The Shoebox Burial Records Revealed
By Kelly Grimaldi, Historian and Associate Director of Albany Diocesan Cemeteries
About ten years ago Sister Nola Brunner, archivist at the time for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, and I made a trip to Historic St. Mary’s Church located on Lodge Street in Albany. Our purpose was to find burial records for St. Mary’s Cemetery formally located on Washington Avenue where Albany High School is now located. The cemetery opened in the early 1800s and burials continued well into the 19th century before it closed and bodies were removed to other area Catholic cemeteries (mostly St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands) between 1875 and 1917. A book noting the names of the deceased removed from St. Mary’s Cemetery very mysteriously went missing, making records from the Church itself all the more valuable from a historic perspective.
Sister Nola and I were allowed to inspect the books stored in the small closet-like vault located in the church office and we were also given permission to search the shelves in the basement. To our disappointment, we did not find interment books for the old cemetery.
We did find four shoeboxes full of alphabetically arranged index cards with names and presumably the dates of death for 2,723 people spanning the years 1841 – 1890.
We do not know if the records are complete. We do know that many of the burials noted on the index cards include burials that occurred in other cemeteries after a funeral in St. Mary’s Church was held. This is particularly true after St. Agnes Cemetery opened in 1868.
We were allowed to take the boxes back to my office located in St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands and store them in the cemetery vault. I had always wanted to have the index transcribed and make them public for genealogists. Though lacking any information other than name and a date, the records were all we had of old St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Click here to read the shoebox data, transcribed by Kelly.
I remain hopeful the burial records will resurface someday and certainly if they do, I will do my best to ensure the information they contain is preserved and made available to researchers.