Undocumented Cemeteries & Burial Grounds

A cemetery with headstones.
An African American cemetery near Achsah, in Madison County where members of the Brown, James and Carpenter families are buried. The landowner is working with PEC to document it through research and on-site survey.

We Need Your Help!

Cemeteries and burial grounds are important features in our cultural landscapes. They provide a tangible connection to the past and allow us to engage with the history and lives of those who came before us. 

But these sites are vulnerable to neglect and destruction, as many lay forgotten or unmaintained—and when they are discovered in the midst of a new development project or the clearing of a forest, it is sometimes too late to protect them. 

Creating records of cemeteries and burial grounds is an important first step in ensuring their preservation. However, a severe lack of documentation contributes greatly to the loss of cemeteries and the stories they represent. That’s why I’ve asked two of our summer fellows, Julia Rankin of Oregon State University and Samantha Grossman of Smith College, to create an online survey to help us identify cemeteries and burial grounds in need of documentation.

take the survey button

This is where you come in! Please take a few minutes to take this survey, which asks you to identify and describe nearby cemeteries or burial grounds that may be undocumented, particularly those on your own property. We are hoping to identify sites in PEC’s 9-county region, which includes Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties.

A cemetery at the edge of a farm.
An overgrown cemetery in Fauquier County. Credit: Marco Sanchez/PEC

The goal of this project is to connect landowners and citizens to preservation professionals who can help them identify, and document these historic cemeteries and burial grounds. 

Whether it be one grave or many, the destruction or loss of any cemetery means community and familial ties are lost forever. Virginia’s Piedmont region contains some of America’s most historic landscapes, where humans have left their mark for thousands of years. It was here where presidents and abolitionists were born and buried, where the Manahoac peoples traded along the Rappahannock, and where battles were fought for independence, freedom and equality. It is crucial that we honor those who came before us. We need your help to document these landscapes of memory.

Julia and Samantha have only a week left to complete their practicum projects as PEC Fellows, so please take a moment and fill out the short survey today. We’re hoping to have some initial results for them to review, but will continue collecting responses over the next few weeks!

Questions? Contact Kristie Kendall, PEC’s historic preservation coordinator at kkendall@pecva.org.

>> Take the survey here: https://forms.gle/uHXcWhJGRwwL9LA16
>> Read about how cemeteries help us rediscover history