Schenectady County

Grave marker puzzle solved

The mystery of the Hamilton Hill gravestone has been solved, thanks to a descendant who tracked down

The mystery of the Hamilton Hill gravestone has been solved, thanks to a descendant who tracked down Gertrude Bancker Frank’s new burial site.

An Amsterdam resident was able to confirm that Gertrude was reburied with dignity at Vale Cemetery, not abandoned in a backyard when developers bought old cemetery land to build the Hamilton Hill neighborhood.

Her first gravestone was left behind and used to build a patio on Emmett Street, far from her original burial site. Resident Terry Taylor was shaken when she removed the patio two weeks ago and discovered that it had been made out of the gravestone foundations used at the city’s earliest poorhouse cemetery.

Then she flipped over the most deeply buried stone and discovered an actual grave marker.

Her first fear was that Gertrude’s body was in her backyard too. But a distant relation, Donald Keefer of Amsterdam, discovered Gertrude’s final resting place.

“I’m a Bancker descendent so I was interested,” he said. “I went to the Bancker monument at Vale and there she was.”

He added that he believes Gertrude’s first gravestone was discarded when her remains were reinterred at Vale. The stone will now be displayed near the Bancker monument.

Records from Gertrude’s second burial also provide a clue into her cause of death. She gave birth to a daughter 17 days before dying.

“It had to be complications from childbirth. That’s got to be it,” said City Historian Don Rittner.

The family that found her first gravestone speculated about a more dramatic death. A cholera epidemic was sweeping the country in the summer of 1849, when Gertrude died. But Rittner noted that at that time, most women who died young succumbed in childbirth. Gertrude was 22.

Gertrude’s husband died early too, although he outlived her by 10 years. Their daughter, Gertrude Jane Frank, lived to adulthood but her family has found no records of her past 1909. She was living in Schenectady then.

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