War Department Errors Etched in Stone
The white stones of Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn, as in other national cemeteries, are beautiful in their simplicity. Their uniformity and alignment form mesmerizing geometric patterns, just as the assembled soldiers they represent once did. The sheer volume is sobering. Whether you’re prepared for it or not, silence falls on you, along with sorrow and loss, humility and gratitude. One of those stones belongs to George F. Truett.
But there’s a problem with the service reported on that stone. The problem wasn’t created during the War of 1812 or even at George’s death in 1859. It was created decades after either fact by none other than the War Department itself. The primary culprit in creating one fictional soldier, conflating two other soldiers, and thoroughly confusing researchers is a 1940 national cemetery interment form.
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What is being done to correct errors in findagrave.com?
Since NGS knows of the errors, findagrave is free and anyone contribute why not remove the errors. Is it OK to reference the articles in the NGS Monthly? What is the policy of NGS? Is there a group in NGS that corrects and adds the graves in findagrave.com
With Find a Grave memorials, the most that you can usually do is send a message to the managers of individual memorials, but we don’t often respond. In my case, most often I just ignore requests to insert pre-written biographies into an existing page. I’m not interested in assuming the credit—or blame—for something that appears on a site just because it has my name on it. Even if I explicitly state that it was written by someone else, the decision to include it is still mine.
Even so, I have nothing against having authors use the material, especially for a basic methodological purpose like this one: to demonstrate how basic records, widely distributed, can perpetuate serious factual errors that might originally have been committed with the best of intentions.
Adding on to Austin’s reply, it’s also true that this isn’t Find A Grave’s error. Truett’s memorial there lists his name, death date, and cemetery, but not his service. The error is on the stone itself, which is a matter for Veterans Affairs, though an image of that stone is attached to Find A Grave memorial. I’m going to follow up with the VA to see if the stone can be corrected, but NGS has no particular policy about correcting online errors at large.
Our dad enlisted when he had just turned 17 in Houston Texas in 1942. Many young men did.
When he passed away and it came time to order his foot marker we had a time correcting what would be a date of birth of 1924, should be 1925. He was born at home as were his younger brother and sister. We finally found his birth record in an adjoining county, the county the country doctor resided in. His passing in 1989 didn’t afford us the luxury of a “leaf” hint. Lol.
Bottom line was he earned the stone and we wanted him to have it. But we came close to ordering a non military marker because we wanted it to be correct
Wonderful article for Memorial Day, Aaron, or any time, for that matter. You’ve certainly left no stone unturned! 😉
I have a NYC problem I would like to contact you about,
Zeigfeld Follies girl,
Hi, Mary-Lou. I’ll email you separately about this.
All the best
Nice research and interesting article. Caught my eye since I have lately been researching another headstone error at Cypress Hills National Cemetery. My great-granduncle, Frank Kirkmire who died Sept 8, 1867, is buried there but his headstone named him as “Keckynar.”
Like you I just wanted to acknowledge his existence and service.
I requested a replacement marker for him and the Veterans Administration historian agreed with my analysis that his headstone was wrong and recently ordered a new one.
“Frank Keckynar’s” National Cemetery Internment Control Form did not list any service details. His headstone was engraved incorrectly even though the form stated: “Cannot identify, verify name, and furnish specific dates of Service.” The mistake was due to his listing in the Fort Columbus Burial Register, now Fort Jay, Governor’s Island, NY, where he was originally buried in 1867.
I found confirmation of Frank’s service and death (by cholera just 18 days after he enlisted) in his Mother’s Dependent Pension application. Mary A. Kirkmire’s pension quest was arduous, she applied for pension in 1873 and after first being rejected, appealed and was approved in 1892. I do believe she may have misrepresented herself as being unmarried on her application but was approved anyways because she and her partner, Joseph Kirkmire, testified that they weren’t married, even though they had 4 other children together.
Here’s my ancestry tree entry for Frank, with his related documents:
Could you share the contact information you have for the VA historian? Or a link to a page that describes the process?
Thanks in advance,
I am sorry for the delay, I never checked back on this post until now!
I never corresponded directly with a VA Historian, just with the “Program Support Assistant” at the Long Island National Cemetery.
1. First I contacted the Memoral Products Service (MPS) of the VA National Cemetery Administration. The contact info was on the application Form 40-1330 CLAIM FOR STANDARD GOVERNMENT HEADSTONE OR MARKER : https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/va40-1330.pdf
Contact for assistance on this application is:
Tel. # 1-800-697-6947 or email [email protected]
2. Second I contacted Long Island National Cemetery (LINC) at Tel # 631-454-4949 since National Cemeteries do their own replacement headstone orders. Then I sent documentation for proof that the headstone was wrong to the cemetery via email at [email protected]
3. The Assistant at LINC then forwarded info to the VA Historian and completed the process for ordering a new headstone after the historian agreed the original headstone was wrong. All my emails with the LINC Assistant had a “Confidentiality Notice” which does not allow disclosing or forwarding message without permission from the sender.
Hope this helps!
I will try to do a public blog post on all this soon.
My great-great grandfather’s stone has his last name misspelled Cormack instead of Carmack. I contacted Cypress Hills several years ago and provided proof that his name had never been Cormack. I was told there was nothing that could be done about it. Who did you contact and what did you do?
Karen Carmack Stadler
Great article, Aaron. Thanks so much!
A very interesting article (great research!) and tragic tale. It has always bothered me how difficult it is for veterans who are clearly in need to get what is due to them; aside from the inhumanity, it just seems like a breach of contract to me.
I wish these NGS Monthly articles were downloadable. So many of them, like this one, are so meaty they’re something I’ll refer back to. I usually print the webpage to PDF but the result is less than ideal.
Thanks, Donna. Since NGS Monthly is a members-only benefit, we try to secure it so it isn’t accessed by or shared with non-members. It’s an imperfect system, but that’s the crux of the issue.