Today, all across the world, thousands of small
cemeteries on private property are in danger of being bulldozed off,
and the land used for crops, grazing, or new development. Left
unprotected, many cemeteries fall prey to real estate developers or
others who are seeking short term economic or personal goals. These
unfeeling people destroy many of these old cemeteries, showing no
respect for the dead or their families. They do not appreciate or
understand the importance of human burial sites as visible, tangible
links to the people who made our history.
The inscriptions on their monuments tell us not only
their names and dates, but often where they lived, their occupations
and affiliations, the manner of their death, personal traits that
survivors held dear, and names of relatives. These inscriptions
provide us with invaluable data regarding local, medical, and
material history, cultural geography, historical archaeology,
folklore, genealogy, and much more. Data that in many cases may
be found nowhere else.
Saving Graves is strongly committed to the
protection of human burial sites from unauthorized and unwarranted
disturbance, by man or nature. We believe that the willful
desecration or destruction of human burial sites is unacceptable in a
civilized society. It is our objective to highlight their
importance and promote an attitude or reverence and respect, while
encouraging further preservation of these unique historical resources.
We are not asking private land owners to do anything
for the maintenance of the cemetery, nor are we suggesting
unrestricted access to their private land. We are only asking
private property owners to allow access at 'reasonable times' to
legitimate groups to do the repairs and upkeep that is necessary, and
to allow descendants and other interested parties the opportunity to
visit the graves.
Some of the serious problems that we are facing
today in various states include:
Grave markers have been damaged, destroyed, or removed
illegally. In some documented cases illegally removed grave
markers have been sold in flea markets as landscaping items. Funerary
art (gates, fences, plaques, flag holders, etc) have been stolen by
thieves looking to sell the metal as scrap or to antique and garden dealers.
In many places where laws currently exist to protect
against the willful desecration or destruction of cemeteries, these
laws are rarely enforced.
Under several current laws, cemeteries and graves that are
determined to be "abandoned" can be relocated without the
knowledge, approval, or involvement of descendants or interested parties.
A number of places today have no procedures governing the accidental
discovery of human remains.
In many areas, there is no official inventory or register of known
burial sites. In Louisiana for example, a railroad is being
built through a church cemetery, that is active and has been used for
90 years. When land was taken by the Department of Defense to put in
said railroad, a spokesman stated that the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers had no idea the cemetery existed. It does not appear on the
Despite provisions in some laws for the voluntary (as opposed to
compulsory) granting of access, by a landowner, to burial sites
located on his private property, descendants and interested parties
are often denied access to family burial sites.
Covenants recorded in land records protecting burial sites and
excluding them from the sale of adjoining property are often
overlooked or disregarded during title searches, resulting in burial
sites being disturbed or destroyed during development.
Several locations provide no established guidelines
for the scientific or historical studies of burial sites as defined
within the law nor provisions for authorizing such studies.