Historic Grave Detection – Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery, St. Laurent, Saskatchewan
Project Description

Located on a crest of land overlooking the South Saskatchewan River, Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine at St. Laurent de Grandin has played a significant role in the history of the Métis and of the Roman Catholic Church in north-central Saskatchewan for generations.  The settlement was established as a Catholic Mission in the early 1870s, and by the 1880s was the educational and spiritual centre for the Métis in Duck Lake and surrounding region.  The Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery on site dates to 1872, making it one of the oldest still active cemeteries in the province, and an integral part of the Métis connection with St. Laurent.  The cemetery is still active, but the large number of unmarked graves made selecting new burial plots problematic for cemetery management.  In 2013 The St. Laurent Shrine Committee commissioned Canada North Environmental Services (CanNorth) to complete a detailed study of the Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery.  To help detect the unmarked graves CanNorth turned to JDMA to carry out geophysical surveys of the cemetery property.

JDMA used a Noggin 250MHz Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) system to survey areas within the cemetery grounds believed to contain unmarked graves.    Test surveys were run across a line of marked graves in the cemetery to give the survey team a good idea of the characteristic signature of buried remains within the local geological environment as well as allow the GPR unit to be calibrated for local soil and moisture conditions.   A grid of parallel survey lines was then set up across the survey areas and GPR data collected.  Anomalous returns indicating possible burials were noted in the field and their locations marked by GPS.  Post-acquisition processing of the GPR data also revealed several potential burials with reflection signatures too faint to detect on the GPR’s digital display.  In total JDMA surveyors detected 148 unmarked graves in the Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery.  These unmarked burials were later marked with small metal crosses, both to assist with cemetery maintenance and as a mark of respect for the individuals buried there.

Ground Penetrating Radar

Project Details
ClientCanada North Environmental Services

JD Mollard and Associates

JD Mollard and Associates