Cemeteries in the United States can be classified into several general types. These types aren't always mutually exclusive, and sometimes a cemetery transforms from one type to another over time.
Knowing the type of cemetery you are studying helps you to better understand the community, social, and possibly religious aspects of those interred within.
Public cemeteries are usually owned by a city, township, county, or some government entity and are open to the public for burials and for visitation.
Private cemeteries are usually owned by a corporation to make money. Modern private cemeteries are often restrictive in what may be placed at the grave and the type of markers allowed.
Church cemeteries are not always located at a church but are owned by a church. Church cemeteries are often open to the public for burial and visitation.
Family cemeteries are located on family-owned land when they are first started, and used to bury loved ones and friends. As they are on private land, and often not located near a road, they are not open to the public and permission is needed to visit the cemetery.
Lodge cemeteries are owned and operated by a fraternal organization or lodge, such as Knights of Pythias, Mason, and Odd Fellows. Lots at lodge cemeteries were offered at a low cost to members and their family and sometimes were open to the public at a higher cost.
Customary cemeteries are those formed by a settlement or group of neighbors, with no real ownership or legal entity. Often times there is no sexton or maintenance - each family takes care of their own. Today these types of cemeteries are typically not legal.
An ethnic cemetery is specialized to a particular ethnicity or sect, such as Quaker, or native Indian. These cemeteries are not open to public burial and are often not open to the public for visitation.
Mass burials were common in times of disease or disaster. Other events that caused mass burials include the removal of old cemeteries to make way for growth.