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Forming a Cemetery Association

 

Tips On Forming A Cemetery Association

 

Prepared by Tamela Tenpenny-Lewis

 
The most important aspect in organizing a cemetery association or conducting any type of research is first to develop an efficient way to organize. Listed are bullets of the necessary steps required in forming your cemetery association.
 

Find Interested Persons:

 
Don’t do this alone! Find others that will be committed and dedicated and will enlist their help in developing your plan for success. But before doing so, you must convince them of the importance and the historical value of preserving your cemetery. Some people will have no difficulty getting there, others you will have to explain why.
 

Set up a community meeting to establish your group:

 
Since you are at the point of organizing a cemetery association, it is more than likely that you have some knowledge of the history of the cemetery and those interred. You will by this time have made contact with your own family members and friends, church members, descendants of relatives buried in the cemetery and perhaps members of another cemetery association, historical or genealogical society, archaeologist and or surveyor. It is important that while establishing your group, you look to similar organizations for ideas.
 

Elect Officers & Establish By-laws:

 
Choose a document such as Robert’s Rules of Order or various Guidelines for forming non-profit associations and follow directions for electing your officers and describing the duties, writing your mission statement, how to conduct your meetings, writing your by-laws and rules on incorporation.
 

Establish Association Name:

 
Select a name that is most suitable to your area, community and or cemetery. Associations may be named after the first individual buried, the property owner that donated the cemetery to the community, if originated as a family cemetery, then after the family buried there.
 

Record Minutes:

 
Make sure to record the minutes of the meeting, this will be your first official document needed for the opening of a bank account and to establish application for grant funding and filing for your (EIN) Employee Identification Number. Establish a charter date, which could be the first day of official business or when one receives his EIN.
 

Set and define your goals:

 
Once you have established your organization you need to set and define your goals. The work you are about to begin will be lost if you do not elicit the help of others from your community. One person may be able to perform vast amounts of work, but if you do not involve individuals from all backgrounds and ages to assist with your efforts, the long-term preservation of the cemetery will be questionable. Encourage the education of your members by attending cemetery preservation workshops, hosting meetings with speakers from preservation societies, find the area of interest from each individual in your group. Some may be better at writing by-laws as opposed to cleaning headstones. Make sure that your group is self-sustaining, if not, the goal will end when your membership dies. Which is oh so prevalent, with our overgrown and abandoned cemeteries today. Prepare yourself for the work involved. No one with cemetery preservation experience will tell you that it is an easy task.
 

Set a time line and a step by step task list with committees:

 
Determine if you will fence the cemetery, provide an entry area, document and provide a written history on the establishment of the cemetery and those interred. Establish if the cemetery is registered, if not learn the procedures in registering. Meet with your local Historic Preservation Association to find if your cemetery is eligible to be nominated for the National Historic Register.
 

Conducting Surveys:

 
There are several types of surveys that may be used to document your historic burial ground.
 
1. The general survey which provides a record of the location, boundaries, major site features and historical overview of the cemetery.
 
2. The collection of data of the individual marker which requires a detailed description of each marker to produce an inventory.
 
3. The condition survey is a before-and-after record of work performed on a single site feature. (Conducted when a major preservation activity such as cleaning by a volunteer group or restoration by a conservator.)
 
4. Oral Survey Interviews-record all discussions concerning the history of the cemetery and burial plots with a tape recorder. I.E. Knowledge of the older sites and where no markers remain is stored in the memories of seniors. Discussion with the older resident may be the last time the information was heard, therefore it is necessary to conduct oral interviews on the cemetery grounds. Photos should accompany all of the surveys.
 

Learn the Laws:

 
For a complete up-to-date internet listing of your state laws associated with historic cemeteries, or to locate a law that may help solve a particular problem that you are experiencing, visit: your individual state web site, i.e., Http://www.state.ar.us/index, go to It’s the Law section, and hit the area with your state name Code. If you do not have access to a computer, call your local Law Library.
 
Please contact us if you would like to schedule a workshop to assist you in establishing your cemetery association.
tombstone