Monday 8 July 2013

Researching Barnsley WW1 POWs using the Absent Voters Registers

Just before I started writing this blog last year I discovered an item in the Barnsley Chronicle from 1918 listing known Prisoners of War (POWs) from Barnsley and district. I recently wrote the story of one of these, Riley Smith, whose name and story interested me particularly.  Now that Barnsley Archives has reopened and has a digitised copy of the Barnsley Chronicle it will be even easier to find information on these Barnsley men.
A snip of the top of the article on the Barnsley Prisoners of War
Barnsley Chronicle 24 August 1918 (from Barnsley Archives)

Last week, on my first proper researching trip to the Barnsley Archives since the Experience Barnsley Museum opened, I consulted the 1918 Absent Voters Register.  This is a listing just like a standard electoral roll but it contains the men who were missing from their homes when the 1918 electoral roll was drawn up.  It is organised by wards and streets within wards with all printed entries appearing on the left hand side of a double page spread.  For each street the men are listed by house number, so sometimes you get more than one name against a house number suggesting a family connection.

The following are a few entries I found for the OH's family when I first consulted this source several years ago.

[Number in List] Name [House Number] Military Details/Handwritten entry on Facing Page
East Ward Polling District 2b
Pontefract Rd
[298] Duncan Cyril [25] 10885 Pte RAMC / 95 Field Amb BEF
[299] Duncan Horace [25] 1434 Cpl 13th Y&L / BEF

South East Ward Polling District 8h
Sheffield Rd
[2410] Duncan James Stevens [242] 15923 Gnr HMS Attentive II / GPO London
[2411] Staples Arthur Rice Vivian [242] 625401 Gnr 309th (HAC) S Batt / BEF
[2412] Duncan Frederick [242] 099572 Pte 801st MT ASC / PA

As you can see for each man we get his Regimental Number and Regiment or other military location.  Cyril and Horace Duncan are the brothers of Reginald Duncan, whose WW1 story I wrote some time ago.  They are both listed at 25 Pontefract Road which was in the East Ward of Barnsley.  Cyril was in the Royal Army Medical Corp and Horace served in the 13th York and Lancaster, the 1st Barnsley Pals.  The final piece of information for each man is a handwritten entry on the facing or right hand page of the book.  This appears to be an indication of the forces postal address or general location of the man.  So BEF is British Expeditionary Force; James Stevens Duncan is in the Navy, his entry is care of GPO London.  I haven't worked out what PA means yet, as noted after Frederick Duncan at 242 Sheffield Road, but other terms I have seen include Home Defence and Depot.  Interestingly Arthur Rice Vivian Staples (wonderful name!) married a Duncan, the sister of Frederick and James - I suppose his home address may have been that of his wife, Ethel, who was staying with her parents for the duration of the war, rather than his own parents in London.  This is a perfect example of using this register to demonstrate family links.

I also noticed that Prisoners of War are indicated in this handwritten column.  I have set myself the task of noting each one who appears in this source and comparing them against the list from the Chronicle.  As the Electoral Roll was in use after October 1918 it seems likely that there might be men mentioned in it as POWs that are not on the list from August which appeared in the Chronicle.

Other entries in the handwritten column note men who were missing or who had been killed since the list was compiled.  I have even noticed a mention of a deserter - thankfully not a man who was connected to the OH's family as far as I know.

My only regret is that the boundary of Barnsley at the time did not include Cudworth and some of the other outlying areas, so this source, the Absent Voters Electoral Register, will only help me identify men whose home addresses were in the immediate Barnsley area at the time.

1 comment:

BarnsleyHistorian said...

Note to myself:
PA means Proxy Area, thanks to Michael in the Archives for finding this out for me.