I never knew anything beyond my immediate family when I was growing up in Australia though it turns out I was born in a house almost opposite the old family home in Colchester, Essex. It wasn’t until I retired that I stated to wonder about the extended family. I was looking at the old photo albums and realised all the opportunities I’d missed by not asking questions of my father and grandmother. Fortunately it wasn’t entirely too late as I soon discovered there’s a very extended mob of 2nd cousins out there, across the whole of the old British Empire. So, I started hunting around and all those years of formal study and academic research found a new focus, and it’s more fascinating than I could have imagined. In truth, I think I’m finally making use of the stuff I learnt in Anthropology and History in trying to understand the lives and pressures of previous generations in England, and those that migrated across the globe for a better life. And I have to say, some of those C19th novelist provide a great insight…go Mrs Gaskell and Charles Dickens!
Seriously though, I’ve learnt a lot of family history research skills in the past 4 yrs and people have been kind enough to appreciate the courses where I share practical approaches for uncovering WW1 experiences. There are lots of safe and informative avenues to explore to enrich our understanding of our ancestors. Our C21st life is so very different from what even our grandparents might have imagined for us and I believe we owe it to those hard-working, often put upon, souls to uncover and tell their story as truly as we can for future generations.
- articles in HAGSOCs The Ancestral Researcher, generally summaries of courses/talks:
- Beyond the WW1 Service Records – Filling in the Gaps vol 30 no 2 Jun 2016
- Uncovering your Tommies Story- despite the dearth of records vol 30 no 4 Dec 2016
- Finding the Stories Behind the Dates and Places for WW1 Army Ancestors- upcoming
- Stutters/Dines/Wisby family Blog in development … will include the ‘how to’ hints from the courses
- numerous stories about individual ancestors
- Unpacking the WW1 Army Casualty Clearing process – moving wounded from the front thru the various processes including hospitals and convalescent depots and return to the front line or discharge home. This talk charts a couple of individuals thru medical facilities on the Western Front, hospital ships/trains, UK hospitals, Red Cross and VAD records, Newspapers and local civilian responses. Starting with notations on their service records I’ll highlight alternative resources of information to fill in a soldier’s story. .. The processes were similar across the British Army [B/Inter]. A cut down version uses one man and one evacuation process but is common across all theatres of war for the BA.
- British WW1 Conscription, Assignment and Exemption – Conscription affected all British men 18- ….. in some way so this talk looks at some issues and subsequent documentation that might have been generated and the options for Home Service assignments that might account for the lack of service records. Will look at the Army Service Corps, Labour and Agricultural Units and highlight what memorabilia and photographs might tell us. Can also cove Exempt Occupations – who was eligible and how processed thru the Military Tribunals; Absent Voters, and what post war jobs, locations/marriages might suggest. [B/Inter]. The cut down version will focus on the exemption process, which was subject to ongoing review, by the Tribunals.
- No British Service Record? Not the end of the world! This looks at 3 English brothers, a Kitchener recruit, a Lord Derby recruit and an 18yo Conscript…. I talk about my experiences in tracking down information that might be relevant; how important it is to validate everything to ensure you have the right person- or not! I’ll highlight the online forums that have pointed me in the right direction and the archives, museums and libraries that should be on a researchers ‘must visit list’ for their next UK trip. [B/Inter] Again, a cut down version would look at one solider- the 18yo conscript.
- The old British Regiment – gone BUT not extinct– a 20-30min celebration of the information still held by the old Regimental Museums and Archives. Sadly, following the explosion of battalions during WW1 many Regiments were amalgamated or disbanded over the next 40 years but not all the WW1 records were lost. I’ll present some of my findings from the Essex Regiment and Suffolk Regiment Museums and the Bury St Edmunds branch of the Suffolk Archives. The expansion of battalions that Regiments needed to service during WW1 put a huge strain on the home garrisons so many local resources were absorbed into the military endeavour resulting in photos, letters and newspaper articles that might help tell something of your soldiers tale.
- Not Just the Western Front – a 20 min review of the other theatres – Salonica, Gallipoli, Africa, Palestine, Macedonia. With the exception of Gallipoli & Palestine which has been well documented fm the ANZAC perspective, these other theatres have been somewhat overlooked. A soldiers’ experience in these theatres was often harsh and miserable as Units suffered from isolation, disease and delays with reinforcements or supplies. Includes suggestions for getting a better picture of what the military endured.