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I recently have read a few articles about New York City's Potter's field on Hart Island.

According to Wikpedia's article Hart Island (New York) and a New York City Corrections Department history page an estimated 750,000 to 1,000,000+ people have been buried in mass graves from 1868 to Present and burials continue at a rate of about 2000-3000 burials per year currently.

Per the articles:

The records of the coffin row-and-column placement are kept between five and 10 years.....those plot burial records are turned over to the Municipal Archives.

And some of these records post 9/1/1977 -> approximately 2007 have been made available.

In 2009 the digital mapping of grave trenches using the Global Positioning System was started. In 2013 the New York City Department of Correction created a searchable database on its website of the people buried on the island starting in 1977 and it contains 66,000 entries.4

The Hart Project website allows you to search 1980 to 2008 and Find-A-Grave has some sort of search but doesn't match the Hart Project, FamilySearch's New York Death Records do not seem to completely cover the period from what I can tell, and the NYC Department of Corrections' Hart Island Lookup Service has more recent records.

From these searches I was able to locate a few possible names of interest.

I reviewed similar NYC questions here. The New York City Department of Records' website has a genealogy section, but it is for vital records searches; there is no cemetery search in their List of Holdings. The Vital Records search requires specific searches and there does not seem to be a way to search for all Hart Island Burials.

Are earlier Hart Island specific records or indexes available elsewhere online from the 1868 to 1980?

  • Edited for clarity, since I couldn't tell what websites were being referred to without clicking through to the links in most cases. Did you mean pre-1977 rather than pre-1980? See the Hart Island FAQ sheet: www1.nyc.gov/assets/doc/downloads/pdf/… – Jan Murphy May 27 '16 at 15:24
  • @JanMurphy Thanks for the edits.. I did mean pre-1980 as the online search is only Post 1980 when I used it even though the there are references to they have the 1977-1980 records too. – CRSouser May 27 '16 at 18:11
  • I found a dataset from NYC Open Data that starts in 1971. The answer also has a link to an article with a statement about what registers may have been lost because of the fire. – Jan Murphy May 29 '16 at 0:21
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Most of this answer has negative search results -- because it's impossible to look for records online without first knowing more about the nature of the original records and their repositories. See the section below the line for new additions as records come online.

The article New York City's Potter's Field: A Visit to Hart Island's Cemetery in Bronx County by Leslie Corn, M.A., published in the NYG&B Newsletter, Summer 2000, pages 51 - 52, gives a history of the Island and an overview of the original records. Most of the information in this first section is excerpted from this article.

  • The supposed first burial is 20 April 1869 (NYC death certificate #31448).
  • The earliest known registers are from 1872 - 1875 (held by the NY Correction History Society). As of Summer 2000, there were plans for the NYC Municipal Archives to microfilm the register.
  • Registers from 1875 up to May 1 1881 are missing.
  • a fire in the 1970s caused some gaps in the records
  • Some of the records are available on microfilm at the Family History Library: Hart Island (New York) city cemetery records, 1881-1931 (9 reels) on microfilm # 1710909 through 1710973 and can be ordered to be viewed at a local FHC/FHL
  • Volume 5 (1881) through Volume 93 (1985) are on microfilm at the NYC Municipal Archives. The Municipal Archives generally not conduct mail-order searches of the registers; researchers must access the microfilms on-site.

The online article Buried from the public: Hart Island, New York posted on Sep 20, 2014, says:

In 1977 Hart Island was vandalized and set on fire. Officials reported many important records had been destroyed, including those from 1956-1960 and several years from the 1970s. Immediately afterward, the remaining records were transferred to microfilm and stored at the Municipal Archives in Manhattan.

For general resources, see the FamilySearch Research Wiki article: New York Cemeteries, and Joe Beine's Online New York City Death Records & Indexes (which includes links to the Hart Island Project website and the Department of Correction's Hart Island pages that were referenced in the question).


New York City Open Data has a dataset DOC Hart Island Burial Records with over 68,000 entries. There is one entry from 1949; most are from the period 1971 - 2016 but there are hundreds of entries that have no date. The database contains "Individuals buried on Hart Island with date and place of death when available" and can be viewed in spreadsheet form, searched, and exported.

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