Paving over graves: It’s happening all over the country as development encroaches on once-rural land where families buried their dead. In Prince William County, Va., officials are doing something about it. Over the next year, a local historian will search for and document every graveyard in the county “so they are not overlooked as subdivisions and shopping centers cover the landscape,” says county planner Robert Bainbridge. So far, 245 cemeteries have been located, with another 155 to go. The new information is updating the maps used when county planners review a development proposal. Other neighboring areas have already been mapping cemetery sites, among them Loudon County, Fairfax and the state of Maryland.
In a similar effort with a different agenda, a group of high school students is mapping about 2,500 graves of black Civil War soldiers buried in Ohio. An American history teacher and more than 50 students from Washington Court House, Ohio, went through 100,000 grave registration cards to locate the graves. Now they’re visiting each cemetery to transcribe and photograph headstones of United States Colored Troops, regiments of black soldiers led by white officers. Many black soldiers’ graves went unmarked, while the white officers received tombstones. The students’ goal is to post the information online, linking to cemeteries where soldiers are buried.