Edward, Samuel and a Possum Named Leadbeater

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. Image from Wikipedia

During the summer in 2011 I decided that I would try and trace my family history. With almost no information on my mother’s side (mainly due to the fact that my grandfather discovered at a young age that the couple who had brought him up weren’t his biological parents) it seemed a daunting task, but after obtaining his birth certificate I managed to trace his birth mother with http://www.ancestry.com and from there was able to build an entire family tree and even speak to living relatives in the same area that my mother still resides in. It was a fascinating journey – especially when I contacted my great-grandmother’s family with information about my grandfather who they knew nothing about, but accepted immediately once they had seen the striking physical resemblance in photographs that I sent.

On Sunday I saw that Ancestry’s military records were open for free, and so I set out to trace my grandmother’s side, particularly her father – Edward. With only a name and a single black and white photograph of him wearing a WW1 army uniform, there was very little information about him during my initial search 8 years ago. However, this time there were a number of hints that led me to census records and I discovered that parts of his uniform meant that he would most likely have ridden a horse while in the army. I even managed to find out where he and his family were living years later, and in 1939 he was working as a coal miner.

Unexpectedly, I then received a hint that led me back to my grandfather’s side and a man named Samuel, who I discovered was killed during the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, part of the Battle of the Somme. He is buried at Thiepval, France with his comrades and there is a huge monument at his resting place. This was mind-blowing, mainly because this was the first time that my family had any knowledge of a military history in our ancestry, and rather poignant as I had discovered all of this on Remembrance Sunday.

When I first started my search years ago, I was able to trace some very very distant relatives to Australia, even to the point where I found some who were sent over there as convicts hundreds of years ago. This time, I discovered that a possum is named after a distant ancestor, although this is only dependent of who we believe my Great-Grandfather is, even though there isn’t proof as his name isn’t on the birth certificate.

Meet the Fairy Possum, or Leadbeater’s Possum. It’s a rather handsome (although unfortunately endangered) possum.

Not the sentence I expected to be writing a week ago!

What about you guys? Have you traced your family history?

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14 thoughts on “Edward, Samuel and a Possum Named Leadbeater

  1. Hi Suzie, I have done some occasional family research, although I was not able to give it too much time but I have some amazing stories.it was well worth it. One thing about the sites that advertise full military history. My father served six years in World War 2 from being called up in 1940 until discharged in 1946. He took part in four major battles in Europe, The D day landings, the Battle of Caen , the Ardennes, and the crossing of the Rhine into Germany. We still have four medals and one has gone missing .. However, there was not a trace of his name on any of the sites that advertise their possession of full military history !. I could only obtain his army record by writing to the MOD and requesting it and having to pay a £20 fee. I then received 20 pages that documented his service record One should be aware that even these documents are very terse and only outline the bare details. I do believe the army were brutally honest with their description of their behaviour and character. With my father, they wrote the end of their comments . “This was a man of the highest integrity who served as a high speed keyboard operator and signalman throughout the war.”.and it described him perfectly. he was someone who could be relied upon .
    So you must be prepared to dig a bit further than the online ancestry sites they are not at all complete

    • Absolutely! I think that the only way that you can really do a lot of it is if you are prepared to spend some money and a lot of time… You must be very proud to have that history in your family!

      • Yes I am not ashamed to say that because he was a very modest man and hardly mentioned his war service My dad was a specialist at what he did. He had to do two years training having volunteered for signals from an infantry regiment and was selected to serve at supreme HQ( SHAEF) in Europe from amongst hundreds who had to sit exams . He wore a shoulder badge with flaming sword that was only worn by those at SHAEF including General Eisenhower. During the war it was a badge that signified something when seen by other soldiers. He was not exempt from front line duty. He had to remove the shoulder badge which identified him as HQ staff and sew on another when he had to take part in the Rhine crossing into Germany case he was taken prisoner. Its so long ago its hard to prove as the written MOD records are so minimal in detail . The only evidence is the photo we have of him wearing the SHAEF badge taken in Brussels in 1944 on the day of its liberation

  2. So fascinating! I would love to trace my mother’s ancestry, as the stories I heard as a child lead me to believe that my Grandfather came to the states alone from Glasgow, Scotland. The other story was that my Grandmother learned to walk on the boat coming over from Ireland, and had to relearn to walk on solid ground. Would love to know more. although there are conflicting stories from my cousins, and unfortunately, all my mothers’ siblings are long gone. It would be so fascinating to find out, I am certain I have relatives in Ireland and Scotland. Good luck continuing your search..

  3. It’s amazing that you were able to learn so much about your family! I’d like to do that one day myself–maybe I’ll discover a cute animal named after one of MY ancestors!

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