Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mary Remler on WVXU on Sunday at 7:00

I know, I know -- Sunday, February 3rd is Super Bowl Sunday. Call it a case of bad timing, but Mary Remler, former HCGS Cemetery Chair, is being interviewed by Lee Hay for Around Cincinnati. Her interview will broadcast at 7:00 PM, Sunday, February 3rd, on WVXU (91.7). Click on this link to connect to the recording of her interview. Note: you cannot share this article from within the picture below, but you can share the entire post by clicking on one of the options at the end of this post.

Being a relative "newbie" to this organization, I had never met Mary Remler. Jean Morrison, HCGS Vice-President, knew I wanted to meet Mary. So she invited me to lunch with Mary and Jane Fitzpatrick, our new Cemetery Chair. Was I ever in for a treat!

Mary is a walking/talking source of information about cemeteries, current and "extinct" throughout Hamilton County. As I listened to her stories, I thought it would be valuable to record some of her recollections, primarily about long-abandoned cemeteries. Lee Hay at WVXU agreed to interview Mary, and we were off.

Mary talked to me on the phone about some of what she knows about these abandoned cemeteries. It is her dream to write a book entitled "Forgotten Memories." Here is some of what Mary told me.

  • There was a Works Project Administration (WPA) Project to identify and record the burial sites of all soldiers in the county. Over time, the county was no longer interested in these records and they were headed for a shredder. Mary recovered them, stored them, as they were no longer considered valuable. Now they are considered to be quite valuable. Mary had forwarded the records to Jim Dempsey who continued storing the records for years in his basement. When they became aware that the county was interested in getting them back, the decision was made to donate them back to the county. You can read more about that by clicking on this link.
  • Washington Park was once the site of a Civil War campsite for new inductees. The city wanted to acquire the land for other purposes beginning in 1858. The city still had not done so at time of the Civil War. There were newspaper articles about the soldiers using the headstones as they cooked their meals, etc. Our new Cemetery Chair, Jane Fitzpatrick, may have copies of these articles.
  • Music Hall was built over part of what had been the Washington Park Cemetery. There are stories construction workers uncovering skeletons while building Music Hall.
  • At one time, there was the Dunham Cemetery located in the Price Hill area. It was started to bury victims of tuberculosis.  Graves were only marked with a board. Bodies were buried one after the other. If someone removed the wooden marker, there was no longer a record of the death. 
  • During the Civil War, the Ohio River provided a natural way to transport injured soldiers for treatment. Hospitals were set up around the city. If the soldier died, his body was removed to Spring Grove Cemetery. That is part of the explanation for why so many Civil War veterans are buried there.
Remaining Grave Markers from Former St. Francis Seraph Cemetery
  • When St. Francis Seraph expanded, families were asked to remove bodies from the cemetery on church property. Many did not want to. The remaining bodies were buried under the church with their tombstones preserved. Mary has records on these burials. If you go on the Cincinnati Underground Tour, you can actually see this along with the remaining tombstones. 
  • The former Girls Town property across from St. Xavier High School on North Bend Rd. had over 200 burials from people who worked there and/or lived there. The bodies were removed to another cemetery.
  • Bodies buried in what was Ft. Washington (literally the military installation) were removed to a small Presbyterian Church Cemetery that was located across from the Christ Church Cathedral. That graveyard also no longer exists. 
  • Procter and Gamble purchased three cemeteries that existed on the property where their headquarters now exist. There was a “colored”, Catholic and Protestant Cemetery. Many of those bodies were relocated to either Wesleyan or Spring Grove. There had been a Wesleyan Church that they also purchased.
  • The site of the former Sears and Roebuck store on Reading Rd. was once a cemetery.
  • The playground of the old South Avondale School was once a cemetery. The School Board purchased the land. At one point, the neighborhood wanted to build a swimming pool on the site but were prevented from doing so because of the bodies that officials knew still remained on the site.
  • Many former patients of Longview were buried on the site of what was known as the Longview Insane Asylum. Some records still exist.
I personally can't wait to hear how Lee Hay manages to condense Mary's vast knowledge about abandoned cemeteries into a ten-minute interview. One thing for sure, I'll be one of the first in line to buy Mary's book.

Submitted by Kathy Reed

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Great Day at the Library

This past Saturday approximately 45 people attended a program on using historical newspapers to further your genealogical research. Patricia Van Skaik discussed how to use Pro Quest and showed how she had used this resource to try to identify the descendants of African-American Civil War soldiers. She also discussed the strengths and limitations of OCR software, providing us with tips on how best to take advantage of search results.

Steve Headley discussed free online indexes that are available to anyone. The first was Chronicling America, which includes digitized newspapers from around the country. Participating states share their digitized newspapers for this nationwide database. Newsdex is a local project that originally started in 1927. For Cincinnati researchers, it is a valuable resource. You can access it through the PLCH home page by searching on databases. If you identify an article or obituary that is relevant to your research, you can request that a librarian send it to you by return email. There is no cost for this service.

The third speaker, Kathy Reed, did a presentation on how she was able to break down a "brick wall" through the use of all three of these resources. She has a "black sheep" Kentucky ancestor whose activities were reported in 16 separate newspaper articles from 1882 that were picked up as far away as Los Angeles.

In between each talk, attendees had the opportunity to ask questions of the presenters and socialize with each other. Snacks were provided by the Hamilton County Genealogical Society which co-sponsored this event with the library. This half-day program was planned and organized by the HCGS Tech Program Committee chaired by Jenny Davis. The committee also acknowledges the contributions of Liz Stratton who suggested many of the topics for the day. Based on the turnout, we hope to offer similar programs in the future.

Submitted by Kathy Reed

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Black History Month Programs at PLCH

The Hamilton County Genealogical Society and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County are co-sponsoring a series of talks in February grouped under the banner "Pulling Ancestors from the Shadows."

Thomas Jordan, member of the Hamilton County Genealogical Society, is presenting a talk on "How to Pick Apart a Death Notice and Obituary" on February 2nd. Gail Burkholz and I had the privilege of hearing Thomas' discuss this topic in November, and I promise you will learn something new about this topic that you hadn't previously considered. Included is a letter that Thomas has developed to contact possible relatives to try to engage them in his family research. His results have been amazing.

Deborah Abbott, PhD, an OGS Board Trustee and specialist on African-American research, will host two sessions on February 9th. "From Slavery to Freedom" will use case studies that illustrate methods for connecting former slaves to their slave owners. The second session will focus on using "Cluster Genealogy."
Cluster Genealogy discusses the importance of researching an individual through extended family members, friends and the surrounding community. You may recall that Dr. Abbott is also presenting at the OGS Conference in April.

Rev. Mendle Adams, Dr. John Bryant and other researchers will host a panel on their work searching for descendants of forgotten African-American Civil War soldiers. They have discovered seven African-American heroes buried in unmarked graves at the Wesleyan Cemetery.

All programs are free, open to the public, and do not require registration. All will be held in the 3rd Floor Study Area of the Main Library. I hope to see you there.

Submitted by Kathy Reed

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Using Online Historical Newspapers

Mark your calendar! The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and the HCGS Tech Program Committee are co-sponsoring a half-day event on Saturday, January 26th from 10:00 - 12:45. Participants will come away with a better understanding of how to access historical newspaper databases to aid their genealogy research.

Patricia Van Skaik, Manager of the Genealogy and Local History Collection at PLCH will present the Pro Quest Historical Newspapers collection. This collection has full-text and full-image articles, including obituaries, birth and marriage announcements, and more. Of particular interest to genealogists researching in Hamilton County: Cincinnati Enquirer - 1841-1922 and Cincinnati Enquirer - 1999- current.

Steve Headley, Chief Indexer for the Genealogy and Local History Department at PLCH, will present the Chronicling America historic newspapers collection. This collection is a similar archive but with different newspapers, including The Daily Press -- Cincinnati, 1859-1859, Cincinnati Daily Press -- Cincinnati, 1860-62, and the Labor Advocate, Cincinnati, 1912-1937. Steve will also present Newsdex, the library's index to local newspaper articles.

Finally, Kathy Reed, HCGS Recording Secretary and Tech Programs team member will present Toppling Your Brick Wall Using Newspapers. Kathy will share how she utilized historical newspapers to break through a genealogical "brick wall" and discovered a thrice-buried ancestor along the way.

So join us on Saturday, January 26th from 10:00 AM to 12:45 PM at the Main Library in the Huenefeld Tower Room on the 3rd Floor. Refreshments will be provided during two breaks. No RSVP is needed.

Submitted by Jenny Davis and Kathy Reed

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Interested in African American Genealogy?


Are you interested in African American genealogy? If so, you may want to sign up for the Ohio Genealogical Society's Conference to be held in Cincinnati from April 25th-27th. The Co-Chairs for this conference, Kenny Burck and Dana Palmer, made every effort to identify speakers who would appeal to a variety of ethnic groups.

Fortunately, for those interested in African American genealogy, the sessions do not overlap. All but one of the presentations are on Friday, so if you can only attend one day of the conference, Friday might be your day.

Looking over the wide range of topics, there should be something for everyone. The talk scheduled for 4:30 on the use of Heritage Quest Online will include a discussion of the Freedman Bank Records. At 5:45. there will be an African American Roundtable. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss their research and ways to get past their brick walls. For more details, check the conference brochure posted at

Kathy Reed