More than a thousand unclaimed souls were laid to rest Thursday, during a longstanding traditional event at the Los Angeles County Crematory and Cemetery.

It’s part of an annual tradition that has lasted more than 125 years in Los Angeles County.

The burial of unclaimed dead is coordinated by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Department of Health Services, the Office of Decedent Affairs and chaplains from LAC+USC Medical Center.

Decedent Affairs handles cremation and burial for those who have died in Los Angeles County jurisdiction, but were never claimed by families. Those who died include members of the unhoused population, or those with no known family members.

The County holds onto the remains for three years after the person has died to allow adequate time for someone to come forward and claim their cremated remains. Those who were laid to rest on Thursday died in 2019, but were never claimed.

In total, 1,624 people were laid to rest in a mass grave at the cemetery.

  • A ceremony held at an L.A. County cemetery on Dec. 8, 2022 laid to rest 1,600 people whose remains were never claimed. (Los Angeles County Department of Health Services)
  • A ceremony held at an L.A. County cemetery on Dec. 8, 2022 laid to rest 1,600 people whose remains were never claimed. (Los Angeles County Department of Health Services)
  • A ceremony held at an L.A. County cemetery on Dec. 8, 2022 laid to rest 1,600 people whose remains were never claimed. (Los Angeles County Department of Health Services)
  • A ceremony held at an L.A. County cemetery on Dec. 8, 2022 laid to rest 1,600 people whose remains were never claimed. (Los Angeles County Department of Health Services)
  • A ceremony held at an L.A. County cemetery on Dec. 8, 2022 laid to rest 1,600 people whose remains were never claimed. (Los Angeles County Department of Health Services)

“They passed in 2019, and as the counties process, multiple county departments engage diligently over a three-year period searching for next of kin, family, friends, and in this instance, no one was found,” said L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

The ceremony was non-denominational and interfaith, organizers said. It opened with a “Song of Farewell” presided by a local reverend, and included prayers and blessings from faith leaders from across Los Angeles County.

A marker denoting the year of their passing now stands at the burial site, which will serve as the final resting place for those 1,624 people who were never claimed, in hopes that they are never forgotten.

“Those who have been unclaimed in the county of Los Angeles, it’s our commitment in the county to make sure that everyone, no matter where they came from, no matter what their means, is laid to rest with respect and dignity,” said L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn.