Photo illustration by James McGinnis

Moms and dads, newborns and military veterans, murder victims and Holocaust survivors, are sitting in local morgues and unmarked graves in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Hundreds of unclaimed dead — an invisible, growing burden — force local governments to spend more time, resources, and tax money. Coroners have become the undertakers of last resort.

Who were these unclaimed souls? For months, reporters Jo Ciavaglia and James McGinnis labored to find and tell their stories.

We found some served in World War II. Others died on the job, thousands of miles from home. A few remain total mysteries with no public footprint.

The reasons the dead go unclaimed are as different as the ways they died. But they share similar traits including poverty, family estrangement, and isolation during their lives.

Nationwide, no standard exists for identifying and processing the abandoned and indigent dead. State protocols can be vague, inconsistent and outdated. Clerical errors, name changes and misplaced records make finding family of the dead more challenging.

Even if next-of-kin is found, there is no legal requirement they take responsibility.

Read on for more about The Unclaimed.

Grave concerns: Unclaimed dead tax county resources

About five years ago, a man walked into the Montgomery County Coroner’s office with his dead grandparents inside a USPS Priority Mail box with a return address in Miami.

Those ashes, of Lucille Bortner, 57, and Leroy Bortner, 65, who died two months apart in 1986, now sit on a metal shelf in a county storage room along with dozens of other boxes containing the remains of others who have never been claimed by family members or friends.

The unclaimed dead are a growing burden for local governments. Caseloads have shot up dramatically over the past decade. Counties and municipalities are forced to spend more time, resources and tax dollars on handling unclaimed remains, often without the ability to be reimbursed, and with few state standards.

Read more

Unclaimed souls: WW2 vets, Holocaust survivors, murder victims

After six years of service in the U.S. Army, Leo Murphy might be buried in a veterans cemetery. Yet, his cremated remains sit on a shelf in the Bucks County morgue.

The name Margot Kowalski appears on a Nazi list of Jews whose citizenship was revoked under Adolf Hitler, while other records, supplied by the Burlington County Medical Examiner’s office, suggest she was buried in 2003 in an unmarked grave.

Alejandro Guerra was brutally stabbed in a public park in Norristown, according to news reports. Lori Sheridan, of Pottstown, was murdered with a shotgun blast to the abdomen, officials said. Todd Donohue, of Plymouth, was hit so hard by a Pontiac Sunfire that it left hemorrhaging in his brain, and fractured his spine and pelvis, according to police.

None got a funeral.

Read more

Coroner reunites granddaughter with late grandmother

Frances Salinger died unnoticed, her cremated remains awaiting burial with others whose bodies were donated to science.

Then, a persistent deputy coroner helped reunite a fractured family.

Salinger was 92 years old when she died in March 2015. The nursing home where she lived was in the process of obtaining guardianship of Salinger, and no next of kin could be found.

The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, where unclaimed bodies are sent, couldn't find family, either.

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Veteran could have gone unclaimed. Why he didn't.

The combat veteran had a simple request: “All I am asking is that my body be buried with the respect I earned.”

David L. Bauer made his plea in the same two-page, undated handwritten letter that he sent to four people in May 1999.

Bucks County Director of Military Affairs Dan Fraley was only months into his new county job when the letter arrived in his mail.

“My name is David L. Bauer and upon receipt of this letter I will most likely be dead…” it started.

Read more

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Click names and explore records for the unclaimed dead. The list begins with individuals who have been claimed. To quickly locate a name, click (Ctrl F) on PC and (CMD F) for MAC.
Charles Thomas Boultbee (CLAIMED)
Michelle McGinnis (CLAIMED)
Edward Ryan Jr. (CLAIMED)
Richard Geisinger (CLAIMED)
Patricia A. Harris (CLAIMED)
David Hock (CLAIMED)
Maryanne Viereck (CLAIMED)
Henry C. Weller (CLAIMED)
Norman Flam (CLAIMED)
Jack Allison Foust (CLAIMED)
Roscoe Fellman (CLAIMED)
Tammy Tyler (CLAIMED)
Geraldine Scheers (CLAIMED)
Benjamin Harrison (CLAIMED)
Leroy Bortner (CLAIMED)
Lucille Bortner (CLAIMED)
Eugene Gorski (CLAIMED)
James Merinar (CLAIMED)
John M. McClintock (CLAIMED)
Leo Murphy (CLAIMED)
Marcel Sol (CLAIMED)
Eileen Benenati (CLAIMED)
Barbara Broughton (2019 case)
Herman C. Ashley (2019 case)
Jose Carrasquillo (2019 case)
Connie Dumas (2019 case)
Francine Holtz (2019 case, new details)
Kathleen Clara Oliphant (2019 case, new details, photo)
Charlene Ann Palko (2019 case, new details, photo)
Laura A. Wagner (2019 case)
Dwayne VanHart (2019 case)
James P. Smith (2019 case)
James E. Schwartz (2019 case)
Samuel Riland (2019 case)
Gail Page (2019 case)
Marjorie McMahon (2019 case)
George McCabe (2018 case)
Robert McFeeters (2018 case)
Alfred Wainwright (2018 case)
Joseph Venezia (2019 case)
Kevin Alexander (2019 case)
Alonzo English (2018 case)
Robyn Shadoe (2019 case new details)
Robert Smith (2019 case)
Daniel Mitchell (2019 case)
Billy Hogan (2018 case)
Jacob Hessler (2019 case)
Ronald W. Schnable (2019 case)
John Wood Gotwals (2019 case, new details, photos)
Mary H. Kea (2018 case)
Carl Stevens Jr. (2019 case)
David M. Landis (2019 case)
Wayne M. Donnelly (2011 case, new details)
Edward White (2016 case)
Melvin Clement (2013 case, new details)
Joel T. Scott (2014 case, new details)
Damir Norgorodsky (2002 case)
Steven Ashman (2003 case, new details)
Richard Stott (2017 case)
David G. Thomas (2019 case)
Clarkson Gromis (1988 case, photo, new details)
Ricardo White (2017 case)
John Albert Quillin (2018 case)
Tennyson Taffe (2017 case)
Dana Farrell (2018 case)
Ellis Riddick (2018 case)
Larry Dill (2018 case)
Michael Venezia (2018 case new photo, details)
Thomas O'Shaughnessy (2018 case)
Joseph Lewandowski (2018 case)
George Phipps (2018 case)
Albert Newman (2018 case)
Joseph Kosco (2009 case)
James E. Novak (2019 case file)
Emmitt Livingston III (2019 case)
Rosina (Farina) Glickman (2019 case, photo, new details)
Carol Sullick (2019 case filed, new details)
Thomas Townsend (2018 case, new details)
George S. Slitzer Jr. (2013 case, photo, new details)
Bruce Douglas Nelson (2013 case, photo, new details)
John C. Barrow (2013 case, photo, new details)
Lawrence Thomas Hartnett (2010 case, photo, new details)
Larry John Hopkins (2018 case, new photo, details)
Rita C. Vega (2018 case, new details)
James Paxson Reinhart (2018 case, new details)
Constance (Wingate) Maley (2018 case, new details)
Nina Harris (2019 case)
Randolph Rankins (2018 case, new details)
John Parker (2018 case)
Thomas J. Morris (2018 case)
Stephen Suckey (2018 case)
Eunice (Jester) Lynch (2018 case, photo, new, details)
Scott Dolores (2018 case)
William Storm (2018 case)
Marguerite Harris (2018 case)
John Nace (2018 case)
Jorge Sanchez (2018 case)
Louis Filosi (2018 case)
Lawrence W. Plews (2018 case)
Scott Storm (2018 case)
Bettie K. Tate (2018 case)
Deborah Martin (2018 case)
Francis X. Worthington (2018 case)
Jeffrey Alan Hosbach (2018 case, photo new details)
Deborah Smith
Eileen Ricks (2019 case, new details)
Alexander Boyd
Anne McDaniels (2019 case)
Brian Clark
Donald Splitter
Margaret Gunnoe
Elizabeth Ashmore (2019 case, new details)
Frederick Walters
William Hunt ( 2018 case)
Nicholas Walter Kerrigan (2008 case, photo, new details)
Michael A. Machillo (2011 case, photo, new details)
Michael S. Murray (2009 case, photo, new details)
Regina Marie Chambers (2011 case, new details)
Lane A. Schmidt (2014 case)
Casimir Shynkaruk (1999 case)
Thomas William Patterson (2007 case, new details, photo)
Richard Brooks (2015 case photo)
Margot Ann Marie Ashman (2003 case, new details)
[First name unknown] LeBlanc
Charles Ludwig (2009 case)
Lorraine "Laverne" Duvinage (2011 case, photo, new details)
Charles Brooks (2006 case, photo)
Regina Bell Jones (2012 case)
Ronald R. Davis (2011 case)
James Yiashia (2007 case)
John W. Warner (2006 case)
Gerald S. Tokarczyk (2004 case)
Robert Oliver Thacker (1997 case, new details)
Mary Stephens (2008 case)
Peteris "Peter" Smirnovs (2005 case, new details)
Jose Gonzalez (2002 case)
Katharine McMullin (2008 case)
Helen Mae Wisler (2012 case, new details)
Andrea M. Tonti (2013 case)
Alejandro Guerra (2007 case, new details)
Carl Elvin Brewer (2009 case, new details)
Dolores Marie Mayer (2011 case)
Jan Heiko Gernaat (2014 case, new details)
Maria Feher (2014 case, new details)
Z. [First name unknown] Broad
Lori Sheridan (2014 case, photo, new details)
Todd Donohue (2016 case, new details)
Walter Paul Zahnhausen (2005 case, new details)
Frederick L. Johns (2004 case, new details)
Joseph J. Rivero Sr. (2013 case)
Caroline S. Reiser (2010 case, new details)
Isidoro Santiago (2013 case)
Harold A. Holmes (2010 case)
Paul Cereby (2013 case)
Robert L. Pettit (2013 case)
John C. Morgan (2013 case)
Ramon A. Moreno (2011 case)
Joseph F. Miller (2010 case)
Raymond Matlack (2015 case)
Joseph D. Manzo (2012 case)
Maria Jimenez (2010 case)
Christopher Jewell (2013 case)
Anna Henderson (2013 case)
Judith Hall (2011 case)
Janet Getson (2011 case)
John W. Gale (2010 case, new details)
Charles Eckert (2011 case)
John J. Duffy (2010 case, new details)
Elaine F. Devlin (2012 case)
Daniel W. Degville (2008 case, new details)
Kenneth C. Degothseir (2011 case)
Norman Davis (2012 case)
Richard A. Coney (2009 case, new details)
Joseph Angelo Cioppi (2014 case, new photo, details)
Pao Chang (2011 case)
Pamela A. Burns (2009 case, photo, new details)
Marie Bringola (2010 case, new details)
Murray Ronald Bressler (2008 case, new details)
Denise L. Black (2011 case, photo, new details)
Charles Bartholomew (2014 case)
Richard S. Arrison (2010 case, new details)
Igor Yutsis (2017 case, new details)
Robert Harold Yoos (2015 case, new details)
Arthur A. Wentworth Jr. (2008 case)
Charles C. Way (2015 case, new details)
Douglas L. Walston (2013 case, new details)
Rafael Urena (2013 case)
Marie L. Taylor (2015 case, new details)
Kareem Sunra (2016 case)
Katherine Smith-Beene (1996 case)
Crystal Smith (2013 case)
Leroy Singer (2005 case)
Wayne Simon (2016 case)
Carlton Paul Sharp (2017 case, new details)
Guillermo Salas (2006 case)
Roberto Rosario (2013 case)
Joseph Ritter (2011 case, new details)
Clifford Archer Pullen Sr. (2005 case, new details)
Barbara Prickett (2011 case, photo, new details)
Frank Polidori (2015 case)
James Pitrelli (2016 case)
Leonard Joseph Pennise (2005 case, photo, new details)
John Moore (2006 case)
Joyce Maggs (2017 case, new details)
Frank E. Maclaine (2014 case)
Annette Lippencott
Elijah Lawrence (2016 case)
Gary Landis (2017 case)
Anthony Laino (2010 case)
John Koteny (2014 case)
Gregory Kavanagh (2002 case)
Theodore Jones (2010 case)
Arthur G. Jones (2009 case, new details)
Charles Hunt (2002 case)
Joseph Heber (2011 case, new details)
Jane Hillman (1999 case)
Judge Head (1982 case)
George R. Grant (1998 case, new details)
William Gorman (2003 case)
Elizabeth Gonczi (2014 case, new details)
Virginia Freeland (2015 case)
Charles France (2015 case)
Maurice Ford (2014 case)
Barbara Jane Donacoff (2007 case, photo, new details)
Katherine Dennis (2003 case)
Francis Daniels (1985 case)
William Corbett (2004 case)
Michael Conlan (2002 case)
Melvin Claighborne (1990 case)
Kelly Cisney (2005 case)
Ciriaco Chavez (1998 case)
Michael Carrino (2017 case)
John Burr (2017 case)
Raymond Burke (1991 case)
Joan I. Bruno (2004 case)
Catherine Bogner (1998 case)
Stuart Blaetz (2015 case, new details)
Robert Bennett (2016 case)
Reuben Baron (2014, new details)
Walter Ancrum
Joel D. Alpheaus Jr. (2008 case)
William Alloway (2017 case)
Ruth Allen (2001 case)
Robert L. Schusterman (2010 case)
James C. Sanders (2011 case)
Helena Gail Rybka (Ristaino) (2012 case, new details)
Daisy Roane (2010 case, new details)
Michael Quinn (2008 case)
Gladys G. Payne (1995 case)
Thomas Paioletti (2005 case)
Katsuko W. Padgett (1998 case, new details)
James Myer Nugba (2005 case, new details)
Gabriel Noe (2002 case)
Barbara Nelson (1997 case)
Francis J. McCloskey (1989 case)
Ann Marie (Boell) Martino (1995 case, new details)
John Manns (2008 case)
Albert A. Mannino (2005 case, new details)
Lewis Williamson (2008 case, new details)
Kenneth Lane (2012 case)
Constance W. Johnson (2003 case, new details)
Curtis Hardgrove (2007 case)
George J. Dupont (1996 case, new details)
Michael James Checccio (1996 case)
Robert W. Caggiano (2009 case)
Malcolm Richard Bright (2007 case, new details)
Bruce Allen Babcock (2009 case, new details)
Elise Alcott (2005 case, new details)
Philip Minoske (2017 case, new details)
Vincent Doran (2017 case)
Kevin Johnson (2017 case, new details)
Michael Donato (2017 case)
Daniel Griffith (2017 case)
Patricia Walmlsley (2017 case)
Wesley Grisdale (2017 case)
Henry Brown (2017 case)
John Seyler (2017 case, new details)
Rosires Raff (2017 case)
David Supplee (2017 case)
Darrin Wagner (2017 case)
Robert Cranford (2017 case)
Bruce Craft (2016 case)
Thelma Davis (2016 case)
William Thompson (2016 case)
Frances Megeish (2016 case)
Richard Engle (2016 case)
Howard Shapiro (2016 case)
Gerald Olson (2016 case)
Helen Kodenbaugh (2016 case)
Donald Jones (2016 case)
Robert Baines (2015 case)
John Finch (2015 case, new details)
Theodore Pahle (2015 case)
Mary Taylor (2015 case)
Fern Barndt (2015 case)
Melvin Imes Jr. (2015 case)
George Peters Jr (2014 case, new details)
Charles Schwanz (2014 case)
Leslie Labodzinski (2014 case)
David Arnold (2014 case)
Elaine Kein (2013 case, new details)
James Ronald Lehman (2013 case, new details)
David McConnell (2013 case, new details)
Jeffrey Cowgill (2013 case, new details)
Suzanne Marie Triano (2013 case, new details)
Albert Edward Dahms Sr. (2012 case, new details)
Carol Sargent (2012 case, new details)
Donald Irving (2012 case, new details)
Joanne Newman (2011 case, new details)
Robert Simpson (2009 case)
Theresa Entrekin (2008 case, new details)
Anthony Joseph Santaromita (2012 case, new details)
Lufene Etienne (2012 case, new photo, details)
Steven Joseph DiSalvo (2007 case, new details)
John J. Ball (2012 case, new details)
Raymond Heinle (2017 case)
Warren Newmark (2017 case)
Robert Gay (2017 case)
Phillip Long (2017 case)
Maurice Murray (2017 case)
Albert Reamy (2017 case)
William Simpson III (2017 case)
William Barker (2017 case)
Lorraine Daniels (2017 case)
William Rothrock Jr. (2017 case)
Stacey Bell (2017 case)
Steven Williams (2017 case)
Thomas Bethea (2017 case)
Thomas Gaughan (2017 case)
Dolores Kraut (2017 case)
Katharine Baker (2017 case)
Joseph Goldstein (2017 case)
Sharon Howard (2017 case)
Luis Mora (2017 case)
Peter Camiel (2017 case)
John Baron (2017 case)
Rickey Ziegler (2017 case)
Michael Bradley (2017 case)
Judith Camiel (2017 case)
Alex Chester (2017 case)
Richard Willburn (2017 case)
Edward Brown Jr. (2017 case)
James Ryan (2016 case)
Kevin May (2016 case)
Mitchell Brahen (2016 case)
Sandra Coane (2016 case)
Gerarda Czechura (2016 case)
Thomas Baulo (2016 case)
Beverly Franks (2016 case)
Faith Price (2016 case)
Joseph V. Marks II (2016 case)
Victor Huffman (2016 case)
Lee Schantz (2016 case)
Howard Wright (2016 case)
Stanley Frederick (2016 case)
David Lamela (2016 case)
Robert Ruehl (2016 case)
Barbara Norcross (2015 case)
Brenda Teel (2015 case)
Bruce Kershaw (2015 case)
David Rice (2015 case)
Harvey Koble (2015 case)
Harry Miller (2015 case)
Augustus Tomlinson (2015 case)
Joseph Walters (2015 case)
Laura McDermott (2015 case)
Robert Williams (2015 case)
Alvin Lyles (2015 case)
Carol Leitgeb (2015 case)
Stanley Zuckerman (2015 case)
Daniel Margot (2015 case)
Jerome Natoli (2015 case)
John Kendra (2015 case)
Elizabeth Pataway (2015 case)
Michelle Culbreath (2014 case)
Albert G. Ammon (2014 case)
George Collins (2014 case)
Richard A. Schaffer (2014 case)
George F. Umstead Jr. (2014 case, new details)
Fannie Hendley (2014 case)
Victor Louis Judge (New photo and details)
Sigmund S. Orlowski (2014 case)
Nazareth Ribiero (2014 case)
Nancy J. (Cutbertson) Guarinieri (2013 case, new details)
Joseph Coia (2013 case)
Robert E. Janson (2013 case)
William Woosley (2013 case)
Paul Kasten (2013 case)
Robert Zein-Walker (2013 case)
Mildred Haires (2013 case)
Angela Caro (2013 case)
Charles Roughton (2012 case)
Heather Lyman (2012 case)
William Strauss (2012 case)
Rudolph Scipione (2012 case, new details)
Edith Spiegel (2012 case)
Leonard Wilson (2012 case)
Jack L. Scott (2011 case)
Charles E. Jones (2011 case)
Arnita James (2011 case, new details)
Russell Harry Woodington Jr. (2011 case, new details)
Patrick Watts (2010 case)
Bruce E. Nelson (2009 case)
Donna Jean Singer (2009 case, photo, new details)
Joseph Kosko (2009 case)
Betty Jones (2009 case)
Timothy E. Lee (2008 case)
William Francis Markey (2008 case, new details)
Julia B. Shaw (2008 case)
Richard R. J. Cadwallader Jr. (2008 case, new details)
Max Vondennaker (2007 case)
Catherine E. Grossmayer (2009 case)
Joseph Dunyan (2018 case)
Stephen Thomas Kirby (2017 case, new details)