A cemetery is a place where people are buried. Modern cemeteries are usually expansive landscapes and are independent of churches or religious organizations.
Visiting your ancestor’s grave is an important part of family history research. When you do, make sure to take pictures of the headstone and jot down any information you can find on the marker.
The erecting of a memorial, whether it is an individual grave marker, a mausoleum or columbarium, serves many practical and emotional purposes. It documents the location of an individual at rest and provides a permanent link to that person’s past, present and future. Memorialization helps mourners cope with loss and assists them in moving from a life with the person to a life with their memory.
A cemetery is a place set apart for burial or entombment of the dead, reflecting geographic locale, cultural beliefs, social attitudes and aesthetic and sanitary considerations. Cemeteries can be public or private, owned by a municipality, fraternal organization, association, or corporation.
A cemetery’s owner is the steward of the individual lot owners burial rights and is responsible for the quality of care that is provided to those at rest in their facility. They directly impact the level of service that is offered to families by establishing their policies, practices and Rules and Regulations.
A Place of Reflection
Cemeteries are often seen as places of introspection and solace. They offer a quiet space for remembrance and can help people better understand their beliefs and values.
For people of all faiths and no religion, a cemetery provides a place to reflect on the impermanence of life and can inspire hope. The serene beauty of a cemetery, from its flowers to its verdant trees, can also be comforting and remind us of nature’s cyclical nature.
Traditionally, the responsibility for caring for a grave has fallen to the surviving family and friends, including the placement of a headstone or plaque and maintaining the grounds and monuments. This can be a heavy load and many families find the support of a cemetery helpful in their grief journey. Cemetery services include the excavation of graves, preparing the burial ground and constructing headstones and other markers. They also provide grounds maintenance services and respond to storm damage. They are also a source of community events and educational programs.
A Place of Solace
Cemeteries are a space for community and shared grief. Individuals who are grieving often seek solace by seeking out others with similar experiences, finding comfort in the understanding of those who have experienced the loss of someone they loved.
Historically, due to sanitation concerns, the burying process was restricted to the land surrounding a church, now called a churchyard. Over time, however, the capacity of churchyards became unsustainable and new burial grounds that were independent of churches were created. Today, the terms graveyard and cemetery are used interchangeably, though linguistic precision would suggest that “graveyard” refers to a churchyard while “cemetery” refers to a more modern, separate burial ground.
The word solace is derived from Latin solari, which means to console or comfort. Visiting a cemetery can offer consolation to mourners, as evidenced by studies by Bachelor (2004) and Jedan, Maddrell, and Venbrux (2018). In addition, the calming natural environment of a cemetery may also assist with the healing process following a loss.
A Place of Community
In addition to providing a final resting place for loved ones, a cemetery provides a community with a sense of history, tradition and kinship. A cemetery may be a municipal, religious, fraternal or private operation and is owned by an individual, family, corporation or association. Its ownership structure determines the mix of burial options, memorials and legacy services offered by the cemetery.
Until about the 7th Century CE, European burials were exclusively controlled by the church and were conducted on consecrated church grounds. As populations began to grow and church graveyards reached capacity, it became necessary for independent sites to be established to provide space for interments.
Many older cemetery excavations can be found in urban and suburban areas, as well as on the outskirts of towns. As a result, some cemeteries run out of room and are forced to discontinue use as burial locations, often requiring the closure of graves. In order to avoid this, many modern cemetery sites offer a variety of re-use burial options for families who have already been interred there.