How to Find Unmarked Graves Using Ground-Penetrating Radar

Men looking at GPR equipment

You have a beautiful cemetery with well-manicured lawns and gorgeous, serene landscaping. But there’s one major problem: due to lost or incomplete cemetery records you may not know where all the graves are located and some of them may be unmarked or lost.

What you need is a cemetery burial plot map and a company that provides cemetery mapping services and cemetery burial plot mapping.

Locating and Identifying Unmarked Graves With GPR

Cemetery groundskeepers identify unmarked graves by following clues such as broken or weathered headstones, obvious depressions in the earth that could indicate old burial sites, and accounts from family members who knew people buried in your cemetery. 

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) uses energy bursts sent into the ground where they bounce off subsurface voids and return back through antennas. The equipment then reads the speed of the pulses’ travel based on how long it takes them to reach a target and return, resulting in hyperbola patterns indicating potential locations for unmarked burials.

When this process is repeated over a specific area it is called a GPR scan. This helps identify the location of soil disturbances and underground voids where known and unknown buried remains are located. 

With each grave in your cemetery accurately located and all undiscovered graves found, you will gain a more complete picture of all those resting beneath your care.

picture of man using GPR equipment
The GPR is a noninvasive method used in geophysics. It is based on the analysis of electromagnetic waves transmitted into the ground reflections.”nIt is also used for the detection of underground pipes in the city streets before starting excavations.

Finding Graves with GPR

To identify graves with GPR, you will need a professional-grade GPR device (operator); an assistant for the operator to record/document data; shovels, ground rods, and flags or spray paint to mark the burial location.  

It is important that both the operator and assistant know how to identify the location of graves with GPR. Subsurface voids appear on the GPR’s screen as hyperbola that an experienced operator can identify with no trouble.

The operator begins by walking in a straight line perpendicular to the path of an identified fence, road, or row. The GPR device sends out energy bursts at a rate of one every second while the assistant records/documents each potential grave shaft encountered on their way and marks them with flags or spray paint. 

Scans are completed in a grid-like formation to ensure even the most difficult-to-find burials are captured and recorded. The process is repeated in 1-foot intervals until all potential unmarked graves have been located.

The Best Way to Discover Hidden Graves on Your Property

Not all graves are located inside cemetery grounds. Many property owners are aware that there are gravesites on their land but do not know where these plots are located precisely. 

The general information of “who, how, and when” may be found in your local county clerk’s office. However, the exact location is rarely included. It is then up to the property owner to identify burial sites, and GPR is the most effective way to do so.

As a property owner, you should identify unmarked graves as soon as possible. Detecting undiscovered plots can protect you from the risk of digging into an unmarked grave or disturbing human remains unknowingly. GPR is also effective in locating missing gravesites that have been misplaced over time due to shifting soil, erosion, damage by animals/vegetation changes, etc.

Preserve the history of your land and ensure you don’t accidentally disturb human remains by using GPR to identify unmarked graves located on your property.

picture headstone for deceased fire fighter

Identify Unmarked Graves in Your Cemetery

By using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to locate unmarked graves, we are able to identify and document them properly. This allows you to correctly identify unused acreage and ensure your cemetery grounds are utilized to their full potential. 

The search for unmarked graves and unidentified remains can seem like a daunting task. While it’s not an easy operation, our team of qualified professionals is standing by to help you with this process. We know exactly how to find unmarked graves in a cemetery and will help you ensure that everything is properly recorded for future use.

Find out how Sentry Mapping can help you identify and preserve these important sites with our team of highly trained GPR operators. We have the experience and expertise for all your mapping needs!

Are you a groundskeeper or manager of a historic cemetery? Find lost graves with Sentry Mapping. Start your cemetery management project today!