Sidekick

Ground Penetrating Radar Services

Not knowing what’s under the ground can be frustrating for a lot of people…
from genealogists, to caretakers, and even to archaeologists.

Digging is expensive, time-consuming, and destructive.

We provide Ground Penetrating Radar surveys and reports so that you can know what’s hiding beneath the ground.

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Genealogists

Cemetery Caretakers

Archaeologists

Who would have thought mapping aquifers would turn into searching for unmarked graves?

Growing up in North Texas and its many droughts, I was constantly aware of the need for water.

Lakes could only do so much, and so a lot of families and cities depended on groundwater.

But nobody seemed to know exactly where the groundwater was underground!

Drilling a new water well seemed to depend on so many maybes:

“Maybe the drillers will hit water before we run out of funds…”

“Maybe the well will produce enough water for our needs…”

“Maybe the water won’t dry up in a few years…”

Water wells

This got me wondering: was there a way to someone could know what was beneath the ground… before they spent the money to dig?

That led me to Texas Tech in Lubbock for a degree in geophysics to learn about remote sensing methods that could “see” into the ground and enable me to help farmers and ranchers find the water they desperately needed.

To improve my skills with those remote sensing methods, I went on to Texas A&M in College Station for a doctorate in geophysics and began researching how to map aquifers and figure out the best places to drill water wells.

For almost three years, I mapped a deep aquifer in the High Plains of West Texas and a shallow aquifer in the Brazos Valley of Central Texas.

GPR Survey Image

Then COVID travel restrictions brought everything to a grinding halt.

My last research project was supposed to map and compare shallow aquifers in a couple of counties around College Station, and such travel was deemed non-essential.

I had computer work I could do for awhile—processing data, typing up reports, making more maps—but I still needed one last project to graduate and seemingly no way of getting access to more aquifers.

During that time, my professor and I were contacted by a private genealogist who had found records of about 45 people buried in a local, historic cemetery whose names were not on any of the gravestones.

That’s when I first got to use my professor’s ground penetrating radar (GPR).

When we surveyed the site, we found not 45 but actually 54 probable unmarked graves scattered throughout the cemetery!

Cemetery GPR Survey

That day I learned about a very different type of discovery using remote sensing methods:

Mapping aquifers had been about discovering what had never been seen before…

…this was about rediscovering those who had been lost and were still missed.

That’s why I started Sidekick: to help people find lost family.

How to work with Sidekick

To get started, contact Sidekick by clicking on the GET STARTED button.

Find a time that works for us to talk.

During that call, we’ll talk about the history of your location of interest as well as the logistics of using GPR to survey it.

Once you’re confident that Sidekick can help you uncover the answers you’re looking for, we’ll move forward with scheduling a time to survey your location.

How Ground Penetrating Radar Surveys Work

This video will let you know what you can expect during the GPR survey process. At the time stamps below, I’ll describe:

  • 1:15 – what we’ll talk about during our first call on the phone
  • 2:12 – what my GPR equipment does (and doesn’t) do
  • 4:40 – what the GPR maps of the subsurface look like
  • 6:10 – how using common sense helps us make useful interpretations

Some of things you’ll be able to tell friends and family after watching this video:

  • whether my GPR or your cellphone emits 100x more electromagnetic radiation than the other
  • whether graves in 2D GPR data look like a casket or like a concave-down arc of reflected electromagnetic energy known as a hyperbola
  • whether the people in unmarked graves can never be identified or whether GPR data and a little common sense can help us pinpoint unique profiles for each unmarked grave
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Genealogists

You’ve been researching your family tree for awhile now.

You’ve poured over government records, church documents, and newspaper articles.

You’ve discovered that your family purchased twenty-four plots in a cemetery back in the day and that several of your ancestors are buried in those plots.

But when you visit the cemetery…there’s no gravestones in those plots!

GPR surveys can help you find those lost family members by revealing which of those plots are occupied by graves and which are not.

Cemetery Caretakers

You’ve spent the better part of your spare time taking care of this historic cemetery.

You’ve mowed the grass, trimmed the trees, righted fallen gravestones, and handled requests for new burials.

You’ve considered using the open areas in the older section of the cemetery for new burials, for descendants of the original families.

But you worry there are unmarked graves in that older section…

….and you don’t want to accidentally put a backhoe into someone’s grave.

GPR surveys can give you peace of mind by revealing which of those supposedly “open” plots are actually occupied by unmarked graves.

Archaeologists

You’ve been preserving historical artifacts and human burials at sites across the state.

You’ve been contracted to exhume human remains because a lost cemetery was discovered while breaking ground for a new school.

You’ve been assigned a large area because it’s supposed to be a large campus, and construction has got to get done before next school year.

So you don’t want to waste any of your time, but you also want to do the job right.

GPR surveys can let you focus your efforts on areas with a high likelihood of containing an unmarked grave.

What Clients Are Saying

As I researched College Station’s Salem Cemetery, established in 1894, I realized that there were probably many African Americans buried there without visible grave markers.

However, I didn’t have any idea about how many people were involved or where these unmarked graves were located until the possible use of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) was brought to my attention.

Michael Martin was a key factor in getting the GPR scan done for the Salem Cemetery. He was a delight to work with – always on time, quick to deal with any problems that arose with the equipment, and willing to share his expertise with the many people who were fascinated with what he was doing! Seeing the images produced on the GPR monitor was a unique experience for everyone who watched, and I was delighted that the “secrets” of this cemetery were being unlocked at last! Michael was also prompt in communicating the progress of the project and when the total analysis was going to be ready.

When that day arrived and Michael informed me that he had identified 54 suspected unmarked graves, I was ecstatic! That information inspired me to do further research so that those “lost” people are no longer unidentified. Though we don’t know exactly where each individual is buried, I am now dedicated to the pursuit of getting one large “in memoriam” tombstone erected that will acknowledge the lives of those early College Station residents.

Because of Michael Martin’s knowledge, work ethic and attention to detail, an important historic preservation project has been accomplished and I give my highest recommendation to anyone seeking his services.

Sherry Frisk

Cemetery Project Chair, College Station Historic Preservation Committee

Our cemetery in Willis, TX, had a problem. This cemetery—the Danville-Shepherd Hill Cemetery—was established in the 1840’s so we knew that some old markers had deteriorated and vanished. We worried that when we dug for a new burial that we would possibly hit an old grave site.

Several cemetery caretakers around Willis have called Texas A&M University for ground-penetrating radar (GPR) services to locate unmarked burials so I gave them a call. Luckily a geophysics professor at A&M gave me the name of a student who could help me. Since I knew an AGGIE would be dependable, honest, reliable and most importantly knowledgeable, I was thrilled that we could hire him and that our problem would soon be solved.

I contacted Michael Martin and within days he was heading out to our cemetery to run his GPR machine. Not only did Michael have all those wonderful AGGIE traits, but he was also so polite and friendly. In half a day, Michael located 4 unmarked graves in one section where we had questions. Now we are worry free and can distribute cemetery plots knowing they are safe for new burials. I would recommend Michael Martin for GPR to any person, company or cemetery where knowing what’s underground is extremely important.

Stacy Callihan

Caretaker, Danville-Shepherd Hill Cemetery

I had no way of locating the graves of three of my ancestors. The main cemetery records were destroyed in a fire at the church parsonage back in 1928. Because there were no headstones marking the graves, it was just sad knowing that even with the few remaining records of them I would never be able to locate their final resting place.

But then I saw a news story about a professor from Texas A&M using ground penetrating radar (GPR) to find unmarked graves in San Antonio. I contacted him, and he put me in touch with his PhD student, Michael Martin. This was the first time I had used this type of service, and I was just glad Michael was willing to help me. The GPR showed us two likely graves side-by-side, and then a third a little ways off from the first two. The first two are probably my great-great-grandparents and the third is their son (the brother of my great-grandfather), and it just felt really good to know that we had finally discovered the location of their graves.

Michael was responsive and very customer service oriented and I appreciate that a lot! And I’ve ordered the headstones!

Charles "Chuck" Meuer

Family Geneaologist

SidekickGPR’s normal business hours are Monday – Friday, 9AM-5PM CST.

Outside of those, please Send an Email to Get Started, and we’ll get back to you on the next business day.

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