Cemeteries are governed by laws of the respective 50 states. That includes issues of ownership, preservation, destruction and vandalism. Fortunately, the states have begun to recognize the importance of preserving cemeteries and impose significant criminal penalties for disturbing remains or artifacts. The laws are written and organized entirely differently and topic coverage may be different, but the gist is mostly the same.
The following is only a collection of some notes and is obviously not the result of an exhaustive survey.
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology and devices have become practical for individuals to record the location and position of cemeteries and individual graves. The subject is extensively covered elsewhere on the web, so does not need to be repeated here. Just a few comments.
I have used am inexpensive hand-held Garmin GPS (ca. 2005/6) to record the location of graves. The reading would indicate a precision of from three to thirty feet. When I checked the coordinates in Google Maps, I found the accuracy to generally be within one foot, two at the most. The common handheld devices rely on contacting with multiple satellites, using certain algorithms. The more satellites, the more precise the result. If the reading is taken in a forrested area with heavy tree cover and canopy, the device will have more difficulty accessing those satellites and the accuracy MAY be off.
Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) can be used to map cemeteries and locate unmarked graves.
Following are examples of services offering GPR grave scanning that have a bit of useful information on their websites. Listing here does not constitute and endorsement. I did a quick search of the internet and could not find any reliable data for either servicer-provided surveys or machine rental. The machines seem to sell from $15k to $50k, so I suspect hourly charges will be high. Use of GPR machines seems to be highly technical, requiring a trained technician, so amateur rental use of these does not seem advisable.
"Grave Dowsing," like water dowsing, uses thin branches or a pair of wires to locate unmarked graves. The dowser holds them parallel to the ground, walks the ground and when passing over a grave they will move. Better details and instructions follow. The practice has its believers and its skeptics. I am inherently a skeptic, but I tried it and find that it does work, at least for me. For some people it doesn't work. Results for me do seem to vary by day, so there may be factors involved.
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