Disinterment/Reinterment Permits: One Source Available through the State Archive for Locating a Grave

Back in 1992 I went on a road trip to Lubbock, Texas, and while there I and my music loving friends wanted to visit the grave of Buddy Holly. This was back before everyone had access to an internet that contained a plethora of relevant information on the living and the dead. So we showed up at the caretaker’s house of the only cemetery we knew and asked where Buddy Holly was buried. Now, remember, this was 1992 in a slow, comfortable southern town in East Texas. The caretaker called 911 because she figured if anyone knew where the dead people were buried, they would. Thirty years and much more technology later, we all know better than to call 911 to find a grave, but where do you look?

As it happens, I have recently finished processing a series of county records that answers part of that question. Disinterment/Reinterment (D/R) Permits are required by the state to authorize the removal of a body from a gravesite and the reburial of it. One major purpose of this is to provide a paper trail that people can follow to find the graves of the deceased. Bodies are disinterred for several reasons – to gather families in one location, to enable the sale of property, to allow for excavation or building, to rectify an error of burial, and even for investigative purposes.

There is a collection of policies and procedures set by the North Carolina Board of Funeral Services including those surrounding the creation and filing of the D/R Permit. The permit has multiple copies, but the copy filed with the Registrar in the County of disinterment is the one that eventually comes to the archive. The disposition for this record set up in the record schedule  is  to “transfer permits after 5 years for permanent retention.” As we receive these records from the county health departments, we organize them by county and then alphabetically by surname of the deceased or by cemetery.

This series also contains other records that fill the purpose of the D/R permit. We maintain funeral home copies of permits when there is no registrar permit or when the registrar permit is illegible or incomplete. We also have some correspondence and some burial transit permits that were used as D/R permits. There are some records from other states such as permits for cremation or transit that we maintain in accordance to the laws of the original state in order to keep all of the necessary information to enable people to find the deceased.

However, these records only record the removal and reburial of a body. At first this really confused me. Why would we maintain a permit of where someone was reburied but not an original burial permit? Well, after a little sleuthing, I discovered that in North Carolina the original disposition of remains, including location of burial or cremation, is included on the death certificate.

So, now I know where to look to find a grave in North Carolina. To see what years we have for D/R permits for a county use our key word search on mars and type “disinterment” in the search bar. To find a particular permit, visit the search room and the reference archivists will be happy to pull those records for you. Just in case you were wondering, procedures may be different in Texas, but it just so happens, you can now visit the grave of Buddy Holly online.

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