It is common knowledge that vehicle tracking devices are an effective way to monitor moving objects such as cars, trucks, cargo, boats, planes, even backpacks and bicycles. But to think that GPS tracking technology is useful in tracking the dead, is an ironic twist indeed.
The dead don’t move – or at least they shouldn’t. But maps can be in error, municipal records inadvertently destroyed and human memories can fail. GPS tracking systems are the technologically –advanced way for people to find, mark and record the grave sites of loved ones, ancestors and individuals of historic significance.
GPS tracking uses the U.S Department of Defense satellite system. It provides an object’s latitude, longitude and altitude coordinates with unequalled accuracy. GPS tracking works for moving objects in vehicle tracking, but GPS tracking works just as well on fixed objects. Modern land surveyors and farmers, for instance, find they can’t live without GPS tracking (or wouldn’t want to!), because it makes their work much easier.
Following closely behind in the GPS tracking trend are genealogists, history buffs, researchers and ordinary individuals with an awakened environmental consciousness.
‘Going Green’ Under Ground
One of Mother Nature’s limited resources is land, so it makes sense that, among the legions of ‘going green’ devotees, are those who are opposed to traditional burial.
GPS tracking is an integral part of the new trend toward natural burial, also known as woodland burial or green burial. It means leaving the world, without your body occupying a permanent place on it.
Natural burial takes the death and burial process almost to the way it was in the pioneer days. Loved ones were interred on a hillside simply and respectfully, with an ordinary marker like a wooden cross, or none at all.
Natural burial with the GPS tracking element puts a modern twist on an old tradition. There are dozens of natural burial “cemeteries” across the UK, in Scotland and Australia. All work about the same with slightly different rules.
A person puts a “hold” on a plot in a designated natural, serene environment. The exact burial location is recorded by GPS tracking coordinates. The deceased is not embalmed. The body is enclosed in a coffin of bio-degradable material such as wicker, wood or recycled paper and cardboard. No tombstones or artificial decorations are permitted.
When family or friends want to visit a site, most places lend them a GPS device. The GPS device will help people locate the gravesite by its latitude and longitude. Or the mourners can mark the GPS coordinates on their own cell phones with GPS tracking and navigation.
While natural burials are a modern idea and perhaps a growing trend in an eco-conscious society, GPS tracking also comes in handy at very old burial spaces.
When Bodies are Moved, GPS Tracking Recalls Location
Since people have been buried since practically the beginning of time, it makes sense that modern construction crews will occasionally uncover human remains in unmarked graves. In these circumstances, all work halts out of respect for the dead, authorities are called in to investigate the source of the remains and the GPS tracking devices come out.
When it is possible, the bodies are identified and then, using GPS tracking coordinates, they are respectfully returned to their original resting places. A system of GPS tracking devices and mapping software will assure precise placement.
Sometimes the bodies’ locations are logged with GPS tracking, and then it is determined that they must be re-interred at a new location. In those cases, GPS tracking units can be affixed to coffins and the placement of loved ones can be accurately replicated in a new locale.
Using GPS Tracking to Find and Map Ancient or Obscure Cemeteries
There was no GPS tracking when the U.S. was an emerging nation and the majority of people worked on farms. It was not unusual for families to bury their loved ones on the family’s land or in the local church cemetery. Early records from funeral homes, atlases or the county courthouse were hand-written and spotty at best.
This practice presented challenges to genealogists because many of these plots might consist only of a few gravesites and are never named or mapped. GPS tracking is helping modern-day history hounds find and map the final resting places of past generations. GPS Tracking receivers are cost-effective, with some models selling for less than $200.
Once a cemetery location is identified, the genealogist can obtain latitude and longitude coordinates. The coordinates can be input into a real-time GPS tracking system, and turn-by-turn directions will be given on a street map. Some other GPS tracking systems show a compass needle to guide the way, including details of speed and distance.
Once the cemetery is found, many genealogists enjoy mapping or documenting the cemetery by GPS tracking data and posting it on the Internet for others in the hobby to reference. Important facts to note – besides the GPS location coordinates – are surnames, years of birth and death and potential relation to others interred nearby.
It’s hard to believe that, in a few short years, GPS tracking has infiltrated so many aspects of human life. People desire to know exactly where something or someone is, whether that is in the vastness of space, or under a tiny plot of earth, “six feet under.”
Source: Native Woodland Natural Burial Sites, Scotland