Q. My grandparents sold their property to the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant in the early 1940's. Midewin Prairie has since taken over some of the land that people sold for the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. They say they don't own the cemetery where my grandparents and other family members are buried, and I am trying to locate the present owner. Who do I contact to get this information? I have been to the Will County Recorders Office, and they say they don't have any information on the land transfer to the Government in the early 1940's. The name of the cemetery is the Chicago Road Cemetery or sometimes called the German Evangelical Cemetery in Florence Township. I suspect it is still owned by the U.S. Government, but Midewin says they don't know.
A. According to a report written by the Department of the Interior in the mid-1980s, the property purchased for the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant included six cemeteries. See report here (reference 3). Although the report identifies only one of the cemeteries by name (Reed Cemetery), your suspicion that the Chicago Road Cemetery might be owned by the federal government is certainly plausible. I am skeptical, however, that submitting formal requests for records dating back to the 1940s will be the most efficient way for you to learn who owns the cemetery. As an initial matter, if you have not done so already, I would suggest contacting the congressperson who represents the district in which the cemetery is located, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, as well as your elected state, county, or village/town officials (listed here). Additionally, you may wish to contact the Joliet Arsenal Development Authority, whose mission is to adapt and transform the land formerly used by the U.S. Army.
If you wish to request records from the U.S. Department of the Army, you may send your request by regular mail to Alecia Bowling, FOIA Contact, Freedom of Information Act Office, Suite 144, 7701 Telegraph Road, Room 150, Alexandria, VA 22315-3905, or via email at email@example.com, or via the following online form. If you wish to make a FOIA request to the USDA's Forest Service, which operates the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, please follow the instructions set forth here. Tips about making Freedom of Information Act requests can be located here.
You may also be interested in the following guidance concerning abandoned cemeteries from the State of Illinois Comptroller.
I hope this information is useful.