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Genealogy Guide: United States


Many cemeteries have established websites with varying amounts of information available.  Some of them have complete listings of burials.  If you know the name of the cemetery, it’s a good idea to check their website.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for on their website, there are other methods for learning about the cemeteries and gravestones.

*Additional cemetery resources are listed in Major Death and Cemetery Resources section of this guide.

New York Metropolitan Area Cemeteries

The Museum of Family History Cemetery Project is an excellent resource for the New York metropolitan area. The Museum’s website offers valuable burial data, including:

  • Directory of Cemeteries with addresses, phone numbers, hours, websites and other information.
  • Maps of more than one-hundred cemeteries located in New York, New Jersey, South Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, as well as Winnipeg and Montreal, Canada.
  • Society gates and posts information from the gates that are located at the entrances to various society plots located in the New York and New Jersey metro area.  These societies can be searched through a listing of over 170 Eastern European towns (largely Poland).
  • Cemetery Database Links to ten cemeteries in the New York metropolitan area.
  • Surname Lists (by Town Name) unique surnames for more than 200 towns and cities (and a few non-affiliated organizations) that have society burial plots in more than 30 Jewish cemeteries in New York and New Jersey.
  • Gravestone Photographs If you find a surname you are researching on one of the Museum’s surname lists, you may e-mail the Museum at to request photographs of the family’s gravestones. Please provide the Museum with the surname’s corresponding town of origin. Upon request, the Museum may also be able to translate the Hebrew name of the deceased and his/her father.


The website of the Jewish Genealogical Society of New York (JGSNY) has two very useful tools for locating an ancestor’s burial, a directory of Jewish cemeteries in the New York metro area and a database of burial societies**in the New York metro area.

**Many Jewish immigrants belonged to landsmanshaftn (societies of immigrants from the same hometown), or to occupational or religious societies. Typically, these groups purchased burial plots for their members. If you know the name of your immigrant ancestor’s hometown or the name of a society to which he/she belonged, you can search JGSNY’s burial society database (see above) for cemeteries with corresponding landsmanshaft burial plots. The database contains close to 10,200 entries from almost 100 cemeteries located in New York City, Long Island, Putnam County, Westchester County, and northern New Jersey.

Unclaimed Burials in New York City

Hebrew Free Burial Association

In New York City, when the Medical Examiner’s office believes an unclaimed deceased person to be Jewish, they forward the name to the Public Administrator’s office, which contacts the Hebrew Free Burial Association (HFBA). HFBA buries the deceased in a Jewish cemetery, in accordance with Jewish ritual law. HFBA has been in operation since 1882 and holds relatively thorough records. Call 212-239-1662, or write to 224 West 35th Street, Room 300, New York, NY 10011. Provide as much information as possible, particularly the deceased’s name, date of death, and age.


“Potter’s Field”

Potter’s Field, officially called City Cemetery, is the burial place for deceased people, not known to be Jewish, who are not claimed by any relative. The cemetery is located on Hart Island and is administered by the Department of Correction. The Department of Correction has created a database of all Hart Island burial records since 1977, where it is possible to search for individuals using common information, such as name and date and place of death.

Although information about burials prior to 1977 is not included in the database, it can be found on the death certificate, which will use the notation “City Burial” or “Hart Island” to indicate if the person was interred on Hart Island. For information on how to obtain a death certificate, please see the Death Certificates section above.

 If you have determined that a loved one is buried on Hart Island and would like to arrange a visit, call the NYC Department of Correction’s Office of Constituent Services at 718-546-1500.


Ellis Island Quarantine

The Rootsweb website hosts the Forgotten of Ellis Island Database, which contains names and information for over 420 individuals who died in quarantine in New York Harbor between 1909 and 1911.  Most of these individuals were new immigrants en route to Ellis Island.  Information that may be found includes circumstances of death and burial location.

U.S. Cemeteries

Jewish Data

This database primarily contains images of tombstones from Jewish cemeteries in the United States, especially New York State. New records are added on an ongoing basis. This resource is available for free at the Center for Jewish History’s Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute or for a fee at

JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR)

JOWBR is a database of names and other identifying information from cemetery and burial records worldwide, including the United States. catalogues photographs – by cemetery – of individual graves all over the world, including the United Staes. Users of the site are encouraged to upload photos, using the BillionGraves app.  The site currently has photographs of over five million graves.