Try to be prepared for what you might find (part two)…
Reader warning – you may find parts of this post upsetting
In part one of this blog I discussed what I wanted to research about my Grand Uncle Eddie, family memories of him, his birth and military records. The blog continues with further information from Eddie’s Service Records…
During Eddie’s service following the end of World War Two, further records show more of his character (and ability to play cricket!):
Annual Report and employment sheet (regular Army only)1
14 Jun 1948 – 20 Jun 1949
General duties. Has done well and worked hard during the last few months. Can be relied upon to carry out his duties in an efficient manner without supervision. Has an extremely cheerful manner and is clean and smart in his appearance. Always punctual at his place of employment, honest and trustworthy. Takes a keen interest in and performs moderately well at cricket.
1 Oct 1950
Continues his very cheerful, trustworthy, high standard of work. A man that can be relied upon without supervision.
Following his desertion and arrest records show that Eddie was still a hard working, loyal & trustworthy man. Has worked with civilian ground staff and done well.
1 Oct 1953 – 10 May 1954
A keen hard working man who gives of his best at all times and works well without supervision. He has an extremely cheerful manner, is lean, smart and always well turned out.
Another factor that may explain Eddie’s AWOL episode was revealed in a number of letters inherited from another part of the family. I mentioned in part one Eddie had an older brother William, who emigrated to Australia in the 1920’s. Following extensive research I managed to contact William’s wife and son a few years ago. Amongst some old letters were three that revealed Eddie’s plans to perhaps join his brother in Australia. On the 14 March 1950 Eddie writes to William’s wife explaining that he is thinking of emigrating to Australia and asking for information. He must have received a speedy response as on the 3 April 1950 Eddie thanks William’s wife for offering to put him up and help. The last letter to survive (dated 19 April 1950) details further plans to emigrate to Australia. Eddie leaves the army without leave the following year in July – perhaps with a plan to journey to Australia. This never happened. However having researched Eddie’s story I sort of wish he had succeeded…
Eddie’s last days
The family believed Eddie had passed away in 1989 or 1990, but had no direct knowledge of this or a burial place to pay their respects. Eddie’s sister saw him intermittently in the years from the mid 1950’s to the late 1980’s. What could I find of Eddie’s death? My usual starting point is freebmd.org.uk2, however I can only search up to 1984 with this website. I do have a subscription to Findmypast.co.uk3 and their civil registration death indexes run from 1837 to 2007. Checking this index I came across an entry for 1990:
Nash, Edward David
Vol: 14 Page: 552
Using these details I was able to order a death certificate from the General Register Office4. This duly arrived in the post 10 days later. A death certificate can reveal further information for your family tree, including:
place and cause of death
age of deceased
name of informant
You will be able to see if ancestor died of a common disease (in their era) or by accident or other circumstances. Eddie’s certificate was at first perplexing:
Registration District: Lewisham; London Borough
Date of death: 16 June 1990
Place of death: Carrington House, Brookhill Road, Deptford, London
Name: Edward David Nash
Informant: Certificate received from Montague B Levine, Coroner
Inquest held 3rd August 1990
Cause of death: In Suspension
I can still remember where I was and what I was doing when I discussed this with my wife. The emotion I felt as I discussed Eddie and his demise was pretty raw, even though I may have only met Eddie briefly, once. I never really knew him, but I did know him through family stories and in photographs. And, I am connected to him in the family tree as his grand nephew. I had read an article in Family Tree Magazine about Family History Research, what to expect and how to handle disturbing information, but I didn’t prepare me for the raw emotion I felt, for my Grand Uncle who had killed himself by hanging.
The mention of an Inquest lead me to Coroners documents, which revealed more about the circumstances of Eddie’s suicide5.
The deceased was found by a member of staff (Carrington House6; a hostel for men) in the late morning of 16 June 1990. Carrington House was to close and with Eddie having been there for a number of years this made him depressed. The doctor and police were called and life was pronounced extinct at 12.30pm.
London Hospital Medical College report
Reported that apart from the hanging degenerative changes to the body and organs were consistent with that of a 75 year old man.
Statement of Police Witness and Project Worker
Confirmed the circumstances of death and that Francis Chappell removed the body as undertakers to Ladywell mortuary. Also confirmed that Eddie would have had to have been re-homed in 1991, and had turned down 4 offers of re-homing, deciding to move when the time came and find somewhere else to live himself.
Finally a cremation document confirmed the undertakers as Francis Chappell and Sons. This lead me to contact the undertakers and they kindly sent me details of where Eddie was cremated. Edward David Nash’s ashes were scattered in Hither Green Crematorium, London plot J5. This is an open area of grass with willow trees, facing a large pond. I paid my respects by visiting the Crematorium in October 2008, and on visits since.
You never know what you may uncover in your family history. I hope Uncle Eddie’s story doesn’t put you off conducting your own research, or hiring someone to do so. I have found many stories within my family that warm the heart. However, Eddie’s story, I believe, needs to be told. I’m proud of Grand Uncle Eddie and all that he achieved in his 75 years. I believe my motto is important: try to be prepared for what you might find out, and try not to judge others by today’s standards. And one last point; think about what and how you will share news of your findings with others; it will affect friends and family in different ways…
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?
Next blog; Doris Nash, married 14 February 1931
1Source: Army Personnel Centre, ref: D/APC/HD/DESK 7/243342
5Source: Inquest Office, Southwark Coroner’s Court, 13 Nov 2007
6For further information: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/domesday/dblock/GB-536000-174000/page/4, http://www.olddeptfordhistory.com/2012/02/carrington-house-mill-lane-deptford.html