High-tech mapping at African American Cemetery to help identify unmarked graves

The Town of Rye is mapping its historic African American Cemetery to help learn about more about the people who were buried there.
Heritage Consultants LLC was at the site Thursday conducting fieldwork.
They were hired by the Town of Rye to map the historic cemetery using ground penetrating radar, drones and high-resolution photogrammetry.
“It’s a lot of documentation but it’s really important work especially because almost no documentation has been done in this cemetery this far,” said Brenna Pisanelli, senior project manager, Heritage Consultants LLC. “In our archival research, we’ve only been able to uncover one map of the cemetery.”
The idea for the project came from David Thomas who founded the Friends of the African American Cemetery.
"Everybody here lived through a major event in American history," he said. "Now we are putting names and actually individuals to historical events we know about or have all known about."
Thomas has made it his mission to uncover the stories of the people buried in the cemetery that date back to the late 1800’s.
“If we can find one artifact that says 'OK, this person was buried here,' that would be fantastic, one less unmarked grave,” said Thomas.
The project is being funded by a $34,500 grant from the National Park Service through its Historic Preservation Fund's African American Civil Rights grant program.
"It's important for us to remember the history the history that is not always pretty sometimes people like to forget it," said Town of Rye Supervisor Gary Zuckerman.
According to town officials, the cemetery was declared hallowed ground in 1860 and is believed to have more than 300 marked and unmarked graves that include about two dozen veterans of the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.
Field work at the site may take weeks, and it could be months before the data is fully analyzed.
Town officials said in the future the hope to find funding to purchase markers and headstones for unmarked graves uncovered through this project.