Potters’ Field

A potters' field is a place where a city or town can bury unclaimed bodies (usually, but not always, paupers). The name derives not from a person named Potter but rather from the Bible. When Judas Iscariot attempted to return the thirty pieces of silver he had been paid to betray Jesus, the temple priests refused to accept “blood money” (i.e., money used to pay to have a person killed). They instead used it for the charitable purpose of purchasing ground in which poor persons and foreigners could be buried. The plot of land they bought was rich in clay (its previous owner was in fact a pot-maker), so it was known thereafter as “potter’s field.”

St. Louis had its own potters' field. You can do a search for a burial there in this record collection in Ancestry Library Edition (Ancestry LE):

U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current

You can search for specific individuals, or you can search for all burials in Potters Field (case does not matter, and neither does an apostrophe in potters—search works either way):

SEARCH—KEYWORD St. Louis (Exact) CEMETERY Potters Field (Exact) 1,171 hits

Search returns generally include:

    Death Date
    Death Place
    Burial/Cremation Place
    Has Bio? Y or N (on Find a Grave page)
    Link (to Find a Grave page)

Search returns may also include:

    Birth Date
    Birth Place

It seems a virtual certainty that this record collection is incomplete, although ANY coverage of pauper burials is most welcome. The earliest burial listed in this record collection occurred on 23 August 1867 (John Daniel Woodruff); the last one on 12 April 1956 (Pat Titus).

You can use Ancestry LE at Central Library or any of our branches.

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