Is Your Ancestor’s Grave in Danger?

By Susan Wenner Jackson Premium

From Texas to Virginia, the final resting places of our ancestors are being vandalized, built over, raided and desecrated. The culprits range from developers to grave robbers, and little is being done to repair the damage or stop future invasions from happening.

“Vandalized christian grave at Kodaira cemetery. The wooden cross was put on fire with lighter fuel.” Image via.

In Lake O’ the Pines, Texas, relic hunters are digging up Caddo Indian burial sites to find prized ceramics, according to Knight Ridden.

The small vessels buried with the Caddos fetch hundreds to thousands of dollars, and weak laws in Texas prevent solid protection of these unmarked graves. 

A similar problem happened in Hanover County, Virginia, where police are investigating whether the remains of Civil War soldiers were removed from their graves and stripped of valuable artifacts.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch says four boxes of remains — minus such items as cloth, buttons and buckles — were found reinterred near Cold Harbor Battlefield Park.

People also want the land 

Also in Hanover County, an unmarked cemetery of about 150 slaves was recently dug up to make way for housing construction, according to WRIC-TV in Richmond, Virginia.

Though there are no records of the burial site, local historians say they knew about the cemetery, which dates to the 1750s. Under court order, the developer is digging up the remains and moving them for burial at another location. Two homes will be built on the property.

Anti-semitic attacks


A vandalized Jewish graveyard in New Zealand. 
In McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, more than 100 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery remain toppled and damaged months after being vandalized, the Associated Press says.
What’s the holdup in fixing the headstones in one of the oldest and largest Jewish cemeteries in the Pittsburgh area? The synagogue attached to the cemetery and its insurance company haven’t determined who’s responsible for the $250,000 repairs.

And a Jewish cemetery in Chicago may be the future home of condos. The owner of the Jewish Graceland Cemetery Co. is trying to sell the land, complete with graves, for $2.25 million, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Lost records lead to lost ancestors 

In Cincinnati, a Civil War-era cemetery may become the site of a construction company’s office building.

Though the land is littered with bones and broken headstones, and local residents claim their relatives are buried there, the cemetery’s original burial records have been lost or destroyed, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. City officials say they can’t stop the building’s construction unless they can prove that people are buried on the land.

Get involved 

Sadly, these are just a few recent examples of grave invasions. To learn more and do something about the problem, visit Saving Graves, a group “strongly committed to the preservation and protection of human burial sites from unauthorized and unwarranted disturbance, by man or nature.”

A version of this article appeared in the August 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine