Finding Unmarked Graves

Deploy GPR for Unmarked Grave Location

In the past, it was expected that older cemeteries and unmarked burial sites would eventually give way to the elements. But not anymore. Now, with the help of GPR (ground-penetrating radar) and cemetery mapping software, WOOD Inspection Services is able to accurately identify unmarked graves to help you plot your land/cemetery and also to properly preserve history.

In Texas and across the United States, land is being handed down over generations or sold outside the family, often with the original family members interred on the property somewhere, with the markers either weathered away or unmarked for cultural purposes.

Unmarked graves are also frequently discovered of indigenous populations (which happened recently in Canada) or of enslaved people. In South Carolina, a Girl Scout troop uncovered an area in a churchyard that held a dozen enslaved African Americans. Unmarked graves and slave cemeteries such as these are prevalent in the U.S., and GPR technology is key to solving these grave mysteries.

Identifying Unmarked Graves

Private, family-owned, historical and public cemeteries are also finding out that their old-school paper records aren’t as accurate as they could be. On top of that, grave markers may be buried, ruined or destroyed over the years. WOOD Inspection works with these cemeteries to GPR map and digitize burial plots — determining where the actual graves are vs. where there’s new, unused plots.

Sometimes real estate developers call on WOOD Inspection to check for unmarked graves before starting a project, and for good reason. If burial ground is found on your build site, it’s prudent to stop the project in case relatives of the buried still visit the site. Family members could potentially sue the company if the situation isn’t handled correctly, not to mention building on top of a grave site or old cemetery can also cause serious and costly damage to equipment.

For instance, in 2007 WOOD Inspection Services helped real estate developers avoid digging up unmarked graves near Elizabeth Cemetery. It would have been easy to assume that since the property wasn’t technically owned by the cemetery, it wouldn’t have any plots, but GPR revealed numerous unmarked graves.

How to Find Unmarked Graves

How accurate is GPR for finding unmarked graves?

Very! The electromagnetic signals used in GPR allow contractors to determine what materials exist below the ground, all without having to disturb the soil itself. WOOD Inspection starts with 2D underground scans, identifying subsurface anomolies or voids. At the right size, voids can be classified as unmarked graves.

Next, our team places permanent metal markers, which can withstand mowing and overgrowth. The unmarked graves can be easily located later with a metal detector.

Our team can provide GPS coordinates for each unmarked grave to be entered into a cemetery mapping system. This allows for an easy update of your gravesite locations and inventory to give you and your visitors peace of mind.