24 December 2017

Tom Hanlon

I continue to be amazed at the connections that Bill and I make through Internet searches that enable us to link one part of a story to many others and eventually lead to a successful return.
This story started with an email I received from Kathy M who had the WWII medals awarded to NX150098 Thomas John Hanlon. Tom died in 1943, he drowned while crossing a river in PNG.
Tom wasn't married so I started to look at his siblings. One brother was named Jeston which made searching for him pretty easy. That is when all the connections came together. I soon found this amazing article about the Hanlon family. What I couldn't find was the contact details of the author, Joyce Overton, who was Jeston's daughter and Tom's niece. However, in her article, Joyce wrote 'When I attended one of my first meetings of the Historical Society'. A search soon found that a Joyce Overton is named as an Office Bearer for the Canterbury Historical Society. I fired of an email to the Society and very soon the Society President was putting all the pieces in place for me to connect Kathy and Joyce.
I think Joyce's story about Jessamine tells the family story pretty well.
Thanks to Kerin for all your assistance. The returned medal tally is now 2194

23 December 2017

Dick's medals

Whenever Glyn and I are approached by the Police, in regard to returning found, handed in or seized, possibly stolen Service Medals, because of the possibility of legal action, but above all to protect the privacy of the family involved, that in many cases has already been violated, we are often asked to not report how we located the next of kin or their names.
Such is the case in the return of ‘Dick’s’ medals.
It is over three years since they went ‘missing’, believed stolen, but only recently handed into the Victoria Police. Can I just say thank you to Jan, a property officer without parallel and may I add incredible patience, in putting up with me, to get the medals home.

The returned medal tally is now 2190.


Jack Kiley

Some searchers just have me scratching my head as to how the medals went missing in the first place. This is one such case and I think that just having a successful solution is the best answer.
Pauline C recently emailed and told me that a friend recently moved from Townsville and when she was unpacking the removal boxes she found boxes that weren't hers. In one of these mystery boxes was the WWII medals awarded to NX97322 Jack Kiley. There was no response from the removal company so Pauline asked me to help.
The information I found about Jack was pretty sparse so I had to relay on the name of his neck of kin, Clementine Munro. From the 1949 electoral roll I found the name of the property that Jack was living at and this lined up with where Clementine lived. I had narrowed down the geographic location for Jack but in the 1970s and 180s he was living on his own in the NSW town of Moree. I could find no evidence that he married.
I then stumbled across this story about the Rotary Club of Moree chipping in to pay for a plaque for Jack after he died in 2003. The plaque also gives his real date of birth as 1928 meaning that he was 14 when he enlisted in 1942 not 20.
Pauline told me that in the mystery box was a prescription so she gave me the name on that. The first name was Karen. I found this person also living in Moree in the 1970 so I took a punt that there was a link with Jack. I found reference to Karen leaving a local business in 2013. These were all very thin links but I provided Pauline the company name and today she told me she was able to contact Karen. Also some blanks were filled in:
'It turns out that Jack was an orphan and was taken in by Karen’s family when he was very young. He lived with them and then joined the army. When he finished his tours he came back home and Karen said he was a regular at Sunday lunches. She still they were fantastic friends and he had left his medals to her family and they ended up with Karen. She was very excited that I called.'
How the boxes were mixed up in the removal is what has me scratching my head but I'm not going to give it another thought.
The medal returned tally is now 2184.

04 December 2017

Two KIA from the same family

This isn't the longest search I've done but there are some family complications that made it difficult.
When I read the service record of 2896 William Russell I didn't expect the story that unfolded. Firstly, his NOK was listed as his half sister, Janet Weir Rankin. Janet was also the beneficiary of his will after he was killed in action on 16 Jul 17. These decisions by the soldier didn't make it easy for Janet or her father Alexander Rankin to finalise William's estate. In 1921 the Army wrote to Janet  (page 35) to see if there were any other relative more closely related to receive his medals. Janet's response laid it out quite clearly. William was illegitimate and his father's whereabouts were unknown. To complicate this a little I found a memorial notice in a news paper which calls William Russell a friend of the family. What I couldn't confirm was if William's mother and Janet's mother were the same person. That confirmation was to come later.
What I could confirm was that Janet Weir Rankin was the daughter of Alexander Rankin and Alexander was married to Margaret at a time I couldn't work out. Margaret was the sister of Alexander White Weir. Alexander was also killed in action. His date of death was 23 Jul 17, only a week after William. Alexander was also in the same memorial notice which also states: 'our friend, William Russell'.
To add to the confusion a bit, Janet Weir Rankin married Alexander Smith and had a son also Alexander but he died as an infant in 1927.
It was at this point I found Alexander White Weir on the family tree of Ken C who has kindly allowed me to use his research in this post. Ken was able to confirm what I assumed as well as add a considerable amount of additional information.

1893 - William Russell was born on 27 July 1893 at 17 Church Street, Kilsyth [Scotland] to William Russell and Alison Currie. They were not married and the Birth Registration shows “Illegitimate.”
1901 - Alison Currie is listed on the Census with William and Alison’s mother Janet Currie.
1904 - Alison Currie married Alexander Rankin on 29 January 1904 at South Barnwood, Kilsyth. 1904 - Janet Weir Rankin was born to them on 16 July 1904. Both William Russell and Janet Weir Rankin have their mother listed as Alison Currie.
1906 - Alison Rankin (nee Currie) died on 3 July 1906 at Glasgow Maternity Hospital. Her full name is listed as Alison Brash Abercrombie Rankin.
1908 - Alexander Rankin married Margaret Weir on 10 July 1908 at Kilsyth. My mother was their eldest child. Janet Weir Rankin did marry Alexander Smith in 1927 and they had a child Alexander who was born and died in 1927.

 This confirms the biological link between William and Janet and answers a whole lot of other questions. William's Victory will soon be returned to Ken. Thanks to Trevor R who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 2182.

01 December 2017

WOFF Murphy - Shot down over Europe

This is a really great story from Bill. 

Shot down over Poland in 1943, Warrant Officer Frank Murphy spent the next two years as a POW. Then with the collapse of the German Forces in 1945, he was one of the many POW's that the Germans forced to follow its retreating army, in the front of the Russian onslaught, a forced march of 800 miles and lasted from January and April 1945. This was through a one of the most bitterly cold winters seen for many years. It was a forced march often with little or no rations.
But if there was one distinction that held pride of place with Frank held it was his membership of the ‘Caterpillar Club’ whose distinctive badge he earned after he bailed out in 1943.
The success of this search owes much to the team at Australian Genealogical Surname who really stepped up and whose efforts saw his medals returned to his family.
At the request of the family the research involved has been deleted.

The returned medal tally is now 2181.

Albert Griffiths

This search started when I received an email from Denny, a Vietnam War veteran and medal enthusiast. Denny recently receive a BWM from one of his mates who had found the medal in a box of trinkets. The medal was awarded to 1546 PTE Albert Griffiths.
Albert was originally from Manchester, UK and emigrated to Australia sometime prior to WWI and settled in Melbourne. With no middle name it was impossible to filter out which Albert Griffiths he was, among several dozen others, in the Victorian records or on the electoral rolls. There were several letters from Albert to the Department of Defence written in the 1930s requesting a copy of his discharge certificate. The reason for the loss was that his riverside camp was flooded and all his possessions swept away. I've seen this before and it usually means that the veteran was an itinerant worker hit hard by the Depression.
Having hit a brick wall I noticed that Albert at least had his administration squared away during the war. He listed his sister, still living in Manchester, as his next of kin. She must have married during the War and Albert updated his NOK details on his service record. I just wish every solider did the same today, my DCO colleagues will know what I mean. After those letters from the '30s, Albert disappeared completely.
Albert's sister's surname was Cashin and I soon found her on an Ancestry tree. My original thought was that I would have to start looking in UK for a relative until I looked at other siblings. One brother was named Ernest and he also moved to Australia. His daughter's name was Hazel, but went by Zelda. This led to a second surprise, Hazel only died in 2016. I found a newspaper story about Hazel which happened to give the name of her great grand daughter. The rest was easy and yesterday I spoke with Albert's great great niece. Denny will be posting the medal to her in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 2176.