The Search for William
My family history story:
William travelled to the Gold Coast, immigrating to Perth, Australia in 1925. He married a school teacher.
William left his family when his son was 5 years old.
During World War Two William’s wife sent food parcels to William’s family in London. After the war the families lost touch.
This is a story I have in my family, and one I can remember from being a small boy. When I started my research into the family back in 1990 it continued to intrigue me.
What happened to William?
What happened to William’s wife and son?
My first step was to trace William’s birth. Using his parents as a starting point I traced their marriage. Edward William NASH (1876-1969) married Mary Ann Elizabeth MORRIS (known to her daughter as Polly, 1871-1947)1. Using the date of marriage as a starting point I traced the birth certificate for William, 1904 in Greenwich, London2. He was baptised on 3 August 1904 in Greenwich, London, United Kingdom3.
I traced the other siblings of the family (Doris and Edward), but no further facts emerged to help me track William (see my blog: https://myfamilygenealogy.co.uk//back-to-basics/ and https://myfamilygenealogy.co.uk//try-to-be-prepared-for-what-you-might-find/).
Taking the scant facts I had for his birth and parents, plus one photograph of a young boy, with a name, I started the search…
Researching with the aid of a number of publications I contacted The National Archives of Australia4. I came across a war service record for William George NASH, could this be ‘my’ William George? I ordered the documents with some trepidation (and I have to admit excitement). Upon receiving the envelope stuffed full of William’s army service details I was able to confirm I had the same William George NASH from the personal details listed. The service records contained further information; the first news I and indeed the family had received since World War Two (WWII). I now had William’s date of enlistment (Claremont, Australia; 1942) his army number, unit and date of discharge (due to the requirement for maintaining essential dairying supplies). I also gained some personal details about him; hair colour (grey), eye colour (grey) and distinctive marks. Best of all the war record contained a photograph of William.
Upon ordering his army pay card records5 I was able to reveal more facts; letters written by William’s wife and a transcript of their marriage certificate. I was able to obtain photographs, maps and details of some of the areas/addresses detailed in Perth. So I now had a record of a marriage, that of William George NASH to Hazel Sophronia Dowell on 2 November 1942 in Freemantle, Western Australia.
Accessing the Western Australian Post Office Directories6 I found evidence of William as a dairy farmer in 1946-1949; a fact listed in his army pay card records. We have to be careful with these records as they can be misleading; often people will be listed at addresses for years after they have left them or died. They are also not comprehensive in that many people are missed out e.g. those residing at boarding houses etc. However I had placed William in Wellard, as a diary farmer cross matching the information in his army pay card records. Looking further at the information detailed for diary farmers the following information confirms why William was discharged from the army. In 1945 one dairy farmer was listed, looking at 1949, 34 individuals are listed as dairy farmers out of 41 in the Wellard area. So this confirms the size of the shortage of dairy farmers during WWII!
My next step was contacting the State Library of Western Australia7, I tracked down William’s wife (as she had the unusual middle name of Sophronia8). The librarian was able to track down an address and telephone number. This was to be perhaps the biggest and most rewarding piece of research and evidence to date, could this really be William’s wife, a lady he had married in 1942? I had hoped in the back of my mind that William or his wife may have still been alive, but for William I had presumed with his birth date it was unlikely. I contacted Hazel by letter, in November 2006 detailing who I was and my interest in the person I was researching, hoping a reply would come confirming a long lost relation. Hazel wrote back confirming she was a relation and that she separated from William in 1945. Almost immediately William left the area and she hadn’t heard from him since. She was able to provide further details on William, and just as importantly for his son.
In trying to pin William down in time I conducted research into shipping lists9 10 11and found references to a William NASH. After cross referencing these with what I already knew I came to the conclusion that William George NASH left England from Liverpool on 31 January 1925, aged 20 on the Ekari and arrived at Calabar, Nigeria. William probably returned to the UK (Liverpool) in 1926 or 1927 from Calabar, Nigeria. He then departed London on the 22 December 1927 aboard the ship Barrabool for Fremantle, Australia. The age of this passenger (23 years) correlates with a birth in 1904. Through this research I came across a link to ships details12 which lists general information on P&O passenger ships.
Another contact, which proved to be very useful was Rockingham Museum13. I had located this small, community museum after looking again at the Post Office Directories for Wellard, which gave William’s address as Rockingham Road. They kindly agreed to ask their local visitors and volunteers if anyone had memories of William NASH. A few weeks later an email dropped into my in-box from the museum describing the memories of Frank, who was 16 years old in 1943 when helping his father in the Wellard area. Frank’s father ran a service that picked up the milk and cream from the dairy farms. He remembered William as a tall man, very strong and quite abrasive in manner. His farm was on Young Road, second lot close to Dog Hill Road. Two incidents stood out in his memory:
- One memory was of cream churns being left out for collection one week. These weren’t collected for some reason. When the following week Frank and his father returned to the farm the cream churns were still there, with a thick coating of dust from the road. William insisted these were collected and taken away.
- The other memory was the lifting of 16 x 44 gallon (200 litre) drums of Molasses (to feed the cows). William lifted them off the lorry himself with no visible effort and Frank was amazed.
Local family history societies and museums, dairy farmer organisations and William’s son have provided further data on William and the search to answer further questions continues…
If you know the whereabouts of William George NASH please contact me…
To discover more of William’s story book me for my talk titled ‘Searching for William‘
Robert Parker is a Genealogist and Trainer, based in Cambridgeshire. He delivers courses, coaching, talks, and research services for those interested in tracing their ancestors. See www.myfamilygenealogy.co.uk for further details. Contact Robert to discuss your requirements without obligation. What stories could your ancestors tell?
1 Source: Freebmd.org.uk, Marriages Sep 1903, NASH, Edward William, Greenwich, Vol: 1d, page: 1943
2 Source: Freebmd.org.uk, Births Sep 1904, NASH, William George, Greenwich, Vol: 1d, page: 1093
3 Source: Ancestry.co.uk, London, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906
4 Source: www.naa.gov.au/, National Archives of Australia, series B883, item number WX21541
5 Source: www.naa.gov.au/, Army Paycard
6 Source: http://www.slwa.wa.gov.au/find/guides/wa_history/post_office_directories; accessed June 2015
7 Source: http://www.slwa.wa.gov.au/
8 See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sophronia or http://www.behindthename.com/name/sophronia for the meaning of the name