Exploring Almost Forgotten Gravesites in the Great State of Ohio

Dedicated to cemetery preservation in the great state of Ohio

"A cemetery may be considered as abandoned when all or practically all of the bodies have been Removed therefrom and no bodies have been buried therein for a great many years, and the cemetery has been so long neglected as entirely to lose its identity as such, and is no longer known, recognized and respected by the public as a cemetery. 1953 OAG 2978."

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Ohio's WPA Cemetery Plat Maps -- Then and Now

Sharing a personal experience gleaned from my research conducted during the Summer of the rather recent year of 2013.  However, part of me cannot fully comprehend the reality that it has actually been four years since I devoted so much of my free time during those warm summer months trying to track down the current locations of  WPA Cemetery Plat Maps in each of Ohio's 88 counties. 

This county-by-county research required daily phone calls and/or emails to Recorder or other county offices, county archives, libraries, genealogical and historical societies, etc. and note taking and typing up my results at the end of each day's work. 

For some counties, follow-up contacts were necessary for various reasons, not the least of which was to communicate with someone else who might know what I was asking about.  

I soon learned that these maps were not often requested.  Sadly, I was mistakenly too hopeful because I knew genealogists who referred to these maps during their research of veteran burials.  I knew of at least two Chapters of the Ohio Genealogical Society that had painstakingly reduced the size of these large maps (often bound in heavy books) and had the pages reproduced in smaller size booklets.  The chapters offered them to some libraries and sold them to members and others who were interested.  I purchased both Champaign County and Fayette County WPA Cemetery Plat maps booklets and have referred to them several times.

So, I'll fast forward to these waning days of the Summer of 2017 as I find myself re-visiting the process of contacting some Ohio Counties about their WPA Cemetery Plat Maps.  

Now I am requesting these maps to help others seeking to identify where soldiers were buried at a specific cemetery.  In order to be of help, I started my new research by referring to my 2013 records.  

In some counties due to personnel changes that have occurred, I received a reply from someone who was not my initial contact person.  

Changes can bring good surprises!  

Such is the case in Clermont County where Nick Hoover, who is the current Deputy Recorder, replied to my email requesting for help locating a map for "The Old Bapist" Cemetery in Newtonsville.  He was able to locate it under another name: "The Nazarene Cemetery" and he sent me a scanned image of it.  Nick also provided the 1930s era Clermont County Cemetery Index, and a full County Map that denotes cemetery locations by numbers corresponding to the page number of the WPA Cemetery plat maps and the Map Index.  It was such a pleasure to correspond with Nick!  

Re-visiting these WPA Cemetery Plat Maps has offered me reassurance that they are not as obscure as they once were.  I feel more people are learning about them and realizing their unique historic value they hold to help folks learn more about their county of interest.

These maps also give us a glimpse into the thinking of those who lived during the years of the Great Depression.   What the U.S. Government considered important to preserve for future generations.  Among the work was transcriptions of church records, and visiting cemeteries to document veteran burials on grave cards and maps -- and so much more -- all was deemed important enough to pay and train people who needed the work because unemployment was so high.   

In Ohio, only the names of known veterans, up to and including World War I, are listed with their burial locations identified.  In Iowa, however, the listings were compiled for all burials in their cemeteries.  

As with any written record, there are errors and omissions, so we keep these thoughts in mind when researching the WPA Cemetery Plat Maps.  They can be your starting point of research, or your last step that provides the final piece to a puzzle that you thought you would never find!