ancient cemetery project

Activities of the R. I. P. Project involve cleaning and documenting gravestones in the older sections of Ancient Cemetery. Stones are photographed before and after they are cleaned, by the volunteers.  Data collected by the volunteers is entered into a unique spreadsheet-designed to capture the information.


Data is compiled on the spreadsheet and analyzed in categories to summarize the findings.  Volunteer genealogists are researching backgrounds and history of individuals whose stones have been cleaned. Their data is added to the documentation.  Overall, this is an effort to retrieve history chiseled on stones that couldn’t be seen before.

In addition, education seminars and videos are designed to edify volunteers about gravestone studies, and history gleaned from studying stones.

maps project

It became clear there was a need for an inventory of various Town of Yarmouth cemetery maps. We found and located maps from various departments and depositories in Town. An inventory of (168+) known cemetery maps was created and completed for seven Town burying grounds and cemeteries.

This is an on-going project that will organize the maps, identify duplicates, and store the maps in the Cemetery Department’s map cases purchased through the Community Preservation Fund grant.

volunteers cleaning headstones at ancient cemetery

Volunteers cleaning stones. photo Melanie Barron

volunteer cleaning headstone at ancient cemetery
volunteer cleaning headstone at ancient cemetery

Volunteers cleaning stones. photos Angela Carbone

hand drawn map of ancient cemetery

gpr-lidar survey project

Combining GPR, ground penetrating radar and LiDAR, a reflected laser technology, unmarked graves can be identified in the cemetery.

The reason for this study of the Southeast Corner of Ancient Cemetery is to determine whether or not there are unmarked burials based on the following orders by the Yarmouth Selectmen in 1826.

On 6 March 1826 Yarmouth Selectmen--
Voted: "That all the people of colour shall, in future, bury their dead in the Southeast corner of the burying yard."

Voted: "That the Selectmen shall, in future, be apply'd to by the inhabitants for a place or Lot in the new part of the burying yard to deposit their dead in, and that no person be allowed to intrude on the Lot laid for another family."

Voted: "That Thomas Greenough & other people of colour be requested to remove their dead from the place where they are now deposited & bury them in the Southeast corner of the burying yard as is to be laid out by the Selectmen for that purpose."

Voted: "That William Bray and Capt. Joshua Eldridge be requested to call on Thomas Greenough & others & request them to remove their dead to the Southeast corner of the burying yard, agreeable to the vote of this meeting.
On May 26th, 1826

Voted: " That Capt. Prince Matthews & Capt. James Matthews be a __committee appointed to remove the coloured people that are buried near to the wife of Silvanus Studlely and the daughter of William Bray to some other part of the burying yard, agreeable to the vote passed in a __meeting of the 6th March 1826.

We have not (yet) found records that verify that these actions actually took place. It is hoped that the reports from the GPR and LiDAR scans will be able to answer the question.

radar gpr survey at ancient cemetery

GPR at southeast corner of Ancient Cemetery.   photo Angela Carbone

lidar survey at ancient cemetery

LiDAR at southeast corner of Ancient Cemetery.   photo Angela Carbone

map of southeast corner of ancient cemetery

Map showing the Southeast corner of Ancient Cemetery, graves 'unknown'

The GPR will gives information as to what is going on BELOW ground, to a depth of about 8 feet.   Disturbances are observed when the ground has been excavated and back-filled, as well as “voids” and less dense areas of soil, which are caused from the decay of organic matter.

Light pulses from the LiDAR survey-combined with other data recorded by the airborne system-generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.

Their results will be combined to produce, as accurately as possible, a sense of unmarked burials in the southeast corner of the Cemetery. This is the first combined GPR and LiDAR study performed on the Cape.


The studies were conducted by Radar Solutions International, a Massachusetts based, WBE/DBE certified firm, providing high quality, advanced geophysical and utility locating services and The GeoNAV Group, a 3D LiDAR scanning and mapping firm specializing in scanning, mapping, and documenting ceremonial stones, features, and landscapes including ancient, sacred, and megalithic stone structures.