Friday, July 29, 2016

William Whybrew - an update.

The Cemetery at Vis-en-Artois.
William Whybrew has no grave, his name is inscribed
on panel 5 of the curved memorial wall between
the two stone pillars.(image courtesy of wikimedia).
Back in March 2014 I wrote a couple of posts about the children of David and Susan Whybrew. At the time, much of what I wrote about their youngest son William (the youngest son to survive childhood at any rate) was speculative.

In the course of doing research for my book about Susan, I've been able to confirm many of the details for William and add a few new ones, though some create more mysteries than they solve. So here's an update.

William was born on 29 October 1884 while the family were living in Berry St, Sittingbourne, near Canterbury, Kent. At the time his father David was with the 3rd East Kent militia. Some time after William's birth David left the army without completing his five year contract, for reasons that are unclear, and the family moved to Colchester in Essex. Two sons, Alfred (1888) and James (1892) were born to Susan in Colchester but didn't survive infancy.

William was at home with David and Susan at the time of the 1901 census, working as an assistant gardener. In 1905, when he was 21,  he married Adelaide Williams, a woman from Ipswich, a coastal town in Suffolk, 30 km north east of Colchester.

At 38 Adelaide was considerably older than William. Their marriage certificate indicates that she was the daughter of Earle Henry Williams, deceased, a fish hawker of Ipswich. She seems to have spent some of her childhood in the Ipswich workhouse, and then disappears from the records until her marriage to William.

The couple moved to Canterbury, where William found work as a carman, driving a delivery cart for a mineral water company. They had a lodger living with them when the 1911 census was taken, an infirm elderly man named Abraham Langford, who was possibly cared for by Adelaide (or Annie as she was referred to on the census.)

In 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, William enlisted in the Army Veterinary Corp, which looked after the many horses, mules, dogs and other animals used by the army. He transferred to the Yorkshire regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wale's Own) and fought in the trenches in  France and then saw action in Italy before returning to France in September 1918. I've now confirmed that William died in action in France on 29 October 1918, just a few days before his 34th birthday and only three weeks before the war ended.

The Hundred Days Offensive, August-november 1918
Battle of Courtrai.
British and Belgian wounded waiting to be taken
back by light railway. Dadezeele, 15 October 1918.
It’s likely that William was involved in the decisive “Hundred Days” battle or "Advance to Victory" in Picardy and Artois, which broke the Germans' resolve and ultimately led to the Kaiser’s abdication and the signing of the armistice on November 11. It was a massively destructive battle. William had no grave, perhaps no identifiable remains. His name is inscribed on the memorial at Vis-en-Artois amongst the 9,847 men of the Allied forces with no known burial place, who fell between August 1918 and the end of the war.

The news of his death would have been sent first to his widow Adelaide. In 1919 she applied for his medals, his belongings and the money still owed to him by the army. She was listed as the sole legatee. Later his name was inscribed on the war memorial in Ipswich, but strangely not the one in Colchester where he grew up and enlisted.

William and Adelaide had no children. However, it seems that Adelaide had either a son or a stepson by a previous relationship. A young soldier named Henry Alan Lawrence, born in 1890, joined the army in 1908 and gave a 'Mrs Whybrew' as his mother and next of kin. Her address at the time was in Colchester. He also listed two brothers, Archer and George Lawrence, whose address was in Stanstead in Essex.

At the end of WW1, in which Henry Lawrence was badly injured and became a prisoner of war, his address was the same as that of Adelaide Whybrew on William Whybrew's records - 195 Bramford Rd Ipswich.

How Henry fits into Adelaide's story is something I still haven't worked out. In the 1891 census he and his brothers  appear  to be the sons of William and Martha Lawrence of Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire. Martha Lawrence (nee Archer) died in 1897 and the family were scattered. There's no record of William Lawrence ever marrying Adelaide Williams. Perhaps she became an unofficial step mother to young Henry.

(I'm grateful to Andrew Beal of the Ipswich War Memorial and Cenotaph page on Facebook for some of these details.)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Certificates, transcriptions and Brexit

Well, here's some positive news at last about Brexit. As a result of events on June 23, it has become less expensive for Australians like me to purchase certificates from the UK General Registry Office (GRO). This time last year one British pound was equivalent to roughly $AUD 2.0. Now it's down to $AUD 1.70. That takes about $3 off the cost of a certificate.

Politics aside, ordering copies of birth, marriage or death certificates is an expensive way to do family history research. If I can find reliable information about the people I'm researching by some other means, I'm usually content with that. But there are times when the only way to find information, or check dubious sources, is to order a copy of the certificate.

Copy of Lily Whybrew's birth certificate from the UK GRO
Lily was the youngest child of Susan and David Whybrew.
She died in infancy.
Each country has its own approach to the issuing of certificates. The UK GRO allows orders to be made online or by mail, then sends a certified copy of the original registry entry by mail. Curiously, the cost (currently £9.25 each) is the same whether you provide complete details, including a reference to the GRO index, or just a few details such as a name, place and year, requiring the GRO to do the research themselves to find an entry on the index. Even more strange, the cost is the same whether it's posted to Highgate in London or to Highgate in Perth, Australia. There's no option to have copies delivered electronically.

Despite the ready availability of family history sources online, there's still something exciting about finding a long brown envelope in your letter box marked with Her Majesty's Government seal. If family history is your 'thing', nothing beats the thrill of seeing a certificate issued a hundred years ago and finding that vital piece of information that you were looking for inscribed in handwritten scrawl. Occasionally there's the disappointment of finding the certificate belongs to someone different than you were expecting, or it contains information that blows a long-cherished theory apart.

The Irish GRO also issues certificates by mail, which can be ordered by post or electronically, for €20. Alternatively they will send a photocopy of the record by email, for a reduced price (about €4). If all you want is the information, rather than something to hang on the wall, that's a good option. For some reason, emailed photocopies can't be ordered online, but have to be ordered by fax or mail after downloading the request form and ticking the box that says 'photocopy'. Odd, but that's the way it is.
Another of Brexit's effects is the appearance on the Irish GRO site of a warning that "Due to a significant increase in orders for certificates as a result of the recent referendum in the United Kingdom (UK), the delivery time for certificates from this service will be up to thirty (30) days from the date of order." A sudden increase in interest in family history? Maybe not.

Rosina Whybrew's death in Ireland in 1874.
This is a photocopy of the original entry from the Irish GRO.

Birth, marriage and death records in Australia are kept by each State's own registry offices, and certified copies are generally very expensive. (The NSW registry charges $32 for an emailed copy of a birth entry. That's twice the price of a hard copy British certificate mailed overseas.) One way around this is to order a modified version of the certificate through a transcription agent. They will send all the information that's found on a registry entry, usually laid out on their own attractive presentation form, for about half to two thirds of the price. Transcription agents can be found by searching online.

Transcript of Mary Mason's birth in NSW,
provided by a transcription agent from the original entry.

If you have ancestors in South Australia, and live outside the state, you're in luck. The City of Unley Library has a wonderful bunch of family history volunteers who will look up births, marriages and deaths in that state free of charge. All that's required is the details of the person you're researching, mailed or emailed on one of their request forms (up to a limit of 3 requests at a time) and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Since they are volunteers, it can take several weeks to get a result, but they'll often add helpful comments to the report. A fantastic service. (I'm not aware of similar services in any other state, but if you know of one, please let us know about it in the comments box.)