Cemetery Preservation

Research, documentation and compilation of unregistered cemeteries across Ontario.

OHS-OGS Unregistered Cemeteries Committee

From left to right: Rob Leverty, OHS; Marjorie Stuart, OHS; the Hon. John Gerretsen, Minister of Consumer Services (responsible for cemeteries), MPP (Kingston and the Islands); Diane Clendenan, OGS; Jim Brownell, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister, MPP (Stormont-Dundas South Glengarry) and Bob Crawford, Secretary and Past President, OGS.

Since 2005, with the help from members of The Ontario Historical Society and Ontario Genealogical Society, Marjorie Stuart and Diane Clendenan have donated countless hours to research, document and compile a listing of over 1,500 unregistered cemeteries across Ontario.

In 2011, a joint Ontario Historical Society and Ontario Genealogical Society volunteer committee began a project to locate all of the cemeteries across Ontario which have not yet been registered with the Province (Ministry of Consumer Services) and therefore do not enjoy the same legal protection. This project, which is still ongoing, is organized geographically by county and will be submitted to the Registrar of the Cemeteries Protection Act (Revised).

Read joint OHS-OGS letter to Registrar, March 29, 2012

In June 2011, the OHS and OGS officially presented the Government of Ontario with a binder listing all the unregistered cemeteries in the Province.

Registering a Cemetery

Unregistered cemeteries have very little protection under the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act. These cemeteries may be relocated with the minimum of notice and input from interested parties. There is very little that can be done to protect burial sites and the dignity of the deceased if their presence is unknown to authorities.

It is important that all known burial locations in Ontario be registered with:

The Cemeteries Regulation Unit
Ministry of Business Services,
Place Nouveau, Suite 1500,
5775 Yonge Street,
Toronto, ON M7A 2E5
Toll Free: 1 (800) 889-9768

All cemeteries should also be recorded on the municipality’s Official Town Plan. This is particularly important in the case of unmarked burial sites. Interested parties should contact their Municipality’s Clerk, or if possible, its heritage planner for more information.

You Can Help!

Do you have a GPS system? Would you like to assist the Ontario Genealogical Society and The Ontario Historical Society in protecting Ontario’s cemeteries? If you do, then we have the job for you!

The Registrar of Cemeteries requires accurate information to help identify the cemeteries that are not registered. This is what you can do to help. If you pass an entrance to a cemetery in your travels, could you record the GPS location? We are asking you to be especially mindful of the county and township where the cemetery is located. Therefore, when you send the information to the Society, we kindly request that you list the following information:

  • The name of the Cemetery
  • The County in which the cemetery is located, if known (i.e., Durham, Niagara, Carleton etc.)
  • If possible, the Historical township (as listed in the OGS Ontario Cemetery Locator)
  • The street name
  • And of course, the GPS co-ordinates
  • Some of our volunteers have advised us that they take the GPS readings at the entrance of the cemetery as this provides the most accurate location information.

To date we know of 12 Riverside Cemeteries around the province, 48 St. John’s Anglican Cemeteries and 11 Zion Cemeteries just to name a few. Don’t worry if you find that a cemetery has been registered. Someone else will have the benefit of your work. All GPS information you gather may be forwarded to: cemeteries@ogs.on.ca

Travel safely and enjoy the adventure!

Cemetery Defence Fund

The Ontario Historical Society works to protect the vulnerable and valuable heritage of Ontario’s cemeteries. The resources of the OHS are constantly challenged as we try to defend threatened cemeteries across the province.

We can’t do it alone – click here to make a donation to the Cemetery Defence Fund to help support the work of the OHS-OGS Unregistered Cemeteries Committee. Charitable tax receipts are issued for all donations to this Fund.

Priceville Black Cemetery, preserved and protected by the Old Durham Road Pioneer Cemetery Committee, an OHS affiliate since 1999. Photo: Rob Leverty.

Cemetery News Column

Cemetery News is a column that appears in each OHS Bulletin describing challenges, solutions, and events surrounding Ontario’s cemeteries, especially its heritage pioneer cemeteries. It is written by longtime volunteer and 2008 OHS Cruikshank Medal winner Marjorie Stuart. Marjorie can be contacted at marjstuart@sympatico.ca.

To view past Cemetery News columns online, click here.