Tag Archives: brighton

Finding Frank: his death certificate

27 Oct

One of the key pieces of information missing from the limited information available about the F TROWER recorded on the Brighton War Memorial was how old he was when he died.

It was fairly obvious that in the absence of helpful genealogical information (other than the name and address of his brother) that finding out when he was born was going to be especially crucial if I was going to place him in my family tree.

The most obvious way of finding this out was to order a copy of his death certificate. Yes, you can get death certificates for men who died during the First World War, they are not that different from a normal death certificate and can be ordered from the GRO website in a similar manner and for the same cost.

They don’t tell you a great deal more than what is recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and in Soldiers Died in the Great War, but in my case Frank’s age was missing from both of these sources.

For Frank the following information was recorded, and as you can see there wasn’t really any new information other than his age:

Rgtl. or Army number: G/15980
Rank: Pte.
Name in Full (Surname First): TROWER Frank (13th Bn.)
Age: 36
Country of Birth: England
Date of Death: 19:6:1917
Place of Death: France
Cause of Death: Killed in action

So Frank was 36 years old when he died on the 19th June 1917, which in theory means that he was born between the 20th June 1880 (if he died on the day before his 37th birthday) and the 19th June 1881 (if he died on his 36th birthday) if my maths is correct. This fits quite nicely with the census information that I have which starts with a one year old Frank in 1881.

Unfortunately this doesn’t fits quite so well with the most likely Frank TROWER in the GRO Birth Indexes. The most promising match is a birth registered in Steyning Registration District (which included the parish of Hove) in Q4 1879. The next registration in the index is also in Steyning Registration District, but in Q2 1883 which is perhaps a little too late.

So although I have a good match with the census information, I don’t have a good match for his birth registration. I am not sure whether this is really a problem or not, we have to accept that things don’t always tie-up quite as neatly as we would like sometimes.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Finding Frank: some census searching

18 Oct

Based on what little information I could glean from military records I have been searching the 1911 census to see if I can find any likely candidates for the Frank TROWER whose sacrifice is remembered on the Brighton War Memorial.

The 1911 census on findmypast.co.uk only brings up four Frank TROWERs in Sussex, two of which are children and can probably be ruled out at this stage (one would have been only ten in 1917 when Frank died and the other fifteen).

This leaves us with two possibilities, one of whom is already in my family tree whilst the other isn’t. According to the 1911 census they are both the same age (29 years) although further research would suggest that there is about three years age difference between them.

One of the pieces of information I was able to gather was that Frank was the brother of J TROWER of 2 Oxford Place, Brighton. I checked 2 Oxford Place and there were no TROWERs living there in 1911, so this is not a great deal of help in my search. I need to fast forward a few years with some directories and see who was living there in 1917.

The other thing that is not a great help in my search is that both of the Frank TROWERs I am looking at were brothers of a J TROWER, one a Joseph Charles TROWER and the other a Jane Elizabeth TROWER. I haven’t established whether Jane had married before the First World War, in which case she probably wouldn’t be a TROWER any more, that is something else I need to do.

There is one distinguishing factor between the two Franks in the 1911 census and that is that one is married and the other isn’t. I think it likely that the Frank I am looking for is the unmarried one, otherwise there would have been some mention of his widow, rather than a brother in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.

The unmarried Frank is the one who is not in my family tree but it didn’t take long to place him, by working back through the census it seems that he was the grandson of George TROWER who is in my family tree (according to my software he is my 1st cousin 5 times removed, but that doesn’t sound quite rigth). I never really did much work on George and his wife Mary because they are on the extremes of my family tree, but this is a perfect excuse to extend that branch a little further.

I still can’t say for certain that this is the correct Frank TROWER, there are two things I would like to confirm before I make that assumption. Firstly how old was Frank when he died and secondly which J TROWER was living at 2 Oxford Place?

Finding Frank: some basic information

13 Oct

Although the Brighton War Memorial simply records him as F TROWER the Roll of Honour website has  identified him as Frank TROWER, and this does seem to be a reasonable assumption based on the available evidence, which it has to be said is pretty limited.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website only has two entries for an F TROWER, one of whom is named Fred Edward TROWER and is buried in Norfolk, which makes him an unlikely candidate for a man on the Brighton War Memorial, so it seems like the other one must be my man.

According to the website F TROWER was a Private in the 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (regimental number G/15980). He died on the 19th June 1917 and is buried at the Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery in Belgium.

As far as genealogical information goes details are sparse. One critical piece of evidence is missing and that is his age. What we do have instead is the fact that he was the brother of J. Trower of 2 Oxford Place, Brighton”.

The first name of Frank is given in Soldiers Died in the Great War, which also gives a couple of other scraps of information, namely that he was born in Hove and also enlisted in Hove, but it doesn’t really add a lot to the story other than that he was Killed in Action. I am certain this is the same man because the service number, regiment and battalion all match up.

His medal index card adds a little bit more to the story, with the addition of a previous regimental number (3719) and an indication that he had probably served in a different battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment before joining the 13th Battalion. He received the British War Medal and Victory Medal, but there is no further details of where these were sent or even that he died.

Unfortunately his service record doesn’t seem to have survived, that would have answered a lot of questions, so initially that is pretty much all I have to go on. I can dig a little deeper into military records and try to uncover some more details, for instance the actual medal roll to which the index card refers may tell me which battalion he was with before joining the 13th Battalion. It would also be interesting to check the war diary for the 13th battalion to find out what they were up to and it might be worth a search of the local newspaper, although this would be rather time-consuming.

As for finding out if and how he is related to me, the biggest clue I have is the details of his brother. I need to try to find out what the J stood for, and hopefully the address of 2 Oxford Place should help me do this if I can lay my hands on a street directory of the time.

I would really like to find out how old he was when he died, otherwise I am never really going to be 100% certain that I have the right man, and I guess I am going to need a death certificate for that.

For now though I can start my search in the 1911 census, hopefully I can find a J and Frank TROWER who are siblings or a J TROWER living at 2 Oxford Place, Brighton.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
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Climbing out of the hole

11 Oct

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I had done practically no family history recently, well that trend has continued more or less unabated, until yesterday. I feel like I have been stuck in quite possibly the deepest rut ever, struggling to find any enthusiasm for family history and blogging, but at last I feel like I am starting to climb out of the hole.

Last night I spent some time working on an unrelated (at the moment) name on the Brighton War Memorial. As the surname is TROWER and the place is Brighton, Sussex there is a very good chance that he was distantly related, so I don’t feel that I am completely wasting my time.

It is quite an interesting challenge as there are very few details given for F TROWER, my plan is to try to identify him and work backwards until I run into someone already on my family tree. Hopefully it will only be a generation or two before I find the connection, but it is something I have meant to investigate for a long time.

Not only will this hopefully clear up a long-standing mystery, but also spark a little enthusiasm for family history and blogging again. Time however is a still a real issue, but hopefully I can nibble away at this little project, doing a little bit each day, just enough to get me back into the swing of things.

From beach to bluebells, two faces of Sussex

23 Apr

One of the joys of living in Sussex is the variety of landscapes that can be experienced within a short distance of each other. From coast to hillside, from fields to woodland, I don’t think I will ever be bored of living in Sussex.

This morning I had to pop down to Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex, this meant a journey through Brighton, East Sussex. Being a sunny bank holiday weekend it was busy, but not as busy as I had expected. Heading back out of Brighton on the bus the queues of traffic coming the other way was a clear indicator that it was going to get a lot busier.

I was heading for the countryside. A few hours later I was walking through a woodland full of bluebells, with only the sounds of buzzing insects, the occasional snatch of bird song and the faint rumble of a jet flying high overhead.

All that work for one tiny little fact

23 Feb

As is so often the case the search for one little fact led to much more work than I had anticipated.

I wanted to find out where Ann GEERING (the daughter of my 5x great grandparents James and Ann GEERING) was born. She was baptised in the parish church at Hailsham, Sussex on the 26th April 1806, but the parish register recorded that she was actually born on the 18th September 1803.

The parish register didn’t say where she had been born, but as her other three siblings were baptised in Hailsham in a timely manner it seemed likely that the family weren’t at home when Ann was born and they waited until they got back home to have her baptised, at the same time as her younger brother (who was nine months old when he was baptised).

Having found a likely suspect for Ann GEERING in Brighton, Sussex (working as a servant) I had to set about proving it was in fact her. Fortunately in 1861 she was living with James and Margaret GEERING and she was listed as James’ aunt.

I then had to find out who James GEERING was. I followed him through the census, his first wife died and he remarried and finally in 1911, after he had been widowed for a second time, he was living in Lewes, Sussex with his brother Mark Anthony GEERING.

As you might imagine there haven’t been that many Mark Anthony GEERINGs in the world, but I do have one in my family tree and all the details matched. James and Mark Anthony’s father was Richard GEERING, sister of the Ann GEERING I was looking for.

Success at last, and I now know that Ann GEERING was born in Heathfield, Sussex (perhaps a dozen or so miles north of Hailsham where she was baptised) or at least she thought that she was born there. What the family were doing there will probably remain a mystery unless some other connection emerges further down the line.

Next steps….

I need to check to make sure that I have checked the parish registers for Heathfield. I have searched FamilySearch and the SFHG Data Archive but I need to check that Heathfield is included in one of these and if so what time period is covered.

I am not sure who or what I would be looking for, probably other GEERINGs and maybe some HOWLETTs in the registers. I would probably have found a marriage for James and Ann if it had been in Heathfield because the SFHG marriage index covers all of Sussex up to 1837, but it would be a perfect place to look for the older Ann’s baptism.

Picture Postcard Parade: The Aquarium and Madeira Drive, Brighton

13 Jan

The postcard below is provided as a contrast to the one from last week, this one probably dates from the late 1960s or early 1970s and show a slightly different view (looking east) of The Aquarium at Brighton, Sussex. Madeira Drive is the road to the right of the Aquarium. The postcard was published by Photo Precision Limited, about whom I have been unable to find out any more information.

This is much more the way I remember it from my childhood. I have tried to remember when it was that I went on a school trip to the aquarium or dolphinarium as it also known. It must have been in the late 1970s. I don’t remember much about the visit, I have recollections of large red plastic covered seats with tables where we had our lunch, and I seem to recall the smell of egg sandwiches, but I could be wrong.

I remember there was a display by the dolphins (long since moved on) in a giant pool, with the dolphins splashing those sitting near the edge of the pool. Also I think they “sang” happy birthday to someone in our school group. I can’t remember anything else about the aquarium, but I do remember we went out onto the beach afterwards, where one of my classmates found a dead fish.

The building now houses the Brighton Sea Life Centre which is much more focused on conservation and education than when I was there, although I have not been there since that visit thirty or so years ago. This is how the entrance looks today (or a couple of years ago) on Google Street View.

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