Wednesday 17 July 2013

A Search for POWs completed and Lewin Green revealed as William Lewin

Nothing in this world is perfect ... least of all old documents.  I suppose genealogy as a hobby wouldn't be half as interesting (and addictive) if the answers were just available at the drop of a hat,  ... although I have sometimes overheard people coming into various Archives where I've been sat with my head in a microfiche reader who ask such daft questions you just know they expect the Archivists to open a drawer and their whole family tree will be laid out for them, just like it is on the telly!!

Today's challenge, or disappointment if you prefer, was that the 1918 Absent Voters' Register is not complete in the vital element I was using to extract the Prisoner of War information. There are gaps of five, five and two blank pages, out of a total of 119 pages, where the handwritten amendments have just not been made.

Now although this means that my collection of 141 POW's names is not comprehensive, it is still very useful and I won't let myself get downhearted.  In addition when I was going through the filing cabinets at the Cudworth History Group last week I am sure I spotted a transcription of an Absent Voters' List there - I just have to find it again tomorrow when I'm not rushing to find something else!  The Register I've been looking at in the Archives covers from Darton and Mapplewell to Monk Bretton, but Cudworth used to be a separate electoral area so it wasn't in the book. 

I have also transcribed another 52 names of men who were Absent on military service in any shape or form who may be connected with the OH's family tree.  I already had a few names and I used some of them as examples of the kind of information I was collecting in my post a few days ago

Today's great discoveries have been two men who served in the First World War under different names from the ones I have for them in the family tree.  
Regiment or Corps: Cameron Hlrs Regtl No. 50579 Rank: Pte Surname: Lewin Christian Names: William Permanent Address: No 28 Albion Road Stairfoot Near Barnsley
A snip from William Lewin's Statement as to Disability (from Ancestry - WW1 Pension Records)

William Lewin is the half brother of the infamous (in our family anyway) Edith Alice ... she of the family who are a little 'economical' with the truth for several generations.  I wrote about Edith Alice here and here and had my story about her published in the Barnsley Family History Society journal too!

To cut a long story short Edith Alice's mother Minnie bore her out of wedlock, then married twice, adding more children to her family each time.  In addition her first husband had several children to his first wife who Minnie inherited so to speak.  William Lewin is one of these step children.

A greyscale picture of a long row of three story terraced houses.
Albion Road, Stairfoot, Barnsley (from YOCOCO)
The family lived at number 28 Albion Road at Stairfoot, a long block of three story houses which were demolished in the 1960s.  I had previously found an entry at this address in the 1919 Register of Electors for George and Minnie Green, Edith Alice's step father (#2) and her mother; but also listed in the house was a Lewin Green - who was at that point a mystery to me.

Minnie's first husband had been Henry Lewin - but he had died in Rotherham in 1901 fortunately for me AFTER the census had been taken.
1901 census for the Lewin family at 10, Ct1 Doncaster Road, Wath upon Dearne (from Ancestry)
The census shows Henry aged 40, a Colliery Sinker, his wife Minnie aged 30 (she's a dreadful liar, she's actually about 25 here), a son William (this is our man), a daughter Alice (the Edith Alice of my previous story) and another daughter Ada.  As if that wasn't enough they also have a Boarder, an Irishman called John Scully aged 40 who, as he has the same Colliery Sinker job title, may be a workmate of Henry's.  Alice has taken her step father's name and if you didn't know any better you might think that Minnie had borne all three children - maybe that's why she added a few years onto her age to give precisely that idea?

My problem always was to link the mysterious Lewin Green to anyone I knew who could have been living with the family and who would have a reasonable claim to that pairing of names.

Today I solved it ... the entry in the 1918 Absent Voters' Register gave just one name for the address 28 Albion Road in the Hunningley Ward of Barnsley; No. 5767, Lewin Green, Regimental Number 345562, Rank Pte, Regiment RWK.

Searching on Ancestry I found nothing for surname Green and this Regimental Number and the site won't let you search for just a number, however the TNA website page for the WW1 Medal Cards  does and one of the hits (numbers are repeated in other regiments and when a soldier changed regiment he changed numbers too - it's all very confusing) was for a William Lewin.  Once I had found a hit for his card on the TNA I could nip back to Ancestry and download it for nothing (as part of my subscription).

A pinky red pre-printed form with Lewin, William his Corps, Rank and Numbers noted in heavy blue ink.  See text below.
The top section of William Lewin's Medal Card (from Ancestry)
The number on the Absent Voters' Register is the middle one of the three William Lewin was allocated at various times.  The RWK in the listing had been a red herring - William had actually enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (well, it was only one letter out) and for some reason given two numbers whilst in that regiment.  He had ended up in the Cameron Highlanders (as we saw in the first image I posted) with a different number again.  He was awarded both the British and Victory medals so he did serve abroad.

Using the name William Lewin and the Regimental number I searched Ancestry again ... this time I got a hit in the WW1 Pension records, which is the source of my first image above.  As his address is clearly given as 28 Albion Road, Stairfoot, Barnsley this confirms that William Lewin IS Lewin Green. 

But why the change of name?  The names in the Register are those given by the householders of men absent from home at the point the register was compiled - in other words George Green supplied the name Lewin Green for his step, step son.  Was this a way of 'claiming' William for his own by giving him his name?  William himself obviously enlisted under his real name - did he continue to use it after the war?  Or did he become Lewin Green as his step father seems to prefer?

William's claim for a war pension on the grounds of his bronchitis were rejected and I can see from the other records that he served in Egypt and then France.  He was in trouble for 'disobeying a lawful command' more than once which earned him terms of Hard Labour and Field Punishment.  There is a note at the foot of one page in his record dated September 1918 that reads, 'To No 5 Military Prison', but I think this was a posting as a guard as the terms for his previous misdemeanours had all been served by then.

I can't find any further mention of either William Lewin or Lewin Green in Barnsley after 1919.  Where does he go? 

There was another man whom I spotted today using a slightly different name for his wartime service, but that was just a change of first name from Moses to Walter, no change of surname - maybe he never liked Moses and took the chance when he left home to change it.  He was born in 1899 so he must have enlisted quite young and he would only have been 19 at the end of the war - changing your name like this does sound more like a fairly normal boyish whim than the rather odd arrangement described above.

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