have the one you posted regarding Virginia and was wondering if West Virginia has the same laws.

My family was once the owner of some land that a family cemetery is located on.

The land is now in the hands of another owner, and [my] family would like to clean up the cemetery as it is a mess, It has been neglected for years. What is the proper way to go about having the cemetery cleaned?

I had hoped to make progress in answering your questions by using the West Virginia state website located at However, searches of the site for either the word 'cemetery' or 'cemeteries' (without quote marks) returned no hits. Hmmm, discouraging. In fact most of the tabs on this website didn't work. Amazing. I was finally able to find a link that DID work, but I cannot determine if this quote is in fact the most recent law:
"The purpose of this bill is to permit access to family or private cemeteries by cemetery plot owners, heirs of deceased persons, family members of deceased persons and persons interested in engaging in genealogy research for the purposes of visitation of the grave sites, maintenance of the grave site or cemetery or research. It also creates a cause of action for injunctive relief if a person is not permitted access to the cemetery, requires visitors to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and limits the use of motor vehicles when
accessing the cemetery."
A link titled "hb4370 intr" is located at:

Ol' Myrt recommends going to to find contact info for the West Virginia state senator with jurisdiction over the town and county where your family plot is located. Ask his staff for a reference to the most recent law on the subject and go from there. Please be aware that the state law cited earlier states

"(c) All persons exercising access to a grave site or cemetery under the provisions of this section are responsible for conducting themselves in a manner that does not damage the private lands or the cemetery or grave site and are liable to the owner of the private lands for any damage caused as a result of their access. The access to a cemetery or grave site on private lands conferred by this section does not include the right to operate motor vehicles on the private lands, unless there is a road or adequate right-of-way that permits access by motor vehicle and the owner has given written permission to use the road or right-of-way."

Again, I do not know if this is in fact the most recent West Virginia legislative directive on the subject.

Regarding the cemetery clean-up process itself, Ol' Myrt suggests reading:

AGS Association of Gravestone Studies
Click on "Preservation" on the navigation bar on the left, and you'll find a plethora of ideas about cleaning headstones including:

"Why can't I use shaving cream to highlight inscriptions on difficult to read stones?

Our professional conservators tell us it is definitely not a good idea to use shaving cream on porous gravestones because there are chemicals, greasy emollients, in shaving cream that are sticky and very difficult to remove from the stone with a simple washing. Indeed, even with vigorous scrubbing and lots of rinsing, the cream fills in the pores of a porous stone and cannot all be removed. The result of leaving it there is that in time it may discolor or damage the stone.

Instead, use a mirror to shine sunlight across the face of a stone, making the lettering stand out. [...] Always prefer a non-invasive method on gravestones just
as we do on medical tests on our own bodies."


-- West Virginia Saving Graves Yahoo Group

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 All Rights Reserved.

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