Release of 1939 Register for England and Wales

1939 Register symbol on FindMyPast
1939 Register symbol on FindMyPast

The recent release of the 1939 Register has brought fresh excitement to British researchers. This is one of the most important documents created for twentieth century British research, because the 1931 census was destroyed during the war, and the 1941 census was never taken. I was going to write earlier this week about this but I am glad that I did not as search techniques and results presented have changed. I will provide some background information, an introduction on how to search the records and some case studies.

Background information

In December 1938 it was announced that if Great Britain went to war then there would be a National Register. Following the declaration of war of 3 September 1939 the National Registration Day was set as 29 September 1939. For those who have seen the PBS show Home Fires this event was shown in one of the early episodes. Every civilian was to be recorded, with forms being issued to over 41 million people throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland, though only the records for England and Wales have been released. Completion of the cards resulted in the issuing of national identity cards which were required to be carried at all times up to 1952, ration books, and later were used for establishing the National Health Service. The use of this record for the National Health Service is why you will see recorded the married surname of many women marrying later, and also why some people younger than age 100 are not hidden in the records, their deaths having been recorded up to 1991 in the records. If you can document that someone has died then records currently closed can be opened up.

Search for Walter Crowhurst on Advanced search screen showing all options
Search for Walter Crowhurst on Advanced search screen showing all options

How to access. The 1939 Register has been released online by FindMyPast in partnership with The National Archives. The Register consists of over 7,000 volumes with over 1,200,000 pages providing names, dates of birth, addresses, marital status, occupations, and sometimes additional comments for over 41,000,000 people. FindMyPast claims a 98% accuracy rate in transcription, so my ancestors must fall into that 2%, with more on this later.

FindMyPast provides additional background information, including a nice short U-Tube video about the Register, and a getting started guide on their website, though part of this is already out of date.

Anyone can do a search in the 1939 Register for free on FindMyPast, but to unlock the images you will need to purchase credits (300 credits unlocks 5 households). The purchasing of credits applies whether you are a subscriber or not. Providing you use the same registration email each time, then you will not have to pay to view the register pages in the future.

Search Options – You can do a simple search on first and last name; birth year and where they were in 1939. This might work for you but the advanced search screen opens up a great number of options. You can search on First and Last names, with variants; birth year, with optional range of years; date and month of birth; place keyword; sex; occupation; marital status; street; borough / district filter; county filter; country filter; first and last name of other household member; plus TNA reference. If you scroll down the search screen you will find explanations of these fields and these should definitely be read if you don’t find who you are looking for.

Example – Walter Crowhurst – gg-grandfather

Free preview screen for Walter Crowhurst household in Strood Rural District, Kent

Let’s provide some examples. We will start with a search for Walter Crowhurst, born 1859 – my gg-grandfather. Because of the age there are only two options and we choose the one in Strood R.D. in Kent. The preview screen shows Walter Crowhurst born in 1859, in a house with two other people. There are no closed entries in this household, implying that the other two people are either known to be deceased or would be over 100 years old. To see all the details the household needs to be unlocked. This is where you need to register and purchase credits (a subscription to FindMyPast is separate and not required).

Unlocked results screen for Walter Crowhurst household

Unlocking the household shows us that Walter Crowhurst was born 12 Sept 1859 is a pensioner, and is living with two of his sons: Victor James Crowhurst, born 21 Jun 1896 a farm labourer; and John Lenard Crowhurst born 13 Sep 1898 a Labourer. The new information for me is that beside John Lenard’s name we have in the comments section – Pensioner Gunner 21 years in Royal Artillery with the number NC1031520.

Details for Walter Crowhurst of Rose Cottage, Upper Halling, Kent
Details for Walter Crowhurst of Rose Cottage, Upper Halling, Kent

Given his age this suggests that he probably served during World War One but will not likely show up in any of the normal WWI records because he continued to serve after the war, and thus his records will still be at the Ministry of Defence. Walter’s address is given as Rose Cottage, Upper Halling, with no street being provided. It is common for houses in Britain to have names and so care is needed if an address search is performed.

Map showing location of Rose Cottage in Upper Halling where Walter Crowhurst Resides.
Map showing location of Rose Cottage in Upper Halling where Walter Crowhurst Resides.

Scrolling down the screen on the opened results page you will find a map highlighting where the house is located. You can see the house on the 1888-1913 Ordnance Survey six inch map, or the 1937-1961 Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map. This can give you an indication of how the neighborhood has changed over time, though in this example it has not changed much.

Example – James Croudace – g-grandfather
Let’s search for James Croudace my great-grandfather born according to the 1939 Register on 10 Nov 1884 but this is actually incorrect because his birth certificate shows that he was born on 7 Nov 1884. This example highlights the care needed with trying to search using the dates of birth. James is listed as a widow and working as a general labourer. Note that the address is shown on this image as 29 ditto, with no indication above showing what street is. On the preview page the address is shown as 29 West Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne CB, Northumberland, England. So be careful that you have collected all the information that the record provides as it may not all be on the actual image.

No relationship is known to any of the other people in the rest of the household but it is a good example of what additional information you may find. Annie Graham born 17 Feb 1910, probable wife of Joseph Graham is overwritten in green ink to show a new married surname of Bickerdyke, while off to the side also in green is a dated entry 26-2-69 showing CR283 New, actually this is the date of her new marriage.

Example – Richard and Jean Finnigan – grand-parents

Unlocked results screen for Richard Nicholson Finnigan and Jean Finnigan of 93 Aldwick Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne

The above examples were easy to find. Let’s see how creative you might have to get. I was looking for Richard Finnigan born 22 Sep 1904 but he was not found in the search because of a FindMyPast transcription error on the month, and Richard giving a wrong year of birth, plus no Finnigan’s showing up on the results page. I did a search for Jean using date of birth and again no Finnigan matches. I recalled that the family moved in the 1930s as part of a slum clearance to Aldwick road in Newcastle-upon-Tyne so I did a search – but there were no Finnigan’s on the street. The search was repeated just for the street name, and there were multiple results screens but one potential Richard and one potential Jean. Now when I first did the search the TNA reference number was given and you could search on that number to reduce the number of potentials. It showed the Richard and Jean to be on the same page of results, with one closed record. I wish the TNA reference option was returned because it gave me enough encouragement to think I had the correct family in spite of the errors.

Actual 1939 Register Image for Richcard Nicholson Finnigan and Jean Finnigan and 4 closed records (4 children)

I paid to unlock the record and it was the correct family – Richard + Jean + 4 closed records (not 1as the search screen suggested). So why was the family so difficult to find? In the FindMyPast index their surname was listed as ~??? – try finding that surname on a search, though it is readable as Finnigan. Richard is employed as a Brass Foundry labourer in the heavy works, and in the comment field listed as an ARP Warden, the first documentation I have of this family story. The other confirmation I have that I have the correct family is that Richard’s middle name – Nicholson – has been added in green ink.

Example – Reginald Ernest Milner and Jane Milner- grandparents

My grandfather Reginald Ernest Milner, born 6 August 1904, plus his wife Jane Milner (nee Croudace) born 22 January 1909 along with my father James B.W. Milner born 4 October 1929 (died 1980), plus two closed brothers are all missing an unaccounted for in the 1939 Register. I have tried all sorts of combinations of names, dates and no names but with no luck so far. I think this family may fall foul of one of the exceptions in that military families are not included and I suspect Reginald was in the Army reserves and may already have been called up. My understanding is if he was in the army he would not be in the Register, but does that mean his family was not either? I include this family in the blog to point out that not everyone is easy to locate and therefore you have to think about why not. Is it an indexing problem, missing information or do they meet one of the exceptions. Unlike the Finnigan I am not sure where this family was in September 1939 – Mill Lane, Newcastle; farming in Essex; visiting family in Kent; at an army base in Yorkshire. No matter I can’t find the family anywhere.

Summary – For those with ancestors or relatives still in England or Wales in 1939 you should be looking at this resource. You can do free searching in the indexes, but you will have to pay to see the results. It will provide birth dates, which you may or may not have already, give locations and occupations, and may provide additional information.

Buried Treasure: what’s in the English Parish Chest – new publication by Paul Milner

Buried Treasure – What’s in the English Parish Chest is fresh off the presses and is being released at the Rootstech / Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference this week in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is available for purchase at Maia’s Books and can also be viewed at the UnlockthePast Booth.

Buried Treasure – What’s in the English Parish Chest examines all the records created by parish officials for the civil and religious administration of the English parish, except the baptism, marriage and burials records described so well in the companion volume – Discover English parish registers.

Records surviving in the parish chest will often solve your brick wall problems, including: “Where did my ancestor come from before here?” or “Who is the father of that illegitimate child?” In this detailed guide, family historian Paul Milner explains how and why the records were created, how changing laws affected who was and was not included, what the records look like and what information they contain. After showing examples of numerous records, the guide explains how and where to access the records, (online, microfilm, originals or in print).

Here is a practical guide that will help family researchers solve their problems, and put them into historical context. This small volume is full of material for both the beginner and the experienced researcher. It is a well-illustrated guide to the contents of the English parish chest that allows any researcher to go way beyond the baptism, marriage and burial registers commonly used for parish research.

The book will be available soon in Australia from UnlockthePast, in Canada from Global Genealogy, in the US from Maia’s Books and in the UK from My History.

FindMyPast website: Search Techniques Pt.2 – Search within a Record Category

FindMyPast Search Screen for Census, Land & Substitutes

FindMyPast Search within a Record Category.

In the last post I highlighted how to Search All Records and saw some of the benefits.

In this blog post lets search within a specific Record Category. In this case study I am going to search the Census, Land & Substitutes category. So from the pull down menu on the search bar select – Census, Land and Substitutes. You will see a different search screen appear, different from the one used in the last blog post for search all records.

FindMyPast – Search Results for Surname Milner – 75,551 hits too many to examine

Often when you start new research you want to get a sense of how common a name is. So let’s search on Milner and in the Where box I am going to select the United Kingdom. That comes out with 75,551 hits which is too many for even me to search through. The first page of results suggests some early records are coming up from the early 1700’s from the Westminster Rate Books and Cheshire Land Tax Assessments.

I need to edit my search using the big blue edit button on the left of the screen in the box. This time I will limit my search to the county of Kent, where my Milner’s come from. Now I am down to 1,547 with results from various census returns and UK Electoral rolls.

Editing my search to 1851 inserted in the first When box – the other date boxes are for year of birth or year of death (not a good choice for finding a person in the census). Now I am down to 63 results arranged alphabetically by first name.

FindMyPast Search Screen for Census, Land & Substitutes

At this point you could scroll through the list to see who you might be looking for – search for a first name – search for someone else in the house – search for an address. In my case I am going to search on the village of interest – Leeds. I add the name Leeds to the where box. Now I am down to 16 individuals residing in Leeds, Kent in the 1851 census. The year born is provided, though obviously calculated from the age in the census return, so the information is only as accurate as the person giving the age chooses to make it. However, based on those ages you can see that there are multiple Milner families living in Leeds, all of whom are related.

Note in the illustration that the search criteria are in the box to the left of the results. On the right of the line for each individual there are two blue boxes – a camera for an image – a page for a transcript. For the census records you will usually find both. Some searches will only provide a transcript.

Now as a safety precaution I returned to my search results leaving my search parameters the same but selecting the box for surname variants. This time instead of 16 individuals I now have 27 individuals. I have picked up variations with Millner and Milliner, both commonly found in this area. Yes, the individuals are still all related to one another.

You can re-order the results. The results by default will be presented by relevance. There is a pull down menu to the top right of the results box that allows re-ordering by: last name; first name; born; died; event; and record set. Obviously some of these will not do anything depending upon how you have already filtered the results, but in this case it might be helpful to reorder by first name (to make surname variations irrelevant) or by birth year to put them in age order and to find the family patriarchs.

FindMyPast website: Search Techniques Pt.1 – Search All Records

Opening Screen from FindMyPast at www.findmypast.org when a user is not logged in.
Opening Screen from FindMyPast at http://www.findmypast.org when a user is not logged in.

FindMyPast has been changing rapidly as it updates its offerings and search mechanisms. This has not been so noticeable for the Americans and Australians, but for the British readers it has been a major change.

The British version of FindMyPast was the original website. It had great content, search tools, and supporting information. However, its design and structure which made it so easy to navigate also made it inflexible when it came to adding additional databases quickly for subscribers to access.

The new design and search mechanisms are the only ones the Americans and Australians have known, but the change to one platform has created turmoil for the British Users who liked the old structure which had not changed for years.

For those who are not yet subscribers to FindMyPast you can do any of the searches without being a subscriber, but you cannot see the transcription details or images without being a subscriber. I think you will find it worth your while to join and explore.

So let’s examine the three ways to search on FindMyPast
1. Search all records
2. Search within a record category
3. Choose a specific set of records

We will explore – Search all records in this post and focus on the other two mechanisms in the subsequent two blog posts.

1. Search All Records

Search Results Screen on FindMyPast for Richard Milner

From the opening page at www.findmypast.com go to the pull down menu under Search records and select the first option – Search all records

Yes, you may want to start filling in the boxes. First though take notice of the advice on how to get started. The first item is the most important – Start broad, and then filter – this is actually very important and encourages you to do things in the order that the search engine likes.

Start with the boxes across the top first. – Who, When and Where

Who – this is the person or family you are looking for. You can search on exact names or name variants and the first time through the search I go for variants on first name – so I pick up Richard, Rich, Dick or any other appropriate variation, but usually exact on the surname – though I know many of the surnames are commonly found in various forms – Milner, Millner, Milliner, etc.

When – here you have the option of choosing a date for born, died, or a date of a specific event, e.g. specific census. Then with a drop down menu you can choose +/- 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 or40 years.

Where – this provide a drop down box with World, Australia and New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom, and United States and Canada. This obviously gives you an idea of where the primary datasets are from. In the box beside the Where you can also narrow the place down geographically

In this case study I am going to search for Richard Milner, born in 1790 +/- 10 years in the United Kingdom. I get 329 results presented in tabular format. In this case we are presented with 10 results and then there is an advertisement for how many times the name Milner was found in British newspapers (1,029 hits). The important point is that the results table continues below this advertisement and you may not catch that depending how it appears on your screen.

FindMyPast – Search Results for Surname Milner – 75,551 hits too many to examine

If at this stage I narrow my geographic location to Kent, a county in England, my options are reduced to 13, of which only 7 have the name Richard connected with the Milner. Even this simple option narrowed my options.

In the column on the left side of your screen you will see how to narrow down your results. It is best to move down the column in order, unless you know specifically where you are going.

FindMyPast closeup on Narrow Your Search option showing bold and greyed out options

First you will notice that some of the records categories are greyed out meaning there were no hits for the given search parameters in those collections. So for these search parameters I have hits in: Birth, Marriage and Death (Parish Registers); Census, Land & Substitutes; Military Service and Conflict.

If we take a close look at the results page we actually get a good number of records for our man. The first record is his attestation record into the 36th Regiment of Foot in April 1815, just a couple of months before the end of the Napoleonic Wars. This record tells us, among other things that he was age seventeen and born in the village of Leeds in Kent. The fourth result down is the 1851 census where we find the 56 year old laborer and Royal Marine Pensioner from Leeds, Kent living with his 47 year old wife Maria.

Richard Milner, from Leeds, Kent, a 56 labourer and Royal Marine Pensioner with his wife Maria Milner (nee Burress), age 47, in the 1851 Census

The fifth result down is a transcript from the Thames & Medway Marriages database showing that Richard Milner married Maria Burress on 31 May 1833 in St. Margaret’s Rochester, extracted from the parish register. The sixth entry down is an 1862 entry from the September quarter of England’s civil registration for deaths in the Medway District where Richard is residing and would be a possible death record – from this one entry you cannot be certain but it is a possibility.

Thus the benefit of searching everything is the possibility of finding multiple records for one individual. Care needs to be taken to ensure you have the correct person. The only way I know which results are for my Richard Milner is the fact that I have already done the corroborating research on this man.

WWI Soldiers – Online records – pt3 case study William Henry Milner

Ancestry search results for William Henry Milner in WWI ‘Pension Records’ WO364 – note multiple options, with at least two being the same soldier.

British Army WWI Pension Records – “Unburnt Series” – WO364. This set of records is incorrectly called the pension records for they are not pension records in the classic sense. After the destruction of many of the Army records during the Second World War the War Office needed to find a way to supplement the records that had survived in what is now WO363. An appeal was made to other government departments that might hold records of service. The largest collection, but not only collection, came from the Ministry of Pensions – thus this collection is commonly known at the British Army WWI Pension Records or the “Unburnt Records

The records typically relate to regular soldiers serving in the army prior to the war who were discharged at the end of their service, those receiving a war pension who had since died or whose claims were refused, or men who later claimed a disability pension from either wounds or sickness. The collection does not include soldiers who signed up for the duration of the war unless they received a pension on medical grounds since such a soldier was entitled only to a gratuity upon demobilization.

The image shows part of the results of a search for William Milner. I am looking for the William Henry Milner from the Hundred of Hoo in Kent with 8 pages in the file. This is a good example though of the problem with landing pages which I touched on in the first blog posting in this series. An algorithm was used to find the attestation papers and discharge papers in the file. However, in this case there are two sets of attestation and discharge papers for the one soldier in the file. The entry below, again William Henry Milner does not show a place of birth, but is actually the same soldier and this can be confirmed from the details in the files.

1892 Attestation Form for William Henry Milner into Royal Artillery

Let’s examine some of the pages in the file and see the value of what is in the records.

William Henry Milner, No. 93560, attested on 18 October 1892 (yes 1892), joining the next day the Royal Artillery at Dover, Kent. At the time he was 20 years 8 months, born in the Parish of the Hundred of Hoo in or near the town of Rochester, Kent. This is all on Army Form B. 265. At the time he is 5 ft. 6 ¼ inches, weighs 126 lbs, with a chest measurement of 35, expanding to 36. He has fresh complexion, brown eyes and hair and by religion is a Bethel Congregationalist.

 

Military History Sheet for William Henry Milner showing service in England, India and Aden
Military History Sheet for William Henry Milner showing service in England, India and Aden

Thankfully William has a Military History Sheet in his file. This shows that he was home (i.e. serving in England) from 18 Oct. 1892 to 8 Feb 1894. He then went to India from 9 Feb 1894 to 11 Dec 1896, then on to Aden 12 Dec 1896 to 29 Mar 1901. Back to England from 20 Mar 1901 to 20 Apr 1902, then went onto active reserve being finally discharged 17 Oct 1904. He served a total of 12 years but only had 9 years 185 of pensionable service. The same form shows that his next of kin was his father Henry Milner, Isle of Grain, Kent. However the form also shows that he married Elizabeth Lorden on 6 Nov. 1901.

So why is William’s record to be found in WO364 for World War One? The simple answer is he attested again on 25 November 1915 into the RGA – Royal Garrison Artillery as a gunner with a regimental number of 7491. He is by now 43 years 403 days old, and living at Lower Street, Leeds, Kent. The new attestation form mentions his earlier discharge after first period limited engagement. His religion is Wesleyan. His next of kin is his wife Mrs. Elizabeth Milner of Lower Street, Leeds, Kent. This form adds to their marriage date of 6 Nov 1901 the place of Lower Stoke, Kent. They also have two children Ruby born 14 Aug 1902 in Gillingham, Kent, and Violet Grace born 20 Apr 1914 in Leeds, Kent.

WWI Discharge Papers for William Henry Milner
WWI Discharge Papers for William Henry Milner

William was discharged from the army on 16 Dec 1916 as medically unfit. His cause of discharge is described – “originated 1900 in England. Suffered from bronchitis every winter since 1900. Is frequently laid up. Has a severe bronchial cough, + for his age, is much debilitated. Eyesight weak. Not result of, but aggravated by military service. Permanent. Prevents ¼.” He was admitted to pension on 6 Dec 1916 and awarded 5 shillings per week. On 11 July 1917 his award was increased to 8s. 3d. and 2s. 9d. for two from 4 Apr 1917 to 16 Jun 1917, then 50 Pounds gratuity. The gratuity is 25 pounds for permanent disability and 25 pounds for 10 years of service.

Some points to note. Because William Henry Milner did not during WWI serve overseas he will not appear in the medal rolls. He did not die in service so will not appear on the Commonwealth War Graves website. This may be the only mention of his WWI service. However, he was in the army prior to the war and therefore when a search in WO97 Soldiers documents for pre WWI soldiers his records of service are found there.

Searching for a soldier is always a matter of exploring what records may have been created by your soldier and searching to find which of them may have survived.

WWI Soldiers – Online Records – pt 2 case study Albert William Alfred Milner

WWI British Army Service Records 1914-1920 at Ancestry.com

British Army WWI Service Records – “Burnt Series” – Case Study Albert Milner

The British Army WWI Service Records, the “Burnt Series” are in WO363. A little of the history behind this series was described in the last post. Here we will explain how to do a search at Ancestry.com and use a case study to show what the results might contain.

In searching I first select from the Search menu, specifically what I want – British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920. This allows me to search on a variety of fields, with the most frequent being last name and first name. But you also have the option of Keyword, Regimental number and Regimental name – the latter fields can be especially useful if you already know the number or regiment from other sources such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website (discussed in earlier blog posts), or from the medal rolls (to be discussed in a future blog post).

For this case study we are going to search for Albert Milner. Nine results are provided. For some of the records the parish and county of birth are included in the index. The records themselves usually provide a parish of birth even if that information has not been included in the index. Helpfully for me the Albert Milner – full name Albert William Alfred Milner is identified, born about 1895 in Leeds in Kent. A total of 18 pages are included in the file.

The number of forms that survive in any given soldiers file varies greatly, and just in the nine soldiers listed here they range from 4 to 56 pages, though it appears there are multiple index entries for the same soldier.

One form that would have been in all soldiers files is his attestation form, created upon his enlistment. Ten different attestation forms are known depending upon the date of enlistment, period of service and terms of engagement.

Attestation form for Albert William Alfred Milner from Leeds, Kent into the Royal West Kent Regiment

In our example for Albert Milner he attests using Army Form B.2065 for Short Service (Three years with the Colours), however the fine print under question 17 states “unless War lasts longer than three years, in which case you will be retained until the War is over.” Albert is attesting into the Royal West Kent Regiment, with a regimental number of 4334. This form shows his full name as Albert William Alfred Milner, born in the parish of Leeds, nears Maidstone in Kent. He is 19 years 224 days old and a labourer. This is all completed on 9 November 1914.

Reading through the rest of the pages produces some valuable information about Albert William Alfred Milner.

He attested at the depot on the 9 November 1914, he joined the regiment at Maidstone on the 10 November 1914 and was posted to the 8th Battalion of the Royal West Kent on the 11 November 1914. He is reported as wounded and missing on 20 September 1915. He is presumed dead on the 26 September 1915. This information is confirmed by searching the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website where we learn he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial but no additional information is provided to further identify who this soldier is. This is an example of how using multiple records can pull the pieces of a soldiers life together and positively identify him.

Albert’s Medical History is recorded on Army Form B. 178. As on his attestation form we learn his age, place of birth and occupation. We now get a physical description – 5 feet 4 ½ inches, 119 lbs, a 37 inch chest with a 3 inch expansion. He is in good health, has no vaccinations marks, good vision, and needs some dental treatment. A later form in the file shows that in September 1914 he was inoculated twice.

There is in the file a Casualty Form D.P. issued 6 December 1916 addressed to the officer in charge of infantry records at Hounslow that for official purposes Albert W. A. Milner is to be regarded for official purposes to have died on 26 September 1915 and that papers are to be created to notify the next of kin if they have not already been notified. This is potentially a long wait for the family to learn anything about their son, and also a long time for the death to be reported in the newspapers.

A subsequent Memorandum form – Effects Form 118A, on which the written date has faded, provides an address of next of kin as Mrs. N. Milner, Back Street, Leeds, Kent. An additional address on the side of the form shows Mrs. N. Milner at what appears to be 36 Fasthorpe Street, Putney. Another similar form dated 14 March 1917 shows the next of kin as Mrs Nellie Milner, Priory Cottage, 23 Knightrider St, Maidstone. An extract from the Ministry of Pensions Rolls shows the name and address of the widow as 36 Fasthorpe St, Putney, confirming the faint address written on the memorandum form.

A F.3 – Form 50D, shows that on 29 June 1916, the widow of Alfred W.A. Milner, was awarded a pension of 10 shillings per week, effective from 10 July 1916 as Alfred had been reported missing.

Receipt for British War and Victory Medals with signature of Nellie Milner, next of kin for Albert William Alfred Milner, dated 14 August 1921

His Casualty Form – Active Service – Form B. 103/1 repeats information found on other papers, confirms that he was wounded in the field, went missing and officially declared dead on the 26 September 1915 but the one new piece of information is that he embarked 30 August 1915

There is a receipt with the signature of Nellie Milner, dated 14 August 1921, acknowledging receipt of the A.W.A. Milner’s British War and Victory Medal and another receipt for the 1914-15 Star.

Military History Paperwork for Albert William Alfred Milner, showing medals received by next of kin, plus details of marriage

One of the last pages in his file is the Military History Sheet. This identifies where he was serving, which in this case was primarily at home in England, that he went to France on 30 August 1915 and died 28 days later on the 26 September 1915. It shows the medals he was eligible for, that he was wounded, and that his wife was Mrs. N. Milner at Priory Cottage, 23 Knightrider St. Maidstone. He married Nellie Kelly, a spinster on 17 July 1915, and she was widowed just over 2 months later. The place of the marriage should have been provided but it was not. For the name of the officiating minister it says Mar. Certificate, possibly implying that they were married in a registry office. Prior to the marriage Alfred’s next of kin, crossed out, was his mother Kathleen Sadler [?] of Back Street, Leeds, Kent.

To highlight the fact that the forms may not be in order, the last form in the file is the description form, completed upon his enlistment. We have his physical description as before on other paperwork but we also now learn that he has a fresh complexion, blue eyes, brown hair and is a member of the Church of England.

This file certainly shows how jumbled up the individual pages can be but by reading and extracting each piece of information about the soldier his life can be reconstructed, including parents and next of kin, a physical appearance, and some of life in the military.

James Milner: Convict in Van Dieman’s Land – putting him on the ground

Near Copping
Looking south towards the land of George Frederick Brock Esq, on which resided convict James Milner – Carlton Parish, Tasmania. Yes, those are burned trees on the top of the hill from recent fires in the area

James Milner was sent as a convict in March 1831 aboard the transport ship “Argyle” to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania. I learned about this cousin from Roy Milner a fellow Milner researcher in England. I had verified the details about James Milner using the wonderful convict database at the Archives of Tasmania website.  James was also located in the 1842 census as the head of the household, working as a servant on the land of Fred Brock Esq., located 6 miles from Carlton, in Carlton Parish.

While on my lecture tour in Australia, I learned a lot about the life of convicts and their place in society by reading and visiting a number of prisons. Given the census information I had, I wanted to see if I could physically put James Milner on the ground somewhere in Tasmania. The first stop was the map collection at the Tasmania State library in Hobart where I hit pay dirt. With the help of staff, I located a map of Carlton Parish naming land owners. George Frederick Brock received a land grant of 2560 acres. This has to be Fred Brock, Esq. of the census. More research is needed on this person as he must be significant somehow, especially when one realizes that the largest land grant in Tasmania was 3,000 acres given to the governor, near Richmond. The Brock land abuts the small community of Copping on the modern road from Hobart to the penal settlement at Port Arthur.

This property in many respects was in an ideal location as we had planned on visiting Port Arthur. We had seen advertisements for the Copping Colonial and Convict Museum so we drove to Copping. The name of the museum was a big misnomer and the owner had no information on even the major landowners in the area. We retraced our steps a little along the road until we found a farm track taking us up onto the top of the hill that would give us a great overview, looking South onto the Brock land (see picture). There was no one home at the farm, but I did take a bunch of photographs of the surrounding countryside.

Fred Brock Esq.
Looking west along main road from Port Arthur to Hobart, just west of Copping. Near land of George Frederick Brock Esq

The census was taken January 3, 1842 at the height of the summer. I was there March 7, thus a little later in the Australian summer. The grass I saw was probably drier and browner, the creek was drier, but the rolling hills, with patches of woodland would have been just as beautiful. Google Earth shows that there are some vineyards or orchards over the crest of the hills to the south but they are not visible from the house where I stood.  There was only one private road, heavily posted with keep out signs, and with lots of truck traffic that appeared to go a little further south onto the property, which had been identified as the municipal tip.  We did not take the private road.

I have James Milner on the ground in Carlton Parish, Tasmania. Now I need to find out more about George Frederick Brock, Esq. for whom he appears to be working. Ah! The joys of family research, always leading to more questions.