Until recently, the names of the dead — when they could be identified — were simply scribbled into ledgers, which were largely inaccessible to the public. But on Wednesday, the city’s Department of Correction, which runs the cemetery, introduced a searchable database, available on its Web site, for people to look up the names of those buried on the island. Stretching back to 1977, there are more than 65,000 names in the registry, and the plan is to add more names as they become available.
A fire on the island in the late 1970s that destroyed some important records, officials said, including some records from 1956 to 1960 and several years of records from the 1970s. The available records online are mostly for deaths that occurred in 1977 or later.
When visiting the site, a warning appeared on my screen stating that the database only supports Internet Explorer version 7.0 and up. I find that sad, as there is no current version of Internet Explorer for the Macintosh. However, I used Firefox on a Macintosh and everything seemed to work properly.
The dead can be searched by name — first or last — age, gender and year of death. The database also provides information on the place of death. Using the database seems to be very simple: fill in the blanks for the information you know and then click on SEARCH. Click on the image above to see a larger screen capture of the search form.
The New York City Potter’s Field database is available at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/html/hart_island/hart_island.shtml.
My thanks to newsletter reader Tony Zeppetella for telling me about this new online resource.