Monday, December 20, 2010

What about smaller, abandoned cemeteries?

FROM: GilcristNM
I've heard about a Cemetery Grant Program, but it appears this is only for cemeteries with staff and a budget to carry out 1/2 of the funding, etc. What about the small abandoned cemeteries? We have one nearby that is very overgrown, with perhaps 15 or 20 grave sites.

Several have written to inquire about the ICAPGen Cemetery Grant Program, so I checked it out over at the association's website:
ICAPGen, the internationally recognized credentialing organization for professional genealogists, has developed the solution to preserve important cemetery information.

“Whispers from the Dust” is a grant program that provides technology and financial support for cemeteries to:
  • Preserve historical information
  • Modernize record keeping
  • Make information accessible on the Internet
How Does the Grant Program Work?
  1. ICAPGen serves as the philanthropic agent for the collection and distribution of funds for the grant program.
  2. Cemeteries apply for a grant from ICAPGen. Approved cemeteries are required to share the cost through dollars or labor. Cemetery grants provide: a paper to digital conversion of maps and records; records management hardware and software; and publication of information on the Internet.
  3. Cemetery employees are trained to use and maintain their new systems.
  4. Maps and records are uploaded to the award-winning cemetery website, NAMES IN STONE, where they are made available for worldwide family history and genealogical research.
So, DearGILCHRIST, if appears your thinking is correct. The grants program concerns larger, better-organized cemeteries.

Terry kneeling over a once buried gravestone
in Sunset Valley, Travis County, Texas
However, don't let this stop you from making a difference when it comes to that small cemetery in your county. 

Terry Grumbles discovered a 1/4 acre site that had succumbed to dense overgrowth. Years ago, this wonderful man (who has since passed away) stepped up to his local city council to see that the local cemetery was repaired. Terry and his grandson Michael had to slash through the thick bushes and vines for a quite a while to uncover this ancestral tombstone. He told me the growth outside the fence behind the tombstone was typical of what he and Michael had to remove. To learn more about Terry's project see:
These articles prompted responses from readers who shared info found in follow-up articles: Indiana Pioneer Cemeteries Restoration Project and RE: Cemetery Research: Preserving a Legacy Article

Check with local, regional and state organizations to see if there is a cemetery preservation project that would sponsor work at the cemetery you are concerned about. The local courthouse may have land records for the burial plots, unless the graves were merely part of a family farm.

You might enlist the energy of a local Boy Scout Troop, as they are always looking for service projects. I've participated now in two Eagle Scout Projects designed specifically to:
  • Clean up the debris (The local utility company provided free dumpster bins for removal.)
  • document the tombstone engravings (with people working in pairs to read and transcribe.)
Another friend, Barbara Schulz who enlisted the aid of her distant cousins to spruce up the fencing and a repair several sinking tombstones in a small family plot in Georgia. Making the family aware of the final resting place of 1st and 2nd great-grandparents can go a long way toward raising money to share the expense.

If you don't know any living descendants of those interred in your small cemetery, try posting pictures of the cemetery and a few tombstones over at Check with at the state and county level. They'll do all they can to publish info on your cemetery project.

Good luck! I'd be happy to post photos of your progress as I did for my friend Terry. Though he and I never met except over the internet, he is a kindred spirit.

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


  1. Megan Smolenyak has a grant program too. One can apply on her web site, I know a cemetery or two has received assistance through her program. When you fill out the app, you put down a requested amount.

  2. One suggestion is to set up a memorial account for care of the cemetery. When my father passed away, we asked that donations be made to the cemetery fund in lieu of flowers.

    Scout service projects are gold and other civic and religious groups may be able to help as well. Are any veterans buried there? Veteran organizations might be helpful too.