Sunday, March 13, 2011

Church Record Sunday - Evangelical Lutheran Church

I know in what cemetery my great great grandparents, William and Catherine Porter, my great grandfather and grandmother, Leander and Mary Porter, and my grandfather, Harry Leslie Porter, are buried. But I do not know where they are located within that cemetery.

All are buried in St. John's Cemetery, Martinsburg Road, Pleasant Township, Knox, Ohio. Being that their wealth ranged from pauper to poor none of them have tombstones. Luckily the cemetery is still active. Well, not quite so "luckily" as it turns out.

St. John's Cemetery was originally on the grounds of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran church. As early as 1820 a preacher was in the area, and the church was formally organized on 4 Jun 1853. A frame church thirty-six by forty feet was erected, and dedicated 1 July 1855 by Rev. J. W. Sloan. By 1876 no regular pastor remained. It is unknown to me when the building was torn down.

Since the church was no longer around I decided to contact the Pleasant Township trustees to see where I could find the cemetery records. I was hoping to be able to place small tombstones at my ancestors' graves. I was saddened to hear back from one of the trustees that all the records for the time periods of my ancestors' deaths were lost due to vandalism. How sad. What is it with these people that feel the need to destroy cemetery records/tombstones, etc.?

I left this research for a couple years, but recently decided to see if I could find any church records. I contacted the Mount Vernon Public Library and was told that they did not have any records and/or books on this church. I started trying different phrases in Google until I came upon the website for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You'll want to click the tab 'Who We Are', then click the tab 'History', then click the side tab ELCA Archives. This website if filled with information on researching the Evangelical Lutheran Church. I found if I clicked the 'Regional Archives' side tab after landing on the Archives page I was able to locate the Region 6 archive specifically for Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and lower Michigan. Some of the regions only list an email for contact purposes, but this archive had a website I could explore. This Region 6 website explains what one needs to do to have research performed, the costs of the research, hours that one can do research onsite, etc. There is a 'Contact the Archivist' button, which I did. I gave what information I had on St. John's Church and asked if there were any surviving records for this church. It took about a week before I heard back from the archivist. I was disappointed but not surprised that very little was found. What the archivist found was one index card that had been compiled by a previous archivist, and a record book from the church after it had moved to Mount Vernon dated 1936-1939. No record of when that branch of the church disappeared.

So no help for me. However, this site is worth noting for anyone that might want to do research into the history of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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