Friday, January 2, 2015

Hart Island

Hart Island is a very small island off the east coast of the Bronx and a short boat ride from Manhattan.

It is about a mile long, and for a time served as a prison camp during the Civil War.  For a very long time, it has served as New York's "Potter's Field".  Over one million people have been buried anonymously at the site, with an overage of 1,500 more being interred there each year.  For the past one hundred years, the site has been controlled by the Department of Corrections and there has never been any public access to this burial site.

A trench at the Potter's Field on Hart Island circa 1890

The Daily Sun - a U.K. paper - recently ran an article about Hart Island on it's website.  After many years of hard work by Melinda Hunt, the records of those buried on Hart Island are being made available to the public.  Below you will find a link to the Daily Sun and New York Daily News articles.

Daily Sun Article on Hart Island
New York Daily News Article

You can search the data base of those buried there by visiting the the Hart Island Project website.

From a genealogical point of view, Ms. Hunt's efforts to allow public access to the records, is a very big deal for anyone who suspects they may have family members interred on Hart Island.  The story of Hart Island and Melinda Hunt's project to make the records public is a fascinating and heartbreaking one.  Little by little, Ms. Hart, and countless other advocates, activists and volunteers, work to bring to light long hidden, and often forgotten, pieces of our past.  We are all grateful for their dedication.

--  submitted by Denise Doyon

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