The Dark History of Cemeteries in San Francisco

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By 7×7 Editors

Before the City of San Francisco voted to stop burials within city limits in 1900, there were at least 30 cemeteries in use or abandoned here—including one right on the spot of what is now Dolores Park.

Many of the old marble tombs, like these pictured at Laurel Hill Cemetery in 1946, have forever disappeared. (Photos courtesy of SF Public Library)

Today we have only two cemeteries left inside city limits, the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio and the Mission Dolores Cemetery in the Castro.

Most of the deceased residents previously buried in SF were moved to cemeteries in San Mateo County between 1900-1940, to the town that would eventually be known as Colma, which now carries the distinction of having more dead residents (two million and counting) than living (1,500).

Unfortunately for anyone trying to find burial records, this migration from SF to Colma was spotty. Some bodies were exhumed and buried in mass graves, others were transferred to new coffins with incorrect information, and others were left behind in their original resting places.

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