I don’t have ancestors from Roswell, New Mexico, nor am I related to Fox Moulder, but I do have an X-File in my tree. I’m talking about those frustratingly unsolvable mysteries that gnaw at your brain until your eye starts twitching.
Actually, I have two of those, one is the mystery of where my GGGGreat Grandfather was born, but it’s only the fact that it’s on my surname line that this really gets to me. I mean, if you could get all lines back to the 1700′s you’re doing well.
The other one is more current and involves my Grandfather who was adopted. Following on from a previous post on one half of his adoption story, this post focus’ on trying to find his birth father. I’ll ruin the story now and say that as yet the mystery is still unsolved, so don’t assume a happy ending just yet! This one’s a work in progress.
For the past 10 years I’ve tried all sorts of means to identify him. Of course I know it’s impossible for an actual reunion, the man would be long dead as my Grandfather is currently 93 and starting to wind down. But just to be able to identify who he was would be such a coup for me. I’d love to find out and tell my Pop before he passes, but I feel I don’t have much time left. I have even mentioned to him that when it is his time, he is to come back somehow and tell me who his father is!
I’ve been on this mission for the past decade and have tried all sorts of ways to figure out clues or ways to find him. The following are the only clues received from my Pop’s birth mother, Eva-Rose, who I wish could have told us more, but I also view the information as not entirely definite, as perhaps she made up things just to make her story more reputable.
Father’s Name: Jack Scott
Occupation: Australian Army Soldier
Home: Rural Eastern Australia (she could have at least given a State! Geez.)
Looks: Has mentioned that my Pop has similar colourings to his father, so he would have brown hair and brown eyes.
His mother was around 19 at the time she met his father, she never mentioned his age, but you would think the man would be around her age, at least up until 30. But I wouldn’t rule any age out.
Marital Status: She said she was engaged to the man at the time.
His mother also said she wrote to the Army after the war to find his whereabouts but was told he had been killed-in-action. Apparently this story was oft told to new mothers who had brief dalliances with the soldiers, although records I have searched have shown that the Army did pass on correct details to those who wrote requesting information. Would LOVE to find that letter!
So that’s all I have to go by. Now there’s a few things to interpret. For instance, Jack is a popular nickname given to those born as John or James. So really you have to look at those names as well.
When I first started looking all I did was look up Jack Scott records for World War I on the National Archives of Australia records website. Who by the way, have done a fantastic job in getting the majority of War records up online for most conflicts Australians have served in.
So I searched Scott and found 1105 records for those with the surname Scott who served in WWI and then refined this with the first name Jack. This gave me 5 records to peruse…but if only it were this simple.
Of these 5, two were killed prior to the date of conception, so that ruled them out. One was discharged months prior to conception but not knowing his date of return, I’d have to keep him on the backburner. So this left 2 men.
For awhile I wasn’t sure what to do next, eventually I came back to it after spending some time on other areas of my tree.
I resumed by researching the two men and one I found had suffered asthma (like my Pop) and I even found a photo in the NAA Photo Collection and could see a strong resemblance to him!
At this point I also tracked down the War records of my Pop’s mother on the UK National Archives website and pinpointed where she was at the time of conception. She was working in a rest camp as a nurse at Folkestone, UK. This was often used by soldiers either heading to or returning from service in Europe.
Of the two men, at the time of conception, one was in Hampshire, UK and the other was in…Folkestone Rest Camp! I was overjoyed, it had to be him!
I showed my mother, who agreed it seemed very likely. Looking at his records we could see he was never killed in action and in fact returned to Australia. Perhaps he had other children?
From looking at his place of birth we decided we would advertise in the Bourke newspaper (a very remote outback town) and the Sydney Morning Herald, to ask for anyone with information on this man or related to him, to contact us.
It was a long shot, but you know what? We got a response! The man’s son had in fact seen it and got in contact with us. It was an unusual conversation, how to you bring up the fact that you think your father got some chick pregnant during the war and that they might have a half sibling? Fortunately the man was understanding and curious and so we decided to do a DNA test.
It was such an exciting time waiting for the results, it just had to be him! A few days after my Pop’s 90th birthday we got the results.
Not a match…not related.
I considered the thought that maybe the son had in fact been adopted and never told. I had been so certain we had the right family.
But it was only a few months after that a new clue was thrown to me which could have saved us a lot of money from the previous attempt.
One day my Grandparents mentioned “Oh his mother said he looked a lot like his father…”
Are you *#$%$#* kidding me?! Only now do you decide to remember this! (I was a little bit annoyed…)
So yes, that whole DNA debacle could have been avoided if we had known this information prior. So I must advise here, that when dealing with the elderly or those who have no real interest in history, to ask questions repeatedly, at different times and phrased in different ways, because even the slightest thing can trigger a memory.
Now, you see on the War Records application form it shows the height, weight, eye colour, skin colour and hair colour. The man we thought could have been his father…well he had red hair. Obviously we don’t need a DNA test to figure that one out…if only we’d known!
So it was now back to square one.
It occurred to me to start trying John’s and James’. Unfortunately this brought up 165 John’s and 146 James’….euuughhh!
From the records I could probably discount maybe 30% where the name match came from their ‘next of kin’ (the record search uses words from the entire description on the record). But even then, that’s still around 200 guys to go through!
I decided to start with the John’s and only look at guys who had it as their first name, not their second. At least this narrowed it down slightly.
Eventually I ended up with about 40 John’s. I then wrote out a list of them all and went through each record individually crossing out any man who died before the conception date, had blue, grey, green or hazel eyes, or blonde, light brown or red hair.
Then again crossing out those who were in Europe at the time of conception.
I was then left with just a small handful of possibilities.
One guy really stood out. A John Adam Scott, was from NSW, he was the same age as Eva-Rose, had brown hair, brown eyes and dark skin (dark was used for anything other than a general white complexion and could mean tanned, Mediterranean, Arabic or black.)
Around the time of conception he was at Folkstone Rest Camp and he left shortly after for the Western Front where he was tragically killed only a few days later near Curlu, right near the Somme in France.
So far he fit the bill exactly…the only piece that didn’t was the fact that he was from Sydney and not a rural area. Something to contemplate but not enough to rule him out.
Looking through his record I could see he was a spirited lil bugger, always getting into trouble but patriotic and passionate at the same time. He was constantly wandering off for a few days from wherever he was stationed and forever being disciplined by the Officer in charge. He sounded just like my Pop.
But John fought with courage and in the end he was part of a regiment charging the enemy when he was shot in the leg, but he kept going. Eventually though a bomb hit nearby and the schrapnel damage was enough to extinguish his spark of life.
His last moments were recorded by various soldiers who served with him on that fateful day and had presented reports which I found via the Red Cross Wounded & Missing records.
From here I hit Ancestry.com and found a family tree for him. His father was from Midlothian in Scotland and his mother was born in Australia. Her mother was from Cornwall and her father from Boston in Massachusetts. He interested me as his surname was Alvaro which sounded Spanish or Portuguese in origin. Could this explain my fascination with Spain and Andalucian culture? And more practically, could it explain my light olive complexion and dark features?
This got me excited…but what do I do next?!
So I decided to have a go at DNA Genealogy. Since I was already a member of Ancestry.com, I tried theirs first but it wasn’t that informative and the matches were too far back. The main thing I got out of this was that it seemed my Pop’s paternal line extended back to North-East Ireland with a very specific Haplotype group which is interesting.
Later I tried the 23andme.com test which I received for free because my Pop has Parkinsons Disease. The company offer free testing, including a health report and the family finder database for those who have been diagnosed with Parkinsons. This is a great saving of over $200. And you can also use the results and transfer them over to the third major DNA player FamilytreeDNA.com for $89, which I’ve done but still waiting on the results at the moment.
DNA Genealogy will be the subject of a future post so I won’t go into it too much here. But I do keep in mind the Army men I’ve found when going through DNA matched family trees.
Since then I’ve also gone an extra step and started on ALL the Scott’s who served in the Australian Army in WWI and created a spreadsheet so I can keep track of those aren’t a match. Once I listed all the 954 Scott’s I then searched the Roll of Honour to find all the Scott’s who were killed in the War and could strike off those who were killed-in-action before the conception date. There were 192 who died during the war or from injuries sustained from the war. 24 died after the conception date.
I then went through those 24 men who were K.I.A and their physical descriptions, striking off those who did match my Pop’s colouring and those that did I made notes on their whereabouts at conception and general notes for future reference.
Of the 24 K.I.A 2 stood out with one being discharged around the conception date and the other being at the Folkstone Rest Camp.
Next step was to find their trees. The one at the camp I found and have noted a copy to compare with any DNA matches I come across. The other I was not able to find but I’m hoping that him being 38 at the time, would hopefully have been a bit too old for 18yr old Eva-Rose.
So the search continues, I think I’ve covered every possible base and hopefully it’s just a matter of time before I can find a DNA match or a copy of the letter Eva-Rose sent to the Army! Every now I then I go through some random Scott’s who survived the war and knock out a few based on physical description or location, but there’s still a few hundred left to sort through!