Cemeteries can be quiet, reflective places to remember your friends and loved ones who have passed on. They are also unique spaces with their own set of rules.
If You’re There for a Service
Follow the funeral director’s instructions about where to sit or stand. If you drove to the cemetery, park only in allowed spaces and try to avoid driving or parking on the grass. Also, follow any posted rules about where to walk or park, or about decorations on the graves. Some decorations, like loose flowers, can blow away in the wind.
During the service, if you must speak to others around you, do so in hushed tones. Remember to silence your electronic devices. Don’t litter, and don’t take photos of other people or other services.
If You’re There to Remember
Some of the same rules apply if you’re visiting the cemetery to remember a loved one. Be respectful and quiet as others may also be there to pay their respects or there may be a funeral in progress. Follow the cemetery’s visiting hours, which are usually around dawn to dusk.
Never litter, keep your pets leashed and keep a close eye on your children. Try not to walk over graves or disturb plants or flowers left behind. It’s always a good idea to pick up any trash or litter that you see and you are more than welcome to clean off your loved one’s monument and pull weeds if the cemetery allows it.
If You’re There for History
Cemeteries are valuable sources of history, especially for genealogists. Remember to obey the cemetery rules, don’t walk or park on grass or graves, and don’t disturb the monuments or remembrances left by other visitors.
The Association for Gravestone Studies has some tips for reading and preserving older or worn monuments without damaging the fragile monuments.
- Use a large mirror or a flashlight to shine bright light diagonally across the surface of the gravestone. This will cast shadows in the indentations left by even a worn carving and allow you to read the inscription more clearly.
- Take a digital photo and, using photo editing software, invert the colors. The resulting image will look like an old photo negative and will bring out the lettering.
Never use something like flour or shaving cream to bring out the lettering on an old stone. The association says that flour, even if the monument is carefully cleaned, can remain in the carvings and trap moisture, accelerating deterioration. Shaving cream has chemicals and emollients that porous stone can absorb, causing discoloration and deterioration. Some older cemeteries, like Tallahassee’s city-owned Old City Cemetery, may also disallow the practice of making rubbings so as to better preserve historic monuments.
If you encounter a stone with graffiti or that has otherwise been vandalized, contact the cemetery office so that it can begin treatment immediately. Conservators at the association say paint and other agents are easiest removed if done so quickly.
For more information about services or grave markers, call (850) 385-2193.