Unidentified Grave

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by archivist, Jun 16, 2015.

  1. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    FTR: Steve Morse just led me to the 1940 census image, totally FoC & even linkable, @ NARA/FamilySearch - once again totally vindicating my 100% faith in the Law of Universal Cussedness !

    Moving on, I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that no civil registration exists for these boys' births. New Jersey Vital Records | Learn | FamilySearch.org says statewide birth registration was introduced in 1848 but didn't achieve "general compliance" until 1920 ... note 'general' rather than 'universal' - I've spotted no indication of birth registration ever being made mandatory there as it was here in 1837. And note 1920 as following the first 2/3 childrens' births ! I may be wrong but thus, considering old traditions dying hard and refugee immigrants probably tending to resent what may so easily be construed as Big Brother nosiness, I fear having to fall back on baptismal church records too modern to find handily transcribed online.

    Right now, LDS' search engine serving New Jersey, Births and Christenings, 1660-1980 — FamilySearch.org has apparently crashed but it probably won't help as my mapping of the family's fairly-compact home territory ...
    * 1920-02-13: 393 East Kinney St (Redfin/Trulia)
    * 1930-04-08: 369 East Kinney St (Redfin/Trulia)
    * 1940-04-11: 100 Pulaski St (Redfin/Trulia)
    * 1942-__-__: 357 Walnut St (Redfin/Trulia/Zillow)
    * 1950-04-28: 306 Elm St (Redfin/Trulia)
    ... strongly suggests St Casmir's Polish RC Church in its midst as most deserving of a physical visit - crucially because it unsurprisingly offers no LDS-microfilmed baptismal records later than 1914.

    NB: This name discrepancy may not be ultimately crucial to you, Neville, but I'm
    • using this case as an opportunity to shed my UK-centric family history blinkers
    • beginning to suspect George ran away from home to join the PAF (against his parents wishes) under a childhood soubriquet as a diversionary tactic - but then ditched the alias not to deceive Mary. If true, that would add human interest to a story only so far really based on a regrettably-common accident. Just why, for instance, did his siblings apparently prefer to remember him by a name other than that chosen by his parents ? I smell an edutaining story of divided refugee loyalties and thus recommend teasing it out as being that bit special.

    PS: Darn - forgot to mention the reason I can't be sure about birth registrations is NJ's 105yr embargo on such info (strict rules who may obtain birth certificates before then &c) which is a brick wall I'm also facing with some cousins I deduce must have been born in Paris onwards of 1920. Compared with the 72yr census embargo, I find this bizarre but it has to be realised that the first is a state law (equivalent to a French law - to go with my Parisian example) and the second is a federal law (equivalent to overriding EU legislation). Birth dates may be extracted from death registrations - thus, I suppose, protecting such info throughout their lifetime (so long as they don't pass their 105th birthday !) - but accuracy there is always questionable as having come from a registrant who may well have been misinformed in oh so many ways. Sadly there seem to be no common sense loopholes like waving a death certificate under an official's nose ...
  2. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Pretty sensible ramblin! Yes, I'll go along with that.

    I am pretty sure that you are right about the runaway theory. He would not be 21 when he left home and so he would still be under his father's legal control and his father, probably mindful of WW1 and the 1918-1920 Polish - Russian War, would not want him to go and fight. But he must have found a way to get a passport - without his father's consent - to be able to leave the country.

    His father was illiterate, so I suppose it would be easy to forge his father's mark.

    I had hopes of finding his younger brother E. Henry Gramiak but I have just found out that he died in August 2011.

    There is plenty to do whilst teasing out the name discrepancy.

  3. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    Kerching - so simple - my post 49 survey, inferred that Gregory & Victor were George & Charles' pre-baptismal 'non-Christian' or pagan names but it now occurs to me that they very deliberately reverted to them purely to fight a war they regarded as anything but holy (say, "fight as Gregory but love as George") ! I believe that theory fits the facts so far but I'd be glad for any expert to please feel free to challenge/ratify my logic. George being only 15 days old in the 1920 census, and so probably still awaiting baptism (as Gregory), was a jammy snapshot without which I may never have cottoned on.

    At the other end of their stories, I'm not religious but nonetheless logically uneasy their cemetery headstone should bear the pagan names of such obviously-devout men before God - as if to denounce their dutiful military contributions. My best take on this is that their US family have an unusually strong pacifist streak we'd therefore do very well to respect - danger, thin ice and eggshells ahead !

    And don't be too hard on Paul who could sign his name well enough at least 17mo before the 1920 census*. All census info is open to question and rarely as clear cut as we'd maybe hope** - esp. across a language divide. To highlight the grey degrees of literacy (between the black & white extremes of "Yes" & "No" here) I'll just ask, "read & write what ? How would you have classified, for example, a gifted Polish poet who could neither speak, read nor write US English ?" Long story short, with such an easily copied signature, there's no need to play the illiteracy card to explain a passport application forgery. Sadly, we're unlikely to ever know how he traveled once he did get one.


    * Person Details for Paul Gramiak, "United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918" — FamilySearch.org - I was initially skeptical of this as contradictory but since realised our then 25yo family-man was actually just draft-dodging as an unusually-subtly-fake 34yo
    ** An edutaining hour's listening for civil registration rookies - Audrey Collins' classic 2007 podcast Sex, lies and civil registration | The National Archives
  4. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member


    Your theory makes as much sense as anything in this crazy name game! The family were certainly very religious - which would potentially push them towards either total pacifism or - its polar opposite - a jihadi type fanaticism!

    I think any draft dodging (subtle or otherwise) might well have been aided by a census taker's boredom or complicity. If you view the actual document on the draft card, his name, address and occupation are accurate but as you have pointed out, he appears to be 9 years older than his actual age. In addition, I can tell you that he was 5 ft 5 ins tall and blonde but the boxes on the card say he is tall and has brown hair. His nationality is also given as AUSTRIAN although this might have been some throwback to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

    Your theory of pacifism would also be supported by a hot blooded young Pole wanting to go and fight for Poland whilst his father, probably a pacifist after years of local wars over Russian/German/Austro-Hungarian domination of Poland - he emigrated to the USA just before the start of the First World War.

    Your theory has a lot to recommend it and, to be totally honest, I can't think of a better one.

  5. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    Thanks for humouring my brainstorming Neville,

    It seems we're each in possession of minor details unknown to the other - only natural in trying to avoid overlong posts I guess.
    • Of course I'd welcome a less contentious WW1 draft but until then ...
    • 'Our Paul' was of draftable age but neither can I find any service record for him
    • I called the age deception subtle because the given DoB was so much different (by 9y 2m 12d) for officialdom to probably never spot the subterfuge by comparison to his real DoB. He could go this far because he'd no need to memorise the false DoB - unlike, say, an underage conscript liable to be spot-quizzed at any time - but just maybe jot it down somewhere
    • The unreliabilty of reporting hair colour is an old chestnut for being so dependent on lighting conditions and let's not forget foundry work was probably very dirty - or he could have always resorted to boot polish if forewarned. At any rate, the tendancy is for fair-haired people to seem darker in bad light - the N-facing house (Redfin/Trulia) is fronted by a covered verandah likely to leave the front door in contrastingly-deep shade on a bright day - and we only have the one witness
    • Similarly height where "Tall" is hardly precise, very subjective and only relative - esp. if Helen was very short herself and maybe even standing at a lower street level whilst he loomed in the doorway. So many unquantified variables ...
    • As for Austria, maybe you've not yet seen Person Details for Pawel Gramiak, "New York, Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924" — FamilySearch.org ? It makes the classic mistake of inferring an itinerant refugee's nationality from their last place of residence - here "Kozawa, Austria" (then-Ottoman Kosovo ?). Sorry, if not, but I tend to assume you've already got this easily-found stuff from your contacts.
      Then, of course, Franz Josef's Austro-Hungarian Empire was our bitter enemy - so his pretending to be Austrian may have served to make him seem a liability and thus maybe secure Helen's collusion to fudge the issue as you've suggested
    • And let's not ignore the NoK anomaly - a supposedly-married man citing a 'wild card' a tad vaguely three streets away seems rather pointless until you wonder why Helen seemed happy to write the address with no number. I realise people know places w/o needing to remember the number - so such woolliness may be excusable - but then think that the alternative would have been to cite Victoria (who maybe couldn't be relied upon not to blow his cover if found & interviewed) at the same, very precise, address. I looked but couldn't find this not-very-Polish-sounding Tony so, because Helen could not have been reasonably expected to go searching James St (incidentally twice as long as East Stiles St) for him, I suspect he was a red herring blind all along
    • One last oddity - Wyoming Ave is not in Olney but runs through S-adjacent Feltonville
    But, beyond possibly fleshing out resistance to George's initiative, none of this truly matters given the simplicity of Paul's one undisputed 1950 signature - I was just checking your new info hadn't dealt a fatal blow to my earlier reassessment of the WW1 draft which thus remains credible according to Sherlock Holmes' famous 'last man standing' evidential rule of thumb ...

    Keep on truckin,
  6. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Hello Steve,

    I think your argument stands well and I certainly wouldn't go to any great lengths to dispute it. I have a couple of points to make but they are more likely to support your argument than rock its foundations!

    America came into WW1 very late and so the standing army would go first and the younger men would go next. Those in their mid 30s would be called upon much later - or not at all because the bulk of American armed forces did not arrive in Europe until the summer of 1918 and it was all over by 11th November of that year. Although America declared war late in 1917, logistics and training considerably delayed their arrival in large numbers

    In his Ellis Island documents he gives his nationality as Austria Ruth (which I take to be Ruthenian). As I understand it Ruthenians were tied more by a common language than a country but I was on (for me) shaky ground there so I looked it up! And it looks like your idea of Kozawa being Kosovo is right - looking at the spread of Ruthenians:

    Around the turn of the 19th/20th Centuries Ruthenians were Eastern Slavic minority groups (Ukrainians and Ruszyns) living in what is now Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

    Fascinating stuff!

  7. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    A contact in Poland has offered to get Grzegorz Gramiak's military record from the RAF and whatever information may be available at the Sikorski Institute. This normally takes a considerable amount of time but he is a regular researcher and I am hoping that he has some sort of fast track to these records.

    Anything new will be posted here as soon as I receive it.
  8. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    From the Holyhead lifeboat log:

    "At 03.30 hours lifeboat No 845 launched on the 20th August 1942 to an aircraft that had crashed South Stack and Penrhos Point in line quarter of a mile. Four crew lost and two bodies recovered by lifeboat. On arrival at the port the authorities took charge of them. (R.N.). Weather Force 6 SW."

    So it looks like the third body was picked up by another boat or washed ashore.
  9. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    It has recently been suggested that a body that entered the sea at Anglesey would not normally drift towards Blackpool but the records at Layton Cemetery state that Sgt Gramiak's body was found on the Beach at Blackpool.

    If this is a mistake, can anyone tell me where there would be a definitive record of where the body was found; on the beach, brought in by a fishing boat etc? Or possibly found elsewhere and brought to Blackpool as that was the location of the Polish Headquarters.

    There are so many contradictions in this story and I really would like to establish the facts.
  10. simon102

    simon102 Member


    Check out this site for tidal currents, they do flow both ways and there is in addition the effects of the wind.


    The facts are that the aircraft did crash off Anglesey and the body was found on Blackpool beach and buried in a Blackpool Cemetery by the RAF. If you look at the photo of the burial record, I previously posted, it does say Blackpool Beach.

    I will try the local Coroner's office to see if they have any further information, I was waiting to see if there was any further info from the Blackpool Family History Centre.

  11. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Hello Simon,

    I have no skill or knowledge of winds or tides, but I know a man who does! However, the chart you have attached certainly seems to show that there is a substantial tidal flow that would carry a body from Anglesey to Blackpool.

    Thanks for that
  12. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Since my last post, I have received a chart showing that the prevailing wind at Anglesey is from the south west and the natural tidal flow from Anglesey runs in an almost dead straight line towards Blackpool - a distance of approximately 68 nautical miles. This means that the body would have drifted approximately one nautical mile per week and that seems to be perfectly reasonable. The chart Simon sent me also indicates that there is another tidal current running down from the Solway Firth and the two seem to converge near Blackpool.
  13. simon102

    simon102 Member


    I have contacted the Blackpool Coroner's Office, now at the Town Hall, they only hold records back to 1995. Records older than that are sent to the Lancashire Archives in Preston.

    I have put a request in to them to see if they hold records for the burial and exhumation dates. They state on the website, a reply within two days. If the answer is positive I can pay a visit and inspect whatever they have.

  14. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member


    That is brilliant! I have contacted a local, Anglesey based, sub aqua club and they tell me that it is perfectly feasible for the body to have drifted from Anglesey to Blackpool just on the normal currents. This has also been confirmed by an ex-RAF meteorologist so I am now confident that it did drift there naturally.

  15. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Of all the people who have shown an interest in this thread, I really believe that this post will be most appreciated by Simon and Steve(Red Goblin) who have been interested from the start. It is a photograph of the original grave, at Layton Cemetery - Blackpool, of Grzegorz Piotr Gramiak and has been very kindly supplied by the owner of the Niebieska Eskadra website.

    Thanks to you both for your support.

    Attached Files:

    Buteman likes this.
  16. simon102

    simon102 Member

    Great find Neville.

  17. simon102

    simon102 Member


    Lancashire Archives apparently do not hold Coroners records prior to 1974 (Local Government Reorganisation?).

    The contact at Lancashire suggested local newspapers of the time, National Archives or the RAF direct.

    I will try to get in to the Blackpool Family History Centre next week to have another look at the newspaper archive and they may just have Coroner's reports, did you ask them if they hold the latter?

    It occured to me that during the war details of death and burial may not have been published just an obituary in the press in the area where the person came from.

    I do not hold out any hope for the National Archives they do not hold personnel records.

    It is unfortunately difficult to get any information about aircrew from the RAF except the basic records (for £30.00).

    I am confused about where you apply for what. Casualty records appear to be at AHB Northolt but I am not sure if they would add anything I guess they would not include details of finding the body at Blackpool and in any case, to apply, a next of kin application or their permission is required. Are all personnel records now at Cranwell?

    I did read some time ago that serving RAF officers can obtain direct access to personnel records, can anybody confirm this?

  18. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Hello Simon,

    I only asked the people at Blackpool about newspapers. I did not think that they would hold Coroners' records.

    The records held by the RAF can be accessed without next of kin permission if the airman has been deceased for more than 25 years. The basic records are often sparse but, if you are used to working with them, they can provide a great deal of information. It is not necessarily what is there in terms of hard information; it is often the clues that point you in the right direction. The unfortunate thing is that it takes quite a long time to get them - however, I have requested them so I will have to wait and see. The Polish records are accessed through Northolt, wherever they are kept.

    Serving airmen can have access to their records through Freedom of Information laws but they may be truncated if any part of the airman's service is in a classified or sensitive area.

  19. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    Another mega-muse I'm afraid ...

    Thanks for the original grave photo with temporary wooden cross - "no monument" indeed - at least that vindicates my realising it was penciled above the register's red dividing line and so more logically applied to the previous, otherwise hidden, entry !

    • Sorry but unfamiliar nautical units only serve to confuse me if not readily-convertible to knots so I'll just call it at least 80 miles (inc. a slight dog-leg to bypass Anglesey) if you don't mind. Over maybe 6-9 weeks, assuming Oct arrival, that's actually a more respectable 9-13 m/wk - albeit still a fraction of the ~24 m/wk my Lloyd example clocked up drifting >300m across the North Sea in just over 13 weeks but nudging the estimated 14-21 m/wk clocked up by one casualty of 3[C]OTU's Whitley Q between 13 Mar '42 loss and being washed ashore nr St Abb's Head on 14 May. The ORB source of all that Whitley Q info reminds me ... have you checked those of 304 Sqn, the Goodwood Hotel unit (and maybe even RAF Dale at a stretch) for better arrival evidence ?
    • Forget wind drift - the influence of the wind on so submerged a body is as negligible as it is on an oil slick - such a body essentially acts like a sea anchor and only moves with the water rather than on it
    • And, sad to say, reciprocating tidal streams are virtually self-cancelling in terms of getting anywhere
    • And the westerly surface currents shown by Simon's Map – yr.no, naturally driven by a not-inconsiderable amount of river outflow, are completely contradictory
    • And though easterly counter-currents do exist - Shoreline management coastal processes currents (Sefton Coast Partnership page @ Internet Archive) - they run along the sea bed and so are largely irrelevant to our Mr Flotsam unless tied to a piece of wreckage that could be thus driven to tow him against the surface current. Although the chart shows currents from Anglesey strongly flowing south, away from Blackpool, the text talks of longshore drifts diverging from Formby Point and so offers the slim possibility of luck taking a body from Anglesey northwards toward Blackpool
    • But switch to Map – yr.no's wave height view and there we may have a swashing mechanism sufficiently strong to overcome the surface current if sustained by constant wind-action out in the Atlantic - maybe my weather report links below aren't so optional after all ! ... Yes, I see the monthly 'Pressure and Wind' summaries for Aug, Sep & Oct '42 talk of persistent gales and so seem to underpin this theory (versus the usual drift theory not seeming to apply here) so maybe I'd best next check out the research literature on that
    • Some optional further reading:
      The Oceans Their Physics, Chemistry, and General Biology (Sverdrup, Johnson & Fleming) 1942
      Monthly Weather Report 1940s - Met Office
      Daily Weather Report 1942 - Met Office
      Coastal Observatory, Liverpool Bay, Irish Sea (UK)
      Coastal seas - Earth - Ocean System | National Oceanography Centre | from coast to deep ocean
    • NB: I must confess to being ex-NPL - with incidental OND in engineering (mechanical & electrical)
  20. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your comments Steve. I have sufficient intelligence to understand the gist of what you are saying! However, the mechanics behind it all simply defeat me. You have been right about most things so I am not going to challenge you on technical subjects!!!

    I note also your comment on "No marker" That one came as a bolt out of the blue; the photo was sent to me from a Polish website and was not directly connected to this thread - but it was timely!


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