28 June 2020

Help provided to the Tasmania Police

This is another of those stories where I can't give one bit of personal information.
I was recently contacted by the Tasmania Police who had four medals awarded to three different soldiers. I wasn't given details of the circumstances as to why the police had them, just the names on the medal. Fortunately, this was enough information to be able to provide the police the family contact details.
The returned medal tally is now 2496.

24 June 2020

More assistance to the Mount Druit Area Police Command

The post immediately before this one is about my collaboration with SGT Frank G from the Mount Druitt Police Area Command. After that success, Frank and I combined again today to solve another puzzle.
Frank had three WWI medals awarded to 443499 Jack Evans, RAAF. Based on the the name; Jack Evans, there was just to many people to make the search easy. The one piece of information that was key from the DVA nominal roll was Jack's date of birth. Using this I could work out his parents names and then work out his date of death. Back tracking led me to Jack's wife's name which was far easier to find in the electoral rolls.
Using the information we had so far, particularly the date of birth, Frank found a robbery report from the 1990s in Jack's name in the Blue Mountains area. I could then use the electoral rolls to confirm the Blue Mountains address for Jack and his family. Frank was then able to use his resources to identify a possible son of Jack's. Frank finished our call so he could ring the number for the person he found. One minute later, Frank called me back to say that he had indeed found Jack's son and arrangements are in place for the medals to be collected next week.
The total time spent on the search was less than 10 minutes and once again it was a real pleasure to assist Frank and the NSW Police Force.
The returned medal tally is now 2492.

17 June 2020

Helping out the MT Druit station of the NSW Police Force

I'm on a bit of a run assisting the NSW Police Force.
This research was for the families of two medals that were being held SGT Frank G. Frank had been referred to me by Christopher G as he and Frank are both former servicemen and wanted to see these medals back with the families.
The first medal was a WWI British War Medal awarded to 12/1565 CPL Harry Osborn. Harry was in the York and Lancaster Regiment and I was lucky to find his service record. This is very unusual as the majority of British WWI records were destroyed in the Blitz. What I found was Harry's date of birth and his father's name. This was enough to narrow down the family.
Harry was married to Ellen and had a daughter. He died in Leeds in 1987. Harry's daughter and her husband emigrated to Australia in the 1950. They had a quite distinctive surname and their son had Osborn as his third name. This was Harry's grandson but he died in 2010. Frank and I combined our resources and worked out that Harry also had a granddaughter and I found her contact details in the White Pages. Frank was soon talking to Harry's only direct descendant and the medal will be with her soon.
The second medal was a WWI medal awarded to Herbert Mills. From the electoral rolls I was able to work out his son's name and his line of work; he was in the Navy. Herbert's son disappeared from the records in 1990 but back tracking through the gazetting of awards I worked out that the person I was looking for retried from the RAN as a Petty Officer and he was also a Vietnam War veteran. This was enough information to work out his address in Queensland but when Frank contacted him, he passed on the details of his sister who still lives in NSW. Within an hour Herbert's daughter had bought Herbert's 97 year old wife in to the Police station to collect the medal.  
In three hours both these searches were resolved and I've made two great new contacts in Frank and Christopher.
The returned medal tally is now 2489. 

10 June 2020

Boer War and WWI group

This is another return that is years and many hours of research in the making. I received the Boer War and WWI medal group awarded to James Gordon Campbell from the WA RSL in 2010. I've had to revisit the search on multiple occasions as each time I've looked more information became available. I don't know the full story so I've made some educated guesses. It was complicated by James remaining in South Africa after the Boer War and record availability is low.
James was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1878. I couldn't pin down when he went to South Africa but it must have been prior to 1901 as he was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal and this ceased to be awarded once Queen Victoria died. James was a corporal in the Frontier Light Horse. His QSA and KSA are named to this unit. He also served in the British South Africa Police.
During WWI he served in the 5th Infantry and the South African Service Corps.
It took about three years to find all this information.
Progressively, through Ancestry, I've put together details of James' life. He son was Douglas Gordon Campbell and grandson was James George Gordon Campbell. By pure chance I found James' death certificate. He died in 1938 but more importantly I had a geographic location in South Africa where he lived and I used this for the next phase of the search.

James (2nd) had four children one who was Francis Robb Campbell. Francis married August (Jimmy) William Heger. It is this branch of the family who I've been in contact with. Jimmy is one of the gentlemen in the picture with all the motor cycles, exactly which is unknown.
Once I had a name and location I sent off a couple of speculative emails and found the right Heger family. For the last month or so I've been communicating with Steve Heger and will send him the medals in the near future.
How the medals got to Australia is a mystery.
Thank you to Steve for the great conversations and being the conduit in to the Heger family. Also thanks to the WA RSL.
The returned medal tally is now 2487.

09 June 2020

James Arthur Wilson

This has to one of the most complicated searches I've attempted. It wasn't one of the longest I've faced but the tragedy, movements and marriages that occurred across only two generations made for some complex research. In the end I had to call in some experts who were able to point me in the right direction.
The search for the family of 2696 Private James Arthur Wilson commenced in April 2020 when I received the British War Medal and Victory medal from the Liverpool Station of the NSW Police Force. James' AIF service record is surprisingly long at 139 pages. While it held many clues it also threw up more questions than there were answers.
James enlisted in 1915, aged 22, and allocated to 6th Battalion, AIF. He was also entitled to the 1914-15 Star but this medal was not in the package sent to me. His next of kin is listed as his mother Frances Louise Wilson, who sometimes in the records was called Louise Francis. His sister was Blanche Wilson born in 1902. James' service record is filled with letters from Francis and Blanche. This correspondence are requests for information about James after he was wounded on two occasions and also asking for money to be allotted from his pay as Frances was a widow. Even Blanche writes to the Army asking for information about James as she 'has been in a convent' and doesn't know where James is. Some of these letters are terribly sad as they were written after the Army had information about James and didn't pass it on. Other than confirming Frances' address in the electoral rolls and a very brief death notice from 1948, there was no other information about her. All I could find out about Blanche was a news paper article from 1912. The address given in the article was the address for Frances in the electoral roll.
In James' service record is the extract from his marriage certificate which is dated 10 September 1918 but the marriage occurred on 17 April 1918. This is for James marriage to Grace Baker in the UK while he was recovering from wounds. From the letter written by Frances and Blanche it doesn't appear that he told them of his marriage. In the extract it states that James' father is also named James Arthur Wilson, occupation grazier. I could find no other information about James the father. James and, I assume Grace, returned to Australia in May 1919. He took his discharge in WA. However, by 1920 they were back in Sydney and on 9 September 1920 James died in Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick of Tuberculosis. This was as a result of his war service. Blanche was finely told about this in 1921. James' funeral notice didn't provide much help.

Through the 1920's Grace wrote to Defence on several occasions about James' medals. It appears that Defence thought James was still in the UK and his medals were dispatched to Australia House, London. Eventually, the medals, memorial plaque and memorial scroll were forwarded to Grace. These letters provided the evidence that I needed to follow Grace firstly to North Queensland where she lived in a pub and later on a station. It also showed that Grace remarried. This was in 1924 to William John Nairn. If the search wasn't confusing enough already this is another twist.
I found Grace and William's marriage in the NSW BDM. I also found them in the electoral rolls and details of William's death in 1930 which gave the names of his parents; Major and Catherine Nairn. This is his death notice.
I couldn't find a service record that aligned with William's details and being a member of 26th Battalion. But I did find some Ancestry trees that gave William's details as married to someone else and dying in 1954. Eventually I just left this line of inquiry alone.
In 1935 Grace wrote to Defence again and asked if James had been awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal. She had been told by war time friends of James that he had received his award. This letter is on page 28 of the service record and is reveling as it the first mention of a son. As someone who drafts a lot of responses to letters that Army receives from the public, I was a little surprised at the abruptness of the reply that Grace received (page 27). We are far more polite and empathetic now.
The search for details of James and Graces' son defeated me. There was no mention of him in the electoral rolls and I wasn't even sure what surname he was using. The next clue I found was in Graces' death notice. A son wasn't mentioned but a granddaughter named Judy from Victoria was.
I tried all sorts of search variables. For example, I estimated that a son would have been born about 1918-19 making him in his early 20s when WWII started. Assuming he kept the name Wilson I couldn't narrow down a son of Grace Nairn or even Grace Wilson. By this stage I estimate I had expended in excess of 40 hours in research time and just couldn't progress the search. 
I then turned to a couple of genealogy groups including the Australian Surname Group. Within hours they had provided the last piece of the puzzle.
James and Grace's son was also named James Arthur Wilson. James joined the RAAF during WWII and was the aircrew of a Hudson aircraft that disappeared over Rabal on 19 January 1941. James was presumed dead but this wasn't confined until 1946. This is the report about the circumstances. This website gives the details of Hudson A16-145 in which James flew.
James was married to Margaret and their daughter, who was one when James died, is Judith Ann.
The Australian Surname Group also gave me information that Margaret remarried and Judith had a half brother. I couldn't work out exactly who Judy was without a married name but I was able to find her brother Frank. We spoke yesterday and Frank kindly provided me with Judy's phone number. I spoke to Judy today and we both were able to fill in gaps in the story. For example, Grace continued to use the name Wilson even though the records I accessed after 1924 listed her as Grace Nairn.
Thank you very much to Liz, Sylvia and Sue of the Australian Surname Group who were able to find those bits of information that eluded me.
The returned medal tally is now 2482.


04 June 2020

William Cousins

This return benefited from a combination of an uncommon surname and a regional town making narrowing down the family I was looking for relativity easy. 
This British War Medal was awarded to 2125 William Stanley Cousins. He is listed as being posted to 1st Battalion, AIF as well as 1st Australian Light Railway Operating Company. It would have been interesting to see the medal named to a railway unit. 
I received the medal the other day and it took a little while to work out that after WWI, William married but was divorced not long after. They didn't have any children. There weren't many public records available other than a few electoral roll entries. However, the search opened up once I found his funeral notice which I've added below. The key was the name of William's sister, Mrs R Leslight. This turned out to be Dorothy Leslight, nee Cousins. This information aligned with a letter from Dorothy to the Army in 1968 applying for the Anzac Medallion. The letter also stated that Dorothy was William's next of kin.William had died in 1948.
Dorothy lived in Murwillumbah and a quick check of her surname and this town in the White Pages led me to the correct family. As it turns out the family member I spoke to has, over the years, collected up other medals awarded to members of this family. Now William's BWM will be added to the collection.     
William's nickname was Nugget, I wonder why?
Thanks to Christopher W who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 2480.