Thursday, 24 March 2016

Other history finds

My great uncle Alexander
I've had several days where I have been polishing up some short stories for competition submissions and now I'm taking a break by doing some other kind of writing. I'm re-visiting my family history and the stories I've heard and know about. Included in this are facts about my growing up years. I'm doing this because once I'm gone my kids won't know about it. They are not particularly interested right now, but one day they might be. They might want to know about my dad's time in the war, about how my granddad served in both world wars, how different family members met, what the arguments were about, where they lived and where some of their more distant relative now live.

Since I last sat down to write anything there have been some breakthroughs. We now have the war records of my granddad (both wars), my dad's and his brother. The biggest breakthrough came only this week. I had been trying to find records of my granddad's brother for years. All I knew was that he died during the first world war but I could find no records. I did find what I thought might be his name on passenger list from London to Brisbane, final destination was Sydney. The age fitted (18) and his occupation was electrician - also correct. I asked a distant Australian relative (met through Ancestry but a different branch of the family) to look up records in her country but she found nothing.

I then had a brain wave when I realised that all the searches I was doing were in the UK. I changed the country to search and bingo! There was a military record which matched name, and father's name in London. I couldn't access the record without paying another hefty subscription fee and was about to ask my relative again when my husband said he'd look when he went to the records office at Kew the next day. He was attending a talk about military records and they gave him some advice. Immediately I searched the Australian military sites and was able to find the record and access it free. I got the whole of his records (he'd lied about his age!) as well as finding written notes of action from various other sources. My great uncle fought in Gallipoli, was injured and died of his wounds while on board ship. He was buried at sea. It was a sad find but also an exciting one. I also felt that after all these years someone was thinking about him again and knew what he went through. My granddad's family was a very difficult one. His parents were violent towards him and his siblings. The daughter wanted nothing to do with them once she married (my mother said she was a social climber! Family stories are, if nothing, eyeopeners and to be taken often with a pinch of salt) but my granddad stuck up for his mother to the end, even though she gave my grandmother and my mother hell.

I only have one photo of my great uncle (apparently my mother threw the others away). Sometimes I wonder if he went to Australia to escape his mother. Maybe he just wanted adventure. Often war was seen like that in the early days. Whatever the reason I am glad I've found him and he has taken his rightful place in the family tree. I still have a couple more mysteries to solve - people whose details I can't pin down. I'll keep trying and add their stories to the others.

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