Search for graves where Thomas Jefferson's relatives lived - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Researchers search for graves where Thomas Jefferson's relatives lived

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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) -

Researchers want to know how many descendents of Thomas Jefferson may be buried right here in Central Virginia. A team of experts is using high tech technology to help them uncover history in southern Chesterfield County.

In order to preserve your history, you must discover it. That's what researchers at the Eppington Foundation are doing. Measuring tape and orange flags are signs of the extensive project now underway.

"It's a so called ground penetrating radar survey by which we drag an antenna on the surface of the ground in parallel lines," said scientific expert William Hannah.

At the Eppington Plantation - where Thomas Jefferson's sister in law lived - there's a cemetery. Jefferson and his wife Martha have a daughter and two grand-children buried there. But historians believe there may be more relatives even though there are only half a dozen tombstones there.

"This land's been under cultivation. The land's shifted and moved. The weather's blown land around. Some tombstones may have gotten covered up," said Don Gardner with the foundation.

The highly trained team of experts is going line by line in a two day project - searching for clues that may reveal untold stories.

"We saw 5 burials there where there are 2 stones," Hannah pointed out.

The technology it's using is even useful for FBI and police investigations.

"We've searched for buried money, buried drugs, buried artillery," he explained.

But in this case, it's helping uncover history.

"Even if we don't know other than its ‘infant Eppes', then that might be the best we ever do…The cemetery probably will not be professional surveyed like this for another 50 or 60 years. At least we would have down our best in our time to preserve the house, the land and the cemetery," Gardner added.

It could take up to three months before the experts are done analyzing the results. The project comes with a $5,000 price tag. The Eppington Foundation paid half of it. The county of Chesterfield is paying the rest.

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