Cemetery Preservation

Cemetery Pres1
Cemetery Pres2

The Stansbury Family Burial Ground, left, is part of a Harford County Historic Landmark and maintained by the Department of Parks & Recreation. The St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church Graveyard, right, another county landmark, hosts marked and unmarked graves, including those of Civil War veterans.

Harford County is the home of a broad range of burial sites. Prehistoric burials, abandoned cemeteries, family cemeteries, church graveyards, and unmarked graves are all examples of sites that exist within Harford County. 


Harford County Department of Planning & Zoning is dedicated to preserving and protecting our cemeteries and burial sites. The following goals of HarfordNEXT ensure that cemetery preservation needs are addressed:


  • Goal POH 3.1: Investigate measures to have historic and cultural resources become a part of the development review process.
  • Goal POH 3.3: Develop guidelines that promote quality design and appropriate techniques.


See below for the ways in which Harford County plans to implement these changes.

Coming Soon! - Cemetery Preservation Guidelines


These guidelines will assist landowners and developers by outlining the importance of preserving cemeteries and unmarked burials. It will also provide strategies for documenting, maintaining, and avoiding impacts to sites.

What’s the difference between a cemetery, a graveyard, and an unmarked burial? 


Historically, graveyards are attached to a church, while cemeteries are standalone grave sites, such as family plots and public cemeteries. Colloquially, these terms are considered interchangeable. Cemeteries and graveyards are often easy to identify by physical identifiers, such as headstones, monuments, tombs, fences, and walls.  


An unmarked burial includes any location where human remains have been found and there is no marker, headstone, or nameplate indicating a burial. Unmarked graves can be purposefully or accidentally unmarked, and can exist anywhere, even inside the boundaries of a known cemetery. In Harford County, unmarked graves are most frequently associated with the burial sites of enslaved, indigent, or prehistoric peoples. These are often difficult to identify, though there are some indicators of unmarked graves: depressions in the soil, unmarked stones, specific plants and flowers like periwinkle, or historic avoidance of a specific area, especially in fields. 


If you have reason to believe that you have located an unmarked grave, please contact Harford County Historic Preservation staff.  


Maryland Burial Law


Tampering with or removal of human remains, destruction of funerary objects, and access to burial sites are all subject to Maryland state law. Individuals should consult a current copy of the Maryland Code to review the requirements associated with human remains. 


If you believe that you have located human remains that appear modern, please contact local law enforcement. If you have reason to believe that the remains are historic, please contact Harford County Historic Preservation or the Maryland Historical Trust. 

Partners in Cemetery Preservation


Maryland Historical Trust - Cemetery Research


Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites


National Center for Preservation Technology and Training


MDOT State Highway Administration Cemetery Inventory