Abandoned Cemeteries

In 1971, the Mississippi Legislature passed a law to allow county boards of supervisors, at their discretion, to spend public funds on the maintenance and upkeep of public or privately-owned abandoned cemeteries. To qualify as an “abandoned” cemetery, the cemetery must meet the “Criteria for the Certification of Historical Significance of Abandoned Cemeteries,” in accordance with House Bill 780, Laws of Mississippi, 1971, and approved by the MDAH Board of Trustees. 

An “abandoned” cemetery means that there have been no burials within the last fifty (50) years; that there are no planned burials in the future (i.e., it cannot be considered an “active” cemetery); and that it has not been adequately maintained by the property’s legal owners, whether religious bodies, private individuals or public agencies. 

A single grave, under certain circumstances, may be considered as an abandoned cemetery. No application for abandoned cemetery certification will be considered without written authorization by the legal owner of the property upon which the cemetery is located.

In determining whether to issue a certificate of historical significance, the Board of Trustees will consider whether the abandoned cemetery: 

  • contains the graves of persons who have contributed significantly to the history of the nation, the state, or the local region;
  • is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of the history of the nation, the state, or the local region;
  • is associated with properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places or with designated “Mississippi Landmarks” properties; 
  • is located on land belonging to any political subdivision of the State of Mississippi;
  • contains the graves of military veterans;
  • includes statuary, vaults, markers, and/or monuments of architectural or artistic value;
  • contributes to the preservation of local history;
  • contains 18th Century burials; and/or 
  • includes Native American graves identified by professional archaeologists.

Abandoned cemeteries which have been officially certified by the Board of Trustees as historically significant shall be inventoried by local persons or groups requesting the certificate and the inventory shall be deposited with the Department of Archives and History, unless the Department already has an inventory in its archival collections. 

A site visit by MDAH staff may be required before a request for certification is presented to the Board. 

Upon certification, the Board of Supervisors for the county in which the cemetery is located will be notified. Certification of an abandoned cemetery does not require that the county shall provide funding or other assistance to the cemetery or its owner(s) but is solely at the discretion of the county board. 

Persons interested in the Abandoned Cemetery program should contact Patty Miller-Beech at pmbeech@mdah.ms.gov or (601) 576-6944. 
 

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