Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Finding local history buried in the past"

The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper for Sunday, 25 November 2007 had a front-page center article titled "Finding local history buried in the past" by Michele Clock, with a sub-heading "SDSU team seeks out forgotten grave sites, cemeteries," and pictures showing an old gravesite. The article is still online at the Union-Tribune web site here. I don't know how long the article will be available online, but it is well worth reading, if just for the maps showing cemeterey and gravesite locations.

The story starts with

"David Caterino sweeps a metal detector across a weedy, isolated hillside. When the buzz of the device grows louder, his assistant skims the soil with the edge of a trowel.

"The San Diego State University archaeologist is looking for hints of a late-19th-century cemetery he believes lies beneath this ranch east of Ramona.

"There are no grave markers, so he and his assistant search for more obscure clues in the ground, such as bits of barbed wire that might have fenced off the graves."

The San Diego Gravestone Project is described as

"Since 2002, he and a team from SDSU have meticulously cataloged 140 grave sites and cemeteries, about half of which were unrecorded, that predate 1961.

"The San Diego Gravestone Project is part of a national movement that has grown in the past decade, experts say, with similar databases being compiled in states such as Kentucky and Texas.

"The project has mapped Indian and military cemeteries, large cemeteries and even individual plots. Some of the grave sites now sit beneath homes, restaurants and sidewalks. Others were moved to make way for development."

I don't want to excerpt more because of fair use limitations.

For a San Diego area genealogist, this article and the accompanying maps are invaluable.

I had heard of this project in the last year or so, but had not followed up on it. I think it would be an excellent society presentation to see what the archaeologists are doing, and to obtain the list of 140 different local gravestone sites. We know where the cemeteries that currently bury remains are, but some of the dormant or long forgotten cemeteries are invisible to most of us. The maps in the article show a graveyard on Otay Mesa that I didn't know about (and still don't - it may be for San Ysidro).

Once in awhile, the local newspapers provide articles that surprise and educate genealogists. This was one of those times, and I hope that our local societies follow up and learn about this project.

Does your area have a similar project? Do you know what the archaeology department at the local university is doing? Perhaps there is an opportunity to cooperate with these scientists in a synergistic manner.

No comments: