Cemeteries are a vital resource for genealogists and family researchers but as cities and towns grow, what could happen to cemeteries that stand in the way of progress?
This problem is currently happening at the Dunning Cemetery located in Chicago, Illinois and other older and minimally maintained cemeteries such as the one located next to one of the largest airports in the world, O’Hare International Airport.
It’s people like Barry A. Fleig who realize that cemeteries are vital pieces of history and he’s made it his mission to preserve cemeteries, specifically in Chicago, a city that continues to grow that has a long, interesting history.
“Cemeteries are a reflection of life. They offer us a rich history of our ancestors as well as local history. Cemeteries are both a historical and genealogical treasure. They tell us who we were.”
Barry started researching his family history 1967 and his interest in cemeteries started around 1985 or so. In 1989, he began a serious effort in preserving the cemetery at Dunning which continues to this day. Cook County Cemetery at Dunning was forgotten for sixty years and the forgotten there deserved better, so that has been my focus on preservation.
For the past 20 years, he has been compiling a database of names extracted from death certificates. He started when he would visit cemeteries with a friend after church on Sunday. These visits led him to catalog the cemeteries at the request of friends and family.
Barry also receives regular requests for assistance and will help out when he can. There have been a few success stories where he has located a relative. He enjoys helping and will continue to do so.
Barry is a past board member and cemetery chairman of the Chicago Genealogical Society and is now a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Phoenix. He also is a volunteer consultant at the Phoenix Family History Center.
Barry created and manages the website chicagoandcookcountycemeteries.com. On his website, you can learn about 806 Chicago area graveyards and Native American burial listings, In addition, read about funeral trains, undertakers, funeral customs, monuments, mausoleums and more. Ongoing blog posts contain interesting facts, oddities, and even a few ghost stories.
Barry conducted all of the research himself. However, when the Cook County Cemetery at Dunning was rediscovered, he worked closely with the late Rev William Brauer as well as several others.
The website contains a list of 273 cemeteries and almost 300 additional Jewish cemeteries and gates within larger cemeteries. This includes 250 carefully researched name cross-references which is more than any other site.
His website launched on October 1, 2017. Another site he manages, www.cookcountycemetery.com began in August of 2014 and has had over 95,000 views.
If you enjoy learning more about Chicago cemeteries, searching for lost relatives, or just are curious about local history and burial customs, this website is a must.