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West Monroe is locating unmarked graves at Hasley Cemetery



MONROE, La. – A University of Southern Mississippi geography professor and five students are helping the city of West Monroe locate unmarked graves at Hasley Cemetery.

They are also documenting each marked grave to create a detailed online database of the entire cemetery. The IT director for West Monroe, Don Dean said the cemetery functioned for local churches until it was gifted to the City of West Monroe in the early 1900′s.

“Part of the history we realized that there was 100 years or so where it was a cemetery but it didn’t belong to the city. So there’s probably a lot of history and a lot of stories out here we didn’t know about,” said Dean.

Dean said it was time to create a detailed database of the entire cemetery to provide families with information of their buried loved ones.

“It was just time to bring all the history forward and look towards the future so we can help out the family members from now on,” said Dean.

They want to find all unmarked graves, and locate all of the marked headstones with names and dates. Once they’re finished, you will be able to do an easy search online.

They can’t find unmarked graves without special technology. David Holt, a geography professor from the University of Southern Mississippi said they use ground penetrating radar to find them.

“We are establishing a geographical information system which is spatial data control of every single plot that’s out here in the cemetery and then at the same time we are also running ground penetrating radar that will allow us to identify unmarked graves,” said Holt.

Holt said graves can be unmarked for a number of reasons.

“Funeral home markers can be misplaced, they’re typically metal and over time they can deteriorate or a headstone can get moved or the family just wasn’t able to get back to put a headstone,” said Holt.

One of the students from USM, Ian Stewart said uncovering history and old graves could bring a lot of comfort to families.

“It’s nice being able to give that service to somebody. I know that they way we bury our dead is very important to people of certain religions and certain cultures and its a huge aspect of our lives and if it can bring somebody comfort that’s nice,” said Stewart.