For some people, cemeteries are considered grim places, reminders of mortality and sorrow that are best avoided. But for those with a passion for culture and history and a curiosity about the unknown, cemeteries are tantalizing spots that provide a wellspring of information about individual lives, communities, religions, and historic events.
The New York City Cemetery Project chronicles the graveyards of this great city. Hundreds of cemeteries—including small family burial grounds and churchyards, as well as larger cemeteries containing hundreds, thousands, even millions of bodies—have existed throughout the five boroughs since the 17th century, with qualities as diverse as the numerous groups that established them and histories as distinct and ever-evolving as the city itself. These cemeteries record patterns of history and immigration and the traditions and customs of numerous religious and ethnic groups, and many are the only remnant of an area’s rural or neighborhood past. They are the story of New York City in microcosm.
This project, and this site, is the work of Mary French, an anthropologist and museum & archives professional who has been exploring and researching the city’s cemeteries since moving to NYC in 2006. The project has collected information for about 350 cemeteries that is gradually added to this site, intended as a resource for researchers, genealogists, urban explorers, and other curious-minded folk. The site offers historical profiles of cemeteries still in the city today as well as those lost to time, tracks news about the city’s cemeteries, and offers links to relevant resources. Inquiries, comments, etc., are welcome and may be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
“My father once told me we was all born of blood and tribulation; so then, too, was our great city. But for those of us who had lived and died in them furious days . . . it was like everything we knew was mightily swept away. And no matter what they did to build this city back up again – for the rest of time – it would be like nobody even knew we was ever here.” –Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the evocative final scene of Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, where we see modern Manhattan rise in the background as the cemetery in the foreground disappears.
© Mary French, 2010-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary French and New York City Cemetery Project with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.