when i was a kid i got kind of involved with a group of graves in a back corner of a cemetery and subsequently spent a LOT of time in the town clerk's vault poring over the spidery handwriting of old records to piece together as much of those stories as i could.
it's become a thing with me, passing through old cemeteries and snapping pictures of stones that catch my interest and later on looking up what i can.
the internet makes this a lot easier than it used to be, and digital photography helps you not have to take so many notes and digital manipulation of images can reveal worn down features of stones and saves you the trouble of having to get permission to do rubbings.
you know that, right? rubbings are now known to be a thing that wears down stones. back in the 70's we used to think they were an excellent conservation tool -and properly done they are- but they are not without consequence and they do contribute to wear so if you're going to do rubbings you should get permission and do it right.
anyway, a couple of weeks ago i was in the ithaca city cemetery and i looked at a lot of graves there and bit by bit you're going to be hearing about a lot of those people but right now i'm just going to tell you about one.
civil war veterans are great for looking up, because even though records of that era are often incomplete or inconsistently spelled, we were a people who recorded every engagement and casualty in a way we did not do in subsequent wars. you can find a LOT of informaton on these guys and their units.
a lot of civil war veterans are buried under their veterans' benefit headstones, which makes them easy to find. and where the stones are not too worn, you can take the information about their company and regiment that's usually on the stone and go to town with the looking-up.
but sometimes the stones are too worn, or too mossy, and you can't read a name or you can't make out a unit and that's when you have to do some sleuthing between military records and cemetery records and anything else you can find.
i am not certain in my present crisis of faith if there exists such a thing as an immortal soul, but i am certain there is an immortal portion of us, even if it is comprised only of that part of us that wishes to be remembered and commemorated.
sometimes the name on the veteran's headstone is misspelled. sometimes his name is misspelled in his service record. sometimes he didn't spell it the same way from time to time himself.
so i found a grave with the name nearly obscured and i took a picture and figured to sleuth him up later and call out his name for the first time in a long time.
i hunted him up in the ithaca city cemetery map, which took some figuring based on where he was buried, and found him listed as "edward fraylie", and no known date of birth or death.
his regiment is worn down, too, so i had to go through the rosters. is that the 148th? 146th? 149th?
143rd. not company o, but comapny d.
i found his service record.
from the new york state military museum and veterans' research center:
FRALICK , EDWIN.—Age , 22 years. Enlisted, September 23,
1862, at Ithaca, to serve three years; mustered in as private,
C o. D , October 8, 1862; mustered out with company, July 20,
1865, at Washington, D . C.
if you want to see the history of his regiment, it can be found here.
so i wrote to the woman at the city cemetery to tell her what i'd found and this is what she said:
Thank you for the information regarding Mr. Fralick. When the cemetery database was created we had 3 data sources to combine into it. A lot of the information was handwritten in the fancy script of the 1800's and depending on the writer and the script it was difficult to determine the spelling of some names. The veteran information you provided certainly was valid proof of the correct spelling of Mr. Fralick's name. The information we had did indicate he was a Civil War veteran for the times you indicated as well.
I appreciate you taking the time to note the information from the headstone and to share the same with our office.
edwin fralick, born 1840, here's your name back.