What Is a Cemetery?

The word cemetery derives from the Greek koimeterion, meaning “sleeping place.” Unlike churchyard burials that were often overcrowded, today’s cemeteries are usually expansive landscapes far away from town and city centers.

Choosing a cemetery starts with thinking about your loved ones who have passed on. Will they be close to family and friends?


A grave is an enclosed burial space. It may be an open pit or a vaulted structure. In some cultures, a grave is associated with an altar or a place of ritualistic worship.

Graves are usually marked with durable markers that help to identify a buried person. They are generally located within a cemetery, where they provide access to burial information and services.

In earlier times, many people were buried in common graves. These plots were used to bury people who did not have the means to purchase a grave with private burial rights. This was a cheaper way to inter a body.

Often these older graves are forgotten and not visited. It can be difficult to locate living descendants of these families. This can complicate the process of re-using the older graves. This is why it is important for a cemetery to publicly announce any plans for re-using old graves so that living relatives have an opportunity to respond.


A headstone, sometimes referred to as a tombstone or gravestone, is an important memorial marker that helps preserve the memory of your loved one. It displays their name, birth and death dates, and can include a special message that celebrates their personality and life.

There are several types of headstones, including flat grave markers, traditional uprights and slants. Flat headstones lie flat on the ground and are usually rectangular in shape. Upright headstones have a base and a die (also known as a tablet) that is placed on top to display the deceased’s information. Upright headstones can be single or companion based on the wishes of the deceased’s family.

It is important to understand that cemeteries often have restrictions in place for the size, type and material of headstones. They may also limit the dealers you can purchase a headstone from. In some cases, the cemetery will even say they will not accept a headstone purchased from another dealer.


Purchasing a monument is an emotional burden for grieving loved ones. They are already dealing with planning the funeral, writing obituaries and taking care of themselves during this difficult time. Purchasing a memorial ahead of time can help ease this stress and ensure that the family’s wishes are carried out.

Monuments come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are often larger than headstones and can depict anything from angels and saints to lions and other animals. They can also include religious symbols, inscriptions and other personal details.

Monuments need to be regularly cleared of vegetation growing around and on them. This can prevent damage to the structure and also allow you to assess if it needs work. Vegetation growth can obscure hazards such as loose sculpture and unstable structures. Clearing should not be carried out in the bird nesting season and consideration should be given to how to manage the areas once they are clear.


Historically, the cemetery has been responsible for the allocation and sale of physical burial rights such as plots or crypts, the digging and filling of graves, staffing for funerals and the ongoing maintenance of grounds and facilities. This includes removing debris, trimming and pruning trees, raking leaves and pulling weeds.

Grave excavations are usually a labor intensive process that must be done by trained individuals. This is necessary to ensure the grave has been dug at the correct depth, to reduce potential damage from heavy visitors and to avoid legal liability from an uncovered or improperly dug grave.

As cemeteries become full, it becomes impossible for the staff to provide detailed attention to each individual gravesite. Many families opt to have a private company tend their loved ones’ gravesites throughout the year, providing them with the level of care they deserve. This also allows the family to focus on their own needs without worrying about the maintenance of their tomb.

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