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Help for Cemeteries

The Kentucky Heritage Council is engaged when a cemetery is part of a federally funded or permitted project. If a cemetery you are interested in is at least fifty years old and you would like to document it as an above ground cultural resource with our agency, please complete this cemetery survey form and email it to candicea.rinehart@ky.gov. If you have questions about whether a cemetery is or should be documented as an archaeological site, contact the Office of State Archaeology. The Society for American Archaeology's Statement Concerning the Treatment of Human Remains can be accessed by clicking here

Please note that our agency has no regulatory authority pertaining to cemeteries beyond that granted under the National Historic Preservation Act. A complete list of Kentucky statutes pertaining to burials and cemeteries can be found here

10 Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I get to a cemetery if access is denied?

The Kentucky Attorney General has historically supported granting cemetery access to family members of the deceased.
In some circumstances, access roads to cemeteries can be donated to that county.
Cemetery access can be listed as a condition to the issuance of any mine permit.

2. How do I safely clean grave markers?

Please refer to the Kentucky Historical Society's Adopt-a-Cemetery Program manual.

3. How do I find information on where a family member is buried?

The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) maintains information on Kentucky family cemeteries. You might check with your local historical or genealogical society as well.

(Above, KHC archaeologist Chris Gunn investigates a historic cemetery in Cynthiana)


4. What can I do about a cemetery threatened by development?

Contact your county attorney to learn about what options may be available to you. If your county attorney is not able to assist you, it may be useful to contact a private attorney.

5. Is there money available for the preservation of cemeteries?

Several years ago, funding opportunities through grant programs were more readily available than they are today. The Kentucky Department for Local Government Preservation Fund allows for County Cemetery Preservation Boards to apply for grants. Please contact the Department for Local Government for more information.

Unfortunately, many preservation grant funds have been depleted, but you never know when money may be available again. We encourage you to help re-establish funding for cemetery preservation by contributing to the Local History Trust Fund on your state tax form,  and learning more about previous grant recipients and projects.

6. How can I repair a cemetery damaged by severe weather? 

Please refer to this Cemetery Disaster Planning guide published  by the Chicora Foundation, a nonprofit heritage preservation organization.

7. How do I properly document a cemetery?

to help you through the process of cemetery documentation, the Kentucky Heritage Council has a form for Recording Historic Graves and Cemeteries, and the Kentucky Historical Society has a Kentucky Cemetery Census Survey Form for submitting cemeteries and burial sites to the state database.

Also refer to the Kentucky Historical Society's Adopt-a-Cemetery Program manual.

8. Can I maintain my family cemetery if I sell the property on which the cemetery is located?

To ensure access to your family cemetery during and after a land transaction, you might consider including information pertaining to access and maintenance of the cemetery in the deed or other land documents. (Above right, a tombstone from a historic cemetery)

9. How do I know where the boundaries of a cemetery are if there is no fence or headstones are missing? 

The Kentucky Heritage Council's Site Protection Program recommends the use of remote sensing. This is a non-ground-disturbing technique that can provide very specific information on numbers and locations of graves.

10. Where can I find additional information about cemetery documentation and preservation?

The Kentucky Historical Society’s Pioneer Cemetery Program helps families to document, preserve, restore and maintain their family cemetery, which marks the resting place of the pioneers of their family and pioneers of the community in which they lived. Download this information for more about the program and criteria for designation.

A frequently recommended source of information on cemetery preservation is "A Graveyard Preservation Primer" by Lynette Strangstad; published by American Association for State and Local History, in cooperation with Association for Gravestone Studies; AASLH, Nashville, TN, 1988.

For Information

If the information provided here does not address your questions or concerns, please email KHC's Administrative Specialist Yvonne Sherrick or call (502) 892-3602.