Cemetery Etiquette

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Cemeteries are an amazing resource for tracing your Family Tree but there are basic guidelines to follow.

When visiting a cemetery remember to respect both the living and the dead. Below you will find some of the basic rules regarding a visit to a cemetery.

1. Follow any posted cemetery rules. Please follow these rules first and foremost, however, If no rules are posted, cemetery etiquette is fairly universal.

2. Most cemeteries are open from dawn until dusk. Many will lock their gates come dusk so be aware of the time or you may be spending the night.

3. Follow the road that is provided and drive slowly, do not drive on the grass. Watch out for people who may not be paying attention – pedestrians always have right of way. If the lane is narrow and another car approaches, move your car until they can get passed. Make sure your car radio is off.

4. If you bring children, keep them nearby and don’t let them play on any of the monuments. This is not only disrespectful, but may cause damage to the stone. Teach them to have respect in any cemetery. No running, yelling, rolling around on the ground, a cemetery is not a playground and should not be treated as such. If they are too young to understand these rules, it is best to visit when you can do so on your own.

5. Remember to be respectful by speaking quietly. Don’t use foul language, there may be other people there who are in mourning. As a general rule it is best not to approach strangers as they may want to be alone, of course it is perfectly acceptable to offer help to anyone who seems in need of it.

6. Don’t touch any monuments or gravestones, unless you have permission to do so. Some of the older memorials fall apart under the faintest of touches. Do not remove ANYTHING from a gravestone, like flowers, coins, stones and other artifacts that have been left by family. Quite simply this is theft.

7. If a funeral is taking place, consider making your visit at another time. It is in extremely bad taste to take pictures of strangers at a funeral. These are people who should be left alone at their time of grief.

8. Don’t leave any trash behind in a cemetery. Pick up any paper etc. that you may have used and either dispose in garbage cans (if they are provided) or take away with you.

9. If it’s not against the rules, and you bring your dog, make sure to keep them on a leash and clean up after them.


Picture taken at Belfast City Cemetery – November 2011

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  • Marsha says:

    Great article to read, sometimes we forget the responsibility we have in these sacred grounds. I have, on occasion, seen people disregard these courtesies. Thank-you for reminding us.


  • Maxine says:

    Thank you for your comment Marsha. In general people are usually very good about Cemetery Etiquette but sometimes a gentle reminder doesn’t hurt either.

    Maxine :-)

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