Quick tip: cleared graves

Grave of Dinant Hoitink

Grave of Dinant Hoitink

Did you know that in the Netherlands, graves are routinely cleared after a couple of decades? Graves cannot be bought, only rented. The usual period is 20-30 years. After that term is up, the grave is cleared if nobody renews the lease.

Most cemeteries have a communal plot where any remains are reburied. In most cemeteries, it is unusual to find graves older than 50-100 years. An exception are Jewish cemeteries, as Jewish tradition prevents them from being cleared.

See also this overview of online cemeteries.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Saskia Lodder says

    I have very little information about my father’s father, Gysbert Lodder, who died in about 1934 when my father was 9 years old. He was a policeman in Amsterdam. I just found your website.

  2. Is there an equivalent of findagrave.com for the Netherlands, someplace that collects images of headstones before the graves are cleared?

  3. Judy Kirkpatrick says

    What happens to the actual headstones when they are cleared?

  4. Upon learning about this practice, a friend of mine asked me why people bothered to inter the deceased in a cemetery if they were only going to be disinterred later on? I have to be honest, I couldn’t really answer the question. I had to guess that the burial was really more for the living, and that the period of time that the person is left in the grave is to allow for the passage of time for the contemporaries of the deceased to pass on themselves. How close or far am I from the actual reason?

  5. marg jager-venema says

    When they rebury remains in a communal grave, is there a written records of those who are being reburied.

  6. Lori Vos Lathrop says

    How do you pay to continue the lease? Is it paid to each individual Cemetary?


  1. […] Arie was only 59 years old when he passed away in January 1948. He was buried in the parish churchyard of St. Jan de Doper Katholieke Kerk (St. John the Baptist Catholic Church) in Noord-Scharwoude. I’ve been to that cemetery, but his grave is no longer there. Graves in the Netherlands are usually leased, not purchased, and are routinely cleared after a few decades. […]

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