Message #352:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Locating Obscured Historic Grave Sites
Date: Wed Oct  1 09:39:20 1997

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

From: "J.E.(Edd) Dorminey" 

Our family has been notified of an old cemetery location that we have ancestors buried in
that has been "bulldozed" so no markers are left above ground.  What would be the best way 
to locate the location of each of these graves in the cemetery so we could mark them again 
or is there a reliable way?  The burials would have occured starting in 1847 and continuing 
for 30 years. -- Edd Dorminey,  Tifton,GA

I put your question to the SWA SASIG membership because they can 
respond personally to your question with innovative ideas.  I propose you try several 
approaches.  First, check with any authorities in your area regarding cemetery records, and 
birth and death records.  This may provide information about your family.  Professional and 
avocational geneologists may help.  The Mormon  church maintains extensive geneological 
records and also may be able to help.  This kind of information may alert you regarding the 
community of individuals buried at the cemetery and not just your immediate family.  This is
important for it sets a context for community and family history.

Second, I am not sure why the cemetery was "bulldozed," but you should consider the issue of 
appropriate restoration work.  Not only do you want to get it correct the first time, you do 
not want to offend others by restoring the site in a way that they might not have chosen.  
It is important that you conduct restoration work within the context of the current 
community.  You also want to strive to keep the context and feel of the historic past 
appropriate headstones, fencing, replanted vegetation types, etc).  I recommend that you 
speak with Mark R. Edwards, at the Georgia State Historic 
Preservation Office  at or at  The SHPO may be able to advise you 
regarding regulations and conditions that apply in your local area.  Historic maps of the 
cemetery might be available. In terms of the mechanics and physics of locating graves, much 
of this depends upon local geologic and soil conditions, burial conditions, and cultural 
technique of burial, all of which may have changed over time. 

There are common techniques available such as GPR (ground penetrating radar), resistivity 
(changes in the flow of weak current across a given area), magnetometer, and metal detector. 
A few general geophysical examples from the WWW include:,,,

You should seek skilled experts in your local area.   They can help you pick appropriate 
techniques and design a geophysical survey plan for the property.