Researchers Working to Identify Unmarked Graves
UPDATE (3/4/19): The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley research group is back at this location.
They'll continue their research this year.
The group is using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to view the remains that are underground.
The team is not excavating the remains.
Family members have been able to connect with the grave sites of their loved ones.
EDINBURG – The ground was bare. No markings were present. It’s past six decades since the last time Gloria Ramirez knew where her grandmother's grave was located
Ramirez was 10 years old at the time her grandmother died. She was buried at what is now a county-owned cemetery off Richardson Road in Edinburg.
"I remember the tombstone that was next to her," she said. "But she didn't have one so there was no way we could find her."
With the help of archaeologist Sarah Rowe, Ramirez found her grandmother Friday. The ground was bare, with no marker. The only landmarks are two neighboring headstones between the patch of ground.
Ramirez was able to locate the grave with the help of Rowe and paperwork created by Hillcrest Memorial Gardens from a time when the private cemetery laid claim to this portion of the Hidalgo County-owned cemetery.
Since then, the county laid claim to the small portion, dubbed “The Line,” by Hillcrest manager Sandra Propst. The county incorporated the land into its county-owned cemetery.
The Line sits in stark contrast to the remainder of the county-owned grounds. Hillcrest kept records of who was buried at the cemetery.
The graves in The Line follow straight rows and are laid according to date. Graves in the remaining county section are scattered and follow no visible pattern.
After numerous requests, Hidalgo County wasn't able to point to any records of who is buried at the county cemetery. Spokesperson Julia Benitez Sullivan said the county continues investigating the question.
Rowe is undertaking a special effort at this site with her students from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. As part of a class, students are documenting and marking observations of each grave in the county-owned cemetery.
Ramirez's discovery of her grandmother's grave brings the count of known burials to 1,019 on the county grounds.
The UTRGV effort has deployed forensic dogs and ground penetrating radar equipment, to discover unmarked graves below the ground.
"They did note 20 different locations where there were people buried but don't have markers," noted Rowe of the dogs.
She adds the equipment and dogs cannot survey the entirety of the grounds, only smaller sections.
"We do need to sort of target specific areas when we use that equipment," she said.
The logical conclusion, other graves may still lie unknown, undiscovered beneath the ground.
Ramirez's discovery of her grandmother's grave serves to prove that.