Exploring Almost Forgotten Gravesites in the Great State of Ohio

Dedicated to cemetery preservation in the great state of Ohio

"A cemetery may be considered as abandoned when all or practically all of the bodies have been Removed therefrom and no bodies have been buried therein for a great many years, and the cemetery has been so long neglected as entirely to lose its identity as such, and is no longer known, recognized and respected by the public as a cemetery. 1953 OAG 2978."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Time is Running Out to Express Your Cemetery Concerns to the Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force -- Next Meeting Open to the Public is Scheduled for Friday, September 19, 2014

The Ohio Cemetery Task Force has been meeting monthly in Columbus since January, 2014.   

Their report and recommendations are due to the Governor, Speaker of the House, and President of the Senate by September 29, 2014.

Speaking for myself, I am particularly troubled by one of the paragraphs that is in the July 25, 2014 meeting minutes that appears under Section III. "New Business" :

"Mr. Russell then expressed his belief that all cemeteries need to be protected including the tombstones that are artifacts about the people. Tombstones can be interpreted to show the economic status of the family by the type and size of stone used; if there was a stonecutter in the community; where the stone came from tells us about the trade between people; and decorations
and epitaphs which reveal to us much about the community itself. While these cemeteries do not
need to be maintained the same as registered cemeteries they do need some protection. The task
force members agreed with Mr. Russell’s statements and concluded that the statements should be
added as part of the justification under criminal sanctions."

I agree that ALL cemeteries need to be protected, however, unfortunately in the State of Ohio the filing of a Cemetery Complaint to the Ohio Dispute Resolution Commission can only be made on behalf of registered cemeteries -- those with burials within the past 25 years and those that are not considered to be  'family cemeteries.' 

Cemeteries that do not meet the above-stated requirements are not eligible to be registered. Thus as non-registered cemeteries they are deemed to be ineligible to be included in the process of filing formal complaints against those who are responsible for them.  This includes for reasons such as lack of routine maintenance or any other issues negatively impacting them.  

This discrimination means relegating literally thousands of Ohio's oldest and most vulnerable cemeteries to be classified as inactive cemeteries and not eligible for the same protections as active cemeteries.     

 Active = Registered        Inactive = Non-Registered

"While these cemeteries do not need to be maintained the same as registered cemeteries they do need some protection." 

The one sentence directly above above fails to explain any reasons why the members of the Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force conclude "these cemeteries do not need to be maintained the same as registered cemeteries...." And "need some protection" -- why would they need any less protection than registered cemeteries??  Descendants and family researchers do visit inactive and abandoned cemeteries, and gravestone conservation workshops have been held in them to cite two reasons for maintaining  them.    


 Ohio Revised Code - "Lawriter" & Registered Cemetery Information
Dennis Ginty; May 7, 2013: 

"The Division does not register cemeteries that are family cemeteries and it doesn’t register cemeteries that have not had an interments during that last 25 years.  A Family cemetery is defined as “a cemetery that contains the human remains of persons, at least three-fourths of whom have a common ancestor or who are the spouse or adopted child of that common ancestor.” 

"Yes, you are correct that the minimum maintenance guidelines apply to registered cemeteries (Ohio Revised Code Section 4767.06 (H)).  The Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission does not have the authority to create minimum maintenance guidelines for non-registered cemeteries." 

"Ohio Revised Code Section 4767.07 states a person may file a complaint against any person operating or maintaining a cemetery registered pursuant to section 4767.03.  The Division does not have jurisdiction to take complaints against unregistered cemeteries.  We are not aware of any other complaint process." 


The next Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force Meeting is open to the public and scheduled for:

Friday, September 19th at 10:00 a.m.
77 South High Street, 22nd Floor, Columbus, OH 43215

If you are not able to attend this meeting in person, please consider contacting:

Ohio Cemetery Task Force Co-Chairperson:


Anne M. Petit
Ohio Department of Commerce
Division of Real Estate & Professional Licensing
Direct dial: 614-466-3411
Fax number: 614-644-0584
Office number: 614-466-4100

Per the August 20, 2014 meeting minutes, Mr. Patrick Paccininni, general counsel for ODOT, will be the designated chair person at the September 19, 2014 meeting.  

Patrick Paccininni
Phone #: 614-446-7200