FAQs About Cemetery Preservation

How do I join the FCCPA?

Please visit the Contact Us or Volunteer page.

How do I request an FCCPA speaker for my organization?

Please visit the Contact Us page.

I have heard that my family is buried in Fairfax County, but the family name is not included in the county cemetery survey list.

One may search by location (Herndon, Burke, McLean, etc) or through land and deed records.  Check the Fairfax County Genealogical Society multi-volume set “Fairfax County, Virginia Gravestones.” It includes church cemetery headstone transcriptions which are not available on line.

I am concerned that developers are encroaching upon my family’s cemetery.

One step is to search at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/ldsnet/. This website allows one to search current development projects by address. You can get general information about the developer’s plans, and you can also see which Zoning staffer is handling the case.  Call the developer to ensure that they are aware of the cemetery on or near their property.  Contact the Cultural Resource Management and Protection section (703) 534-3881 to see if they have any information regarding the development.  Finally, contact the Northern Virginia Regional Preservation of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources at (540) 868-7030 to see of a permit was issued to the developer.

My family’s cemetery has been enclosed in someone’s backyard and there is no gate for me to use.

Code of Virginia (57-27.1) A. provides for ingress and egress of family descendants to cemeteries on private property

D.  “Any person denied reasonable access under the provisions of this section may bring an action in the circuit court where the property is located to enjoin the owner of the property from denying the person reasonable egress to the cemetery or gravesite. In granting such relief, the court may set frequency of access, hours and duration of the access.”

I found vandalism when I visited my family’s cemetery.

Vandalism
Record the vandalism, including photographing.  Vandalism should be reported to the local law enforcement agency. Contact the Fairfax County police non emergency number:  703-691 -2131. The current owner should also be contacted.

Vandalism in progress
Vandalizing a grave is a felony.  Report it to the local law enforcement agency immediately.

What if there is dumping at a cemetery?

If dumping is witnessed, call the police. An owner may erect a No Dumping sign. The County will get involved if the materials dumped are not biodegradable, for example: tires, appliances, etc. Call 703-246-2300 – Fairfax County Health Department Community Health and Safety.

I know the location of my family’s cemetery, but there are no markers and I have heard the remains were moved. I want to know where the remains were reinterred.

Demolished
If there are no signs of the cemetery still there, it may have been moved.  (A local court order, or a permit from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, must be obtained before moving graves).

Demolition in progress
A local court order, or permit from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, must be obtained before moving graves, including a public legal notice and reasonable efforts to notify descendents.  Check with the local law enforcement agency to see if a court order was issued, or contact the Northern Regional Preservation Office of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources at (540) 868-7030 to see if a permit was issued.

I am not sure who owns my family cemetery.

Locate the cemetery on a map that shows the tax parcel number of the property.  Maps are available at the Virginia Room or online at the Fairfax County website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/maps/county/.

The Geographic Information Systems section has multiple selections to choose from, and the Property Maps found in the Digital Map Viewer are helpful in narrowing down the parcel number once a general area is identified.  Once you know the parcel number of the property, visit the County Department of Tax Administration’s website and search for the property by parcel number to find current ownership information.

Go to icare.fairfaxcounty.gov. This is the Dept of Tax Admin website. You can search by address. If your cemetery is in someone’s yard, you will see the owner’s name. If the cemetery is its own parcel and you don’t know the exact address, put in the address of the property next door or nearby. Then click on the link to view the map so you can see the parcel number of the cemetery. Look this up and you will see who the legal owner of the property is. Oftentimes, it’s “the heirs of…” who are unidentified.

In addition, the Cultural Resource Management and Protection Section (703) 534-3881 can help you find property owners. It is important to note that some cemeteries are owned by family trustees, some of whom are unaware that they own a cemetery.

None of my family is capable of maintaining our family cemetery any longer.

Using the Cemetery in Crisis form, contact the FCCPA through Contact Us.  The Association will advise you and your family on possible actions you can take.

Also, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources can give technical assistance regarding the preservation of historic cemeteries. This assistance includes recommended options for treatment and preservation of cemeteries:  www.dhr.virginia.gov.

How does one sell or give away a cemetery?

The actual selling or giving away of private property that contains a cemetery is no different from the sale or gift of any other private property. A real estate agent or attorney would be able to help. A deed search may be needed.

How does one establish a trusteeship of a family cemetery with a Home Owners Association or a church, when the owners can no longer care for the family cemetery?

An attorney would be able to set up a trusteeship agreement.

I want to help protect a cemetery, but I don’t know what is involved.

To maintain or protect a cemetery, The FCCPA is hoping that individuals or organizations would do the following:

1. Keep the cemetery free of weeds, tall grass and brush

2. Pick up trash

3. Report vandalism

To volunteer or learn more about how to protect a cemetery, please contact FCCPA.

I want to preserve and protect a cemetery. What is involved?

1. Contact the owners and get permission to clean up.

2. Clear away brush and weeds by hand from around the markers.
(Do not use weed- whackers or pesticides near the markers as each can damage the stone.)

3. Clean the markers using soft brushes and distilled water. This method removes algae and dirt.  (To remove graffiti, one needs to hire a professional conservator.)

4. If markers are toppled, leaning or broken, one would need to hire a professional also.

5. Pick up trash.

6. Ask neighbors or organizations to accept the responsibility of maintaining the cemetery.

Whose responsibility is it to take care of old cemeteries?

From the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Although Virginia law protects cemeteries, graveyards, and burial sites from disturbance and damage (§18.2-127), there is no law requiring that the owner of a cemetery maintain that cemetery. If you are an adjacent landowner, and feel that a neglected or unsightly cemetery on someone else’s property lowers the value of your property, you may petition the city or county circuit court for relief (§57-39.1). If you would like to take care of a cemetery, but do not own the property, make sure that you discuss your ideas with the landowner and obtain his or her permission to be on private land. If you do not know who owns the property, you can access this information through your local planning department or circuit court clerk’s office. You should also contact your city or county’s Commonwealth’s Attorney to make sure that you are aware of any local requirements or regulations with regard to cemetery treatment.