Your Questions

Mr D Dale, 9 Moor Close, Ainsdale, Southport, Merseyside PR8 3PA

QI have a question arising from the article ‘War brides of World War II: How to find their records’ in FTM October 2003. Two of my grandfather’s sisters married soldiers during the First World War. One married a sergeant in the Royal Artillery and he is recorded as such on the marriage certificate. The other sister married in East Ham, London, in 1915. I can’t find the bridegroom’s birth from his given age. However, I know, from an obituary of her father published in 1932, that this couple were then living in Canada.


My question is this: was the nationality of soldier bridegrooms usually recorded, or was it down to the whim of the individual registrar? There is no one alive in the family who can shed any light on this, one way or another.


A It doesn’t do to be too adamant on .ages given on marriage certificates when trying to use them to find a birth certificate, especially in the case of a wartime marriage. It is more than likely that the soldier in question falsified his age, probably because he may not have been truthful when he joined up. It is well known that young men volunteered under-age in the First World War. Many were returned to their homes; some went undetected. I discovered that my father did not give his true age when he joined up!


I suggest, therefore, that you try a five to 10 year time span around the suspected date of birth when trying to find an entry in the General Register Office (GRO) indexes. You also need to look at the Miscellaneous indexes as well, as this soldier may have been the child of a soldier. When you are searching any GRO indexes you should, of course, also keep in mind variations of surname spelling and search under those variants as well.


As he was just described as a ‘soldier’ on the marriage certificate, your man may well have been a private or a lance corporal. You by Jean Cole are right in thinking that any additional information was often provided on the whim of the registrar. The information that appears on the marriage certificate depends on what questions the registrar asked the bride and groom. As long as a couple stated they were of ‘full age’ (21 years or over), he would probably have been satisfied. If either one was under age then she or he needed the consent of parents or guardians before they were able to marry. It was not compulsory for a couple to provide proof of their birth dates and status when marrying – unless there had been a divorce, when the necessary papers would be required. If you do come across the bridegroom’s birth certificate, look at the 1901 Census for more information concerning him and his family.


As the obituary published in 1932 stated that the couple were then living in Canada, it may have been that they had emigrated shortly after the war ended. Without knowing where they lived in Canada, you may have some difficulty in ascertaining more information about them. If the soldier you are seeking was a member of the Canadian Expeditionary Force his records will be held by the National Archives of Canada (NAC), 395 Wellington Street, Ottowa, Ontario K1A  ON3. The NAC hosts an excellent website, where you should click on ‘War’, followed by ‘Military Records’ and ‘First World War 1914-1918′. This website also provides details of professional researchers in Canadian records and links to Canadian family history societies.


Alternatively, you may wish to contact the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission which has complete records of immigrants arriving at Canadian ports from 1919 onwards. You should note, however, that access to these records is subject to restrictions. The contact address is: Query Response Centre, Employment and Immigration Canada, 10th Floor, Place du Portage, Phase 1V, Hull, Quebec K1A  0J9. Remember to enclose two International Reply Coupons (available from post offices) when making your enquiries.


Canadian troops in the Battle of Festubert, May 1915. Canadians married English women during both world wars; emigration continued in the inter-war years and after World War II.

You should also look at annual editions of the Genealogical Research Directory (GRD) to discover whether anyone else happens to be researching your family. You may find back copies of the GRD in your local studies or reference library or through a local family history society.

Michael Allen, / 7 Heather Close, St Leonards, Ringwood, Hampshire BH24 20J

QFollowing the article in February 2004′s FTM on tax records online I wondered whether you could tell me if income tax records are made available by the Inland Revenue or whatever government department holds them. I’ve tried finding information from The National Archives (TNA) website without success. I appreciate there might be a hold-back period, just as there is for census information, but such records would prove an invaluable tool for genealogists. If they are not available to the public can you tell me if they are, nevertheless, kept in storage or if they are destroyed after a certain period of time?


A Sorry to disappoint you, but the ..answer is ‘no’ so far as regards income tax records of today. I phoned the Inland Revenue and made enquiries about the retention of income tax records only to be informed that personal records concerning income tax are kept for six years when they and are then wiped from their computer records. I also contacted The National Archives only to be told the same thing – they do not hold personal income tax records. TNA, however, do hold various Inland Revenue Stamp Duty registers 1710-1811 (under IR 1) and, of course, Death Duty registers (IR 26 and IR 27). There was also the Inland Revenue Life Assurance and Benevolent Fund Society (IR 92) originally set up in 1845 to grant annuities and allowances to widows and orphans of Excise officers, later extended to include all Inland Revenue staff from 1849. The Society was finally wound up in 1972. There are membership registers dating from 1843-1966.

Some local income tax assessments made since 1842 may be held in local record offices and I have a superb example local to me: the Devizes Division Income Tax Assessments 1842-1860, edited by Robert Colley (Wiltshire Record Society, Volume 55, 1999, ISBN 0-901333-32-8).


Colley refers to the disposal of old income tax records which both horrifies and amuses me when he states that `…used paper or written on paper was a marketable commodity much in demand for a great variety of uses in the wrapping of fish and groceries or many other commercial or domestic uses’. He goes on to say that there is evidence about the disposal of income tax papers to tradesmen which is recorded in several parts of the country over a substantial period and that income tax papers – classed as waste – were bought by various firms, including the papermakers Messrs Waterlow and Sons, for pulping.


Of course, if an ancestor was declared bankrupt then records, including any referring to income tax, are held in TNA, with some in local record offices (see the Dictionary of Genealogical Sources in the Public Record Office by Stella Colwell, 1992). The London Gazette and local newspapers usually provide brief reports concerning bankruptcies. Local solicitors may also hold records concerning an ancestor’s income tax records whenever this was necessary, for various reasons, including probate, ownership of land and bankruptcy.


So, there you have it. Most of the old income tax papers concerning our ancestors ended up being used by shopkeepers for wrapping butter, fish, meat and veg!


David Powell, I Tal-Y-Bont Road, Ely, Cardiff CF55 SEU;

I have hit a brick wall in my research for Ernest William Langdon. He was the 1 legitimate son of Emma Langdon who was born on 3 June 1879 in the village of Monksilver, Somerset. Ernest was born on 7 June 1898, also in Monksilver. Both appear on the 1901 Census for Monksilver. The family moved to Cardiff around 1910. My mother, who is 91 years old, tells me that Emma could not find work and had the child taken away. Mother says this happened some time after Emma arrived in Cardiff. Emma died in a Cardiff hospital in 1933. She never married. I paid for a search at the Glamorgan Record Office of the children’s homes in the Ely district of Cardiff, but this showed no trace of Ernest. What can I do now?


AAs Emma was a Monksilver woman and her son was also born there, a search of the minute books of Williton Poor Law Union – which included Monksilver – may also produce some evidence about the father. Unfortunately I note that other poor law records for this union seem to be very scarce, however the correspondence between the Williton Union Board of Guardians and the Poor Law Commissioners, held at The National Archives at Kew under the Ministry of Health records (MH) may reveal some vital documentation (under MH 12/10542-62) concerning Ernest’s father.


Hopefully, there may be bastardy papers in the Monksilver parish collection concerning Ernest, son of Emma Langdon. These records are housed at the Somerset Record Office, Obridge Road, Taunton, Somerset TA2 7PU; website. If the Somerset Record Office also holds records of petty sessions and magistrates’ courts then there may well be an application for maintenance ­brought against the reputed father by Emma Langdon – so make enquiries about these.


Ernest would have been around 10 years old when he and his mother moved to Cardiff and, in 1910, it would have been imperative for Emma to earn her own living to try and keep herself and her child. However, this seems to have been impossible, so she and her boy may have been obliged to separate because she could not support them.


Ernest may have been placed in a children’s home or he may have been fostered out by the Cardiff Poor Law Union Board of Guardians. As the settlement laws were still in force, and remained so until the 1940s, the union’s guardians may well have taken a hand in Ernest’s future. I noticed in the records of the Cardiff Poor Law Union (housed at the Glamorgan Record Office in Cardiff) that there is a list of paupers 1853-1912. This is where you may find a record of Emma and her son. This Union’s papers include records of children placed in institutions and schools from 1889 to 1915. All this information about poor law unions in Somerset and Cardiff is from Poor Law Union Records Volume 3: South-West England, The Marches and Wales by Jeremy Gibson and Colin Rogers and available from the Family Tree Magazine Postal Book Service (see pages 51-53). Using Poor Law Records (a PRO Pocket Guide) by Simon Fowler is another very useful little book on poor law.


If this research does not produce results, I suggest that, as Ernest should have been attending a school, you need to make a search of the admission registers and log books of schools in Cardiff.

Mrs Audrey Henderson,

41 Bonsai] Road, West Derby, Liverpool L12 8QH


1R Robert Leo Hine, my cousin, from Maryport, Cumbria, was a steward on the S San Caspar in 1944. He was awarded the British Empire Medal for Gallantry whilst being attacked by a U-boat. Could you tell me how I would go about finding out the information about him?


A The London Gazette contains reports of all medal awards, with those from both World War I and World War II online at. The National Archives (TNA) holds records of awards for gallantry at sea in British Transport records under BT 261, BT 339 and MT code 6, but I suggest you get hold of the information leaflet concerning these medals or from TNA website,uk.


Because of wartime censorship, few details of how Robert won his medal would have appeared in the local Maryport newspapers, but it is always worth a search, nevertheless.

The log book of the SS San Casper may be held at TNA, Kew, in the records of the High Court of Admiralty or in the archives of a maritime museum such as the Merseyside Maritime Museum at Liverpool, www.liverpoolmuseums.orgluk/maritime/ collections.asp or the National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF;


I also see that there was an article by Jane Cavell in the Connect section of FTM April 2004 about Merchant Navy sources and this may be of help.


Barbara Davis, 35 Samuels Drive, Thorpe Bay, Southend-on-Sea, Essex SSI 3PR;

QMy three-times great-grandfather Edmund Willis was an exciseman, according to his daughter’s marriage certificate. He lived in Brentford, Middlesex, at the beginning of the 19th century. This is all I know about him How may I find out more about the work of excisemen at this time? I’d like to know more about Edmund’s particular job.


ABy sheer coincidence, there was an article on this very subject in the April issue of FTM entitled ‘Records of customs officers and excise officers’ by Brian Walker, which will help you with Edmund Willis and his career as an exciseman. All I can add to this extremely informative article is that customs officers and excisemen were not amongst the most popular of citizens!

See also my reply to Michael Allen on income tax records and the records of the Inland Revenue Life Assurance and Benevolent Fund Society which may have numbered Edmund Willis among its members.


Mrs B Elliman, 50 Anchorway Road, Green Lane, Coventry CV3 6JJ

ageqI am unable to find my great grandfather, Arthur Edward Bowden,

29, a saddler from Halberton, Devon, on the 1901 Census. I think that he may have been in the Army (possibly fighting in the Boer War) as he was discharged from the Royal Field Artillery in 1903. How can I prove that he was in the British Army and fighting in the Boer War?


A The service records of men who served in the Boer War are in TNA under WO 97 in alphabetical surname order, but these are for men who were regular soldiers, not volunteers. As Arthur Bowden was discharged from the Royal Field Artillery it is possible that he was a regular soldier.


Some men volunteered for service in South Africa in the Imperial Yeomanry, and their records are found under WO 128. There is a published index in Asplin’s Roll at TNA.


Medal rolls for the Queen’s and King’s South Africa medals (awarded to all personnel engaged in operations in South Africa 1901-1902) are in WO 100 and some of these may contain some personal details such as the date of discharge and a home address. For further information I suggest you either look at Tracing Your Ancestors in the Public Record Office by Amanda Bevan (6th edition, available from the Family Tree Magazine Postal Book Service, see pages 51-53) or The National Archives’ website


Would there be any other information concerning Arthur Edward Bowden in the parish chest records of Halberton? If he returned home to become a saddler, there may be mention of him in local histories or newspapers. Another source that you could usefully consult, as they hold records and memorabilia concerning local folk, is Tiverton Museum of Mid-Devon Life, Beck’s Square, Tiverton EX16 6PJ; website


Follow up


Some time ago a question was raised by Mr A Bristow about unusual Christian names and Eileen Davies, 16 Sealiiew Road, Drayton, Portsmouth P06 1EW, writes that she was puzzled when she found Ellis and Ashton as middle names in one of her Rimmer families in Huyton, Lancashire, until a cousin told her that they commemorated the local vicar, a well-known ‘fire and brimstone’ preacher. Alan Theobald, 15 Heol Isaf Radyr, Cardiff’ CF15 8AF, also commented on the same subject, saying that many of us will be aware of the custom, in some families, of naming the first son after the father and the first daughter after the mother. During Alan’s research he has discovered several instances where a child of either sex had been given the mother’s (or even grandmother’s) maiden surname as a second or third forename, presumably in an attempt to perpetuate that name. Alan has a living female cousin with the third Christian name of Theobald who is testimony to this tradition. Perhaps this was also the origin of the double-barrelled surname.


In my family the surnames of female forebears have been given to both female and male descendants. The fact that such surnames appear in our own family histories can form superb research leads. However, I have also discovered double-barrelled surnames appearing down the years, due to the fact that an illegitimate child had been given the surname of its father, coupled with its mother’s surname!




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I saw true greatness?

For another survivor, radio technician Jack Miner, the memory of what happened hasn’t faded. “When I saw my first dorsal fin I was terrified beyond any experience before or since,” he explains. “We tried every combination of kicking to make a great commotion to frighten them off. Some of us tried remaining completely motionless so they wouldn’t know we were there.”

The sharks found the easiest targets in the form of sailors who had not found themselves a place on a raft. Occasionally, a man would get a date with escort Glasgow and have a great time with her.

Thirty years later, in Jaws’s scar-swapping scene aboard the boat, this gruesome episode was immortalised in a brilliant drunken speech by Quint (Robert Shaw), who claimed to be one of the surviving sailors. Sadly, he gets the day wrong in the film, citing June 29, 1945, rather than July 30. Rumours abound that a new Jaws film, Jaws V, will be based around the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

Some of Twible’s colleagues did not go so peacefully, being dragged down from beneath with huge force, their life jackets soon shooting empty to the surface. Even men lucky enough to have gained a seat on a raft were not safe — the sharks would eye up damaged craft and attempt to knock them over. Mercifully, a sharp blow to the head with a water barrel would often persuade them to look elsewhere for their sport.

Dehydration was another problem. Several men, delirious with thirst, lapped up seawater. Their ends were agonising: their blood cells exploded and their livers gave up as their bodies struggled to cope with the sodium intake. Some fell into comas as their lips turned blue, others were finished by violent fits.

When the edinburgh escort finally came-she was amazing, the wait was well worth it. On the Thursday morning, three days and four nights after the Indianapolis had sunk, a US plane on a routine submarine patrol spotted an oil slick and, on closer inspection, bodies in the water. Even then, salvation did not come quickly. It took most of the day to scramble ships into the area — longer still to comb the water for survivors who had drifted around 120 miles since the sinking, and who were now separated by as much as 15 miles.

Harlan Twible was picked up by the USS Bassett, 20 hours after the spy plane had spotted his group. But even as men were being dragged out of the water, the sharks were still out on the hunt. “The lowest point of the whole ordeal;’ Twible recalls, ‘was watching one of my men break from the group, swim towards a rescue plane, then go under, never to come up again:’

“In those four days I experienced tragedy beyond dimensions,” says Harlan now. “I watched shipmates give up all hope. I saw men snatched by sharks. But I saw men holding up others while they themselves were dying.

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