AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – More than 300 exhumed remains are now in their final resting place.
It’s all part of a University at Buffalo study, to learn more about the bodies buried at the Former Erie County Poorhouse which is now University at Buffalo’s South Campus.
They died more than 100 years ago and were buried in unmarked graves.
Because of poor record keeping, today they still remain nameless.
But researchers who have come to know and love what they call “more than a pile of bones,” say they now want to share their stories.
It’s a bitter sweet goodbye for Dr. Joyce Siranni and her research team. She studied 372 remains for 5 years.
She said, “I’ve spent decades trying to reconstruct lives of past human populations.”
And she says each skeleton has it’s own story. She said, “They are no longer just a pile of bones, they are individuals and they have character.”
A State Supreme Court order allowed Sirianni and her team to study the nameless dead.
She said, “The history, the biological information, that’s all here that is part of me now.”
Many who stayed there those 100 years ago were recent immigrants. Poorhouses were a place that provided a place to stay and food for people who had no other option.
Dr. Sirianni said, “They are the people who built Buffalo in so many ways. They were the richness, they didn’t have money, but they had character.”
The bones became her friends. She said, sometimes speaking to her after long days in the lab.
Through the ceremony, Sirianni said very story is honored, as they are laid to rest once again.
Doug Perrelli, clinical assistant professor and director of UB’s nonprofit Archaeological Survey and Joyce E. Sirianni, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor, both faculty members in UB’s Department of Anthropology, have served as co-directors of the project.
These leaders learned about the biological profiles of the deceased, age, gender and ancestry. It included skeletal analysis, demographics, recorded causes of death and disease identification.
Their work started after the initial discovery of human remains in 2008.
To maintain that individuality, the remains have been placed in separate burial pouches with stainless steel identification and laid to rest in eight coffins.
A monument at the burial site at Assumption Cemetery in Grand Island now reads.
In respectful memory of the men, women and children of the Erie County Poorhouse 1851-1913. A temporary shelter for some, a much needed home for others. The remains of the deceased in the former poorhouse cemetery were moved to this site from the grounds of what is now the University at Buffalo South Campus. May this permanent resting place bring the peace they sought in life.
Researchers estimate as many as 3,000 people could have been buried at the Old Poorhouse Cemetery.