Monday, October 20, 2014

Is your down-and-out Chicago ancestor in this database?

"Forty-four-year-old Adam Huber of 2026 N. Paulina became a 'social cipher' around midnight Saturday, March 17, 1894. According to the Sunday Tribune, the immigrant German carpenter had been beating his wife, Katherine. Then his son George intervened, shooting his father in the chest and killing him instantly.
"Huber's death certificate, prepared the next day by Cook County Coroner James McHale, bears the laconic notation: 'Co. Undertaker. Dunning.' Perhaps because the family was left without resources, Huber was buried at taxpayers' expense in Dunning Cemetery, the county cemetery on the semirural far northwest side of the city.
"There may have been a grave marker--but if there was, it did not last long. Huber's remains vanished into the cemetery, along with those of thousands of other people--the poor, the insane, the tubercular, the stillborn, the vagrants--whose only crime had been to die in Cook County without friends and without money." (Harold Henderson, "Grave Mistake," Chicago Reader 21 September 1989)

Barry A. Fleig is doing what many genealogists dream of -- making sure that no one is forgotten. Over more than 25 years of diligent activity he has collected many records of those buried in the "potter's field" on Chicago's northwest side. Now his work (in an on-line database) and much more information chronicling these forgotten and abandoned burials is on line at Cook County Cemetery at Dunning, Chicago, Illinois. The database contains about 7800 names but Fleig estimates more than 38,000 were buried there over the years beginning in 1854.

UPDATE 21-22 October: Board for the Certification of Genealogists president Jeanne Larzalere Bloom was quoted in the Chicago Tribune story on this subject earlier this afternoon. See

Harold Henderson, "Is your down-and-out Chicago ancestor in this database?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 20 October 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

1 comment:

Jana Last said...


I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

Have a great weekend!