Although many Irish people may be reluctant to acknowledge that our countrymen played a significant role in extending and administering British colonial rule in India, it is a fact that tens of thousands of Irish men (often accompanied by their wives and children) were in India as civil servants with the East India Company and/or India Office (post 1858), or else soldiered there with the regular British army (in the mid-1800s 42% of the British army was Irish), or as part of the EIC's own private armies.
Those wishing to research the history of any Irish family members who served in India should be aware that the archive of the East India Company and the India Office are not held in the National Archives in Kew, but rather are part of the Asia, Pacific and African Collections (APAC) held by the British Library - the limited APAC catalogue (only about 10% of records) is available, however, via the National Archives website: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/A2A/default.aspx
The British library have made a small fraction of their India archive available online at the following:http://indiafamily.bl.uk/UI/Home.aspx but to view most records would appear to involve the hassle and expense of visiting the British Library in London, and this could therefore exclude many people in Ireland, the USA and all the other locations where the Irish diaspora is to be found.
A surprising amount of family history information about British (and Irish) people in India during the 19th Century is, however, available from other internet sources, many of which are free.
A good starting point is the website of the Families In British India Society (FIBIS) http://www.new.fibis.org/ whose volunteers have transcribed several hundred thousand APAC records which can be searched for free here: http://search.fibis.org/frontis/bin/index.php These records include information about ships' passeneger arrivals and departures from Indian ports and the ships' port of origin or destination; birth, baptisimal, marriage, death, burial records taken pricipally from the three Indian Presidencies of the EIC; list of officers and men who served in various military campaigns, or on the establishment of the Presidency armies; biographies etc a typical biography entry may be similar to this one regarding my GGG-Grandfather Robert Xavier Murphy: http://search.fibis.org/frontis/bin/aps_detail.php?id=1048352
The Australian government has digitised the archives of dozens of national, regional and local Australian newspapers, containing several million articles, and made them available free of charge at the following: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/home Although not an obvious source for researching relatives who served in India it should be noted that most vessls that sailed, or steamed, to and from Australia in the 19th Century called at India of the way, and so lists of passengers printed in the Australian newspapers also include those travelling to India. During the early part of that era, many official British publications relating to the administration and affairs of its Indian possessions also included information about its Austalasian and Chinese possessions. While these were printed in Indian newspapers, they were also reprinted in Australian newspapers, thus providing information about Indian civil service promotions, dismissals, awards of pensions, granting of leave etc etc This website is, of course, also valuable in researching Irish emigrants to Australia and New Zealand
Similar information is available from the British Library which has digitised many 19th Century newspapers and made them available here: http://newspapers.bl.uk/blcs/ This site is not free but a 7 day pass permitting 200 article views is available for only £9.99 (about 11.50 Euro, or $15.65)
Another excellent newspaper source is The Times of India which has just had its archive from 1838 (when it was the Bombay Times) to 2001 digitised. This has been made available by the company ProQuest and is targeted towards the academic market, so to access it you may need to visit a good public, or university library.
Searching on Google Books will often provide valuable family history materiel given that most 19th Century publications are no longer subject to copyright and have therefore been digitised in full. Publications you can find there relating to India include; Gentleman's Magazine, Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany, Parbury's Oriental Herald, Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society, Allen's Indian Mail, and Register of Intelligence, Journal of teh Royal Asiatic Society, The Indian Mail: A Monthly register for British and Foreign India, China and Australasia, the Bombay Quarterly Magazine and Review, Alexander's East India and Colonial Magazine etc These publications will provide information about birth's, deaths, marriages, passenger arrivals and departures, military campaigns, military and civil service promotions, society gatherings, court cases, public works and engineering projects etc etc.
Also available on Google Books are several volumes of Hart's Army List aka Hart's Annual Army List, and New Army List, and Militia List. This lists all of the officers and warrant officers serving in all British regiments, including the years each officer was promoted from one rank to another, where the regiment was located, and often includes a small biography of any distinguished officer listing where and how awards, or decorations were won.
Don't forget to consult the Family Search website provided free of charge by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the following: http://www.familysearch.org/eng/ as this site includes Indian birth, marriage and death information from official sources (put on microfiche by the Mormons). And the Cyndi's List website http://www.cyndislist.com/ can also provide some useful pointers.
I read with interest your posted message and agree with what you have indicated. I'm from Australia and I have spent some time in the British Library carrying out some research work on my family tree, both sides, my mother's and father's side. Both families have rich histories, which contain many interesting stories of their lives in British India. I will not bore you with the details, but one thing I forgot to mention, you need to register as a researcher to access the files, records etc., in the British Library and you are only allowed to take paper and a pencil in with you, pens of any sort are not allowed. I must say some of the information I discovered there, put me on the path of a long but interesting search, for a long lost half sister, who I knew nothing about - yes a long story.
Thanks for your comments, Stanley. You have put me to shame in that you have studied in the British Library, despite having to come from Australia, whereas I have never done so even though I only live 90 miles away. Please do share some of your family history discoveries with us - I never tire of reading such stories.
Stanley, we encourage you to share your Irish story with us, and that of your ancestors. Use the blog provided each member here. This is precisely why we've created The Wild Geese -- to explore, promote, preserve and celebrate the epic heritage of the Irish ... worldwide.
Many thanks for your prompt reply, I am the 4th generation of my family to be born in India. We came out to Australia in 1948 when I was a young child, after the partition of India, and after India gained Independance from the British. My relative Garrett Hogan was our first Irish relative in India, he was supposedly "press ganged" kidnapped when he was out at the markets, selling a pig or some pigs - so the story goes? He then finished up in India and in the East Indian Company Army, he would have been around 19 or 20 - we think this occured around 1820 (not sure of the exact year). We think Garrett Hogan came from County Wicklow and his father was Micheal Hogan, a Shoe Maker, but we have not been able to find and/or confirm, any of Garrett Hogan's details, his life or his family history in Ireland, although I've tried. I have spent time in Wicklow, and went through the very old church register without any success. I even spent time in the Dublin Library looking at their records there, without any luck. We do have evidence in a very old letter, which indicates one of the early extended family relatives/members living in India, visited Garrett Hogan's family in Ireland. But there was no records taken or kept as to where this was, so the search contines. We have been able to find out quite a lot of information on the extended family and their lives in India, which has fasinating and very interesting.I will not bore you with this information - but the extended families of Garrett Hogan and their offspring, all had very sucessfull lives in India.
Regards Stan Hogan
Stanley, I for one am intrigued by your family saga, Please share as many details as you might. I believe you have a rapt audience for it here on The Wild Geese.
Thanks for your email, I have so many different stories to share on our family history in India, some good and some quite disturbing. I'm not quite sure where to start. I have a very sad, but I think interesting story on my search for my half sister Kathleen. I'm not too sure how to "post" it on this site, for interested parties to read? I think it is a very interesting story, as it describes in detail and shows how people can go about tracking down, long relatives and/or loved ones. I think it's a great story, but I'm biased. Sadly it is reasonably long 13 pages, what is the best way to share this story, with all your readers who are interested in tracking down long lost relatives or family members.
Regards Stan Hogan
MY SISTER KATHLEEN
The first knowledge I had concerning the existence of my sister, was relayed to me in Scotland, in January, 1996. I was on holiday, visiting a cousin, along with my eldest daughter and my youngest brother. It all happened so casually; we were all sitting around the dinner table one night, talking about our families, friends and relatives. When my cousin mentioned, there was an important family secret, she thought we should know about, it was a comment that seemed to come from “no where”? It took her sometime to pluck up enough courage to share this secret with us, as my mother had sworn her to secrecy a number of years earlier; this was a number of years before my mother had passed away. But my cousin always believed as a family, we had a right to know, which I think we did? She told us all she knew, which was not very much. That my mother as a young girl had given birth to a child, the child was a girl and her name was “Kathleen”. My cousin thought the child was born in India, sometime in the early 1940’s, and had been “given up” as a baby.
My holiday in England changed from one of great joy and happiness, to one of deep sorrow and concern. The fact I had a sister somewhere out there in the world, someone whom I had never seen or knew about, was she still alive? And if so, where was she? And what were her circumstances and/or her living conditions etc? My thoughts and my concerns just overwhelmed me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. My whole body ached with a deep sadness and grief, but what could I do? Here I was in a strange country on holidays – with a few friends and contacts? Slowly the enormity of the consequences of what had been said to me, took hold of me. I became totally focused and obsessed with finding my sister, no matter what, no matter where she was in the world. I vowed I would start my search now in England, and I would continue my search, no matter how long it took, and no matter how much it cost. I was determined to find my long lost sister, wherever she was in the world? However if she was unfortunately no longer with us, I would only accept written documentary evidence, as proof of her demise, her death certificate etc., before I would think about abandoning my search.
But the big question, “where to start” I was in a strange country and city on holidays. We had already made preliminary arrangements to visit, many of our relatives and friends in England, and it would be rude and extremely selfish of me, not to try and continue with most of these plans. Also I had been to England a number of times previously and had visited most of our relatives and friends, but my younger brother and my daughter who were with me had not. It was their first visit, and it was only a very short, 2-week holiday. My brother had his own Medical practice in Australia, he had not had a holiday or break from work, for three years. My daughter had just completed four years study at University, so they both deserved their well-earned holiday. However every free minute I had, I would head for a telephone box and ring up somebody, anyone who I thought might be able to help and/or assist me in some way, or just point me in a new direction. I started with Churches, Religious Groups, and Adoption Agencies etc. Most people were very sympathetic and supportive of my cause, but they all felt it was really an impossible task, very much like trying to find a needle in a hay stack. Bearing in mind the time frame, it was well over 50 years, and the only “real information” I had, was the child was a girl, and her first name was “Kathleen”. I had no knowledge of her surname, her middle name, her date of birth, where she was born, or who her father was etc. etc? The only other information my cousin gave me, was that she thought the child was born sometime, in the early 1940’s and possibly in India? This date period was subsequently found to be wrong.
In London, I had rung so many people, without any positive leads. I was feeling quite down and depressed, as our time was running out, I only had one more full day in London. The previous afternoon I had rung the Indian High Commissioners office in London and gave them my story. They were not overly helpful, but they suggested that there were some Church records of Births in India, in a library in London, and they kindly provided me the phone number of the library. I immediately rang and obtained the address of the Library. The Library was “The British Library”, Orbit House, 197 Black Friars Road, London (Note: this address has now changed, The British Library is now located in a new address). This was my last day in England; we were to fly out of London, early the next morning. I arrived at the Library bright and early the next morning. There were a number of security officers in the entrance foyer of the building. One was an Irish lady, I explained my story to her, she said, she thought the only records they had in the library, were “Indian Army Records”. I said, “I don’t care, I would like to look at them anyway”. She took pity on me, as I was crying and could not hide or control the intense sadness and/or frustration I was feeling. She said, to sign the book, they also checked my ID and passport etc. She then rang through to a friend of hers, who worked in the area where the Indian Records were kept. The Librarian came down; she too was Irish and was a lovely, kind person. On the way up the stairs to the records, she explained the enormity of the task that lay ahead of me; she did not want to give me any false expectations or hope. The records were far from complete, but they did contained more than just the “Indian Army Records”, which the security guard had suggested – which was something more positive, than I had hoped for. The major problem was, I had so little information to start with, “a girl named Kathleen”. The task that lay ahead of me was enormous, what chance did I really have on finding some information on my sister here – this was basically a stab in the dark, so to speak?
Anyway the Librarian took me into this huge room, I could not take anything inside with me, in fact I had to sign for a locker key and leave my knapsack outside, they even confiscated a pen I had in my top pocket. A chap kindly lent me a pencil and I found a number of sheets of blank photo copying paper sitting on a filing cabinet in the room.
The size of the room overwhelmed me; it was full of books, filing cabinets, computers and microfilm readers etc. She went on to explain the significance of some of these books. They were Baptismal records copied from Church and Parish records, throughout the length and breath of India. Each book represented a calendar year, but they only listed Christian names, followed by a Surname, then followed by a “volume number” and then a “folio number”. These numbers represented a microfilm register; these registers contained more detailed and more specific information, i.e. Full Name, Date of Birth, Date of Baptism, Mother’s Name etc. The major problem was India was broken up into three distinct geographic areas/regions, and I did not possibly have enough time to check the information in all three regions. She took me across the room to the far left hand corner, and pointed out some books in some large bookcases, that formed a quadrangle. She said, my best bet was to select one of the regions, and concentrate my efforts solely on it. I selected West Bengal on spec, as it included Calcutta where I was born. It was just a guess, but with a prayer in my heart.
I immediately started my search looking at all of these relevant books, checking names, records and dates etc., from 1939 onwards. This was a big mistake as my cousin had thought the child was born sometime in the early 1940’s, so I started one year earlier ie: 1939. I copied down details of every entry with the Christian name “Kathleen”. The records only gave their Christian names and Surnames, followed by a Volume number and a Folio number - no middle names. I spent all day going through these records, copying down names and details. I never felt confident that any of the names and details, were that of my sister? It was getting very late in the afternoon and I had not stopped or had a break all day. Tears were welling up in my eyes and tears were running down my cheeks, I was having trouble concentrating and seeing. After much soul searching, I decided I would start my search again, only this time I would start in 1930, 10 years earlier. It was now getting quite late; people were packing up and leaving. I was starting to panic, as I knew my time was running out. I started again and was about an hour into this search period, when my eyes came upon an entry – “my heart stopped”, I took a deep breath. Here was an entry - “Kathleen Mott”, (my mother’s maiden name was Mott) the year was 1935, the Volume number, was 574 and Folio number was 25. I could not believe my eyes. I quickly had to go and find the librarian, as I did not know where to find the roll of microfilm with the details covering “the volume” and the “folio numbers”, I had found, nor did I know how to use the microfilm reading machine, and everyone else seemed to be packing up and leaving, or had already left. She came quickly and showed me where to find the roll of microfilm and how to use the microfilm reader. Well very late that afternoon, whilst reading through the microfilm records, I was able to find the first crucial entry and records of my sister. This information would ultimately lead me on my long journey and search, trying to find my sister. But I had finally found a reference point, “the volume” and “the folio” number. This entry gave me my sister’s full name, “Kathleen Enid Mott”, (Enid was the first name of one of my mother’s favorite sister’s) and “Mott” was my mother’s Maiden name. It also included her Date of Birth, her Date of Baptism, where she was Baptised and my mother’s address at the time of the Baptism, also the Minister’s name. However in the space for “Father’s name”, it was shown as, “unknown”. I was sobbing, crying uncontrollably, but a huge feeling of “relief” and “satisfaction” swept over me. I knew I still had a long way to go, but at least I now had my sister’s “Full Name” and “Date of Birth”. I flew out of London the next morning, feeling like a “new man”, with a renewed hope and commitment, to continue my search when I get back home to Australia. I was also able to share the good news that night with my daughter and my young brother. They were both surprised and somewhat taken aback, at my presence of mind, to start and take up the search there and then, in London? I don’t think they realized, nor did understand, just how strongly I felt, and how passionate, and determined I was, to find my sister - wherever she was in the world? You will see this was just the start, the “tip of the iceberg” so to speak. The real search and real effort was to continue in Australia. But now I had some substantial information to go on her “Full Name” and “Date of Birth” – always a great starting point.
I did not waste any time, as soon as I arrived back in Australia with this information. I got hold of the telephone directory, I rang and/or I wrote to all of the mainstream Religious Groups and Churches here in Australia, and also many of the smaller denominations churches and/or groups. I gave them my story and the details of my sister, her “Full Name” and her “Date of Birth” etc. I was first hoping that there was possibly a central register or a world wide register, for lost and/or missing persons, where people like me could contact and access records to find or trace their lost family members or their long lost loved ones, - mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters etc., but there was no success there? My other line of attack was to speak to anyone who knew or had any contacts in India. I rang the Immigration Department, the Indian High Commission in Australia, all the churches or special interests groups, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Adoption Agencies, etc. I rang or wrote to every Religious Order of Priests, Brothers, and Nuns, in the Catholic Church here in Australia. I even found and paid Professional people, to help me in my search. I was leaving no stone unturned in my efforts to try and find my sister.
I subsequently compiled a huge list of names, addresses and contacts throughout the length and breadth of India. I wrote to each and every address, or contact. Giving them my sister’s “Full Name”, her “Date of Birth” etc., asking for their help or assistance or an address of someone who might know something or that they may know where to look next, etc. As luck would have it, one of the Professional bodies I had engaged, contacted me and asked if they could send a social worker, to speak to one of my mother’s sisters in England (on the Isle of Wight). They wished to interview her, to see if she could provide them with anymore details or information concerning my sister. This really caused a major problem and dilemma, as my cousin had told us this secret, in “strict confidence” and she had not confided to her mother, that she had told us about the existence of our sister. Bearing in mind her mother, like my mother, had kept this secret to themselves all these years. My sister at this time, was 61 years of age – that’s a 61 year old family secret.
I then had to write to my cousin on this very delicate matter, and ask her if she could summon the strength and/or courage to tell her mother, that she had informed us, about the existence of our sister, and if her mother would be prepared to be interviewed by a social worker, from a tracing agency, at her home on the Isle of Wight, in England. At the time I think my poor cousin went through hell. In fairness I did suggest to her, in my letter that this was just one avenue of my search and investigations, and if she felt she could not bring herself to broach the subject with her mother, it was OK by me. I could well understand the difficulty and awkwardness she faced in telling her mother. My cousin finally plucked up enough courage to confide in her mother, that she had told us, and that we were now trying to find and make contact with our sister. It seems Mum’s sister, took the news quite well, and was happy to talk to a Social Worker and provide them with all information and details she knew – which was not very much, that we did not already know.
My cousin immediately rang me from Scotland with the news, and during the conversation with her mother, she said, her mother recalled, and made mention of a place called “Kalimpong” in India. As soon as she mentioned the word Kalimpong, I knew I had already posted a letter to a Dr. Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong, but I had not received an acknowledgment or reply to date. (For those who don’t know, Dr Graham’s Home – is both a “Home and an Orphanage” plus a normal “School”, Dr Graham, a Scottish Presbyterian Minister, started it in 1900. It still functions and continues today as both a “Home” and a “School”) for day scholars and boarders.
My obtaining the name and the address of Dr. Graham’s Home in Kalimpong is in itself a story. I was ringing a list of phone numbers in the Sydney telephone directory. This was a list of missionary workers in the Anglican Church, and one of the numbers on the list, was an after hours phone number. It was the home number of one of the executive officers, employed in the Administrative area for Mission work, for the Anglican Church. A woman answered the phone and I explained my story to her, and what I was trying to do? She said, her husband was away in Western Australia and she wasn’t sure if he could help me? But she had the phone number of a friend of hers, who had spent many years in India. Maybe she might be able to help me? I rang this woman the following day; she was a bit short and abrupt with me on the phone when I rang. Unfortunately I rang her, at a very inconvenient time, she indicated she was busy, and asked if I could leave her my name, and phone number, and she would get back to me. When she returned my call she apologised for being a bit short and abrupt on the phone, but she was right in the middle of an afternoon tea party with some friends. She said she was not sure if she could help, but she then gave me the name and address of Dr. Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong, to which I immediately wrote off a letter.
Now since my cousin had mentioned “Kalimpong” I felt sure that this was significant, and I decided I would try and find a phone number and ring the school, “easier said than done”. I had already run the gauntlet of trying to get phone numbers, and speak to people in India prior to this. It is not a job recommended for the “timid”, or the “faint hearted”. There are a number of problems when you ring India - the first major hurdle, is to get the right number, and also get the right area code. But then to get connected to that number and area code, numbers seem to get lost or changed for no apparent reason, and if by some “chance” or “miracle” you actually get through to the number you wanted. You never know who is going to answer the phone at the other end, and if they can speak English, or at least understand my version of English with a strong Australian accent. Many people would politely listen to my story, and then say sorry they cannot help me and just hang up. Many would hang up as soon as I opened my mouth, and others part way through my story would just hang up. It got to the stage I would only ring India about five times a night, as it was so upsetting and frustrating trying to find someone who would at least listen and/or talk to me. Also with the language barrier and accent on both sides, it was often difficult to interpret or understand one another. Often I would go to bed at night, depressed, crying in frustration. My phone bills were astronomical, my wife never once complained or said a word, she was 100% positive and supportive of my need, my endeavour, and some might even call it my obsession to find my sister? In fact my wife did all my typing, as did one of my daughters. They worked their fingers to the bone night after night. Every night there would be numerous letters to be written, or letters to be answered, envelopes to be addressed, posted etc.
I was like a “man possessed”; I could not stop or relax for one minute. I just could not get the thought of my sister, out of my head. Every second of every day, I was thinking up new ways and means to help me with my search for my sister. Then the breakthrough came, I was able to finally get a telephone number and I was able to get a phone call through to Dr. Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong. I first spoke to the school secretary, then the Principal’s wife and after three or four phone numbers later, I actually got to speak to the school Principal a Mr. O’Connor (who has since sadly passed away). He was able to inform me that he had indeed received my letter and had answered it. He did not have the details in front of him, but as best as he could remember them, he relayed them to me over the phone. He relayed the fact that my sister had indeed, been raised in the home in Kalimpong, but had left for Scotland in 1954, to take up a position as a children’s nurse, a nanny in Nairn, in Scotland. She worked there for four years, then moved to Middlesex and took up training as a General Nurse in a Middlesex Hospital. He went on to say, the records show that whilst she took up General Nurse’s training, she did not complete her training course and studies, and the last contact the school had with her, was in 1960. When they received a letter from her, requesting a copy of her Baptismal Certificate and she gave her forwarding address at the time as, “4 Southern Avenue, Feltham, Middlesex. England”.
My whole search then changed from India to Great Britain. I then wrote to the Indian High Commission in London, the Nurses Registration Board, Social Securities and the Immigration Department etc. I even rang the Middlesex Hospital and spoke to a number of people in numerous sections there, to see if anyone knew or had ever heard of a “Kathleen Mott”. Their records only went back 7 years. I even wrote to Nairn, in Scotland where she first went when she arrived in England, but that proved fruitless as well, as did many other areas and avenues of enquiries in England.
By this time I had already made preliminary travel arrangements and plans to spend December/January (8 weeks) in India looking for my sister. I had checked accommodation and had maps of Calcutta to visit, addresses where my sister was Baptised and my mother’s address at the time she gave birth (some 61 years earlier). My brother had also given me an excellent travel book of India with maps etc., to enable me to travel the length and breadth of India. Sadly all this work and planning was no longer required or necessary.
I again had to rely on the last contact that my sister had with the school, and her forwarding address of, “4 Southern Ave., Feltham”. To date, I had been doing all the investigative work myself, with the help of my wife and daughter, and I think my wife was starting to get a little concerned, with aspects of my behaviour, my obsession and my health. Also when my eldest brother found the search had changed from India to England he became more interested and more involved.
I had come to the conclusion that the reason my sister had contacted the school in 1960 requesting a copy of her “Baptism Certificate”, was that she was planning to get married, as she was now 26 years of age? I also decided if I could get a hold of a Middlesex road/street directory, I could see and establish just where “4 Southern Ave, Feltham” was in England? I could also get a feel for the lay of the land so to speak, and also find the names of the surrounding streets, suburbs, and of course where the Churches were etc.
Late one Saturday afternoon my old brother and I went to Macquarie University Library, in Sydney, to see if we could find a street directory for “Middlesex”. We knew the Library well, as we were both ex-students. We both had a very good look around, but no luck. We were just about to leave, as my brother had to go out that night, as I was passing a table in the map section, I reached down and I picked up this book, it was just sitting on a table. Unbelievably it turned out to be a Middlesex street directory. We quickly browsed through the book and found the pages, which clearly showed “Southern Ave., Feltham” and the names of all the surrounding streets, suburbs and Churches etc. We immediately took a number of photocopies for future reference. It also indicated the names and locations of the surrounding Churches. I then asked my brother if he could make a few enquiries next week, to see if there was anywhere in Sydney, where we could get access to a Middlesex telephone directory - which he did. He found that Sydney Library had a Middlesex and a London telephone directory on microfilm. He made arrangements to look through these the following Saturday. I wanted him to look at all the Surnames from “A to Z” and to see if he could find anyone, living in or around “Southern Ave, Feltham”. I had made a list of names of the surrounding Streets, adjoining “Southern Ave”, so as he could copy down, all these names and phone numbers as well.
My brother went to Sydney Library the following Saturday with these “details”. Whilst he was there, he made some further enquiries and found the library had recently acquired a copy of the “St. Catherine’s Register”, this register contains the records and details of all the births, deaths and marriages in England. With what information he had, he went through the register. Starting around 1960 and he subsequently found that a “Kathleen Enid Mott” had married a “Jack Thomas William Bird” sometime around 1961. Armed with this information he then looked up the Middlesex and London telephone directory for J, JT, JTW, Bird. He finished up with a list of about 10 telephone numbers, which he conveyed to me over the phone that afternoon. Later that night I rang the 10 “Bird’s” but none of them had heard of or had any knowledge of a “Jack” or a “Kathleen” Bird.
We made arrangements to go back to the Library early the following morning. I wanted to check the details of the marriage for myself. I also wanted him to check through the register, to see if he could find any records of births to Kathleen and Jack Bird. Whilst my brother did this, I went through the Middlesex telephone directory and copied down a list of names and telephone numbers of people who lived in the streets surrounding and adjoining “Southern Ave”, but unfortunately no one in “Southern Avenue” - none of these people and names, were subsequently of any help. However, whilst I was compiling this list, I also made a complete list of all the “Birds” registered in the telephone directory, their initials, their full names, their addresses and their phone numbers. My brother in the mean time had found that Jack and Kathleen Bird, had given birth to a son, “Thomas William Bird”. So the full list of surnames and contact details for the “Bird’s” that I had copied from the Middlesex telephone book, became more significant. After I had copied the complete list of “Bird’s” registered in the telephone directory, I then went to the street directory and copied down the names of the surrounding Churches, one at “Feltham” and one at “Twickenham”. I then looked up and copied down, both these phone numbers.
Every night after I arrived home from work I’d phone seven to eight “Bird’s” on the list, very often the phone would ring, but no one would answer. But as I went through the list, I would cross out those whom I had rung, that were not successful. The two church numbers were more difficult, but I was finally able to contact a priest in the Catholic Church in Twickenham. I gave him all the details and he said to give him a ring back in about five days time. The Church in Feltham seemed impossible to contact, I tried so many many times, the phone would ring, but no one would answer it – very frustrating. In the end I rang my brother, and gave him the phone number and asked if he could try ringing this one number every night, which he did. He finally got through to a lady who worked there. He asked her if she could look up the parish register around 1961 and see if there was a record of a “Jack Bird” marrying a “Kathleen Mott”. She said she would and could he ring back in a couple of hours, which he did. The news was “positive”; she was able to confirm that Jack and Kathleen had indeed been married in the church at Feltham in 1961. She also provided their addresses at the time, Kathleen’s was “4 Southern Ave Feltham”, which we already knew, as her forwarding address from the Orphanage, and Jack’s was shown as a suburb of “Hounslow”, plus there were the full names of the witnesses etc. My brother immediately rang me at home and gave me the news. He read out the information concerning Jack’s address at the time of the wedding. I was shocked; I asked if he could repeat “the address.” It turned out; I had this address in my telephone list. I had rung the number quite a few times, it would ring, but no one would answer it. I said to my brother to hang up, and I will try and ring this number again. I rang the number and you would not believe it, this time it was answered. I asked the person who answered the phone - “Do you know of or have you ever heard of a Kathleen Bird”? There was a prolonged silence, and then he said, “no”, my heart sank. I then asked, “if he knew of, or if he had heard of, a Jack Thomas William Bird”. He said, “yes, that’s my brother’s name”. I then said, “is your brother married? He said, “yes”, I said, “and what is his wife’s name”? He said “Kath”. I said, “but isn’t her full name Kathleen” - he said - “now you’ve mentioned it, I suppose it is”? I then went on to explain who I was, and why I was trying to find “Kathleen”. He was quite shocked and taken aback, but he was able to tell me Jack and Kathleen had moved from Middlesex about 7 years previously, and were now living up in Norfolk, and they had an unlisted phone number. He kindly gave me their unlisted telephone number. I could not get off the phone quickly enough. I immediately rang my brother and said, “I think we have found our sister, drop everything and come up, and bring your hands free phone with you”, which he did. He lives about 30 minutes away by car. Whilst he was on his way up to our house, I rang my younger brother and gave him the news. He lives about 400 klms away, in Port Macquarie. He was concerned and felt we should write a letter first, not phone first. I was impatient, I had worked so hard and for so long to find my sister, nothing could stop or contain me now, even though I knew deep down that our initial approach, may well be rejected by Kathleen. But I was determined to make contact that night, irrespective of the consequences.
My brother arrived and we fitted up the hands free phone and got ready the tape recorder. The rest is history - yes we were able to contact our sister that night and her response could only be described as, “extremely warm and positive”. I was so overcome with joy and happiness; I was speechless, tears rolled down my cheeks, actual success after all this time and after all this effort. The frustration, the sadness, the rejections, the joy, all these experiences, I had over these past weeks and months of searching, it had now come to fruition. I had found our sister and not only that, her response was so positive and warm.
My older brother did all the talking on the phone; I was too emotional to speak. Kathleen’s first response was that we were having some sort of a joke with her. But as my brother went on to describe in depth, the many details and aspects of her life that I had pieced together over these past months, she soon realised the enormity of what was being said, and the fact that, our family was now united at last. That first conversation was a wonderful and moving experience. It did not simply end there, we exchanged addresses etc. Within days we had written to one another, sharing the stories of our lives and our experiences. We also gave Kathleen as much information we could concerning her/our mother, we sent her photographs, also information on her extended family.
It was not long before my cousin who had told us about Kathleen, with her son Paul, made their way down from Scotland, to visit Kathleen and her husband Jack in Norfolk. She also brought many pictures etc., of our Mum for Kathleen. I have since written many letters to my sister and her husband (her husband has since sadly passed away). I have also written to their son Thomas, who is very positive and happy for us, and his mother.
The most memorable moment was when we met. We three brothers pooled our resources and paid for our sister and her husband to come and visit us all, out here in Australia. My sister at first had reservations, as she is a very proud person, but I think the temptation was just too much for her, and her son Tom, also offered to help - but this was refused, as it was something we three brothers felt we owed our sister. However, Tom did organise and paid for their Travel Insurance, and gave them some extra spending money for their trip. Kathleen and Jack came down to Australia for seven weeks. We met them at the airport. I could not believe my eyes, here was our sister, after all these years. My emotions and thoughts overwhelmed me, the thought of what happened to her, all those years ago - having been given up, abandoned as a baby, left with no real identity, no knowledge of her mother, father, or family - raised in an orphanage. The pain, suffering and loneliness she had experienced and had gone through, for all those years. The thoughts were “unthinkable”, almost impossible to contemplate and/or imagine? I promised myself, I would try as best as I could, to make up for lost time. I would also try and provide her with as much information and knowledge etc., I had, regarding our mother and her family, photographs, letters, anything I could lay my hands on, which I did.
Kathleen was also totally overcome with joy and emotion, after all these years. Many of them spent trying to block the memories of the pain, and loneliness she suffered, during her early childhood years; many of her memories of the home were not good. The first few days were spent just talking and catching up with each other, sharing our childhood experiences and our lives, and basically getting to know one another - this was again extremely happy, but a very emotional period. She is a very kind, loving and caring person. One of the first things she wanted to do, was to visit our mother's grave. She wanted to take some flowers and pay her respects. She especially wanted the opportunity to say a few prayers, at her mother's grave and tell her, she held no bitterness or malice towards her. She knew full well herself as a mother, how difficult it would have been to give her up as a baby, and how difficult it would have been to go through her life with that burden of guilt. Living with knowledge, the thought, and the memory, of what she had done, and the fact of never knowing where or how her child was? I know my mother well, and I know she carried this huge burden of guilt and concern her entire life. She was never at peace with herself, and suffered from severe depression all her life, and she was never at rest through out her entire life – sad but true.
Kathleen and her husband fitted very well into the family. It was as though we had known one another for years and had been brought up together. She even looked like our mother and had many of her traits - being punctual, very tidy, always organised, very house proud, very conscious of her clothes, the type of clothes she wore, colour matches etc. She was also interested in tapestry; in fact we gave Kathleen an unfinished tapestry which mum was working on, just prior to her death, which Kathleen wants to finish.
We all spent Christmas together as a family at my brother’s house up at Port Macquarie. We then took them to South Australia and Victoria to meet one of her Aunt’s and all her cousins here in Australia. I believe that my sister is now a “new person” with a “real identity”. She is now an integral part of our family and our extended family, which is a wonderful thing for her and us.
I have put this experience down on paper as it may help or assist others out there, who through no fault of their own, have experienced or been through similar experiences in their lives, and it may in some way go towards helping others in their search, it might also encourage others to start or continue their search for lost relatives or lost loved ones, lost through similar or unexplained circumstances? I would like to sincerely thank, all those many people through out the world, who helped me along the way. I hope my story shows what can be achieved through love, dedication, and perseverance.
Stanley Garrett Hogan.
This story is written in dedication to my loving sister and in memory of our dear mother, who suffered greatly and who carried this huge burden of guilt, her entire life, and finally only achieved true “peace of mind” through death, may she now, truly rest in peace!
PS Our sister sadly passed away on the 6th November 2010, may she also now rest in peace with her mother.
About 2/3 through your narrative, Stanley. A good read! Why not post this as a blog in your profile, interspersing some photos and perhaps maps for visual interest. Then we can promote the narrative to not only fellow members but to all visitors to WG and via our social media. Ger
I'd love to know the reference source for the fact that 42% of the British army in the 1840s were Irish?
The source for the percentage of Irish in the British army is an article by E.M. Spiers entitled "Army organisation and society in the nineteenth century" that is contained in the book, "A Military History of Ireland" edited by Thomas Bartlett and Keith Jeffery, published by Cambridge University Press, 1996. The figures themselves, are to be found on page 337. Much of this book is available for free on Google Books, but unfortunately p.337 is one of the pages which is omitted.
I think I said that, "in the mid-1800s 42% of the British army was Irish", but I should have been more specific - the year was 1830 and the percentage was 42.2%
Spiers' footnotes state that he takes the percentage figures from: "Return of the Number of English, Scotch and Irish Non-Commissioned Officers and Privates in the British Army, in each of the years on the 1st January from 1830 and 1840", House of Commons Papers 1841 (307), xiiv; and "General Army Returns of the British Army...," p.65 [C. 3,083], House of Commons Papers 1881, lviii, 56 and p.94 [C.9,426], House of Commons Papers 1899, liii, 428.