Radar looks to solve mysteries at Southington cemetery

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SOUTHINGTON-- For nearly a decade members of Southington's Genealogical Society have been trying to uncover mysteries at the Merriman Burying Ground.

The Office of the State Archaeologist was requested by the Genealogical Society to use an innovative piece of technology that uses radars to identify  unidentified grave sites.

The Merriman Burying Ground, located on Marion Avenue in Plantsville, dates back to 1764, and the last burial happened in 1863.. It's believed to be a family cemetery named after the Rev. John Merriman, a baptist minister.

"What we got in here now is just the basic facts: born, died, buried, where they lived, etc. Now it's the history we gotta go find," said Ray Thomas Jr., co-founder of the Southington Genealogical Society.

The genealogical society says 37 cemetery gravestones were documented in 1934, but it's believed close to 50 people could be buried at Merriman. Some gravestones have been missing for years, others never located.

"We're looking for people we don't know who they are and where they might be some remittance of stones," said Thomas.

A team of archaeologists were brought in to help find burial sites by using ground penetrating radar, a technology known as "GPR"

"The GPR allows us to kinda see into the earth, look for areas of soil disturbance  and we can assume those are places people usually dug a big six-foot hole in the past and filled it filled it back in," said Brian Jones, Connecticut's state archaeologist.

The technology sends a radar up to 12 feet beneath the ground and allows the archaeologists  to map all the headstones and chart underground soil patterns.

"Hopefully we'll see a few blobs with no headstones, and say hey someone was probably buried there that we don't have a record of anymore," Jones said.

The genealogical society says a similar survey was conducted with the radar in 2005, but results were inconclusive. Since then several headstones have disappeared.

But it appears researchers uncovered something this time around. Archaeologists believe they discovered a burial plot of a decedent of John Merriman underneath an unmarked rock.

Carolyn Mansolf--a member of the Genealogy Society-believes her great-grandmother was buried there.

"I have a great grandfather who's buried here and there's an empty and unmarked space next to it, and in my research we think it might it his wife," said Mansolf.

The results should be finalized by archaeologists later this week.

Jones  says he often gets similar requests from community groups to bring this technology to older cemeteries.

Next month Jones and his team will survey the Old South Cemetery in Hartford.

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