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Grave Dowsing

Grave Dowsing

You meet the most interesting people on airplanes. A recent flight was no exception I was reading a genealogy book for background research on a current project. The lively, fun-loving mother-daughter team sitting next to me struck up a conversation with me when they saw I was interested in genealogy. They aren’t genealogists per se but the daughter, I’ll call her Maria, spent a number of years with her father cataloging cemeteries in North Dakota. Maria is particularly proud of their work in older, forgotten, or nearly forgotten, cemeteries and their efforts in uncovering and recording nearly obscured grave markers.

One of the men they worked with taught Maria how to use a witching rod for the purpose of dowsing for graves. I have heard of this but have to admit I was pretty skeptical. It sounds like something straight out of Harry Potter. Seriously, a willow divining rod that points down when you walk over a grave? But after our conversation I was ready to give it a try.

Maria swears by the technique of dowsing not only for locating graves but also ground water and buried water pipes. She would walk along holding the witching rod very lightly and suddenly it would point down. Almost without fail, she had located a grave! By the time our plane had landed I was ready to give dowsing a try. As I understand it, however, not everyone is successful with a witching rod. It takes just the right touch and just the right person.

Do you have any experience with Dowsing? Do you believe it works? Or is it just a bunch of hogwash?


About Michelle Goodrum

Michelle Goodrum
Writer, family historian, and researcher Michelle Roos Goodrum has been researching her family for nearly 20 years. Being the caretaker of over 130 years of her family’s papers and photographs, Michelle enjoys piecing her ancestors’ stories together. Follow Michelle on her blog The Turning of Generations (http://turning-of-generations.blogspot.com/ ) Michelle is the author of IDG’s monthly column, Timeless Territories.


  1. Weii it is proven to work with water, why not bodies? but personally i’m thinking hogwash! I would love to see it in action!

  2. Lisa Sullivan Taisey

    Water in the Southwest is a premium! Some folks swear by this man that uses the “Dowsing” means to help them find water so they can drill a well for water…great article!!

  3. Lisa Sullivan Taisey

    Folks around here in New Mexico swear by a local man that uses the dowsing technique that tells a land owner where to find water and how far down to dig your well..great article and topic for discussion!

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