Property for Burial

Authored by: Jimmy Tenney

An original deed from 1937 that was given to a parishioner who has purchased graves.

Cemetery Deed from 1937

Death is a natural part of life; we must respect those who have passed away and treat their bodies with dignity. Every Christian body, if baptized, has a rite to Christian burial (Thurston, 1908).

For my AS-L project I entered information from files into a computer system for the parish of St. John Nepomucene. One type of document that I worked with, are cemetery deeds. Merriam-Webster dictionary explains that a deed is a legal document that proves the ownership of land (1965). A cemetery deed then is the right to be buried on a certain plot of land. The parish makes an agreement with a person, usually a parishioner of the parish, to allow that person to be buried on the church’s property.

New York State Department of Cemeteries states, for not for profit corporations, that the deed represents an agreement between the not for profit and an individual. If the individual passes away and does not use the plot purchased or has more than one plot, the plot or plots that are not used are to be handed down to the individual’s heirs. First, to direct heirs such as a spouse or child; after that the plot is passed down to the next person most closely related to the deceased, for example a grandchild or a niece/nephew (New York State, n.d.).

Many times a deed may go missing. Plot holders must have a deed for them to use the plot. Once a deed cannot be found and all possible locations have been searched an affidavit must be completed to have a new deed issued (Diocese of Rockville Centre, 2013). The deed is a legal document that proves that they are owners of the plot. Without the deed the parish cannot allow the grave to be opened for use.

The process in using the deed, is that, the family would bring the deed to either the funeral home of directly to the church. Next, the church calls Catholic Cemeteries to arrange for the grave to be opened. After the graveside service, if the family chooses to have one, the remains are lowered into the grave and the grave is then closed. The church makes note of the burial on the deed and fills out some paperwork. The whole process is not difficult, but if the deed is not present it becomes much more complicated.

Cemetery deeds are an important part of the burial process and are needed so that the individual can prove that the parish has given the right of burial in a specific spot to that individual. All life is precious and all life will end at some point we must be prepared for when life ends. Keeping the Vincentian mission alive we have to serve others until their final resting place (St. John’s University, n.d.).


Diocese of Rockville Centre,  Parish Cemeteries School of Excellence, New York, 2013.

G. & C. Merriam Co., Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, Springfield,Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1965.

New York State: Department of State, Division of Cemeteries, Not for Profit Corporation Law Article 15: § 8. Lot Owners’ Rights,  New York,, n.d.

Thurston, H., “Christian Burial,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York: Robert Appleton Company,  Retrieved March 22, 2015 from New Advent:, 1908.

[Photograph] “St. John Nepomucene R.C. Church,” Cemetery Documents, Bohemia, New York, 1937.

St. John’s University, Our Mission,, n.d.