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How To's Memoirs Visiting a Cemetery - Do's and Don't's

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The Do's and Don'ts of Visiting Cemeteries

Written by Sabrina Hitchcock

Visiting a cemetery can be a fun and educational experience. When you are there to take photographs, you are not only just gathering information for yourself, you are gathering information that can be shared with others. Still there are some"unwritten" rules to keep in mind when you are visiting.

1. Follow Visitation Rules
In Oklahoma, no one can legally be denied access to a cemetery. However, this does not mean that it's a free for all for everyone to come and go as they please. The staff or board of directors of cemeteries can set hours for visitation, and private property owners of cemeteries can set their own rules for people to visit. If you are found in a cemetery outside of the set guidelines, you can be prosecuted for trespassing. These rules are in place to help preserve the cemetery and deter vandals. If you are traveling a good distance to go, then you may want to make contact with someone to find out the rules before you go. In this case, it is better to ask permission first rather than forgiveness later.
2. Be Respectful of Others in the Cemetery
Make sure that you are not disturbng the activities of others in the cemetery for the sake of pictures. Yes, pictures are important, but you can run into many different types of people in the cemetery. I have seen a daughter visiting her father on his birthday even though he had passed 20 years ago, a spouse visiting their loved one because they just need to be close, and a mom reading a book to her daughter because she passed before they got to finish it.

There is a time and place to talk to people. Make sure you are not interupting. I personally keep my distance quite a bit so people have ther space if they need it. I have offered a bottle of water to someone I saw out in the heat for a while. But usually, I leave well enough alone. Sometimes, this means you need to come back to the cemetery to complete what you are doing, but our ppictures are second to people visiting their loved ones.
3. Under NO circumstances should you interupt or photograph a graveside service
A graveside service is that very last moment that people have to say goodbye to their loved one before burial. This is a very sacred and personal moment. I personally leave a cemetery if I arrive and see a graveside service going on, or one being set up.
4. Leave Everthing As You Found It
When you are walking around, you will see that some headstones little trinckets left on them. Let them be and work around them the best you can. They have been placed with love by others. Some things on a headstone have meaning, coins on a Vetran's grave are an axample of this.

Another reason to not move anything is for safety as well. Headstones are heavy. If one is on the ground, you could easily hurt it or yourself by trying to set it up. These repairs are best made by someone who is knwledgable about how to handle the stone and has the appropriate equipment. If you wish, you can always make a donation to the cemetery for the repair of the stone.
5. Take Plenty of Pictures and Notes
Don't expect to just remember. Cemeteries are a wealth of information, it's impossible to remember everything. The more pictures you take, the more information you gather. Pictures help to find who, what, when, and where. Make sure you make notes on what the pictures are of as well. The more notes you make for yourself, the more productive your visit will have been.
6. Check every side
You never know what could be just around the corner. Some stones have a bit of family information on the sies and back, and some older stones have an engraving for a completely other person another side. I have found stones that had a total of 5 individuals inscribed on it. You never know what you might miss. Make sure you check all the sides so you don't miss out on information.

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