Cemeteries are distinguished from other burial grounds by the fact that they are usually purpose built, and in most cases, are not adjoined to a church or other place of worship. Many cemeteries are municipally owned.

While uncommon today, family (or private) cemeteries were a matter of practicality during the settlement of America. If a municipal or religious cemetery had not been established, settlers would seek out a small plot of land, often in wooded areas bordering their fields, to begin a family plot. Sometimes, several families would arrange to bury their dead together. While some of these sites later grew into true cemeteries, many were forgotten after a family moved away or died out. Today, it is not unheard of to discover groupings of tombstones, ranging from a few to a dozen or more, on undeveloped land. As late twentieth century suburban sprawl pressured the pace of development in formerly rural areas, it became increasingly common for larger exurban properties to be encumbered by “religious easements,” which are legal requirements for the property owner to permit periodic maintenance of small burial plots located on the property but technically not owned with it.

Many family genealogists visit and photograph cemeteries where their family members are buried. Some of the cemeteries listed below have photographs of the tombstones in the cemetery.