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26 July 2012

Journey to the Past: East Lawn Cemetery Was a Bust

On Monday, May 21st, I wrapped up my Green Lawn Cemetery venture and had about an hour before I needed to be at my aunt's home for dinner. I had three options. Go to the house, cool off, and wait. Do more volunteer photos in Green Lawn and cool off later. Or go to another cemetery. I thought if I really hurried, I just might make it over to East Lawn Cemetery before the office closed at 4 pm. If I could find the stones I was looking for today, I would have less cemeteries to visit on Tuesday. Plus, the drive to the cemetery in the air conditioned car would cool me off a bit. So I made a valiant effort. 

Photo by Gene, posted on the Find A Grave website.
I arrived at the East Lawn office 10 minutes before the office closed. If I'm not mistaken, the office worker was none to pleased. I simply needed a map to point me in the direction of the stones I sought as I had the lot location. I had called several months before my trip. I had hoped to get a section map and other helpful information prior to arrival. I was told these phone requests were not available and that I should just come in. So, here I was. Doing what I was told to do, just 10 minutes for closing time. Sorry!
I was looking for William Joseph GEISZLER (5 May 1881 – 10 Nov 1935). He's the brother of my great-grandfather George  Joseph GEISZLER (who's cemetery section I have visited on Sunday). The information I had said that he was buried in Section 1-A, space 2 #1696. I had two additional names as requested on Find-A-Grave.

The woman didn't seem pleased that I was trying to seek out these names. She constantly asked if I was there trying to photograph stones as a volunteer. I could tell things wouldn't go well if I said, “well one of them is family and the other two are volunteer names.” I simply said I have plot information, so if she would give me a map, I could be on my way.

She then asked if I knew if the persons I sought had headstones. She gets upset when people come to the cemetery looking for headstones when a plot doesn't have any. She kept asking who told me there would be headstone. I said, a death certificate said the person was buried there. That's why I had come to find the stones. The woman still seemed less than thrilled that I was there but headed to the safe to pull out files for lot #1696.

Another family came in for family plot information, and the lady grumbled. Wow. What had we done? The purpose of a cemetery is to bury our dead and then for ancestors to visit them. I was a little upset when the woman stopped helping me to help this second visitor. But I held my tongue. I didn't want to offend her and perhaps there was a reason she wasn't as friendly as I would have hoped. I wasn't trying to be judgmental. I just wanted a section map.

After helping those who came in after me, the woman finally assisted me. She looked up William Geiszler and confirmed the record that he was indeed buried in the cemetery in the section that I had information on. She gave me a map and then showed me where I MIGHT find the stone. She said it was likely that there would be no stone there because the section was primarily Chinese markers and had few “English” names.

The worker also helped me located the following Find A Grave Requests on the map. One was supposed to be easy to find, Bengerman Matheson (1884 – 1925) in Section 2-B, lot 36 space 3. The other one, Danielle Pickens Block 2, Section 13 South, Grave #2490 would be more difficult.

William Joseph Geiszler
When I headed over to William J Geiszler's plot, I found no stone bearing his name. I was disappointed. How many more Geiszler relatives would have no stone? Why was this so prevalent in that side of my family? I didn't take a photo of the section he was supposed to be buried in. I moved on.

Time for the volunteer names. I sought out Bengerman Matheson's stone but couldn't find one. I believe I read the map correctly, but I couldn't tell where the stone was as I walked the section. This is another case of when a reference marker would have quickly helped me find the stone or the plot without a stone. In either case, I had nothing for the volunteer.

I didn't attempt to seek out Danielle Pickens. She's buried in a newer section of East Lawn. Apparently, this section has people buried according to the date they died. So, if you died in 2009, you'd be interred in the order of your death Jan, Feb, March, etc. If the person was buried and had a stone, it would be easy to locate. If the person's stone had not yet been placed, given that Danielle had died in 2010 it's possible, then there would be a peg in the ground identifying the burial's #. The worker says there was no real map. I could just wander around and see if I found a marker or a number on a peg. That idea had no appeal to me this late in the day. So I left. Hopefully someone else will have better luck.

In short, East Lawn Cemetery was a bust. Whether it was because I didn't understand the plot maps or because the worker was less than friendly, I'm not entirely sure. However, if you have to go to East Lawn, be prepared to face questions about why you're seeking after these stones. Know the burial # rather than the plot location as it is far more important in locating a person in this cemetery than anything else. And finally, don't plan your trip to East Lawn when the office should be closing.

I'd recommend volunteers canvasing the entire cemetery. Photograph everything, even if you can't read the Chinese. Take photos of the pegs with numbers. This would greatly reduce the need for photo volunteers to use the office. Perhaps the office worker was just having a bad day. However, if you could avoid using the office, then do it.

Perhaps I shouldn't post this information as it's rather harsh. However, if I had known the experience would have been so difficult, I would have prepared differently. Thus, I share my remarks.

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.

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