Burial permits and Transit permits, New York City

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There has been some talk once again about burial and/or transmit permits, so I thought this was time to talk about these permits once again for clarification.

A burial permit and a transit permit are two different things. The former is a legal document issued by the City; the latter is a document issued by the organization or society that owns the full burial plot. Now speaking at least for
burials/cemeteries in New York City (boroughs, etc.), both are needed for burial. When this was first deemed necessary, I can't say, though it was so at least within
the first decade of the twentieth century. I can't say at present whether a cemetery is required to keep both burial and transit permits forever or for a certain period of time. Someone is looking into it for me, and hopefully I will have an answer for you at some point.

A transmit permit is issued by the city, which is gotten by the funeral home, and accompanies the body when it's brought to the cemetery, usually by the funeral director, but sometimes by the hearse driver.You can read more about what's in a transit permit at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/erc-vr-btp.htm. A burial permit usually contains just the name of the society, the name of the deceased, their individual grave location and the signature of the society officer in charge of burials for its members. Some of these burial permits might also list the names of
the officers.

Here is a possible scenario: A person passes away, whether it be at home, at a hospital, at a nursing home, etc. The funeral parlor picks up the body. They call the cemetery where a person is to be buried. They tell the cemetery office that they have a burial and tell the cemetery if the burial is on a society's grounds (assuming the burial is to be on a society's grounds). The cemetery office pulls out the map they possess of that society's plot, that contains the names and dates
of burials of the people in that particular plot. The plot is subdivided into squares or rectangles, each one designated as an individual grave site. Then three
things can happen: 1. the deceased is not listed in any of the grave sites displayed on the map;
2. the space for the burial plot for the deceased says, e.g. "Reserved for Sam Cohen";
3. the space says "recorded deed for Sam Cohen." (note that if someone has a deed for their future burial, they need to record it with the cemetery).

If 1., then, assuming the society is still in existence, they would need to be called (usually by the funeral parlor) so that they can get the paperwork and verify that the deceased is the person to be buried there. If 2., then the funeral
director needs to contact the society who then picks up (or is faxed) the burial permit, and then it is brought to the funeral and given to the cemetery. If 3., then the deed is surrendered, and this acts as the burial permit.

Now you will say that most societies that own society plots in the NYC metro area are no longer extant. Legally, their paperwork, after becoming defunct, should be sent to the NY State Liquidation Bureau, though sometimes a society becomes defunct
and simply walk away from the society and the grounds, and don't close the business
up, so to speak, and don't send their papers to the Bureau.

Usually, before a society goes defunct, deeds are given to their members who are entitled to them. Then they're supposed to go to the cemetery to record the deed. When someone dies, the cemetery should have then a recorded deed in their possession, and the family of the deceased will hopefully have their copy of the deed to bring with them to the funeral. But then, what happens if the society went
defunct and no deed was issued before this happened? The person who believes they're entitled to a grave site within a society's grounds would need to contact the Liquidation Bureau which now has the society records, and request a deed. Now if they have no record of this person being entitled to a deed, they're out of luck. All the cemetery can do then, if there is still an available space in the society plot, is to purchase a plot for themselves.

Sometimes a still active society doesn't issue deeds. They may simply send a notorized letter to the cemetery stating that it's okay to bury this person and put
up a monument (normally putting up a monument requires yet another permit.)

So burial permits and transmit permits should be kept by each cemetery, though they
may be stored in various forms. One cemetery may just keep them filed alphabetically or by date; others may glue them onto a ledger in order to keep them
well organized and findable, etc. There must be some variation in all of this between the many cemeteries that keep such records.

I know of no time that both permits were not required. Even during the flu epidemic
of 1918, I believe both were needed, but I couldn't swear by it. Hope this helps.
I'm no expert on this matter; I'm just trying to shed a bit of light on this discussion. Perhaps you might wish to read my interview with the Mt. Judah cemetery
manager that can be found at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/erc-vr-btp.htm.

Steven Lasky
New York
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