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Friday, April 15, 2016

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Final Resting Place: Historic Lincoln Cemetery


It was quite a journey that led to the discovery of the final resting place of Ellis' grandparents. Not many folks who could share that information are living to do so. We were really dependent on online records because the names Lawrence R. Johnson and Louise Johnson are common enough to be difficult finds without having their birth or death dates.

There was no way to narrow down the search results for this couple using Illinois Vital Records without the knowledge of the death dates. It was not until the collections Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994, and Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947 came online did we have a hope of finding Lawrence and Louise among death records.

In 1993, while interviewing their son-in-law, Archie McClure, who passed away later that year, I learned the names of the parents of Louise, Joseph and Josephine Marshall. Once the collections mentioned above came online, we were able to search for the parents of Louise among the Illinois death records. By just searching for the parents and leaving the main search field blank, I have been able to discover children that people have forgotten and females who married were lost because no one could provide a married name.

The parents matched this record, and Louise's daughter, Inez, was the informant which helped to confirm the her identity on this death record:

"Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994," database, ( : accessed 15 April 2016), Louise Johnson, 21 Jul 1957; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, source reference , record number , Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 

I do not think it was a coincidence that we discovered the death record for Lawrence R. Johnson 71 years later minus one day, 11 April 1945. Nothing would keep us from finding Historic Lincoln Cemetery and visiting on the anniversary of his burial. We recognized the address, 217 N. Oakley.

"Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994," database,( : accessed 15 April 2016), Lawrence R Johnson, 06 Apr 1945; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, source reference , record number , Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm.

Next, we needed to physically locate this cemetery. We turned to Find A Grave where we quickly saw what we thought was a discrepancy in the location. On Find A Grave, Lincoln Cemetery is located in Blue Island not Worth as stated on both death records.  You need to be careful that in your excitement that you do not head out to a cemetery that you have not confirmed. Some older cemeteries have changed hands, and names have changed. Also, cemeteries can exist that have the same name, and you do not want to waste valuable time searching in the wrong place.

It did not help that the couples' memorial had not been entered on Find A Grave. We searched for an online listing for Lincoln Cemetery where we discovered the one located on 12300 S. Kedzie in Blue Island is one and the same. It is located in Worth Township. We needed additional confirmation from that we could only get on site.

Lincoln Cemetery is really Historic Lincoln Cemetery. The Alabama Study Group of the Afro-American Genealogical Society indexed the graves in Historic Lincoln Cemetery (even the unmarked graves).

Many famous African Americans are buried there, namely Gwendolyn Brooks, Bessie Coleman, and noted blues and jazz musicians.

We visited the office where they looked in a card catalog (Louise Johnson) and an indexed book of burials kept in a vault (Lawrence R. Johnson) to find the location of the graves:

We received maps to help us locate both graves:

Louise Marshall Johnson:

Lawrence R Johnson:

Unfortunately, neither grave had a marker, but we were able to find the section and lot number. For now, we took photos of Ellis standing over both graves.

Louise Marshall Johnson (1879-1957)

Louise Marshall Johnson's grave:

Lawrence Royston Johnson (1865-1945)

Lawrence R. Johnson's grave:

Got Cook County, Illinois ancestors? Visit Cook County, Illinois Genealogy on FamilySearch Wiki.  What are some of your most memorable cemetery finds?


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