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Burial Grounds On Your Property

Generations ago, when loved ones passed away in the country, they were usually buried on their farmstead. The sites were hardly ever recorded at the local deed office, so as time went on, the families dispersed, and many rural graveyards were forgotten.

Michael Trinkley is the director of the Chicora Foundation in South Carolina, an organization that helps people through the process of handling such a discovery. If you find a burial ground on your property, nearly every state requires you to notify law enforcement first to determine whether it was a crime scene. 

He says if you choose to have the remains moved to another location, most states do this in one of two ways.

"The most common is that the cemetery is advertised for 30 days asking descendants to come forward and make arrangements to move the cemetery. Most often, the cost of moving the bodies is borne by the property owner," says Trinkley. "A few states have a slightly different requirement where it's actually viewed as an archaeological project and moved by archaeologists."

He says the other option is to leave it be, and work around it.

"Now that, of course, requires that you actually determine what the boundaries are, and in many states it requires that you develop some memorandum of agreement, some legal document specifying that you will, in fact, preserve the cemetery, you will in fact leave it alone in perpetuity. 

No matter which option you choose, do it respectfully because it’s illegal to desecrate a cemetery.