May 24, 2009 - A Memorial - 2nd Lieut. Frederick Henry Abraham - Part 3

24 May 2009

And the question is, "Which grave marker is granduncle Frederick Henry's?" And that's how I started. I'm trying to begin at the end. It's a genealogy research practice. You have to kill off your ancestors. Sounds great! No! No! No! I didn't mean that it's great to kill my ancestors. Maybe that old crotchety uncle with a three-inch black hair sprouting from the bottom of his chin... Sorry, sorry I got side-tracked. But it's sort-of a rule of thumb, not carved in stone, but a great piece of advice, that when you start checking out one of your past ancestors, one of the first places to start is to start at his death.

And at this point I must make a small note that I'm stealing a thought from Norman Mailer -

"I do not know if the women who read this book will all be all that inclined to forgive me, but the alternative was to edit many old remarks over into a style I cannot beat - the rhetorically hygienic politically correct."

In no way do I consider myself in the same league as Mr. Mailer, it's just that I thought it may be a bit wasteful to type "he or she" or "s/he", and I compromise to what Norman Mailer has to say. (See The Spooky Art)

Oh sorry, about the tangent, but it seems applicable at this specific moment, that I used the "his" adjective as I referred to a past ancestor, that I needed to make an explanation. And now back to looking for granduncle Frederick Henry's grave marker.

And now to continue from Part 2...

So quickly summarizing I have discovered that granduncle Frederick Henry was killed by an enemy’s bullet on the 2nd of October, 1918 just east of Joncourt. Joncourt is in the department of Aisne in the northern part of France, near the Belgium border. Accordingly he and his fallen comrades were buried at the point where they fell. The name of the cemetery, maintained and preserved by the British Commonwealth War and Graves Commission, is the Joncourt East British Cemetery.

From various sources and information gathered there are 71 fallen men buried at the Joncourt East British Cemetery. One of the burials is my granduncle Frederick Henry. But which one?

I took a scan of the original photo of the grave marker on file, and I enlarged it with a PC photograph program. Examining the enlargement, I noticed a number of key points. These were, as indicated by the red ellipses:

A. No grave markers are seen behind the grave markers in the photograph.

B. There is a straight edge in the recessed carving.

C. There is carved text, behind twigs, on grave marker.

D. There is a carved straight line, behind twigs, on grave marker.

E. The grave marker on the right, facing F. H. Abraham’s grave marker has the similar cross and ribbon carving.

And where does that leave me? Did I resolve anything? Not yet. I just documented my notations.

I recently found a link to a website called Today is Free. The website provides a number of 360° panoramic photographic views of cemeteries in Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, and Sweden. It is an amazing website! And sure enough the Joncourt East British Cemetery is included. Eureka!

Using my observations from the original photograph, I was able to freeze the 360° panoramic rotation at the website and create a copy at a vantage point which I think may include the actual position of granduncle Frederick Henry’s final resting place.

Previously I had written that I had two thoughts, as to which the grave site location was. Those were:

1. The 3rd grave marker, from the left in the back row, in front of the car, and
2. The 9th grave marker, from the right in the back row with the small bush of purple flowers on the site.

Well a friend, who I consult with regarding a lot of my genealogical research pointed out that I had previously made note of a Grave/Memorial Reference Number – C.16. (Thank-you, Lynn...) I had actually found this piece of critical information at another website, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site. Well, slap my hand to my forehead! I had found the info! But I still could not determine which one was number C.16.

And then I found the next picture of information. It was a schematic diagram of the layout of the Joncourt East British Cemetery. Check it out! C.16 has to be in the third row, Row C, and location 16 has to be one of 24 grave sites. (I was able to count 24 grave markers as the photograph rotated at the website.) Mathematically that means that granduncle Frederick Henry is located nine from the right, when one faces the last row. And? And?

The frozen Today is Free.com picture of the Joncourt East British Cemetery, above, is an actual photograph of the grave location of granduncle Frederick Henry Abraham. Through the efforts of many people I am able to find the final resting place of granduncle Frederick Henry.

But there is another bonus to my search, and I tripped on this totally by accident. I was not looking for an updated photograph of his grave marker, so you can imagine my surprise when I chanced on this incredible new picture... a picture of granduncle Frederick Henry’s final resting place, taken in the summer of 2006. And I traced the origination of the 2006 photograph and the one at the top of this post to a lady who goes by the name of Soilsister and who lives in France. She had provided the same photograph to Paul who lives in North Carolina, in the United States. He had added my granduncle Frederick Henry's grave site information to the website, Find A Grave.com. And I was able to send the bio information and the black and white head shot to Paul to which he nicely added it the Find A Grave site.

Using the bits and pieces of data and information, and coupling the past with modern technology I have been able to discover and learn a little bit of the last few days of my granduncle’s brief life. I have been able to make an electronic journey and realize his final resting place… in a farmer’s field in the north of France.

Regards,

Jim

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