One of the few pieces of information I was able to gather about the Frank TROWER whose name is recorded on the Brighton War Memorial was that Frank was the brother of J TROWER of 2 Oxford Place, Brighton.
Apart from his age and date of death this is the only other piece of genealogical evidence that I have to try place Frank within my family tree, but frustratingly I have been unable to tie the address to any of the TROWER family.
Last Saturday I made a quick visit to Brighton History Centre and tried to get some more information on who was living at 2 Oxford Place. Every piece of evidence I looked at points to the residents being the BROWN family without a trace of TROWER anywhere.
I had previously found the BROWNs living at 2 Oxford Place in the 1911 census, with a widowed Jane as the head of the household living with daughter Annie and sons Percy and Albert Ernest.
The Brighton directories I checked covering the period just before the First World War through to the end of the First World War all gave Miss A Brown as living there, as did the 1918 Voters List. Not a TROWER in sight.
I know directories are notoriously inaccurate but the consistency across all the sources suggests that it was the BROWN family that were resident at 2 Oxford Place and not the TROWERs. I suspect that the evidence from the CWGC website is correct, J TROWER did live there, but only as a lodger and as such make it into any of the records.
There is a possibility the there was a family connection between the BROWNs and the TROWERs. Jane is almost certainly too old to be the sister of Frank, even if she had started out as a TROWER.
There are of course other records that might give an address for J TROWER regardless of whether he was a property owner or lodger. A marriage certificate or perhaps the birth or baptism record for a child should give a specific address. This would be costly and I wouldn’t know where to start, assuming that the J TROWER at 2 Oxford Place did in fact get married and have children.
Of course there could be an employment record somewhere. Perhaps he worked for the Post Office or the railway, or maybe a military service record somewhere that would have an address, but that really would be searching for a needle in a haystack, if not in a field full of haystacks.
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
Name in Full (Surname First): TROWER Frank (13th Bn.)
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.
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?
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.