Wednesday 21 January 2015

WW1 Soldier's Story - The Importance of Knowing Where Your Spoon is At

In the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy it is vitally important that you always know where your towel is ... well it seems that in the First World War it was equally important that you always knew where your spoon was.  After all, you could eat with a spoon, scrape mud off your boots with a spoon, dig yourself out of a collapsed dugout with a spoon, deflect bullets with a spoon and ... in the event of the ultimate sacrifice ... be identified by your spoon!

I was adding details of one of our (the Barnsley War Memorials Project) men to Lives of the First World War the other night and (as you do) got distracted by the additional documents the Commonwealth War Graves Commission now supplies on the entries for the men.
Concentration document on CWGC for Swift, W (click to enlarge)
The man I was interested in is the second one down, initially listed as an Unknown Soldier of the Yorks & Lancs he was later identified by an inscription on his spoon as 13/890 Pte W Swift of the 13th York and Lancaster, known as the 1st Barnsley Pals:

890 1.B.Y & L.

Lower down the page a second man, Pte R A Wood, of the 2/2 London Regiment was also identified by  his spoon.  I wonder how common this was?

WW1 spoon bearing the inscription RFC 878 (from the Great War Forum)
I searched online and was able to find this picture of a WW1 spoon on the Great War Forum where there is also a lot of discussion about the spoons. 

Walter Swift's Army Service Records have survived (available on Ancestry and Find My Past) and with those and a thorough search of the local newspaper, the Barnsley Chronicle (available to search digitally at Barnsley Archives) I was able to construct an interesting timeline around the spoon.

Walter joins up in September 1914 no doubt carried along in the enthusiasm for creating a Barnsley Pals battalion at the beginning of the war.  He was 29 years old.  He had married Emily Walker in 1910 and they had two children alive at the time of his death, Elizabeth b.1912 and Walter b.1916.  There had been another child, Arthur b.1910 who is listed on the 1911 census when Walter and Emily, living at 16 Park Square, off George's Street in Barnsley, declare they had been married 10 months and that Arthur was 6 months old.  Interesting maths that!  So Emily had been five months pregnant with Arthur on their marriage. Unfortunately Arthur dies later the same year and is buried in Monk Bretton Cemetery.  Another child, Thomas is listed on Walter's Service Records, but he also dies young aged just 11 months in October 1915 and is buried in Barnsley Cemetery.  His death certificate is included in Walter's records.  Walter would still have been in England at this time, I hope he made it home to console Emily.

Walter went over the top on 1 July 1916 with the rest of the Barnsley lads and was one of the hundreds of casualties from the two local battalions that day.  
Barnsley Chronicle 26 August 1916 (thanks to Barnsley Archives)
Nearly two months later his family is officially notified that Walter is missing.  The above note appears in the Barnsley Chronicle on 26 August 1916.  Similar pieces continued to appear for many weeks after the events of the "Big Push" as it became known in the Chronicle.
Barnsley Chronicle 28 April 1917 (thanks to Barnsley Archives)

The following year the family must have heard more definite news as on two consecutive weeks In Memoriam notices appear for Walter, the first on 21 April 1917 from his mother, (step) father and sisters, and the one I have reproduced above on 28 April 1917, from his wife and children.  There is a letter in the Service Records dated July 1917 noting that articles of personal property and medals should be sent to Mrs Emily Swift of 10 Mill Street, Hoyle Mill, Nr Barnsley. 

Emily remarries in 1918 to John W Jackson and moves to 52 Princess Street, Barnsley.  They appear to have eight children together between 1919 and 1928.  

Emily Jackson was sent Walter's British War Medal and Victory medal in January and September 1921 following some letters to and fro to establish her whereabouts in late 1919.  Emily completes the Next of Kin form in September 1919, which is wonderful source of family information for any family historian.  She gives the full dates of birth of her and Walter's two surviving children and full address details of his mother, step father, and five half sisters, three of them under their married names!

The CWGC document initially shown above is dated July 1921.  This must be when this exhumation of bodies from temporary graves to be 'concentrated' into larger cemeteries took place.  In the Service Records there is a note dated December 1921 from the Imperial War Graves Commission (the previous name of the CWGC) enquiring of the Infantry Records Office in York: 
"890 York & Lancaster Regiment.  It is desired to identify a soldier who bore the Regimental Number quoted above.  Will you therefore kindly give the full description of any or all the soldiers in your records as having borne this number, and at the same time quote the latest casualty effecting him or them".
Letter to the Imperial War Graves Commission (from Find My Past)
The letter of reply has also been preserved in the records.  You can see that the records office had identified five men in the York and Lancaster Regiment whose Service Number contained the digits 890.  Three of them had survived the war and been discharged, one had been discharged in March 1915 - his number was 14/890 suggesting he was in the 2nd Barnsley Pals.  At this date the Pals were still at home, the 2nd Pals having not even moved out of temporary accommodation in Barnsley centre (see Jon Cooksey's book Barnsley Pals for much more on the Pals' movements), so this man was probably discharged as unfit for service.

Only 13/890  Pte Swift W was unaccounted for, "Assumed Dead. Place of Burial unknown".  I assume the IWGC also considered the place in which the unidentified body had been found and that this tallied with the identification of the body as a man who had fallen on 1 July 1916.

It would have been at this point the red ink correction was made to the Concentration document - and when Pte Swift's cWGC gravestone was engraved his full details were able to appear on it.  You can see a low resolution picture of his gravestone on the War Graves Photographic Project's page.   There is no family information on Walter's CWGC entry page and no personal dedication on his gravestone.  This might be because the Army were having trouble locating his widow, or simply because she did not reply to them when approached.
Letter to Emily Jackson from the Infantry Records Office (from Find My Past)
In February 1923 the saga draws to a close in, to me, a slightly shocking manner.  The Infantry Records Office sends "One damaged spoon" to Emily Jackson at Princess Street.

It has been nearly seven years since Walter was reported missing. Emily has remarried and now has at least four children with her new husband.  And then a spoon turns up.  How upsetting must that have been? 
Larger than average terraced property, 52 Princess Street (from Google Maps)
Emily and John William Jackson continue to live at 52 Princess Street for the rest of their lives.  They lose two children, Edith aged 5 and Frank aged 4 at the beginning of 1931 who are buried in the same plot as little Thomas Swift (c 270) in Barnsley Cemetery.  John dies in 1947 and Emily in 1977 aged 87 years old, they too are buried together in Barnsley Cemetery (6 101) and one day I'll take a walk and see if they have a gravestone.  Such a long and sad life - and I wonder what happened to the spoon?

Saturday 17 January 2015

Attaching External Evidence to Lives of the First World War

A couple of days ago I wrote an introduction to using the new Timeline version of Lives of the First World War (LFWW).  I said I'd come back and explain how to add External Evidence.

Memorials for WW1 and WW2 in St Mary's Worsbro' Village
I've been adding men from the War Memorial at St Mary's Church, in Worsbrough Village near Barnsley to a Community on LFWW.  I was intrigued by the name of one man - listed as Pte T Goodyear of the Conn Rgs on the memorial - the researcher who had submitted his list to me (AB) had written Goodyer? on his spreadsheet as if he wasn't sure about the spelling.  

I looked the soldier up on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and helpfully it gave his wife's name and their home address in Blacker Hill, Barnsley in the Additional Information, so I know I've got the right man.  Now confirmed as Timothy Goodyer I decided to add his photo and obituary from the Barnsley Chronicle to LFWW.  We did adding pictures in my last post, so this is about adding External Evidence in the form of a transcription of a newspaper cutting.
Timothy Goodyer's Life Story on LFWW

From AB's research and the entry on the CWGC I know that Private Goodyer's service number is 3345.  That and his surname are enough to find him on LFWW.  I have already added his picture - quite a handsome chap don't you think?

You can see in the highlighted oval "Evidence" that he currently has three pieces of evidence attached, these are the seed data - his Medal Index Card and his CWGC entry, both attached by the Imperial War Museum and the photo, attached by me.  I am going to attach the Barnsley Chronicle as my other alter ego, my test user who hasn't got a paid subscription.
The Evidence Page on LFWW
Click on the Evidence button on the toolbar and the page display changes to the Evidence page.  Scroll down past the orange Search Records button (that would have taken us to the records that mostly can't be viewed unless you have a paid subscription) to the green Add External Reference button. Click that.
External Reference Dialogue box on LFWW

The External Reference Dialogue box opens.  

As you can see I have selected Book/Publication/Archive by clicking the 'radio button' by that phrase.  The boxes below will change to suit each kind of evidence.  

I have entered 'Barnsley Chronicle' as the Title, and the date of the newspaper report in the Reference box.  There is no particular way of doing this - but imagine that you are reading this on someone else's page - you would want to know where to find the report of Pte Goodyer's death.

Location Accessed is Barnsley Archives - who have the entire newspaper available to search digitally - go and visit and have a look!  It's very addictive!

The Description should aim to be helpful to someone with poor eyesight who might be viewing this soldier's Life Story via special software that reads out text or to someone who isn't familiar with the source you are attaching.  

I haven't ticked the boxes at the bottom yet - but it will be Surname, Military Details and Place I think.  His name is mentioned, his regiment and service number are in the report and it gives his home address as Blacker Hill which matches the CWGC entry beautifully.

Then click Connect to *your soldier's name* and Continue on the Thank You pop up and you have added some External Evidence - Well Done!

I am now going to add a transcription of the cutting as a Story linked to this Evidence - I could add the image of the cutting that I have, but as I want to persuade more people to go to Barnsley Archives and to look things up for themselves I'm being a bit stingy with uploading obituaries at the moment.  Remember you should only upload images you own or have permission to use for this purpose.

We are still on the Evidence page so scroll back down to your new entry - the title will be displayed above the green button we just used to add the Evidence.  Click on the title of the evidence, in this case Barnsley Chronicle, and a new dialogue box opens.

Evidence Reference box on LFWW
This displays the information I just added.  You can see that this evidence was connected by Linda Test (the name I gave my non-subscription account).

We could pick facts out of the cutting and add them via the "Add Facts from this Evidence" button, but we did that last time.  So this time click the little cog on the bottom right and you will see three options
  • Challenge this source
  • Add a story based on this
  • Remove evidence
If you think someone else has added incorrect information to a soldier's Life Story you can click Challenge this source and submit a report saying why you think it is wrong.  Remove evidence is self explanatory - evidence can only be removed by the person who added it by the way.  

I am going to add some free text, a transcription of the newspaper cutting, so I chose Add a story based on this.  You can add a story using the Stories button on the tool bar without attaching any evidence - this is useful for family stories or rumours about the soldier.  But in this instance I am making a direct transcription of the evidence I have in my hand and if someone wanted to see it for themselves they could go along to Barnsley Archives and look it up in the Barnsley Chronicle.
Story Dialogue Box on LFWW

I now have the Story Dialogue Box on screen.  You can write whatever you want in here - up to the word limit in the Story box, but it is quite large at 5,000 characters.  

I give my story the title "Obituary of Timothy Goodyer in the Barnsley Chronicle" and then start transcribing the cutting in the Story box.  This might take some time ... 

You can Share (that's the dark turquoise button at the bottom) at any point and come back and add (well they call it "improve") to the story later.  I would actually recommend you do this a couple of time if you are typing a long piece especially if you are doing it on a phone or tablet because if your connection fails you will lose what you have written if you haven't saved (Shared) it.

You could transcribe your cutting or write your story in another word processing document and then just cut and paste to here.  That works just as well.  Beware, if it won't let you save you may have exceeded the word limit and will need to edit a bit or split your story into two parts.

I usually add the Location Barnsley, Yorkshire and the date of the newspaper that the cutting is out of in the bottom section of the box.  Any story with a date is displayed in chronological order on the Timeline page - so this is a very useful tool.  Note that you can use paragraph breaks in the text, they will display correctly on the Timeline page - the stories look a bit untidy on the Stories page, where the lines all run together, so for the best display always try to add a date so that the story displays on the Timeline.

When you are ready click Share and Continue on the pop up Thank You box.

Change your view to Timeline by clicking on that word on the tool bar just under the profile picture of your man and enjoy your addition to his Life Story.  

That's all for now - I think my tea is ready.
Good Luck with your research and keep Remembering the men and women who served in the First World War - they deserve it!

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Timeline View of Lives of the First World War

Since I last wrote about Lives of the First World War (LFWW) back in May 2014 the site has improved its user interface with the introduction of the Timeline and with additional helpful hints on screen to assist with the addition of evidence and facts.  

LFWW is a site created by the Imperial War Museum in co-operation with DC Thompson Family History to provide a permanent digital memorial to the men and women who served or who took part in the First World War.  The site has been populated with the names of men and women who are listed in various data sources, known as seed data.  Currently this includes: 
Seed Data record sets on LFWW

Remember you can click on any of the images in my blog to see them enlarged if you can't quite make out the detail or words.

If a man does not appear in one of these data sets then you currently can't add information to the site, to his 'Life Story', for him yet.  There are plans to add many more data sets in the future.  

Other record sets are available on the site which can be searched and linked to a man's Life Story, some, like the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records can be searched and attached for NO charge once you have created a free account.  Others, such as census records, and Army Service Records can only be viewed and attached if you are a subscriber.

A full list can be seen here.

Anyone can add photos and stories to the site to the Life Story of any man or woman of their choice - you just need to set up a free account (and I would recommend that you consider using a nickname when you do as the name you use appears on any record that you have added to).  I will explain how to add some simple information in a little while.

I am a Friend of the site, which means that I have the equivalent of a paid up subscription - however I have obtained this on the back of beta testing for the site, allowing the IWM to use my contributions as examples in their talks and displays and as part of my annual Find My Past (FMP) subscription.  A 12 month subscription to FMP allows you to have access to the premium features of LFWW for free on applying a code supplied by FMP on request.  However any suggestions I make in this blog post will apply to users who have NOT paid a subscription because I want to make it plain and easy for everyone to use the LFWW site to remember their First World War relatives.

Some of my Communities on LFWW
Being a Friend and having premium access allows me to create Communities.  This is a way of grouping the Life Stories, that is men or women's records, into sets which reflect some aspect of the First World War or your local community.  There are Communities for individual ships for example, for separate army regiments or as I am doing for the Barnsley War Memorials Project (BWMP), for each parish or township in the Barnsley area, with a few more for individual war memorials where they are particularly unique, such as the Salvation Army Memorial Plaque.  

As you can see in the snip above I have added over 1000 men to the core BWMP community and then various numbers of men to the named sub-communities.  A man can be added to any number of communities.  Some of our Barnsley men are in as many as 6 communities because they appear on multiple war memorials, are mentioned on a war memorial gravestone (I have a separate community to keep track of these), and they are named in Jon Cookey's book Barnsley Pals, which is an invaluable source of reference for the 13th and 14th battalions of the York and Lancashire Regiment and which drew most of its men from the Barnsley area. 
Using the Search box
Anyone can find one of the Barnsley War Memorials Project's communities on LFWW.  Just put the word Barnsley in the search box at the top of the page and click the magnifying glass logo.
Search Results page showing Communities containing the word Barnsley
When the results are returned choose Communities on the left hand side, wait a moment and then you will see all the communities containing that word - they might not all be mine, but you can spot them easily enough, they have the BWMP logo and strapline underneath each one.  Currently both Fay Polson (Wombwell and Jump) and I are creating BWMP communities.

A friend recently asked me to set up a community for her local war memorial - remember that only subscribers have the power to do this - and as it is a Barnsley war memorial I was happy to do so as I would have got around to it eventually (I have such a long 'to do' list you wouldn't believe!)  Anyway I did and she tried several times over the Christmas holidays to add information to her men, but couldn't quite work out how to do it!  

So here's the simple 'how to' for anyone with a free account:

Log on!  If you haven't got an account create one now.  Nearly 60,000 people have created accounts, and it is quite straight forward.  Name, email address and choose a password.  And remember your password ...

Once you have logged on you are taken to the Dashboard page.  This shows a list of any soldiers you have Remembered and gives some up to date statistics about the site and links to helpful hints and other useful information - like the lists of records available I showed you above. 

Find your man!  You will need to know a little bit about your man or woman's WW1 career to find them.  Name and service number is the best way to do it - a service number can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website if the person died.  If you have WW1 medals the service number will be inscribed on the edge of each medal.  Alternatively you can try name and regiment and hope the surname you are searching for isn't too common to pick your man out.  
John W Woodward remembered in All Saints Church, Cawthorne
The above is a memorial plaque in Cawthorne Church, it gives us this man's name, regiment, date of death, age and parents' names.  Very useful.  No service number though.  However using his name, initials and date of death I can find him on the CWGC website quite easily.  His service number is given there as 3114.

Searching for Woodward 3114 on LFWW does not bring back any results, so now try again with a * in front of the number.  Woodward *3114 brings back two possible men and only one is a John W Woodward in the York and Lancaster Regiment, the other is an Ernest Woodward in the Durham Light Infantry.  Found him!
Use the filters on the left to narrow down the results
I also tried searching for John Watkin Woodward and got no results, searching for John W Woodward brought back 10 men, but I could filter them by regiment to see only the ones in the York and Lancaster Regiment and that cut it down to 2.  Both are unfortunately a Private John W Woodward, with different service numbers, no further information available.  If you get to this point and there is no additional information such as date of birth or death on the records you will probably not be able to work out which is your man.  So cross your fingers for an unusual surname or uncommon regiment or rank, or go and do a bit more digging in your paperwork for a hint to his service number. If by any chance both (or more than two sometimes) results show the same service number and a similar name, maybe one with full name and one with initials only, these will probably be the same man who has a duplicate medal card because he received an award of some kind, maybe the Military Medal or similar.  Alternatively I have heard of men who are listed in both the Army and the Air Force, because they transferred at some point.  Whatever ... in that case choose one of the records (if one is being remembered already choose that one) to add your data to.  Duplicates are being reported all the time and will be merged at some point in the future.

Our man is the bottom one on the snip above - we know his service number was *3114, you can see that this man's full number is actually 3/3114 and that he is being Remembered by one person.

Click on the name!  This will open up the Life Story page on the new Timeline view.  

Remember your man!  Always do this first.  Just click the big turquoise-blue button that says "Remember". This will enable you to find this Life Story again very easily as he will appear listed on your Dashboard page.  In this case the Remembered number goes up to 2 to indicate I have been successful.  Of course if you are the first person to remember your man it will change from 0 to 1.  But you had worked that bit out for yourself hadn't you?

What do you know about this man?  Are you going to add a photograph or a story or some other evidence?  You cannot add facts about a man (you know I mean man or woman but it is getting tedious to type that all the time so please bear with me!) unless you attach the facts to a piece of evidence.  This can be a photo of his gravestone, a scan of his birth certificate (if you own it - not if you have downloaded it from Ancestry or FMP or any other pay per view site as you don't own copyright to the image in that case) or a extract from a document or book that you have seen and can reference.

Let's add a picture - that's pretty straightforward and if we add an image of the memorial plaque I showed you earlier we can then use that as the source of evidence to add his date of death and his parents' names. Bear in mind that once I've done this to show you how to John W Woodward is not going to look the same as he does in my initial snips - we will have 'improved' his Life Story.
An unimproved John Woodward, remembered by 1 person
Select the Images option on the toolbar.  It currently says Images 0.  If there is no profile picture selected for your man, as in the snip above, you can click directly on the profile box, where the little camera icon appears and that will open up the dialogue box to add an image directly.  
Images Dialogue Box

If you go via the Images option route you now need to click on the words "Be the first to to add your own images" or "Upload your own images to this Life Story" which will be in bold font to the right of the page.

In the Images dialogue box click in the box where it says, "Click to upload image ..." and then you will have to browse on your computer to find the image and select it.  A little thumbnail image will appear in the box if you are successful.  It doesn't work first time on my Samsung Tablet, but then it is an old model, but I can usually get it to do it eventually.  On my laptop it works quite straightforwardly.

Now you need to add a caption - in this case I am going to add "Memorial Plaque in All Saint's Church, Cawthorne".  The description of the image should be a proper description - imagine that the person viewing this website might have poor eyesight and be having the page read out to them by some special software - you need to say what the picture is with a little bit of imagination.  So in this case, "A white marble plaque with black border, commemorating John Watkin Woodward".  Don't worry about a complete transcription we can add that later.  

If the photo is from a newspaper or you know the date you can  add that here too.  And finally tick at least one of the boxes to say why this item is connected to your man.  In this case I will tick, "Name or other information in the image".  You don't have to put anything in the bottom box, but if you tick Other it is nice to explain your reasoning!  Think of the other people who will be looking at this record.

Now click Connect to *your man's name* and the job is done.  
Dialogue box for this picture

If you clicked in the profile picture box your image will have appeared there automatically, if not you can make it appear there by clicking on the picture and choosing "Set as Profile Picture" from the bottom of the dialogue box.  

Add some Facts!  We are going to use this evidence to add the date of John's death to his Life Story.  Open the image dialogue box by clicking on the picture, and click on "Add Facts from this Evidence".  

NOTE!  Only add facts which appear in this particular piece of evidence or which can be deduced from the evidence.  We can't add his date of birth, but we can have a guess at his year of birth from his age and date of death.  To add his full date of birth we will need more evidence.

Dialogue box for adding facts
The dialogue box that opens now is very long - scroll up and down a bit to see all the options.  We are going to add facts to just a few of these, but it gives you an idea of other facts that you could add if you can find evidence to support them.

Once you are familiar with the various facts you can jump to a particular one by starting to type its name in the white strip at the top of this box.

We are going to add John's date of death and that is fairly near the top and visible on this snip.  Click on the word Death to open up yet another dialogue box.

Dialogue box for entering Death details
We are very lucky in this case that the memorial plaque gives us the place and country in which John died.  So I am going to enter Armentieres and France in the first two boxes (Countries are picked from a long list when you click on the box), his date of death is entered as 01 03 1916 and I can also choose "Died of Wounds" from the Nature of Death pick list.  

If you don't know any of this information for your man leave the boxes blank.  Don't guess, it will make the whole exercise of gathering proper evidence and facts pointless and could mislead future visitors to the site.

Once we have done this click the Continue button.

I would recommend saving between each fact you add, just in case your computer throws a wobbly or you accidentally hit a wrong key somewhere along the way.

Scroll right down to the bottom of the long list of facts that are available to add and you will see a panel headed "Summary of Added/Improved Facts" and at the bottom of that is the very important Save These Facts button.  

Click this and the pop up "Thank You" screen Continue button and breath a sign of relief.  

You have successfully added information to Lives of the First World War.  Well done!

This is what John's Life Story page looks like now - he has a profile picture and his date of death is visible.  It will be visible on the search screens too - useful for other users looking for him in future.
John Woodward's improved Life Story with profile picture and date of death

The process for using different kinds of evidence is similar, but you must use the Evidence option to link or reference the External Evidence you have found BEFORE you start to add facts.  I know I'm getting a bit heavy on this topic, but it is very important that each fact is supported by its own evidence - it's like providing a trail for people to folllow so that they can look up the same facts as you at any point in the future.  You will find you have a choice of website, book/publication/archive or copy of official document.  Selecting one of the little round spots (known as radio buttons in the trade) will change the boxes underneath where you add your captions and descriptions and ticky proof boxes to suit the type of evidence you have selected.  I hope you can work this out for yourselves as I'm getting a bit tired of typing this afternoon ... but I promise to come back another day and have another go at explaining these boxes and finding and attaching a free record too.

Of course you might just KNOW something about this man from a family story ... in which case you can just click the Stories option on the tool bar on your man's Life Story page, click on "Share it Here" and type away to your heart's content (within the word limit of course!).  Any stories to which you add a date will appear on the timeline page in the correct place.  Take a look at Edwin Betony, one of my Barnsley War Memorials Project men for an example if you like.

I hope this has helped. Good luck with your research!  
And remember the whole purpose of this is to commemorate and honour the men and women who played a role in the First World War - they deserve us to try our best to create this digital memorial - don't let them down!