New York State Funeral Directors Association

Some were immigrants, some were locals.

They were men and women, children and infants; black and white. They all shared one thing in common: they died poor.

New Yorkers buried with no markers about 10 miles from New York State’s capital may get a new chance at recognition.

Their burial ground has returned to the public eye as government officials seek options to boost parking in a growing airport nearby.

And this development could lead to research and perhaps some formal recognition of hundreds of people lived in a poorhouse and died in Albany County.

There have been hints and outcries over the past 30 years – but these forgotten poor remain unrecognized.

The problem up until now: nobody is sure exactly where they are. There are no headstones or other markers, and this burial site for the poor isn’t on any maps.

The names of those buried in the Ann Lee Home cemetery may not be completely forgotten.

But only time will tell if anybody will be able to pinpoint exactly who is buried in the forgotten cemetery of the early 1900s Albany Almshouse that was known as the Ann Lee Home.


Between 1927 and 1928, the Ann Lee Home was built on farmland once owned by the rare faith community known as the “Shakers.”

Those who lived at the new almshouse, later called the “Ann Lee Home,” were buried on the farm property in the vicinity of a crypt that’s now crumbling on a hill in a patch of woods not far from the Albany International Airport.

Not long ago, news broke that this piece of land could be used to boost parking spaces at the growing airport.

An airport spokesman told the local newspaper it’s likely “due diligence” would ensue in the event the airport pursues the opportunity.

So it’s possible due diligence will mean digging into the earth and locating these poor souls who received only a burial at the end of their difficult lives.


Finding out precisely who is buried there will be a challenge.

Records were kept, years ago, in a ledger titled “Interments – Albany Alms House.”

I got to look at this book of names and a variety of other records thanks to the knowledgeable assistance of Jill Hughes, an Archives Clerk at the Albany County Hall of Records.

It contains names, for the most part – or another identifier for the unknown, such as “found in river.”

Last names like Brown and Stein, Johnson and Decker are easy to make out. But many of the names are not legible.

And even if they were, it will be extremely difficult to find out who was buried where.

Talk will focus on this tiny hill behind a hockey and ice-skating facility nearby.

But by the look of this ledger, and annotations in it – this cemetery stretches beneath the nearby road and beyond.

In more than one instance, bodies were moved from a prior location to this “new” spot.

One index card reports 100 bodies being transferred to this unmarked cemetery.

My uneducated guess: there are as many as 1,000 people buried anonymously there.

I haven’t done the math – but I intend to find out how many square feet of space a cemetery takes up per-10 people buried. I’ll have to account for the way they did it in the old days.

Research in various places reveals some names – like Frederick C. Lutz, 60. A newspaper reported he was to be buried at the Ann Lee Home Cemetery in 1942.

An article published Jan. 31, 1942 in the Albany, NY newspaper the Knickerbocker News reported Lutz worked at the Western Electric Company, the Wright Aeronautical Corp. and later created the Mohawk Chemical Company in Casleton-on-Hudson.

He died “broke,” the paper reported.A ledger preserved at the Albany County Hall of Records Contains the Names of Hundreds of People who Died in the Albany Almshouse, Later Known as Ann Lee Home

Another man, Robert King, 76, was found in the Hudson River in 1942. He had family, albeit estranged, and plans were to bury him in the Ann Lee Cemetery, the Knickerbocker News reported.

These are just a couple of the names Find A Grave was able to put together to identify people in this “defunct” cemetery.

There are other sources identifying Albany County Almshouse residents.

The facility’s superintendent submitted reports. One, issued in 1912, said 63 residents died there during the year 1911.

Those who died there in October were Seth Powell, Cathrine [sic] Hunter, William Kaiser, Mary Rowland, Mary Brayman, and Libbie Gage.

Martin Fay, Louis Belgard and Benegar Olmstead died there in November.

All of those who died that year are listed in the report submitted by William H. Storrs.

That year, residents at the Almshouse hailed from Ireland and Scotland, Germany and France, Russia, Poland, Austria and elsewhere.

The largest segment of this poorhouse population in 1911 were from the United States.

I’m not sure how many of these reports are available. Google digitized this particular one which was submitted to Albany County government in October of 1912.


The local newspapers mentioned these poor souls at times when the opportunity presented itself.

The Albany Times Union ran an article titled “Hundreds of paupers buried in path of airport expansion” on June 23, 1991.

Nothing came of it.

These people were almost remembered, again, in 2002 when the son of WWI Hero Henry Johnson was mistakenly believed to have been “buried in an unmarked grave underneath the tarmac ..."

Johnson is actually buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Nothing was done in relation to remembering these forgotten poor at that time, either.

I’m going to keep searching for details while I wonder, will these people be remembered and given some form of recognition this time?

EdsPhotoEdward Munger Jr.
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association