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."

Ohio Attorney General - Cemeteries & Opinions on Cemeteries

Ohio Attorney General's Office - Opinions

September 28, 2015

     " It is important to note that the Attorney General provides legal advice or opinions only to certain individuals in their official capacities, including state officers, boards, and commissions; county prosecuting attorneys; law directors of home rule townships; and the Ohio General Assembly when requested by resolution. R.C. 109.12-.14.

      The Attorney General does not advise private citizens. We are able, however, as a courtesy to provide general information about the laws relevant to your questions. Accordingly, the information in this email is neither legal advice nor an opinion of the Attorney General and should not be represented as such.

      First, with regard to the word “shall,” I do not believe it is defined by statute. In our work, we typically use and understand this word to mean “must”—“shall” indicates a mandate. When a relevant definition is not available in the Revised Code, we often rely upon a common dictionary definition. “Shall” means “will have to : must” and is “used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatory.” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, p. 1143 (11th ed. 2007). Depending on the facts or the specific language of the statute, there can always be exceptions, but this is our general use and understanding of the word “shall.” 

      Next, I think your characterization of the difference between R.C. 517.06 and R.C. 517.32 is correct. R.C. 517.32 appears to apply only to abandoned cemeteries and requires a yearly removal of undergrowth and weeds from such abandoned cemeteries. R.C. 517.06 applies to “cemeteries”— and it appears to apply to the same cemeteries addressed by R.C. 517.01-.05. The language of R.C. 517.06 does not appear to explicitly differentiate between active and inactive cemeteries. The application of the requirements of R.C. 517.06 to a specific cemetery would thus be a fact-specific legal determination.

     I hope the above information is helpful to you. Thank you for contacting us."


Katherine J. Mosca
Associate Assistant Attorney General – Opinions Section
Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine
Office number: 614-466-2764
Fax number: 866-450-9659


"517.06 Cemetery Plat"

"The board of township trustees shall have the cemetery laid out in lots, avenues, and paths, shall number the lots, and shall have a suitable plat of the lots made, which plat shall be carefully kept by the township fiscal officer. The board shall make and enforce all needful rules and regulations for the division of the cemetery into lots, for the allotment of lots to families or individuals, and for the care, supervision, and improvement of the lots. The board also may make and enforce all needful rules and regulations for burial, interment, reinterment, or disinterment.

The board shall require the grass and weeds in the cemetery to be cut and destroyed at least twice each year. Suitable provision shall be made in the cemetery for persons whose burial is at the expense of the township.

Amended by 129th General AssemblyFile No.28, HB 153, §101.01, eff. 9/29/2011. 

Effective Date: 10-01-1953; 12-20-2005"


"517.32 Enclosure of abandoned cemetery."
"Where the board of county commissioners has enclosed with a substantial fence of stone, iron, or posts and boards, all abandoned public cemeteries in the county, from which the remains of the dead have not been removed, the board of township trustees shall keep the fence in good repair, remove the undergrowth and weeds from such cemetery at least once a year, and pay the expense thereof from township funds. 

Effective Date: 10-01-1953"