Disinterments in Harlem
In 1847, the New York Legislature enacted the Rural Cemetery Act to address a growing problem of the expanding city - handling the remains of the deceased. Lands around the border of New York City were acquired to inter the dead away from the heart of the city, which had been the practice since the seventeenth century.
The Report of Committee on Vaults, written 1875, contains information on “many of the oldest and most honored names in the history of Harlem.” The remains that were disinterred were from people who were buried in Harlem between 1827 and 1854. The remains were moved to the Woodlawn Cemetery, which was annexed to New York City in 1874.
This document is organized by vault number and the name of the deceased - entries contain information on the size of the vault and how many bodies were in it. The Report of Committee on Vaults, dated February 12, 1875, Disinterments from April 1870 - Harlem Cemetery, Letter, Adriance & Wood Letterhead and Disinterments of May 1869 - Bill of GC Greeborn are available to read online as part of this collection. Click the underlined titles above to view these records.
Genealogical researchers can use this collection identify graves of their ancestors in Harlem and potentially identify a date of birth, death, or a family relationship.
The disinterment records from May 1869 and April 1870 are organized by the name of the “occupant.” The amount of money that is due for the disinterment as well as the date when it was paid, the amount paid and the remaining balance are listed after the name of the occupant.
These records may also help historical researchers studying public health, or burial practices and death in mid-nineteenth-century New York. These original records give us an idea of how death was handled by the legislature and also how it was managed in a sanitary way. Since the period after the Civil War, a sanitation movement was launched that revolutionized how Americans imagined their urban spaces.
Patentees of New Harlem - Partial transcription of historic folio
Completed in 1987, Diana J. Rendell transcribed and interpreted a legal document on the 1667 charter of New Harlem. Rendell specializes in the transcription of manuscripts and is a part of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). The Patentees of New Harlem - Partial transcription of historic folio is available to read online as part of this collection. Click the underlined title to view these records.
This charter was written by the first colonial governor of New York, Richard Nicolls,on October 11th 1667. Although original grants show that New Harlem was settled in March of 1658 “for the promotion of agriculture and as a place of amusement for the citizens of New Amsterdam,” the charter we have here under the British colonial government sought to do the same.
In 1666, Governor Nicolls granted New Harlem a town charter, which “proved unsatisfactory to a majority of the inhabitants.” The community “petitioned for a new patent” and received it in 1667. The patentees of this charter were Thomas Delavall, John Verveelen, Daniel Tourneur, Joost Oblinus and Resolved Waldron, who were important landowners of the period.
The territory of New Harlem, according to the charter, lied between what we now know as 74th Street and 130th Street, “thereby including about a fourth of the present Central Park and half of Morningside Park.” New Harlem also consisted of “nearly the upper third of Manhattan” that today contain “Yorkville, Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood.” It even encompassed the meadows north of the “extreme northwest tip of the island,” which is today’s Spuyten Duyvil of the Bronx.
This document is helpful for researchers who are ancestors of Delavall, Verveelen, Tourneur, Oblinus and Waldron. These are high profile people, thus there must be documents regarding their estates when they died. Most of them were involved in church life, which means that there church records with their names along with the names of their children, wives and in-laws.
Delavall would go on to become Mayor of New York on three separate occasions, making him the second, fifth and eleventh Mayor of New York City. He was a British-born citizen who owned houses in New York City as well as land in Westchester and Brooklyn. He also owned “nearly the whole of Great Barnes Island,” which is known as Randalls Island today. John Verveleen, or Joannes Verveleen, may have been a member of the Scots Brigade who migrated from Amsterdam to New York to then later become one of the five patentees of New Harlem. Daniel Tourneur was from France where he and his family most likely experienced religious persecution during the Thirty Years’ War between Protestants and Catholics. He set sail with his wife to New Netherlands in 1652 after having moved to Leiden, Netherlands in 1650. Joost (Van) Oblinus, also known as Joost Houplines, fled Houplines France in 1649 for the same reason as Tourneur. Resolved Waldron, also known as Barron Rosaluld Waldron and Resolveert William Waldron, was a government magistrate under Governor Peter Stuyvesant. He helped establish the first ferry and a Dutch church in Manhattan. After retiring from public life, he returned to be the constable of New Harlem.
This document is of vital importance to historical researchers that are interested in the legal and spatial transformations of northern Manhattan. This document gives us a glimpse of how this space was imagine and gives us a template of how this space will change over the course of the ensuing three and a half centuries.
Suggested citation for this collection:
New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, “New York County Harlem Cemetery Disinterments” digital images, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, (www.newyorkfamilyhistory.org), 2019.