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Geophysical Investigations of Historic Cemeteries: Results and Implications

Duane Simpson and Ryan Peterson

Geophysical investigations conducted within marked and unmarked cemeteries throughout the Midwest, southeast, and beyond have provided a wealth of information. Geophysical investigations have aided in delineating poorly defined cemetery boundaries, provided insights into interment practices, and provided a non-invasive means to obtain information about historic cemeteries. Case studies from historic cemeteries investigated in Texas, Indiana, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Missouri will be discussed.

Geophysics is a powerful tool for planning and management, especially when disturbance of the soil is not an option. A clear understanding of the desired result is critical. The variables that affect the successfulness of geophysical investigations include: environmental conditions (i.e. moisture level, surface conditions, soil type, etc.), historic land use of the investigation area, and selection of geophysical techniques. As with any technique, the results from a geophysical investigation are much more powerful when considered in the boarder context of historic cemetery studies. Archival research, mapping, and other available data enhance the quality and productivity of geophysical investigation. This presentation will focus on a variety of these investigations, discussing successes and failures using differing instrumentation and techniques. Cases will be discussed that illustrate information obtainable from geophysics beyond horizontal and vertical position of graves. Geophysical investigations are not always the best tool for the job. The factors involved with selecting the appropriate investigation technique(s) will be discussed.

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4 Responses to Nationwide Cemetery Preservation Summit Abstracts and Video

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  2. Robert Wrigley says:

    My wife’s gr-gr-grandfather is a Union soldier buried there. When we visited this grave site last October we were quite dismayed at the condition and damage done to the stones by lawn mowers running over and chipping it. At the time we did not know the full history of the markers being altered in the 1930s. We would fully support the efforts to restore them.
    Would it be possible for a private citizen to be able to contribute to the restoration of their family’s marker or replacement? Perhaps a volunteer effort of those with relatives there could help accomplish some of this initiative to restore to their original condition.

    • Jason Church says:

      Dear Robert,
      The best person to talk with will be Betsy Dinger Elizabeth_Dinger@nps.gov who is a historian for Petersburg National Battlefield and Cemetery.

    • Bryan Cheeseboro says:

      Mr. Wrigley,
      I don’t know if you’ll get this message but I would be very interested to know which of the men buried at Battleground Cemetery is your wife’s gr-gr-grandfather. I am a historian and I have spent the last several years researcing the battle of Fort Stevens and Battleground National Cemetery. Does your wife have a photograph of her ancestor? That would be a goldmine. I have never seen any picture of any of the men killed at the battle.

      If you can be of help to me, my e-mail address is bryanac625@yahoo.com. Thank you.

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