Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Death of Australian Brothers on Service

Intimation has been received by Mr. Alexander McEwan, Pirnie Hall, Drymen, that his son Private William M.G. McEwan, Australian Imperial forces, died of wounds in France on August 1st. Private McEwan was 21 years of age, and joined the army in February of last year. He was wounded by shrapnel at the Dardanelles, and went to France in March. He joined the army at Sydney, N.S.W.; where he was a steward on one of the coasting vessels. 
His brother, Private George Buchanan McEwan, Australian Imperial Forces, has also been killed in action. He was first posted as missing, but his father has now received information that he has been killed. He was a native of Killearn, and before he enlisted was employed at Broken Hill, Australia. Mr McEwan has other two sons with the forces.

This piece of information plus some research back and forth between myself and a researcher in Australia led to me writing a short family history of some of the McEwans. It's at the "add photographs and documentation" stage. 

5 of my grandmother's siblings settled in Australia. Thus far we have been able to track down information about 4 of them and been in contact with descendants from two of them. 

Something useful from the above obituary is that it takes you into military records. It proved most advantageous for our family that William and George were in Australia when they enlisted because a lot of military records in the UK were destroyed during the London Blitz. We found their WWI records and those of their brother David. Later I found WWII records for a nephew of David's.

My researcher in Australia found newspaper records for the group leaving Broken Hill and George was mentioned in there.

Inscription on headstone

So moving along from the obituary for John Hall this is the information on the family headstone located in Drymen Parish Church.

In loving memory of
John Hall
died 1st. September 1898
aged 71 years
his wife, Jane Wilson
died 7th March 1903
aged 74 years
Petrina McKellar
died 12th March 1930
aged 66 years
wife of John Hall schoolmaster
died 16th May 1943
aged 82 years
Jane Wilson Hall
died 4th June 1944

The headstone is not located in it's original position. It used to be in the lower section but there was a flood so it was moved to higher ground. John and Jane Hall did not die in Drymen and it took a long time to find where they actually lived. Jane Wilson Hall was daughter to John and Petrina. She died suddenly in a work related accident.

So if all you had was this tombstone to go by for family information what could you work out?

You know from the death dates and ages an approximate birth date for everyone except Jane Wilson Hall. You also can "assume" that this is three generations of a family.

To find the death records you would work from Drymen outwards. In this case you would be unsuccessful on the Drymen part for three of them. 
John and Peterina (Petrina) both died in Drymen. 
Jane died in Alexandria, Lanark at her work. (Fell down stairs and broke her neck.) I have a copy of her obituary in one of my files. It makes for interesting reading.
John and Jane Hall both died in Croftamie, Dunbartonshire but we only found that out when we broadened our search to find them in a census record outside of Stirlingshire.
Other records that could be looked for based on the headstone information is  possible birth records for everyone, marriage records for John Hall/Jane Wilson and John Hall/Petrina McKellar. 

If you utilize the information on the tombstone and the obituary I wrote about in the previous post you would know to start in Drymen for birth records for John & Petrina's children but to look outside of Stirlingshire for birth and marriage records.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Obituaries can be a great source of information. The recent death of my cousin Jean yielded a fabulous obituary about her and I have since been in contact with one of her grand daughters. I hope we stay in contact.

One of the few family obituaries I have a copy of belongs to my great grandfather John Hall. It's lengthy so humor me :)

Mr. John Hall, F.E.I.S.

It is remarkable the number of old people who have passed away in our midst in recent months, and now we record with regret the death of an old and very familiar figure for many years in the community in the person of Mr. John Hall, F.E.I.S., who, for a long period of years, was the headmaster of Drymen Public School, and well-known throughout the parish and district.
Mr. Hall spent practically all his teaching career in Drymen, the greater part of it under the old School Board system, before the advent of Education Authorities or the Education Committees of the County Council. He was a first rate teacher, having a high conception of his profession, and giving his long succession of pupils a thorough grounding in the basic subjects of education, and carrying many of them to the rudiments of Higher Grade work. In addition to his teaching duties, he took a clear and active interest in the public affairs of the parish, fulfilling various local offices such as parish registrar, inspector of poor, and heritors" clerk. He was also for some years a member of Drymen Kirk Session, and for long the able and valued correspondent to the "Stirling Observer."
In all his work Mr. Hall brought to each task a sense of thoroughness and careful handling of even the smallest detail so important in any public service. His willing services were continually called upon for the planning or arranging of public events of every nature. A neat and beautiful write, he was usually commandeered as the secretary on local committees such as the Reading Room, Golf Club, etc., the minutes of which he always kept in the most careful fashion. He was a lover of books, and it was a pleasure to hear his criticism or appreciation of his favourite authors.
Although most of his work was of a public nature, Mr. Hall was a lover of his home and his garden, so that both in public and in private he lived a long, busy and useful life, devoted to the highest interests in his home and community. Our deep sympathy is extended to his family in their bereavement.
Sympathetic reference to Mr. Hall's death was made at Stirlingshire Public Assistance Committee meeting on Tuesday by the chairman. Mr. A.K. Davidson, Bannockburn. Mr. Davidson mentioned that Mr. Hall, who had been retired for some time, had been in his life-time a school master as well as a public assistance officer, registrar, and everything that was necessary as a public servant and official in that area. Mr. Hall, he said, was a person who gave great service to the community and to the local authority.

So what can be learned from this piece of information?

1. a remarkable number of old people had died recently
2. Mr. Hall was a well known figure in the community
3. retired headmaster at Drymen
4. taught primary aged children
5. taught under the old School Board system
6. Considered to be an outstanding teacher
7. Taught the basics well
8. Parish registrar
9. Inspector of poor
10. Heritors' Clerk
11. Member of Drymen Kirk Session
12. Correspondent for "Stirling Observer"
13. Very thorough and detail oriented
14. Planned and arranged public events, willingly
15. Neat and beautiful handwriting
16. Secretary on local committees
17. member of Reading Room and Golf Club
18. Loved to read and critique books
19. Loved his home and garden
20. Lived a long, useful and busy life

So where would you look next for information to "round out" the man?

Time lines and such

Most Fridays (recently) you can find me at our local family history group. It meets at the YMCA in the Turner Center (yea verily I am old enough). 1st Friday of each month I help some of the other members with their research. Many of them have been long time residents and have fascinating stories to tell not only about themselves but their ancestors also. Last Friday I learned a goodly amount about the early owners and farmers of what is now Warner Park.

What has this all got to do with time lines you may be asking yourself.

One of the ladies had a considerable amount of information about the ancestor she is researching but had gotten stuck regarding when he had come to the US from Britain. I looked at what she had and asked a number of questions e.g. have you looked in the census records, land records, military records, court records  etc. Some areas she had a considerable amount of information, other areas were sketchy. 

My suggestion was so create a timeline by looking at what she has and pulling out information from each piece of paper she owns.  This would help her see what gaps there are in her research and what documentation she needs to pursue. 

So where are you stuck in your research? Do you know what records to look for. In the above instance she needs to get a death record to hopefully verify parentage. 

Just because you have looked at a piece of information once does not mean you have seen everything of relevance that is written there. Go back and take another look, I know I will be.

"And such". You never know where information can come from. In the previously mentioned researchers story she was standing in line one day and someone happened to overhear her talking. He had some information about her ancestor and gave her a copy. In another instance someone saw a picture she had and asked for a copy. It ended up in a book.