The descendants of those lying at the old Wairoa Cemetery are being sought by Wairoa District Council staff intent on restoring their rundown graves, some of which date back to the early 1800s.
Towering angels and crosses attached to crumbling bases and disintegrating unreinforced concrete edging have become a safety concern.
But in many cases, family links have become broken, leaving no one to contact about individual graves.
So staff are appealing to the public to determine if anyone wishes to come forward to take responsibility for graves that need work done.
Engineering administration officer Nicky Bradley said that did not necessarily mean people had to pay for anything or do the work themselves.
"It's more about making people aware that these graves have been neglected and we need to make them safe," she said. "Families must have the opportunity to take care of their ancestors."
She has compiled a list of names from the affected graves. Where the name has worn off, written records have been used.
The list can be viewed at the Wairoa District Council website or by calling into council offices on Queen St. Photographs will be taken of any graves requiring work before it is carried out.
Over the decades, some gaps have appeared in the records, which creates a problem where headstones have disappeared altogether. Of particular concern are several clusters of children's graves. Some are named but many are not.
Council staff are also appealing to the public to come forward with any history.
"There are people in our community who know so much about our history. Our hope is that these people will be able to help us out with putting some names to these graves, so that those who have gone before us can be remembered respectfully and with care."