Back in November, I visited a local cemetery to pay my respects to my husband’s Great Half Uncle, William O. Johnson. When we arrived we couldn’t get into the mausoleum as the door was locked. There was no sign on the door that provided the hours it was open.
There was no cemetery office and we were the only ones in the cemetery so we went home, disappointed. I immediately went online to Findagrave.com to discover how I could connect with a cemetery trustee.
What I found was a transcription from Dorothy A. Ditmars History of DeKalb County Cemeteries (1924) that states “…The present manager of this cemetery is Mr. L. Gengler, an attornery (sic) of Garrett, Indiana).”
The next paragraph transcribes a “printed page (source unknown)” that John Martin Smith had in his private files that stated, “Lots are mowed by Oliver Maurer, who has been employed as caretaker since 1954.”
I looked for another site that contained more recent info and found that every other site had copied the same information. Luckily, a newspaper article appeared in the Garrett Clipper on 23 June 2020 about a new Columbarium that was being installed in the cemetery close to the mausoleum. The article mentioned contacting the nearby Roman Catholic Church for information on purchasing lots and niches.
I emailed the church office and a week and a half later hadn’t gotten a response. I thought they might be busy as it was nearing Christmas. I decided to go to my local genealogy library to research some street names in the city and while there, mentioned I couldn’t get into the mausoleum. The librarian was working on a county cemetery project and had just finished with the cemetery I was interested in minutes before I entered. She handed me the book of copies of lot purchases. I found several for the family I was interested in, the Blairs, but none of the Johnsons, which were the ones I needed. Then it hit me, the records for the mausoleum were missing from the book.
I know this sounds unbelievable but for my long-time readers, you know weird things happen to me whenever I do boots-on-the-ground research – a woman came into the library asking for a book of newspaper articles from 25 years ago. While the librarian retrieved it, the woman and I spoke and she just happened to be the reporter who had written the story in 2020. She encouraged me to call the church office and not rely on waiting for a response from their email system. She also gave me the answers to my street names questions that I hadn’t been able to find on maps in the library.
I called the parish office as soon as I got home and was told that the clerical staff would check with the priest and call me back. The next day I got a returned phone call but no answers. The church runs the cemetery but not the mausoleum. They don’t know who is responsible for that. They have no key and didn’t know it was locked. They were going to check with the caretaker, Dave, for further info.
I asked if there were mixed burials in the mausoleum; by mixed I mean people of various faiths as the original intent when the cemetery was laid out in 1897 was to have a section for Roman Catholics and a section for “others.” Having spent so many years in the South I was used to the separation in cemeteries by race but hadn’t come across much by religious affiliation. I was told that the church doesn’t have the mausoleum records, and no one knows where they are or how many spaces are unsold there. The clerical person said she knew families buried in the mausoleum who were of differing faiths.
Not surprisingly, the church has yet to call me back to tell me what the caretaker said about how we could access the mausoleum. On Valentine’s, I went to a genealogy lecture locally and was speaking with a woman who said she knew who had the mausoleum books but had no idea how one accessed entry into it. She said she’d get back to me. Still waiting, sigh!
Genealogy is such a study of patience but also one of perseverance. At the last DeKalb County Genealogy Society meeting I asked if anyone knew where the records might be housed. No one did but one of the members happens to be the caretaker for a nearby cemetery’s mausoleum. The key he has happens to open the mausoleum I’m seeking to enter. We’re planning to get together soon so my husband and I can pay our respects.
I still intend to hunt down those missing records and that’s on my agenda for May.
I will be taking a break from blogging for the next two weeks while my husband and I go on a genealogical adventure. I’ll surprise you with the details when I write again on April 29th.