Old photos the key to identifying unmarked graves

THE volunteers from the Ararat Cemetery Trust are on a mission and they’re hoping old photographs in the community might help.

Not only do the volunteers keep the grounds of the cemetery in immaculate condition, trust members have done a lot of painstaking work in recent years to identify people buried in a number of unmarked graves.

It’s a slow and tedious process, but one which the cemetery trust has embraced.

“We’ve got at least 60, possibly 70 graves that we have to find locations for,” said Ararat Cemetery Trust Chairman Bill Jones.

“We’ve got about 50 acres of graves here and the old cemetery. Some of the graves have been missing since the 1920s and all we have is a lump in the ground and maybe not even that,” he said.

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Mr Jones said one of the biggest challenges are graves where the number is missing.

“Finding some of these graves where the numbers have been buried or where they have fallen into the grave or been stolen or broken is a really daunting task for us,” Mr Jones said.

“We’ve got a really good records of every burial at the cemetery but there are these 60 or 70 graves we cannot locate.

The Ararat Cemetery Trust hopes old photographs of the cemetery will help it identify some of the graves.

They’re urging residents to go through old photographs and loan them to the Cemetery Trust in the hope they might be able to provide another piece to the jigsaw.

“We find if we have a photo of a family standing around a grave, even though it might not have a number, the photograph can show us the other monuments around it and then we can backtrack and relocate that grave.

“Old family photographs around graves, photographs of graves showing other graves nearby can be a real help,” he said.

“It’s the old photos that are the real treasures for us.”

Mr Jones said the volunteers at the trust have gone above and beyond the call of duty in their determination to identify graves.

“We have a great group of people and we have a couple of specialists who really are the detectives for our cemetery who use metal probes and patience and looking at maps and they’re slowly recovering a lot of these numbers. Our volunteers when they mow are also recovering fragments of numbers and they are putting them on the grave. Little by little we are unravelling the jigsaw,” he said.

“Anyone in the community skilled with a metal detector would be very welcome to join us.

“Graves with headstones are easy. It’s the ones with just a metal number that have been easy to lose.

Mr Jones has appealed for anyone with old photographs of the cemetery to contact him.

“We hope that we have people with photographs in the community and particularly we would like photographs of the old cemetery at the corner of Basham and Lowe Streets because there are two monuments there we would like to find that were still there in the 1920s,” he said,

“Any photos of the old cemetery and the current cemetery would be very welcome,” Mr Jones said.

Anyone who can help out can call Bill Jones on 0419 564 060 or photographs can be emailed to [email protected]


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