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The Official Web Site of the State of South Carolina


Cemeteries are an important feature of South Carolina's diverse heritage. In addition to marking the final resting places of our ancestors, they yield information about our state's social, religious, artistic, and cultural heritage. They also contain genealogical information that cannot be found anywhere else.

Deterioration from natural forces such as weathering and uncontrolled vegetation and insensitive development threaten our historic cemeteries. The involvement of individuals and organizations with an interest and commitment to saving local history and culture is critical to protecting and preserving the state's historic cemeteries.

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) does not have funds for maintenance of historic cemeteries or legal authority to acquire cemeteries or enforce laws protecting cemeteries. The SHPO has compiled the following information to aid local efforts in saving historic cemeteries:

State Laws

There are numerous South Carolina laws governing cemeteries. The following are of particular interest to those concerned with preserving and protecting historic cemeteries:

Cemetery Vandalism & Destruction

If you learn that a cemetery is being vandalized, disturbed, or destroyed, contact local law enforcement authorities immediately. State laws make it a felony to destroy or desecrate burial grounds and establish a legal framework for moving abandoned cemeteries when necessary. The responsibility for enforcing state cemetery laws belongs to the county sheriff or local police department. Because local authorities may not be familiar with the details of cemetery statutes as you are, be prepared to inform them of pertinent laws.

After contacting local law enforcement, notify other interested groups, such as local historical organizations and the local newspaper. Prosecute offenders who are caught and publicize the arrests. Suits can also be filed in civil court to seek compensation for damages.

To discourage vandalism, consider the following suggestions:

  • Ask the local law enforcement agency to put your cemetery on its patrol routes. Ask their advice when planning any security measures.
  • Ask the neighbors to watch for suspicious activity in the area and to report to the police or sheriff if they see any.
  • Maintain the property. Vandals are often attracted to property that appears neglected.
  • Protection devices like fences, lights, and alarms may help. Make sure they are in working order. Fences should keep livestock out of rural cemeteries and deter vandals, while allowing people to see in. High, solid fences can hide illegal activities.
  • Consider posting rules and regulations to show that the cemetery is maintained.

Gravestone Inscriptions

Publications that list gravestone inscriptions from South Carolina cemeteries can be found at:

  • local libraries and archives
  • The South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina
  • The South Carolina Department of Archives and History

In the 1930’s the Works Progress Administration (WPA) recorded names, birth dates, and death dates from gravestones in cemeteries across the state. They are available at the following locations:

  • The South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina: volumes containing transcriptions
  • The South Carolina Historical Society: transcriptions, organized by last name on microfilm
  • The South Carolina Department of Archives and History: tombstone transcriptions on microfiche

The following resources provide additional information on gravestone inscriptions:

Preserving Historic Cemeteries Workshop (2023) Presentations (PDFs):

Preserving Historic Cemeteries Workshop (2022) Presentations (PDFs):