You hear about family cemeteries every once in awhile, usually after some land developer unearths one while excavating for some new construction, but they are much more common than you might thing, especially in the southern portion of the United States.
Whether on donated land to serve a community or on a slice of land for a specific family’s use, these family cemeteries are virtual “outdoor museums,” says Ian W. Brown, an anthropology professor at the University of Alabama.
There are at least 20,000 of them in Tennessee alone, according to state archaeologist Nick Fielder. As many as 100 of them are discovered each year during construction activity in the state.
Relatives of the deceased in Tennessee have no legal leverage over family plots they don't own, according to Theo Emery in this article from the Washington Post, and landowners who can pay to move a cemetery need only a judge's approval.
"You get to rest in peace – unless someone wants to do something where you rest," Fielder told Emery.
Most of these family cemeteries were originally located in rural settings, but encroaching cities continue to gobble them up. That’s why you can find them in the middle of road intersections, tucked in among acres of concrete or even in the middle of a highway cloverleaf.
Tracking down family history in undocumented, family cemeteries can be difficult, if not impossible. The folks at daddezio.com have a database of known family cemeteries and the photo-sharing site flickr has a Forgotten Cemeteries and Graveyards pool. Check them out.
Writing prompt of the day: Do you have any relatives buried in obscure or unusual places?
Flickr photo courtesy of NatalieMaynor.