Of the 158 cemeteries in Warwick, one of Rhode Island’s oldest cities, 23 burial sites have been lost, moved to other locations or simply obliterated with no accounting.
To help navigate the remaining historic sites, Mayor Scott Avedisian said, a 1997 book containing detailed information, called “Warwick, R.I., Historical Cemeteries,” has served as a primary resource not only for city residents but for others deeply interested in tracing historical roots or activity.
But, a year from now, courtesy of a $9,000 grant from the that book will no longer be the primary resource. Those 158 cemeteries and other precious historic markers and underground archeological sites in Warwick, West Warwick, Coventry, East Greenwich and West Greenwich, will be mapped using a Geologic Informational System (GIS).
The result for all of Kent County, according to the Warwick mayor and commission Deputy Director Rick Greenwood, will be a highly accessible, electronic treasure trove of public information. In Warwick’s case, the results eventually will be available on the city’s website, Avedisian said.
“We’re trying to undertake a GIS mapping program of the entire city, for planning purposes, development purposes and coordination with neighborhood groups,” he said, “so we want to key in on all the historic sites. We really want to make sure we’re focusing on and tackling the historic periods since our founding” in 1642.
A GIS uses tools like mapping and interactive queries to capture, store, analyze and manage geographical data. A system like this “can amplify our understanding of a period for which we have very little physical evidence,” Greenwood said.
The U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, funds the grant, which is part of the Certified Local Government program.