MIS­TAKEN IDEN­TITY

Your Family History - - Letters -

Re­search­ing an an­ces­tor with a com­mon name like ‘Chris Smith’ can be a bit of a night­mare. How­ever, hav­ing col­lected bits of data about him over 20 years, I felt I knew this great-grand­fa­ther I’d never met pretty well. It was well-known in the fam­ily, and con­firmed pre­vi­ously in my re­search, that ‘our’ Christo­pher Smith had met his un­timely end af­ter be­ing knocked down by a mo­tor­bike in 1934, so I was quite as­ton­ished to see this news­pa­per clip­ping from the time. I’d known for a long time that great-grand­fa­ther’s mil­i­tary ca­reer in WW1 was quite a mod­est one. It amounted to six months of duty, un­load­ing ships in a French port, then in­valided out af­ter a large bale of bay fell on him – noble, but not heroic in my mind! So why the grand mil­i­tary fu­neral pa­rade? You guessed it – there was another Chris Smith liv­ing a few streets away in the same vil­lage, no re­la­tion, who worked at the same col­liery. I re­searched his WW1 ser­vice, and sure enough, he served very bravely with 5th DLI through­out the con­flict, and spent a con­sid­er­able pe­riod of time on the front­line. So in real life, hav­ing a com­mon name can some­times work well for you in the most un­ex­pected of ways. Now, when I think about the tragic way my great-grand­fa­ther died, I also smile a lit­tle to think about the grand send-off ‘he’ re­ceived! KEVIN SCAL­LON, VIA EMAIL That’s a lovely story, Kevin, but as you’ve found, it also shows how im­por­tant it is to check and dou­blecheck facts, just in case your an­ces­tor had a ‘twin’…!

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