22 May 2012

The Sadness of the Unmarked Plot

I've been blessed to take a journey to Columbus, Ohio. I visited the Green Lawn Cemetery, which proclaims to be the fifth largest cemetery in Ohio. It has perhaps 20,000 (or was is 200,000) people buried there.

Thanks to Stacy Baliss who graciously gave up her time to search through the Green Lawn microfilms at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. She provided me with a list of 60 persons complete with their burial cards and their plot locations. I also received a section map to find each person in this massive cemetery.

I blocked off the entire day to visit the cemetery to find these names and to snap other pictures. I took over 400 pictures of additional stone to see if they're needed on Find-A-Grave.com. Perhaps this is the wrong method of snapping photos at a cemetery; but I didn't have hours to devote to looking up names. I figured, if the pictures aren't needed, I still had practice documenting photos.

The experience of finding ancestor headstones and documenting someone else's stones was a true blessing. I thank my husband for this opportunity as he's manning the home front while I'm away. What happened next I didn't expect.

I knew that Anna Magaretha HOPPE (1869-1896) was buried in Green Lawn cemetery on a plot she owned., as confirmed by her burial records. I knew she married Samuel ROSS but I don't know his birth or death dates. Would the plot reveal this? I knew several others were buried on her plot. With plot map in hand, I headed over to her plot. It was not easy to find. I searched, checked the map, searched, and checked the map. I was stumped. Where was she? Finally, I came across a tiny, weather worn stone and a great big empty space. The stone was for Anna's brother Christ HOPPE (1859-1900).

Christoph Hoppe stone found in the Green Lawn Cemetery,
Columbus, Ohio
 I was excited but sad. The stone isn't set correctly. It's greatly deteriorated. There is an inscription beneath the name but I have no idea it says. And the sadness continues.

Anna M Hoppe Ross Plot in Green Lawn Cemetery
There are supposed to be at least three other people buried on this plot. But there are no markers. Just a bunch of grass. Tears welled up in my eyes. What happened to this family that and why are there not any other markers? Why hasn't anyone cared about these markers until me, almost 100 years later? Anna and her brother Christ (really Christopher Christian) had no children but they had nieces and nephews. Anna's infant nephew was also buried here. Why didn't that family care about Aunt Anna's plot? Anna had a husband who wasn't buried on her plot. I'm still seeking out the story of him (no birth or death dates known at this time). Why didn't his nieces and nephews care about Aunt Anna?

Could the family have been poor and not purchased stones? Were they a family that just didn't mark their graves? Given the condition of Christ's plot, were the stones of poor quality, deteriorated and been removed? Were they destroyed by vandals because they were German? Were they destroyed by vandals, "just because"?

I don't know the story as to why they have no stones. But the tears flowed down my cheeks. Why? Perhaps it was because my heart ached for a family that no one remembers. Perhaps it was because I had been hoping for months to find some clues to the past. When I got to the grave site and found only one marker, I was let down and disappointed. Perhaps it was something more.

I searched for Anna's sister Marguerite Hoppe GEISZLER (1861-1921) in another part of the cemetery. Her stone was not there. I did find a marker that said Maggie, but it belonged to a collection of stones with a large family monument and this was the child's marker. It was not her family. Marguerite's husband Henry Joseph GEISZLER (1859-1931) was not buried next to his wife. He was supposed to be buried next to his mother and step-father's in Oak Grove / Georgesville Cemetery. These parent's markers are there (though greatly faded). He has no stone. Henry's father Joseph GEISZLER (1836-1863) has not been located in any cemetery. No death record has been found to even give a clue for him. Again, no stone. I went to East Lawn Cemetery to look for Henry and Marguerite's son William Joseph GEISZLER (1881-1935). He has no stone as well. With all of these non-existent stones in one family, I feel so sad. There are family stores plaguing this Geiszler family of disownership and other dark events. The lack of grave markers gives more weight to these 'stories' and greater sadness to the fact that this family begin by Joseph and Caroline Geiszler in 1863 and continued with Henry and Marguerite (Hoppe) Geiszler has nearly fallen apart. There are some rays of hope. Some of their descendants are overcoming the past and building better relationships all around. But the forebearers are not marked in any way.

Though the source of the tears are unclear, I take something away. Sure having a grave marker doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. And, in genealogical research we're going to be disappointed (and elated) throughout the research process. But the true lesson is what I take away. No matter what challenges I face, I must do everything to ensure that my husband and children know they are loved. In essence, I don't want to be a No Stone Momma. It's a concept rather than a materialistic desire for a grave marker. I want to live so that my children and grandchildren want to remember me fondly and not wait for a hundred years before anyone cares to remember who I am.

1 comment:

  1. Very touching read. I too am our resident family genealogist and I am baffled and saddened every day trying to locate our brick wall ancestors. It deeply affects me as well.
    However, each time I uncover another person from my past my heart lifts knowing these lost souls are once again in someones memory.

    I am connected to your family by Samuel and Martha (Gordon) Brown. May our searches lead us to unravel the story and eventually lead us to proof of Samuel's family.

    Lisa
    Kingston, Ohio

    ReplyDelete

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