Many small cemeteries in rural areas are located on private land. In many areas, the present landowners may restrict access to the graveyards. A new bill before the Tennessee state legislature seeks to change that.
Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, is sponsoring a bill to require property owners to grant access to graveyards on their property to visitors. The visitors are defined as "family members, descendants and close friends of the deceased persons buried there." Visits would be legal for the purposes of visits the graves, cemetery maintenance, genealogical research, and for possible future burials.
The bill also says that, if an eligible person is denied access to graves, that person could take the owner of the cemetery to court.
"This just says families and close personal friends can go and visit," Jones said. She said she decided to pursue the issue after a woman who lives outside her district came to her seeking help.
Several years ago, Jones said, the woman's child had been buried in a small cemetery on private property. That land was later sold, and the new owner wouldn't grant the woman access to the graveyard.