Sunday, August 30, 2009

Finally back...but there are problems in Chicagoland cemeteries

Well, after a couple of weeks and a ton of headaches, I've finally made it back home to IL. I've got a lot on my IL to-do list and can't wait to get started. I was actually getting ready to start #1 on that list last week and that's where I ran into some very discouraging, and potentially disastrous, information.

The very first thing I wanted to do once I got to IL was visit the gravesites of the James Bromagem family, as well as a couple of Stevens graves which are at a cemetery not far from that of the Bromagems. The Bromagems, Lillian Bromagem Stevens and Mary J. Braden/Hawkins Bromagem, are buried at Oakwoods Cemetery on the South side of Chicago, not far from where the Bromagems and Stevens family of the turn of the 20th century were living. Oakwoods is clearly printed on each of their death certificates, both of which were signed by the Undertaker. So I figured my first step was to call over to Oakwoods to confirm that they are still there. To my surprise, Oakwoods does not have any record of either of the two women, nor of anyone with the Bromagem/Brumagem (and other variations) surname. Ok, I have an idea as to a possible reason but I'll get back to that in a moment. Coincidentally, on the same day that I was making my phone call to Oakwoods I was stunned to read a news station ticker which read that investigations of misdoings are beginning at Oakwoods Cemetery and Mount Hope Cemetery. They are being investigated for situations reminiscent of the scandal at nearby Burr Oak Cemetery in a Southern Chicago suburb.

Burr Oak Cemetery is being investigated for double and triple selling cemetery plots. The story is that employees were targeting older, not maintained or visited plots, and reselling those plots sometimes two and three times over. In many cases, the bodies and bones of those who had been buried there initially were tossed into fields or hidden and scattered in out-of-the-way spots. Other gravesites just had bodies buried on top of one another until caskets would be unearthed by inclement weather or just by time alone. In the wake of that investigation, the state has created a Cemetery Task Force which will be responsible for investigating all reports of misdealings at cemeteries. Oakwoods and Mount Hope have now received reports against them and are to be investigated.

Finding out that Lillian and her mother, Mary, are not in the Oakwoods computer didn't initially scare me too much because it is possible that they could have been moved by the family later on. Lillian's husband, Charles, and their son, Charles L., were both buried at Mount Hope in 1926 and 1968 respectively. So it's possible that Lillian and Mary could have been moved there to be with the rest of the family at a later date. I was searching for a phone number for Mount Hope when I saw that news that they too are being investigated. So now I'm frantic about getting to the bottom of this. I'm planning to head over to the County Clerk's satellite office tomorrow to get the death certificates for the rest of Mary's children, Lillian's brothers and sister, and check the burial site for them all for other possibilities. The Oakwoods employee I spoke to, again, prior to my finding out about the pending investigations, suggested coming to the cemetery in person with the certificates so I'm hoping to be able to do that this week or next week at the latest. I'm really hoping I can sort through this and find out that it was just something simple and that their sites aren't involved in the scandals surrounding these cemeteries. Fingers crossed guys!

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