Cemeteries are important keys to Texas’ past. They are reminders of settlement patterns and reveal information about historic events, religion, lifestyles, and genealogy. Unfortunately, historic cemeteries are increasingly threatened by development pressures, encroachment, vandalism, and theft. Circumstances can change quickly—a cemetery considered maintained and safe can quickly become neglected and endangered. To address the problem of cemetery destruction and to record as many cemeteries as possible, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) offers the Historic Texas Cemetery (HTC) designation.
The HTC designation was developed in 1998 to help protect historic cemeteries by recording cemetery boundaries in county deed records to alert present and future owners of land adjacent to the cemetery of its existence. Every county in Texas has at least one cemetery designated as a Historic Texas Cemetery through this program. The HTC designation is the first step toward preservation of a historic cemetery.
The HTC designation is an official recognition of family and community graveyards. The designation imposes no restrictions on private owners’ use of the land adjacent to the cemetery or the daily operations of the cemetery. For additional information, see Texas Administrative Code Title 13, Part 2, Chapter 22 Rule §22.6.
A cemetery is eligible for designation if it is at least 50 years old and is deemed worthy of recognition for its historical associations. The very nature of a cemetery being a landmark of a family’s or community’s presence is considered to validate the criteria of historical associations. Any individual, organization, or agency may submit a request for designation.
Benefits of designation:
- Records the cemetery location and boundaries in the county deed records as a historically dedicated cemetery worthy of preservation.
- Helps preserve cemeteries by alerting present and future landowners of the presence of this important historical resource on their property.
- Documents the cemetery's current conditions through photographs and maps, details that may be necessary for emergency management in cases such as vandalism, fire, or other natural disasters.
- Is a prerequisite for applying for an Official Texas Historical Marker for the cemetery.
Apply for HTC Designation
The HTC Request for Designation materials are available as Word documents or as PDFs. Please read the Guidelines & Instructions before completing the application form to learn what additional documentation is required. Also consider viewing the "how-to-apply" webinar.
- 2024 HTC Designation Guidelines & Instructions
- 2024 HTC Request for Designation Application Form (PDF)
- 2024 HTC Request for Designation Application Form (Word)
- Example of a complete HTC application form
- Example site plan/sketch map
Please note: Current processing times for incoming HTC applications is approximately five months.
Remember that the HTC designation process does not automatically result in a historical marker. Markers are optional and are available only through a separate application process. Click here to learn more about how to apply for a historical marker and the types of markers available. All steps of the designation process must be complete before submitting an application for the marker.
Cemetery Preservation Resources
If you have questions about the Cemetery Preservation Program, please contact the program administrator using the information listed here.
P.O. Box 12276
Austin, TX 78711