There is often little thought given to cemetery preservation as part of local historical groups and committees. In many cases, it is left to funeral homes to form their own preservation and cemetery restoration groups. If you are a funeral home director, and you are considering restoration projects for some of the cemeteries you have on your roster, there are some things to consider. Here are a few things you need to know before starting the restoration committee and setting dates for projects.
History of the Cemetery
You may have the idea to go in and restore the monuments and go from there. The truth is, one of the first places to start is to find out the history of the cemetery. This is often overlooked with the assumption that cemeteries are simply family sites or part of an older church that is no longer there. The problem is that some cemeteries may have a deeper history.
They may have a history related to a particular faith or to a local historical event such as a massive flood or a city fire that burned several buildings. If it is faith-based, you may need to follow certain restoration steps to have the cemetery fully restored. If it is historically-based, you may need to follow certain guidelines to meet historical landmark requirements.
Cemetery Headstone Markings
You should have someone on your cemetery restoration committee that understands headstone markings and their meanings. This can be vital if you are trying to figure out the history of the cemetery. For example, if there are vases on the top middle of many of the headstones, it could signify the burial site was Jewish or connected to a synagogue. If you find a Tudor rose it can signify the person was British. Clasped hands indicate a couple and can be significant if the other portion of the headstone is not visible or missing.
Restoration Grant Writer
Before starting a cemetery restoration committee, make sure to have a grant writer in place. This will make funding easier and help give you a better standing in the grant writing and acceptance process. Keep in mind; most cemeteries will require more funding and help to become fully restored. Having a grant writer with experience in restoration grants can help narrow down the right grants and which ones will be more likely to help with your specific needs.
These are just a few of the things to know before starting a cemetery restoration committee as a funeral home director. If you believe you are in a good position to get started on building your committee and setting project dates, consider a visit to the cemeteries in your roster or funeral home holdings. Make sure you understand the state of the cemeteries and where you will be starting off with the restoration.