Our story continues with another gravestone currently in possession by the Ohio History Connection. If you read the previous blog post about Emma Kearnes stone, you know that sometimes gravestones are removed from their burial location and end up in places they should not be. The Micheal Brucker stone was also donated to the education collection of the Ohio Village by a volunteer who purchased the gravestone at a garage sale. Not knowing if the gravestone was real, and concerned about the stone’s safekeeping, they gave the gravestone to the Ohio History Connection.
Like Emma’s stone, Micheal’s stone also shows evidence it spent at least part of its life marking a grave in a cemetery, as it is broken close to the ground level of the stone and has some environmental wear. Micheal’s gravestone says:
AUG. 4, 1831
MAY 16, 1875
43Y. 9M. & 12D.
The research to confirm if Micheal’s gravestone was real, and if Micheal was a real person, took a bit more effort than with Emma Kearnes. Micheal did not show up on Find a Grave with a recorded burial location. Genealogical research was the first step to identify Micheal and where he might have lived and died.
Using Ancestry, initial attempts to identify Micheal in the history record were not fruitful. However, after focusing more on his birthdate instead of his death date, we received a match. Much like Emma, whose family was recorded with the surnames spellings of “Kearnes” and “Karns”, Micheal’s family was recorded with the surname spellings of “Brucker” and “Brooker”. Knowing the surname could be recorded either way, we were able to identify Micheal quickly in census records. He appears in the 1870 census, the last census before his death, as Micheal Brooker (age 39) with his wife, Elizabeth (age 30), and eight children.
With this census record, we now know Micheal’s wife name, Elizabeth, which helped us identify his burial place. We continued the search, with a focus on Elizabeth, and found her obituary in the The Marion Daily Star on February 11, 1914. This obituary tells us she was living in Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio when she passed away and was brought back to Richwood, Union County, Ohio for burial. She is noted a Micheal’s widow (and, therefore, remained unmarried after his death) so the likelihood she is buried in the same cemetery as her husband is high. Elizabeth outlived her husband by almost 39 years.
Using Find A Grave, we were able to easily identify Elizabeth’s burial place at Claibourne Cemetery, Richwood, Union County, Ohio (also known as Bethlehem Cemetery). Knowing we have a burial location for Elizabeth, this at least narrowed down the likely cemetery of Micheal’s burial. The Ohio History Connection Archives & Library has two books in their collection for cemeteries in Claibourne Township in Union County: Claibourne Township Cemeteries, Union County, Ohio by the Union County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society ©1989 and Claibourne Township Cemeteries, Union County, Ohio by Jean Congrove and Mary Carr ©1990.
Elizabeth Brucker (1838-1914) appears in both references as buried in Section #2 of Claiborne Cemetery. However, Micheal is not documented as buried beside her. After a thorough review of the references, we were able to find Micheal buried in Section 7 but only in the ©1989 Claibourne Township Cemeteries, Union County, Ohio by the Union County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society. Micheal is not documented in the ©1990 Claibourne Township Cemeteries, Union County, Ohio by Jean Congrove and Mary Carr. Is it possible Micheal’s gravestone disappeared in that short period between the 1989 publication and the 1990 publication? It is possible, however, we have to keep in mind, gravestone inventorying is a time consuming process that is usually completed over a number of years by dedicated volunteers. It is unlikely all the work to publish one inventory was completed in such a short period. It is more likely, though the inventories were published very close together; the work that took place in the cemetery to document gravestones was completed at different times, possibly even decades apart (as we saw in the case of Emma Kearnes gravestone).
The next step is to figure out where exactly in Section 7 Micheal is buried. This is not an easy task, as burials in historic cemeteries oftentimes are not laid out in neat, easy-to-inventory rows like modern cemeteries. Inventories like the 1989 and 1990 surveys are helpful, but older gravestones disappear or are moved over time, making the nearby-reference to other gravestones sometimes problematic. There is another reference in the Ohio History Connection Archives & Library that might help up, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Civilian Grave Registry.
The WPA Civilian Grave Registry is a 50-box archived collection at OHC that is, essentially, the by-product of the more well known WPA Veteran Graves Registry. If you have searched for veteran records for an ancestor who served in the military, you are probably familiar with the Veteran Graves Registry. As part of the WPA’s Historical Records Survey (HRS), the Veteran Graves Registration Project was an effort, sponsored by Ohio’s Adjutant General, to “prepare a complete record of the Veterans of all 31 Wars, Insurrections and Uprising in which the United States has been engaged, including Confederate States of America and regularly enlisted men of all branches of the service.” The work undertaken by the WPA from 1938-1940 included inspections of burial grounds, preparation of cemetery plat maps, and recording of a card for each veteran showing the name, service connection, place, date and cause of death, and place and date of burial. As the WPA Veteran Grave Registration Project took place in the late 1930’s, early 1940’s, these records document veterans who served and are buried in Ohio before World War II.
The efforts taken by the WPA workers for the Veteran Graves Registration Project included hand-written forms collected by staff who went from cemetery-to-cemetery attempting to identify any possible males buried in the cemetery who may have served in a war. This documentation was then used for research efforts to confirm or deny if that individual was a veteran. Based on reports on the progress of the project, it is likely the WPA staff in Ohio inventorying gravestones collected approximately 2 million of these cards. Unfortunately, OHC’s collection is not complete, and the WPA Civilian Grave Registry mostly covers central Ohio counties, including Union County.
Micheal Brucker’s WPA Civilian Grave Registry card could not be found in our collection, but another piece of the Veteran Grave Registry project can help us identify his burial location. The WPA Cemetery Plat Map shows a limited number of burials in Section 7 in Claibourne Cemetery. Using the location of known gravestones in this section of the cemetery, a map can be made to narrow down Micheal’s burial location.
 Report by Mr. Harmon E. Zepernick (1895-1965), chairman of the Graves Registration Project and technical state supervisor of the WPA, submitted to the American Legion Department of Ohio on May 16, 1939. Report located in OHC Society Archives 454.
A visit to the cemetery to observe the layout will help with future efforts to identify Micheal’s burial location so his gravestone can be placed back in the cemetery.
Thanks to new features on the Find A Grave website, photographs taken of gravestones with imbedded GPS coordinates can now display on Find A Grave mapping to help researchers find a burial site easier. This made it very easy for us to find Elizabeth Brucker’s gravestone during our visit. It is sad to think husband and wife are not buried beside each other, but this could be because of the 39 years between their deaths.
Section 7 of Claibourne Cemetery is one of the oldest established sections of the cemetery. While not documented as containing very many graves, it is highly likely a number of unmarked burials exist in this section, as collapsed grave shafts are obvious on the ground surface throughout the section. An initial walk-through of the section was not able to positive identify Micheal’s grave location. However, additional research using the 1989 and 1990 inventories, the WPA Civilian Grave Registry, WPA Cemetery Plat Maps, and other methods, like probing for the bottom half of Micheal’s gravestone, will help us narrow down his burial location for the resetting of the gravestone.
One thing taphophiles should never forget when researching gravestones is the real people behind them. While it may seem obvious to the reader, we can get distracted by the pretty carvings and forget that stone was created to memorialize someone who may be long gone, and long forgotten. Genealogical research helps us understand the people they were before they died. Micheal and Elizabeth were both born in Germany, spent time in New York before immigrating to Ohio (which we know because their first-born child is documented as being born in New York), and raised a large family in rural Union County. In fact, Micheal and Elizabeth raised an impressive number of children before Micheal’s premature death at age 43. According to Elizabeth’s obituary, she had 13 children, seven of which were still living in 1914 when she died. Based on census records alone, we were able to document 9 children: Gotleib William (1858-1941), Eliza (1860-1913), Luther/Louis/Lewis H. (1862/3-1938), Emma C. (1864-?), Dora (1865-?), Mary Elizabeth (1867-1934), Enna/Christena (1868/1870-?, possibly two separate individuals), Magdalena/Lena (1874-1945), and Carrie (1876-1949). We know Elizabeth continued to live in Union County until at least 1880, where she shows up in the census records as Head of House with six children. Elizabeth spent the end of her life (1900 and 1910 census) living in Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio, likely close by her son, Lewis, who also resided in Tiffin. Little is recorded about Micheal and his life, aside from showing up as a Farm Laborer in census records. Micheal left his legacy with this wife and children, and he undoubtedly has many descendants still living in central Ohio.
The Ohio History Connection is working with Claibourne Township on the resetting of Micheal Brucker’s gravestone, which will take place this spring after the weather improves. We may never know why Micheal’s stone was removed from the cemetery, but thanks to a dedicated volunteer who cared for the stone, the Ohio History Connection can now ensure Micheal Brucker’s gravestone is properly reset in Claibourne Cemetery.
If you have any questions related to Ohio cemeteries or gravestones, please contact Krista Horrocks at the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office at [email protected].
Visit Krista's previous blog post, Two Gravestones Out of Place: Part 1 of 2 The Emma Kearnes Stone, to learn more about another misplaced gravestone.
Congrove, Jean, and Mary Carr. Claibourne Township Cemeteries, Union County, Ohio. Ancestrails Study Group, 1990.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 81823141, Elizabeth E. Brocken Andrews (1860–1913), created by "Becky Jacobs"; citing Claibourne Cemetery, Richwood, Union County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 50728952, William Brooker (1858–1941), created by "Joseph Crone"; citing Maple Grove Cemetery, Findlay, Hancock County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 42736514, Dora Brooker Robinson (1865–unknown), created by "Mary Robinson-Foster"; citing Oakdale Cemetery, Marysville, Union County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 39593061, Mary Elizabeth Brooker Fetty (1867–1934), created by "Becky Jacobs"; citing Prospect Cemetery, Prospect, Marion County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 154805869, Carrie Brooker Walker (1876–1949), created by "Names in Stone"; citing Marion Cemetery, Marion, Marion County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 48924611, Lena Brooker Tudor (1874–1945), created by "Catie & Will"; citing Fairview Cemetery, Tipton, Tipton County, Indiana, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 160741495, Elizabeth Feichmetzer Brooker (1831–1914), created by "Becky Jacobs"; citing Claibourne Cemetery, Richwood, Union County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 245539961, Micheal Brucker (1831–1875), created by "Krista (Wagner) Horrocks"; citing Claibourne Cemetery, Richwood, Union County, Ohio, USA.
Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com), Ohio, Soldiers Grave Registration Cards, 1804-1958. Historical Records Survey, United States Works Progress Administration (Ohio)
Historical Records Survey, United States Works Progress Administration (Ohio). Civilian grave registration cards, 1936-1940. Ohio History Connection, SAS 1166.
Ohio Genealogical Society. Union County Chapter. Claibourne Township Cemeteries, Union County, Ohio. Union County Chapter, Ohio Genealogical Society, 1989.
U.S. Census Bureau (1870). Union Township, Union County, Ohio. Retrieved from (http://www.ancestry.com).