27 July 2012

Journey to the Past: Second Full Cemetery Day Begins


When planning for my trip to Columbus, I had made a master list of all the persons I had hoped to find in Franklin County cemeteries. I then called all of the cemeteries to see if I could get a plot map so that when I arrived on the scene, at whatever time, I could go directly to the plots snap my photos and move on. I attempted to stress the importance that depending upon people to personally show me the plots would slow me down and advanced preparation was needed.

On Tuesday, May 22nd, I had six cemeteries to visit. I thought I had mapped out a circular pattern of driving but I'd soon learn that I was criss-crossing all over the county. I chose Obetz Cemetery as it had the largest number of persons that I was seeking. It was till to get the day started!

When I called Obetz Cemetery, I was told they had no cemetery maps to hand out. Essentially, I had to go into the office and I would be directed from there. I was informed that the Columbus Metropolitan Library had section and plot information and that I should check there and bring these numbers in. I actually found this information online at Obetz Cemetery Burials.

I searched the records and found several names that were listed as part of the cemetery but with no section/plot numbers. The person on the phone did not know why this would be the case. Everyone, according to him, had information on the library rolls.

Obetz Cemetery, Franklin County, Ohio
Photo by Brent Nimmo
In any case, I proceeded to Obetz Cemetery at around 8:30 am. I had 35 names to find, 30 of which were volunteer names. I had hoped that I would be able to get pointed in the right direction in the cemetery. In the office, I found a worker who was bothered by my request for assistance on several names that had no section number.

I shared how I had researched in the library rolls and found the names listed but no plot information. He said that every stone has now been indexed, but not necessarily every plot. He shared that it really depended about who the record creator was and that Obetz hasn't always had the best people creating records. So, it didn't surprise him that the people with death dates in the 1920-1940s didn't have plot information recorded. And that if there were no stones, they really didn't know where these persons were buried. Nevertheless, he proceeded to the safe to pull out burial records for the Townsend families and the Geisler families.

I had hope to find the Geisler family members that were related to me through HattieElizabeth Brown GEISLER (13 Dec 1871 - 26 Jul 1917). Hattie's parents brother Sherman Lewis BROWN and wife Emma Virginia Townsend BROWN were buried in this cemetery and I would seek after them later (as I had section information on them). Hattie's was supposed to be buried next to her husband George Washington GEISLER (14 Jul 1867 - 3 Feb 1947). Additional Geisler family members buried in Obetz should be:

Michael Carrington Geisler (20 Nov 1831 - 1 Oct 1920), George's father
Jane Drew Geisler (12 May 1838 - 5 Mar 1928), George's step-mother
James Pleasant Geisler, (22 Jul 1858 - 20 Dec 1946), George's brother
Barbara E Geisler Miller (1865 – 1943), George's sister
Harry E Geisler (7 Jun 1889 - 21 Jan 1933), George's son

After searching the burial cards, none of these names appeared. How sad. So what happened? No one really knows.

The next name I had no plot information for was William James TOWNSEND (3 May 1868 - 15 Jul 1929). William is the brother to my great-grandmother Emma Virginia Townsend BROWN who again, I would be seeking out later. A number of Townsend names were found in the burial cards, but not William James Townsend. Again, what happened? Again, no one really knows.

Well, that solved the problem of why relatives are listed in the rolls without plot numbers. When someone went around Obetz to match records with tombstones, no stones were found for these persons. Where are they buried?

Even though the gentleman questioned me repeatedly about if these names were family members (they are, thankfully), he was kind enough to help me though he wasn't the regular office worker. I do need to give acknowledgment of that.

The next problem was to actually find the stones in a cemetery that had no overall all cemetery maps or individual section maps. The man said that the sections were marked with pillars near each section and that the sections were small enough that I could easily walk them and find the stones. If I had trouble, to come back in and he'd help me.

Doubting whether this would work, I headed out to the first section. In section 12 which is right outside the office door, I quickly found a name I was looking for: James RITTER ( - 1958). This was a volunteer name and I was happy to be able to do this service.

Find A Grave Memorial# 64790286
Obetz Cemetery
 I found some Geisler names in this section and figured that even though I didn't have the original Geisler's on my list that these might be needed on Find-A-Grave. I thought that was quick and painless.

Florence Jane Geisler
Find A Grave Memorial #64803904
Obetz Cemetery

I was ready to move over to section 18 because it was the next section that I recognized that I needed. I searched the entire section for Catherine Townsend, Nancy Smith, and Ralph Joiner. I came up empty handed after an hour of searching. It was wonderful to walk through rows and see volunteers planting flags on veteran's graves. What a special tribute for the upcoming memorial weekend. I loved seeing the activity of this 'small' cemetery with the grounds being mowed and trimmed and perhaps a plot being dug up. However, without a map, I knew I could not spend an hour searching out each name. I needed to know exactly where I was going.

I headed back to the office and was directed to the most important plot of all, my 2nd great-grandparents. In looking at the plot book, their names were not recorded in it. I was prepared to not find their stones. The gentleman had an uncle buried in this section and gave me some reference points. I also snapped a picture of the plot book page so that if I had trouble, I could reorient myself using the camera's photo. (Obetz should really turn these into copies for visitors).

I soon found Sherman and Emma Brown and I left the cemetery.

Sherman Brown and Emma Townsend Brown
Obetz Cemetery
Click on lists for FindAGrave Memorials
Is it wrong of me to feel so frustrated? A cemetery needs to have a map to had people so they can find their deceased. They should be friendly towards visitors to their cemetery who attempted to call ahead to prepare them for their visit. (I had said I would be looking for 35 names, please be prepared). Also, would it be so hard in 2010 to get a computer to keep the records of the cemetery on? After visiting East Lawn and Obetz, I felt like I could do this job when my kids are grown and gone (and I'd use a computer to do it). It wasn't a "I could do this better than you" but rather a, "I'd really could see myself doing this" thought. How weird!?

Even though I was frustrated and felt that I had wasted so much time in Obetz's cemetery despite my efforts, I took 41 photos, two of which I had planned on taking. I hope that someone who lives in Ohio would simply go to Obetz and snap photos without bothering the office. Post them to Find-A-Grave, and then we'd all be blessed.

This is another installment in a lengthy multi-series post about the fantastic research trip I took to Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio. If you're just joining the this series, you'll be able to see every post under the label Research Trip.

1 comment:

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