Searching for William – from Liverpool to Oz to Lewes – Robert Parker

Rob Parker is a well- known Family Historian who started doing family history research and then became a trainer and tutor. He has written articles about both sides of his family. The topic of this evening’s presentation is from his mother’s (Nash) side of the family.
Rob introduced the talk and said he would welcome questions at any point of the talk, he also said that there would be a quiz on Australia in the middle with a prize (a box of chocolates for the winner). Most of his research is now done using the internet but (and it is a very big but) only 5% of records are online and the chances are that only 9% will ever be available so Rob advised us that we must be prepared to use Record Offices and other sources of information.
The subject of Rob’s search was William George Nash who was his grandmother’s brother who was born in South East London in 1904. Rob started researching before the internet was available and he started with his grandmother’s parents. These were Mary Ann Elizabeth Morris and Edward Nash. Rob thought his great grandmother would be easy to find but he hadn’t bargained on her being known as Polly in census records! Edward Nash went on to become a Police Inspector and the story of his son William was that he fell out with his father (for whatever reason) and he went to Perth in 1925. It was known that he married and then he and his wife split up and William left his wife with a 5 year old son. During the Second World War the Australian family sent food parcels to the family in London but then all contact was lost. This was the sum total of Rob’s knowledge of William.
In 1991/2 Rob took year out and went round the world, he visited Perth and checked records in the library – he discovered that he had been looking for George William Nash rather than William George as it should have been but found it difficult to get any further. In 1995 he decided to try again and was then able to get on an internet mailing list which gained some responses.
He was able to track down William’s birth using BMD and it was suggested by Rootsweb that although it was known that William had gone to the Gold Coast in 1925 it might have been the Gold Coast in Africa rather than the one in Australia. Rob also contacted the Australian National Archives and they suggested that Second World War military records might yield results. Rob was able to find that William had served in the army and he saw his pay records but that he had been discharged on 23/2/44 “to maintain essential supplies”. It was completely unknown that William had been involved in farming and apparently he was a dairy farmer and from subsequent researches using Post Office records Rob was able to establish that William had lived in Wellard an important dairy town south of Perth (at the beginning of the war there was 1 farm at the end there were 34 dairy farms).
After contacting the State Library, Rob was able to trace a marriage record for William to Hazel Sophronia Dow and even more surprisingly he was able to establish that she was still alive at that time. Rob wrote to Hazel and after 3½ weeks a letter came back saying, ”you have found your relative”. Unfortunately Hazel was not able to tell Rob what had happened to William after he left her with a 5 year old son, Mark Nash who now lives in Lewes, Sussex.
As a result of information provided by Hazel, Rob used shipping records to establish that William left Liverpool in January 1925 and went to Calabar (Gold Coast, Africa); he returned to England in 1926 or 7 and then aged 23 went to Fremantle, Australia. Then, there are no further records until the 1940’s . Rob did manage to find a museum volunteer at the Rockingham Museum in Wellard, who remembered William as “very strange with a rather abrasive manner”.
Rob then managed to contact Mark Nash in Lewes and arranged to meet him in London. It transpired that Mark had no memory of his father and had employed a genealogist to do some research but it was based on the wrong man! Mark didn’t get on with his mother but after her death which occurred shortly after Rob first contacted her some letters were found in her effects which hint at a further mystery: in one letter William refers to having travelled to Perth from Sydney under the name Reynolds! Does this explain why he has been so elusive?
Rob is still searching for William and as yet he has not found a record of his death.
This was a thoroughly entertaining and fascinating account of Rob’s search for William; it demonstrated the breadth of resources available to the determined researcher and many different ways of breaking down walls. Rob also provided an email link to his own website with addresses. The quiz about Australia in the middle also made everyone think – who knew there were that many different types of kangaroos and wallabies .( I can’t reveal the answer as Rob will want to re-use the quiz!)
website link:
[Margaret Lake ]

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