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Back to St. Johannes

Back in May, I wrote about the sad tale of St. Johannes Cemetery on the grounds of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. At the time, I mentioned that none of my direct ancestors were buried at St. Johannes, but that many other relatives were. Well, it turns out I was wrong. Last week, I received a great CD I’d ordered from the DuPage County Genealogical Society. Necrology Records of Selected Townships in DuPage County combines a massive amount of information from cemetery, funeral home, and church records. Thanks to the CD, I now know that my GGGG-Grandparents, Johan Gerhard Heinrich Franzen and Anna Catharina Hartbecke are indeed buried at St. John’s. Who knows where they’ll be a few years from now. I wish I’d known this back in August when we flew back from Massachusetts. We had a very long layover in Chicago on the way back. I would have had plenty of time to rent a car and drive over to the back side of the airport to visit the cemetery while it’s still there.

Anyway, here is a excellent little documentary on the St. Johannes controversy produced almost a year ago (before the Supreme Court refused to hear the case) by some students from Northwestern University.

Oh, and one more thing. When I say the Necrology Records CD is “great,” what I really mean is that the data on the CD is great. The presentation is another story entirely. The meat of the data is contained in about 60 RTF files wrapped in a kludgy interface that allows only minimal searching. I guess the expected use pattern is to mimic a series of books: find a name in the overall index file, follow the reference into one of the separate cemetery files, and find what you need. Most of the potential advantage of having this information in a digital format is absent, though. The search function is just a simple text search, so there’s no way to find someone with a certain surname who died in a certain year. It only took about five minutes of struggling with the CD that I knew I had to take a different approach. I converted the RTF files to plain text (which they essentially were anyway), massaged them a bit in BBEdit, and imported them into a FileMaker database. Voila! Full searchability across all cemeteries. Nifty.