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Cemetery database online but incomplete

Thursday, July 30, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lauren Fitzpatrick

A searchable online database with names and locations of who's buried at the beleaguered Burr Oak Cemetery is now up and running, though not yet complete.

The Cook County sheriff's department launched the database with photos of 10,000 headstones Wednesday at after a brief technical delay.

"It's our hope that this Web site can help calm the fears of many of those worried about their family gravesites," Sheriff Thomas Dart said in a statement. "Being able to easily search by name, then finding a picture of the headstone as it looks now, will answer a lot of questions for a lot of people."

Established in 1929, Burr Oak has about 100,000 graves on its 150-acre Alsip campus.

Since July 8, when the sheriff announced the arrest of four cemetery workers accused of digging up graves and dumping the contents to resell the plots, the sheriff's office has fielded tens of thousands of requests for information.

About 200 to 300 graves are believed to have been desecrated in the scam that netted an alleged $300,000.

Only about half the Burr Oak gravesites have headstones, according to the sheriff's office.

And photos of the rest of the headstones will be added to the database over the next two weeks.

An online option to notify detectives that a headstone is missing won't be available until all photos have been entered into the system.

Roman Szabelski, who's been appointed to run Burr Oak, said he won't reopen its gates until the database is running and all the graves have been replotted.

He hopes to have a plan for reopening by Aug. 1.

Lauren FitzPatrick can be reached at or (708) 802-8832.

Visit the sheriff's online database of Burr Oak Cemetery graves at

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