Exploring Targeted Postmortem Investigative Practices at the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery

Author(s): Shannon Freire

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

The Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery is an umbrella term used to describe the four cemeteries that were used by Milwaukee County, WI from 1878 through 1974 for the burial of the indigent, unclaimed, institutionalized, and anatomized. The focus of this research is the twice-excavated Cemetery II, in use between 1882 and 1925. Approximately one-quarter of Cemetery II interments did not meet expectations for standard, institutionalized pauper burials and have been associated with the local medical establishment. Outstanding questions related to the practices that resulted in these two general categories of burials, here identified as Categories A and B, persist. This project utilized strontium isotope analysis to address whether specific immigrant groups were targeted for the postmortem investigative practices that frequently resulted in Category B burials. Permanent molars of 30 individuals from each category were sampled for enamel apatite to determine whether there was a relationship between strontium isotope values and type of burial. This research demonstrates that there was no targeted selection of a specific immigrant population for dissection on the part of Milwaukee’s early medical colleges and institutions. Rather, the factors that led to an individual being interred in a Category B burial may have been more opportunity-based.

Cite this Record

Exploring Targeted Postmortem Investigative Practices at the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery. Shannon Freire. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449613)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -103.975; min lat: 36.598 ; max long: -80.42; max lat: 48.922 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 25746