For the first few years after I started this endeavour, I would let people looking to return them keep the medal while I got on with the research. Unfortunately, on several occasions after having found a family, I discovered that the person with the medal had changed their mind, had given the medal away or sold it. This left the family confused and angry and my reputation in question. I had also invested many hours of research and often paid for documents from different archives. Bill and I decided that we wouldn't conduct any research unless we had the medal first.
When I'm contacted by a donor I now explain that I won't conduct any research without the medal. In most cases this is an acceptable arrangement and I also commit to advising the donor of the outcome. The odd person would prefer not to send me the medal and do their own research. However, every now and then a set of circumstances arises which makes me disregard this policy altogether.
I was recent contacted by Frank of South Australia. Frank had the Victory Medal awarded to 1025 Trooper John Jamison. John was a member of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, he died of disease and is buried in the Cairo War Cemetery.
John was from a large family, however, through death at infancy or the consequences of WWI only one of his siblings had a child of their own. Several of John's siblings were close to Frank's family and many years ago they gave him John's medal as there was no member of the Jamison family to pass it to. Based on this I thought it completely appropriate for Frank to retain the medal while I got on with the research.
Thanks to some assistance from a SA genealogy group I'm a member of on Face Book I was able to piece together John's family tree. As I mentioned, one of his sisters did marry and have her own daughter but she had no children of her own. That line of the Jamison family ran out.
I then went back and looked at John's father's siblings. John's father's name was Frank. Through funeral notices of the Adelaide papers I found that Frank was the son of Frank and 'Granny' Jamison. Frank senior was the second husband of 'Granny'. She was actually Elizabeth Sivor and her first husband was Richard Harrowfield. Elizabeth and Richard had a couple of sons, one being James Nash Harrowfield. This is Trooper Jamison's uncle. I followed this line through to the current generation and today I spoke to a member of the Harrowfield family. I've connected them with Frank and I'm sure that in the near future the medal will be returned to the family.
The returned medal tally is now 1438.