Tennessee Historic Cemetery Preservation Program

View the Headstone Marker for Juanita Pearl Hodge - Roberts Cemetery, Carter County
Handcrafted Headstone Marker for Juanita Pearl Hodge (1945-1945) Roberts Cemetery, Carter County

Why Protect Cemeteries?

Cemeteries are places for reflection and commemoration. They are of interest to historical and genealogical researchers. Cemeteries also help build a sense of community. Whenever a cemetery is desecrated or threatened by uncontrolled development, descendants and citizens may feel violated.

Cemeteries face many threats. Deterioration due to natural factors is probably the most serious. Most other damage is done by people--even sometimes by those who try to preserve them! Even though commercial development, agricultural land-clearing, and desecration are the probably the best known threats, improper cleaning and restoration techniques are just as--if not more--damaging.

For example, sometimes people use shaving cream, flour, or rubbings to read information off headstones, but any of these methods cause damage, even if you don’t see it. Using a high lumen flashlight or a mirror works just as well and does not require physical contact with the stone.

A clean headstone is desirable to many cemetery enthusiasts, but cheap cleaners from your local hardware store should never be used. Currently, a product called D2, sold by conservator supply companies, is preferred by cemetery conservation specialists because it is proven safe for the stone.

Improperly repairing a broken headstone is a potential way of causing permanent damage. Cement or commercial adhesives from your local hardware store are never advised. Professional conservators assure that the repairs they do are reversable. A properly repaired stone can look almost as if it had never been broken! 

Funding Options

Although the State of Tennessee does not offer grants for cemetery preservation and maintenance at this time, here are a few funding options:

Cemetery Non-Profit Group Creation and religious tax credit

Cemetery Preservation

Learn more about cemetery preservation in Tennessee by clicking on the categories below:  

Guidelines, Laws, And Frequently Asked Questions

Guidelines, Laws, And Frequently Asked Questions

Preservation Practices and Resources

Preservation Practices And Resources

Cemetery Relocation Petitions

Cemetery Relocation Petitions

TN Historic Cemetery Register

Tennessee Historic Cemetery Register and GIS Map of the State’s Historic Cemeteries

Graham Perry
Historic Cemetery Program Specialist
(615) 532-0087