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August 5, 2017

Genealogists Heads Up re Proposed Bylaw: No Photographs in Cemetery!

Thanks to Murray Pletsch for bringing this to our attention. Polite action is called for - tell them NO!

Cause for Concern...

It has come to our attention that the City of Waterloo in Ontario Canada is considering
implementing a bylaw that would ban photography at all municipal cemeteries.

The proposed bylaw: "Photography: No person shall cause or permit the taking
of any photographic or video imaging within any Cemetery except with the
prior permission of the Manager."

This would mean that as of September 1st, no one would be allowed to take
photographs or video in any municipally owned cemetery operated by the City
of Waterloo without prior permission.

In other words, you could not take a photograph or video of a headstone you
own without prior permission. Or a photograph / video of a loved ones
headstone. Or request that someone take a photograph / video on your behalf
without prior permission. The bylaw does not provide guidelines for granting
or denying permission, only that the manager would decide.

Approval of this bylaw would also set a precedent for other municipalities
in Ontario to follow.

It would have a major impact on genealogy, and not just in terms of projects
like ours (think of the number of cemetery photographs you currently use in
your personal genealogy research!)

There are also multiple businesses and organizations that use cemetery
photographs, including the government.

Luckily there is time to stop this bylaw from being approved, and your help
is need to make this happen.

The bylaw changes were submitted to The Bereavement Authority of Ontario for
approval. The BAO are the ones who ultimately decide if cemetery bylaws will
be approved.

Before September 1st, please take a moment and send them a polite written
message to let them know what you think about this bylaw and how it would
impact you personally.

Bereavement Authority of Ontario
Telephone: 647-483-2645
Toll Free: 844-493-6356
Fax: 647-748-2645
Mail: Bereavement Authority of Ontario, 100 Sheppard Avenue East, Suite 505,
Toronto, ON M2N 6N5

Need more info? The cemetery bylaws were discussed by the City of Waterloo
Council at their July 24th meeting. A copy of the agenda can be read here:

The proposed cemetery bylaws are on pages 101-177, the clause regarding
photography is on page 113.


J.Rob. McGinn said...

Seems like overkill to me. Reason for such a law? Privacy? Saving defacing of stones?
Rob McGinn

Donna Young said...

Do these men and women not have better things to do and worry about that the taking of photographs in a cemetery? I am sure you have more pressing things like the homeless, and streets needing repair. People have the right to trace family roots and you would be infringing on many peoples rights. I doubt the people under the head stones are complaining.

Henry Eversole said...

Why would this be done? Photos cause no harm. What do they wish to hide?

Suzanne Harmon said...

Waterloo is where my g-g-g grandparent are buried. This is concerning because I intend to visit and of course take photos someday. I will send the letter

Anonymous said...

-I am not connected with this location or via family, and am in the USA. Any known reason what made this happen? eg don't enquire at the location/courthouse -unless a family member. I can not see how they can monitor this, with people visiting the cemeteries - maybe they can, and cause problems for posters (eg FAG) in the process. Is this a privacy issue? Or the upkeep of the cemeteries in their care are in question? I know elsewhere, a location that is limited on FAG in US, possible same situation.. a private cemetery and no pics are found anywhere, only limited transcriptions.
thank you for sharing this info, it is a concern.

Jean McKenney said...

Many of the photographs of headstones of my ancestors come from people in location that I cannot get to because of distance. Without photographe I would not to be able to get information that are on these headstonesto use in my genealogy. Also you can find additional ancestors that are buried in the same cemetery.

Paul said...

Ok two sides to this coin as well as some photographers in full production mode sometimes invade older cemeteries in order to photograph the darker side. The coin flips to someone doing Genealogical research and now they can't photograph the headstone because of these bylaws. I'm sorry but now we have another reactive government decision that does solve the problem but makes life miserable for everybody else. Another fine example of leaping before you look...this is one bylaw I will be breaking quite often with pleasure.

Karen Tomblin said...

Done! I sent my email off because I certainly don't want this to happen.

Bechtel said...

My ancestors arrived in the Waterloo area in 1820. If I want to take pictures of their headstones - I need to go NOW before this law comes into effect in three weeks.

Crissouli said...

I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

Thank you, Chris

Pam said...

Sad that they feel they need this much control over this. Granted this is in Canada but I have relatives buried at Waterloo and most of my family are Canadian. I have found that some cemeteries here in the States do not want you in their cemeteries taking photos of headstones. They state it's a privacy issue. For whom? The death is public and after so many years birth and death records are public. If the cemetery is on private property, I can see asking permission and am guessing they are considering this particular cemetery as private property. The problem I have with that is when you buy the plot you should be allowed access and that should include family, friends and guests. I don't know how they stop a photo unless each person is escorted. Think they should find a better use of their time.

Unknown said...

Would it not be better to ask the occupant of a grave, "It is I, your great-great grandson. Do you have any objection to photographing your gravestone"?
If you get no objection, take some photographs.
If the occupant does object... well, maybe you've been watching too many zombie movies.