We often get asked by distant relatives to locate their family grave in the old Folkestone cemetery. These requests come from people here in UK, or from much further afield – US, Canada or Australia. We always do our best to locate the family grave, often not easy or obvious because many of the headstones are broken or perhaps there never was a headstone if the family at the time couldn’t afford it. Some of our volunteer members have developed excellent detective skills in finding these graves – researching the family history to find out who may be buried in or around that deceased family member, or piecing together a family history so that the search can be narrowed down by address at time of death and so on. This little account is one such search.
Account written by Carole and Rob M.
Carefully excavating, the memorial stone was brought to the surface on a sunny May Day, by the stalwarts of FOFC. There had been no sign of it in the grass for 50 years.
The trail started back in April with a ‘Facebook’ request from America, for photos of two grave plots, for Richard and Marie Didham. We already had a photo for Marie in our collection, and uploaded that to Find A Grave. When next at the cemetery, we marked Richard’s plot with small flags, noting that the memorial stone named a lady, but not him, meaning that it was a ‘shared grave’.
After putting his grave photo on Find A Grave, we checked for the family name in our records and found that his wife had been buried in the same ‘Area’. The numbering wasn’t consecutive, as it runs up the columns, but their graves were side by side, hers being just grass.
We reasoned that the family may have bought adjoining plots and that the lady buried after Richard was most likely related. Could there be a hidden stone on Marie’s grave naming the couple? Gently probing, we found what could have been the outline of a memorial stone, nearly a foot down.
Once more, we contacted Richard’s descendant, to tell him the news and to ask what he felt about us trying to expose the memorial. He was completely happy, so, keeping their 1m social distances, our workers arrived; Damon, Stephen and Karl taking the lead. When the soil was removed, a whole stone, including its heavy foundation was found to have toppled forward. It had broken into three parts. We could turn the two lighter portions, which revealed the inscription, surmounted by a decorative cross. The carved letters named both Richard and Marie, as we’d hoped. These pieces were carefully raised, packing soil beneath.
All our members present came to look at various times, leaving their chosen tasks of gardening, inscription cleaning, research, and litter-picking. Another piece of good teamwork, and not the last that day, as we later brought a child’s stone to the surface, which Rob and I had located in February, but that is another story.