26 March 2020

Arthur Brown

Revisiting some of the older searches has provided to be very successful of late.
In September 2010 I received 181 medals from the NSW RSL. Bill and I just referred to this as the NSW Box. Some of the returns were easy but others proved very difficult. After almost 10 years I have only a few medals from the NSW Box left still to be returned. 
One of the last is the Defence Medal awarded to NX166751 Arthur Charles Brown. Since I last looked at this research, Arthur's service record has been digitised by the National Archives of Australia and his son, Al, has put a family tree on Ancestry. This all came together quite nicely today after I sent Al a message and he rang me soon after.
This Defence Medal will soon be in the post on its way back to the Brown family.
The returned medal tally is now 2442.

25 March 2020

Frederick Douglas Smith

For the last couple of years I have allocated a significant amount of time to this search. Even though the family name is Smith, I thought I would have a reasonable straight forward search based on the first and second names that this family used. I also felt rather compelled to put in extra effort because of the medals. This WWI trio are in mint condition, they have never been mounted for wear and the original ribbons are pristine, which isn't bad for something more than 100 years old.
These medals were awarded to 2086 Frederick Douglas Smith. Fred was Killed In Action on 25 July 1916 at Pozieres. The Red Cross reports about Fred's death are quite detailed.
Fred's father was Charles Hunt Smith and one brother was William Hunt Smith. Based on this these names I thought that the search might not be to difficult. Indeed it wasn't, up until 1995 and then I couldn't move forward.
William (Bill) Hunt Smith as served in WWI. After the war he was a carpenter and was easy to follow through the Victorian electoral rolls. Bill even did a recorded interview with the AWM which is online. I had his wife's name and date of death in 1995 but no information about children or even if they had any.
Fred's sister was Lily Toghill Sydes but I had difficulty following her.
The youngest brother in this family was Alexander Roy Smith, born in 1900. Alexander also enlisted for WWI but this was on 11 October 1918 and he was quickly demobilised. The Smith family lived in Victoria but after his discharge, Alexander moved to South Australia. Alexander also died in 1995 but, as I've mentioned several times in the past, public records from SA are difficult to access.
I then turned to the South Australia Genealogy Face Book page and as it turns out one of the members, Michelle, is distinctly related to the Smith family. What Michelle was able to provide me was the name of Alexander's son. It took a couple of more steps, but last week, thanks to Richard Maurovic, I was able to confirm the address of Alexander's son whose name is Mike. I wrote to Mike and today he called me.
To clarify the family connections, Mike is Fred's nephew and was able to give me some great insight's in to the Smith family. Fred was the adventurous one of the family while Bill was not the type to hurt anyone. However, once Fred was killed, Bill enlisted to avenge him. Bill did have a daughter and that branch of the Smith family has Fred's Memorial Plaque. 
It was a quite extraordinary to talk to Mike and get his memories that were so closely related to the medals that I will soon send him.
Thanks go to Sharon G, who sent me the medals, Michelle and Richard.
The returned medal tally is now 2441.

17 March 2020

Thomas Wadrop

This story has several interesting connections.
The WWII group of six medals awarded to SX7308 Thomas Lionel Wadrop arrived in the post yesterday. My initial thought was this might be a difficult search given the lack of South Australian public records available on line. All I got was his date of birth from the service record page and date of death, 1991, from his cremation nook plaque.
To shortcut the South Australian research frustration, I've turned to the SA Genealogy Face Book page with this search. In short order I received some great assistance. Nicole E provide a lead by finding that Tom didn't marry, but his sister Dulcie married Arnold Harmstorf and their son's name is Ian. I immediately recognised the Harmstorf name as that of an Army colleague of mine. She is also from South Australia so I fired off a message to her immediately. The even faster, it seemed, reply confirmed that Ian is her father. Soon after I was talking to Ian who clearly remembers Tom, a Rat of Tobruk. He recalls Tom, a driver, telling how they would shelter under the engines of their trucks when the Messerschmidt planes dived bombed their convoys. This was the safest place as the bullets couldn't penetrate the engine blocks.  
These medals came to me via Ivan of the NSW RSL but where they have been for the last couple of decades is a mystery.
Thanks to the researchers on the South Australian Genealogy Face Book page who responded to my request, especially Nicole who connected all the dots.
Also thanks to Ilona for her part in connecting me with Ian.
The returned medal tally is now 2438.

08 March 2020

William Hodskinson

This weekend I've focused on revisiting some of the older research cases we have. I'm always hopeful there is new information has been posted online that will help me locate a family. Yesterday, this is exactly what happened. I looked at my notes on about 10 index cards but really got no where until late in the afternoon when came across a new tree on Ancestry.com which included 3842 PTE William Hodskinson, 24th Battalion, AIF.
William was born in Lythem, Lancashire, UK in 1897. His service record gave me some information like his mother's name and not much else. From the 1911 UK census I could work out all his siblings names but there was very little traceable information after that. I couldn't find William's immigration records but he was obviously in Australia by 1915 when he enlisted.
William is only mentioned in the electoral rolls a few times and each entry has him in a different small Queensland town. I suspect that he was an itinerant worker. The last electoral entry was in 1949.
This search started in 2007 when I received the medal from Peter H of Capalaba, Brisbane. The information I found yesterday showed William's full family so I sent a message to the tree owner. Overnight I received a reply from Pauline who is William's great niece. This is a little exciting for both of us. Pauline has only recently put the pieces of William's life together and I'm so pleased to add her family history.
The returned medal tally is now 2432.