Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: September 2015 –Finding the graves of Franz Joseph and Phillipina [Blank] Henn, mythird great grandparents

Climbing My Family Tree: Graves of Edmund Henn (1838-1861), Franz Joseph Henn (1800-1863), and Phillopina Henn (1805-1890)
Graves of Edmund Henn (1838-1861), Franz  Henn (1800-1863), and Phillipina Henn (1805-1890)
Click to Make Bigger

I am participating in the Crestleaf.com "12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds" contest (see Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds Challenge for details) and my most exciting find of September 2015 is finding the graves of Franz Joseph Henn (1800-1863) and Phillipina Blank Henn (1805-1890), my third great grandparents, who had immigrated to the United States in 1853 from Doerlesburg, Baden, Germany.

I’m not the first to find the cemetery. I found directions to the cemetery they were buried in on findagrave.com, but I’m still quite happy and excited to have found them myself and spent time there with them. (Yes, “found”, even with directions the cemetery is still in the middle of a very rural area, in an area I’ve never been before. A very pretty drive, but still…)

I spent the weekend at the New York State Family History Conference (and I will be writing a post about that experience, too). It was held in Syracuse, which I knew put me in the same general part of the state that my third great-grandparents, France Joseph (later “Francis”) and Katharina Phillipina [Blank] Henn lived after coming to the United States. I’d decided to try to find their graves after the conference, having copied the directions to the St. Francis cemetery that were online at findagrave.com: “St. Francis cemetery. Route 49 East of Central Square, approx. .2 mi., turn north onto Co. Rte. 37, go approx. .5 mi. cemetery is on east side of road (approximately 2000 feet south of Co. Rte 84) it sits off the road quite a bit.” [Don’t try to follow those directions; they aren’t entirely accurate because the punctuation given screwed up the actual distance.]

Fortunately, I met two people at the conference who lived in the area where I would be going to find the cemetery, who clarified the directions, which was very helpful (I’m more of a visual person and the directions I give tend to say things like ‘turn left at the gray barn’, and things like that, and I don’t have a compass in the car). I got lucky again as I got closer to the Central Square exit off of 81 North and discovered that the cemetery was in Google Maps (iPad app) under the local name of Little France Cemetery. I followed the audio directions given by the nice lady at Google maps, which amounts to: Take North I-81 to exit 32 (Central Square exit) for NY 49. At the bottom of the exit turn right onto NY 49. You’ll pass a Mobil station and the Good Golly restaurant on your left (if you need gas get it there, I don’t recall passing another one). Go 6 tenths of a mile (.6) on NY 49, and then turn left onto County Route 37. It winds through some very scenic country, with cows and barns and horses, and a good chance of a slow-moving combine on the road in front of you.

Climbing My Family Tree: Combine on Co. Rte. 37
Combine on Co. Rte. 37
Click to Make Bigger

Climbing My Family Tree: View from Co. Rte 37
View from Co. Rte 37
Click to Make Bigger

Stay on County Route 37 for 4.2 miles (start slowing down when you hit 4 miles in). You will see a small brown sign hanging off a post by a dirt road into the woods on the right-hand side. The sign says, “St. Francis cemetery. Est. 1848.” If you cross County route 84, turn around; you’ve gone too far.

Climbing My Family Tree: St. Francis Cemetery, West Monroe NY (Little France Cemetery)
St. Francis Cemetery, Town of West Monroe NY (Little France Cemetery)
Click to Make Bigger

On the narrow dirt road leading to the cemetery, there is a gate across the road with a sign on it that says open 9 to 4, Monday through Sunday, May 1 through September 30. The first time I saw that sign was at 5 o’clock on Saturday, and yes, the gate was closed and chained. As I could not see the cemetery from the road I did not feel comfortable walking in, and about that time it started to rain anyway. I found a hotel in the area and came back the next morning, and the gate was open by the time I got there about 10:00 AM.

The cemetery is off the road, but not that far off. The road is very narrow and very green. When you get to a Y in the road, there is a wide spot in the road off the left side, park your car there (it’s about a football field length in from County route 37). You will be able to see the graveyard off to the right, up a little hill. It is very well-kept by the Knights of Columbus. And, while you’re there, remember to go over to the big cross on the right side and pull out the drawer. Inside is a visitor sign-in book and some pens inside two Ziploc containers (if everyone who visits the cemetery signs the book, it has gotten about eight visitors a year, since 2006). It is a very pretty little cemetery.

Climbing My Family Tree: Looking back at the road I drove in on to the County Road
Looking back at the road I drove in on to the County Road
Click to Make Bigger

Climbing My Family Tree: Looking up the hill at the right fork
Looking up the hill at the right fork
Click to Make Bigger

The graves of my third great-grandparents, France Joseph and Phillipina, and their son, Edmund, are close to the front and can be seen from the little road in front.

Climbing My Family Tree: Franz Henn, closeup
Franz Henn, closeup
Click to Make Bigger
Climbing My Family Tree: Phillipina Henn, closeup
Phillipina Henn, closeup
Click to Make Bigger
[Edmund's grave is even more illegible in closeup -- almost totally black-- so I'm not posting the photo.]

They have a great view through the trees.

Climbing My Family Tree: from the back
from the back
Click to Make Bigger
Click to make bigger

Walking further into the graveyard, on the right side of the road, near the large cross, is a big more modern looking gravestone that belongs to my third great uncle, Frank J Henn (1843-1928) and his wife, Rosine Besanen Henn (1853-1929).

Frank and Rosine Henn
(the picture is bad, but the best of those I took)
Click to make bigger

I spent about an hour in the cemetery, before driving home. I told them how brave they were to come to this new country with their whole family, and that it had been a very good decision, as their children, and their children’s children, and their children’s children’s children, and so on, had good lives, with many opportunities, and grew into being good people, and it was all because they’d taken this huge leap of faith in moving here.


  1. How wonderful that you were able to find the cemetery! And, I love Phillipina's headstone. And love what you told your immigrant ancestors when you visited them.

    1. Thank you. It was a fun day, I'm happy I found them in such a pretty place. It would've seemed rude to visit and not say anything to them, you know? :D

  2. This is one of my most favourite things to do - visit the graves of my family past. What a wonderful find.

    1. It was a fun day. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


Hello! Thanks for stopping by and choosing to leave a message. I read every message and I usually reply via the comment thread.