Mississippi Cemetery Code

A private question was asked about access and maintenance of old cemeteries in Mississippi, and I answered the person, but thought it would also be of  benefit to people who have ancestors buried in old private, village, and church cemeteries no longer maintained, anywhere they are located in Mississippi.

There are laws in Mississippi Code that do not allow “landowners” to descecrate a family cemetery, which is often excepted from a deed when land was  sold “way back when” anyway, and the same laws require Boards of Supervisors to maintain abandoned private or public cemeteries if they are old and/or “historic”.  The laws are MS Code 47-5-441 and MS Code 39-5-19.  There  are others that may also apply.  You can find these under “Mississippi  Code” on the Mississippi Supreme Court home page on line and print them out  (once there, type in such key words as “cemetery”, “restoration”, and  “historic”).

The current owner cannot keep you as a descendant from accessing the cemetery, and you may be able to get a deed from him for some small price, since  he cannot do anything with the cemetery without violating state law and county ordinances.   A trip to the county courthouse and looking at the old  historic deeds on the property may reveal that the cemetery was actually  excepted from the deed when it was sold by the family, which means that new  landowner does not now nor ever has owned the cemetery.   Hinds County  has a number of abandoned family, church, and village cemeteries, as does every  county in this state, and all are subject to being maintained by the counties in  which they are located.  In reality, this seldom happens unless formal  letters specifying the correct information are mailed to the county Board of  Supervisors, and/or to the Mississippi Dept of Archives and History.  Then,  these letters of request need following up on to be sure that action is  taken.  Most of the time, also specified by law, county inmates do the  cleaning and maintenance work. In Jasper County, MS, the Jasper Greys  Civil War organization is doing more family and church historic cemetery  maintenance than their Board of
Supervisors is.

Mary Collins Landin



12 thoughts on “Mississippi Cemetery Code”

  1. We are descendants of a private family cemetery est in 1800 It has been maintained by a few members but may require hiring someone to do in future Can we legally chg a maintenance/ burial fee and do we need to acquire IRS non profit status

  2. I am a member of the Bethany Presbyterian Church and Cemetery Preservation Corporation, located in Tishomingo County in Mississippi. The property that this cemetery and church are located on was donated many years ago; the cemetery is not owned by anyone. Therefore, the family members of those interred who wish to contribute, have been supporting the care and maintenance of both the church and the cemetery.

    This is not an “abandoned” cemetery. Family members continue to bury loved ones at this site. Therefore, the property does not qualify for financial assistance under this category.

    The cemetery does host the graves of Confederate soldiers and dates back to pre-Civil War times.

    We are finding that members of the Preservation Corporation have not been able to generate adequate funding to maintain the church and cemetery to the level it requires. We are looking for ways to garner financial assistance. Would you be able to point us in the direction we need to go to help generate more funding? Thank you for your time with this.

    Barbara Popish

  3. My mother is buried in our family cemetery, along with her mother, brother, grandparents & a host of other family members, however, the descendent of the property that cemetery originates are now try to keep me & my siblings from visiting or even being buried in the cemetery!! What rights do we have as to access or even burial in this Family cemetery

  4. Is it legal for new owners of a public cemetery to change the name of the cemetery? It seems this would very negatively affect genealogy research, especially Find-a-Grave.

  5. Seeking advise. I recently met a woman in Alabama whose great uncle is buried on private property. There are two cemeteries, 1) where plantation owner and family are buried 2) a separate cemetery for the slaves. The first cemetery is clean, with a white picket fence. The landowner said the second, slave cemetery, has cut tree limbs covering any headstones that may exist.

    The lady in Alabama spoke directly with the landowner in Mississippi asking for access and she was told a flat “no”. The owner went further using the trees as a reason not to give access. The lady from Alabama expressed that she and her husband would gladly clean up the area where her ancestors are buried, again, “no”.

    The lady in Alabama thought Mississippi law stated that a landowner is not, under law, required to provide access. This is something I have never had to face and am lost but would like to try to assist her, if only by providing information.

    I saw the and felt the pain the lady in Alabama felt. It was heartbreaking. Does anyone have suggestions, advise, anything!
    Thank you!

  6. Hello, I’ve searched Mississippi Codes on the State Supreme Court’s website. I did not find anything about descendants accessing cemeteries on private property. I am a descendant of an old abandoned private cemetery on what was once family property in Amite County. I am hesitant to mount a clean up of the cemetery without the current owner’s permission, which I have not been able to secure. I haven’t received any communication from the current owner. Any help or advice is appreciated. Thank you.

  7. My Grandfather’s death certificate shows buried at a Mississippi cemetery.He is not listed on a memorial or any lists.I personally looked.I am sure he never had a gravestone.This was 1923,any suggestions on finding him.

    1. Look for an obit on Newspapers.com, I’ve had great success. Send me the info and I’ll look for you. I have added over 7,000 obits to FAG.

  8. We have a situation in Biloxi, Ms when Cruisin the Coast is going on. The people who own Southern Memorial Cemetery on Hwy 90 has leased out the front of the cemetery to RV’s and using it as a partying park. She has done this for 2 years and plans on doing it again this year claiming she needs the money to maintain the property. She also owns 2 more cemeteries. They have been filmed grilling on the mausoleum, had burn out marks on the private roads and people walking their dogs all over the cemetery, not to mention the RV’s parked in front of Southern Memorial. The people of Biloxi whos loved ones are laid there to rest are beside themselves. The news station has been down there, people have called in with their complaints to no avail. Can you please let me know what we can do ? Thank you. Susie

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