Many cemeteries contain unmarked burials that may have been originally marked with impermanent grave markers, markers that may have been removed, or were never marked to begin with. New South Associates has mortuary specialists on staff trained to locate unmarked burials and cemeteries using a variety of techniques ranging from examining the ground surface for mortuary features, testing the ground with steel probes, to using ground-penetrating radar. By conducting these types of surveys, New South Associates can provide to its clients cemetery boundaries, cemetery size, and an inventory of burials.
Surveying for unmarked burials can be conducted in two phases depending upon the client’s needs. The first phase typically involves examining an area for surface features such as: human-sized, cigar-shaped depressions or mounds; grave markers; dressed or undressed fieldstones arranged as head and/or footstones; mortuary related ground cover (i.e. daffodils); stone, metal wood, or floral enclosures; and/or oval concentrations of stone, glass, wood, metal, seashells, or other materials used to outline a grave. The second phase of survey focuses on determining if other unmarked graves are present. This phase typically involves walking transects (spaced two feet apart) and inserting soil penetrometers into the ground to assess the soil density and compaction. Depending on a cemetery’s setting, soils, and vegetation, ground-penetrating radar can also be used to map burial locations. These services provide systematic testing of the area to determine the presence of subsurface features (such as grave shafts) or stones hidden below the ground surface.
The information gathered is provided in a report that provides an estimate of the size of the burial area and minimum number of graves present. Historical research can also be conducted and reported. These studies fulfill the requirements of the survey element for abandoned cemetery permit applications in many states and provide our clients with the information needed to determine the best approach to a cemetery within their project area.