City Health Department records show that from 2002-07 about 1,000 bodies were exhumed in the city for reburial elsewhere, The Detroit News reported. The newspaper said that is about one corpse for every 30 people who have moved out of the city.
Detroit's population is about half what it was in the 1950s, when the city was the hub of the U.S. auto industry. About 5,000 people move out every year, the News said.
Black Detroiters have joined the exodus. But the News said that the families most likely to disinter relatives appear to be white Roman Catholics who formerly lived on the east side.
The bodies of Francesco and Francesca Imbrunone were recently moved out of Mount Olivet Cemetery in Detroit, which loses about 100 burials a year, the newspaper said. Francesco, an Italian immigrant, died in 1960 a few months before his family moved out of the city.
"He'd complain, 'Why did you spend the money?'" his granddaughter, Gerry Seip, told the News. "My grandmother? She'd just cry."