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From Doubledecker Buses to Doubledecker Graves

 

Graveyards are an important resource for genealogists who are searching for their ancestors. Much can be gleaned from a gravestone. However, this may change in the UK, which is suffering from an acute shortage of grave sites. The land of doubledecker buses has now given tentative approval for doubledecker graves.

Unfortunately, it will not be the new graves that will be doubledecked. It will be the old graves that appear to have been ‘abandoned’. Grave sites older than 100 years that have no living relatives nearby will be candidates for the program. The existing body will be exhumed and reburied in the same plot, but at a much greater depth. The plot will then be used for a new burial. The original headstone will be removed and, if the local authorities consider it ‘insignificant’, it will be replaced with a new headstone. Another option is to keep the original headstone in its place, but also carve the name of the recently deceased person onto it.

The UK is an island nation with a limited amount of space for cemeteries. The recent real estate boom in the UK has only served to aggravate the situation. As reported by the Times Online, local authorities in many areas (particularly around London) are desperate to find a solution to the problem of an acute shortage of burial spaces.

Culture, circumstances and custom often dictate how people are buried. In Japan, another island nation with an acute shortage of space, most people are cremated. Cremation is also popular in the UK, but today about 30% of the population still prefer to be buried. Interestingly enough, public consultations on the topic of doubledecker graves raised little public concern. Perhaps this is because the high price of real estate has desensitized people to the topic, or it is something most people prefer not to talk about. Another possibility, as the Times Online article points out, is that people realize there have been several instances in the history of the UK where grave sites were reused on a mass scale.

For anyone who feels uncomfortable about the prospect of their ancestor’s grave site being used by a total stranger, authorities have promised not to reuse any grave site where a living relative objects to the process. Time to start thinking about writing a few letters to the local authorities before the pilot program begins in about 18 months.

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