Wisconsin Historical Society

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How to Protect a Burial Site or Cemetery

What You Can Do

How to Protect a Burial Site | Wisconsin Historical Society

Though Wisconsin state law protects all human burial sites, older or overgrown burial sites are sometimes accidentally disturbed. Unmarked cemeteries and Native American mounds in particular are in danger of being damaged.  Here's what you can do to help protect them.

List It in the Wisconsin Burial Sites Catalog

The best way to protect a human burial site is for you to make sure that it is well marked and maintained, and to list it in the Wisconsin Burial Sites Catalog.

When you catalog a burial site on your property, you have the opportunity to attach a description of the burial site to your property deed. This will ensure that future landowners are aware that human burials are located on the property.  

Notify Workers of Burial Sites on Your Land

Make sure that anyone working near the burial sites knows that they exist and should not be disturbed. Road builders, utility workers and land use planners should be made aware of any human burial sites along their route.

The Wisconsin Historical Society will provide appropriate information to contractors and agencies during their planning process.  If you are still unsure if construction crews know that a burial site is located nearby, please contact them and make sure that they know.  With the proper information in hand, contractors can avoid and protect burial sites from harm as they work.

New or forgotten human burial sites should be reported to the Wisconsin Historical Society so that they can be added to the Wisconsin Historic Preservation Database (WHPD). To report a burial site, fill out and mail in a Report a Burial or Archaeological Site (PDF, 64 KB).

Join the Registry of Interested Persons

If you have a significant interest in a cataloged burial site or class of cataloged human burial sites, consider joining Registry of Interested Persons. Registry members are asked to provide input when someone requests to disturb a cataloged burial site. Members can also request hearings to determine whether the proposed disturbances should be allowed to proceed.

Report Disturbances

If you know of any recent or ongoing disturbance to a burial site, report it immediately by calling your local law enforcement and the Wisconsin Historical Society at 800-342-7834 or 608-264-6507. Be ready to provide the location of the burial site and describe the activities and damage you observed.  You will also be asked if you know who owns the burial site and if you know who has caused the disturbance.

Learn More

See more articles about Human Burials, Mounds and Cemeteries