Friday, December 5, 2008

Graveyard or Landfill?

When a rock and dirt recycling company in Clayton County, Georgia, wanted to expand its operations, the company came across a 311-grave African-American cemetery in the way. What to do?

A situation like this can be grief for all concerned. The families whose loved ones' remains lie in the cemetery are the most obviously affected. But the company, too, acting in good faith is also affected. And the public is affected as well.

In this case, the county commission, acting under Georgia law, has granted a permit to an archeologist to move the graves to a nearby cemetery. The original graveyard had become virtually inaccessible due to development all around it, including Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

This, however, is not an isolated incident. Every year, more historic graveyards are moved or built over. The diligence to prevent this is in the first instance on families and historians. Each state has laws governing the operation of cemeteries. Genealogists and historians would be well-advised to become generally familiar with such laws.

Here at The PGR, we'll from time to time present some of these laws. And we'll have more this week about the Georgia controversy.

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