Geoffs Genealogy Update 4 June 2014
Wednesday June 4th, 2014 | Geoff
This month I have been continuing my ongoing work, updating my records with information that I had not previously got around to dealing with. My problem always is that I’m such an avid collector of information that many of my finds don’t get added to my records, so I’m working towards rectifying that situation.
At the same time, as I work through this process, I often come across records in my data that I can now add to. Sometimes, for example, the only source I have for a person may be the Haberdashers’ Company’s Bankes Pedigree Book, or information obtained from a family member. Where I spot these situations I usually take a few minutes to revisit the research, seeking to add to the record. One such case was Charles Hewitt, the brother of my father’s mother – Emma Hewitt (1885-1971).
Charles Hewitt was born at Farington, Lancashire, and baptised at St Paul’s Farington on 1 December 1878. He was a son of Arthur Thomas Hewitt (1852-1915) and his first wife, Mary Ann Rosebottom (1843-1892). Farington lies just a few miles south of Preston, Lancashire, and Charles appears to have spent his formative years in this area. Farington as a town grew on the back of the development of the railway in the nineteenth century, and it is no surprise that in 1907 we find Charles working as a Platelayer on the railway. Platelayers were (and still are) responsible for checking the condition of railway line, and effecting maintenance and repairs as necessary, so it seems that Charles had a pretty responsible job.
On 19th December 1907 Charles married Elizabeth Ann Cuerden (b. 1880) at St Paul’s, Farington. The couple continued to live in the area, and had four children:
- Mary Ellen Hewitt (1908-1918)
- Annie Hewitt (b 1910)
- Elsie Hewitt (b. 1912)
- Sidney Hewitt (1914-1992)
In 1911 and 1912 Charles’s occupation was shown in the records as ‘Labourer’, but at some time thereafter he was enlisted into the British army, serving as a Private in the First World War in the 1st Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment.
I have not managed to trace Charles’s service record, but have known for many years that he was killed in action, dying on 19th April 1917. There is a headstone which commemmorates him in the graveyard at St Paul, Farington, and he is also listed on the war memorial at Lostock Hall, which is where his widow lived in 1917.
In my latest foray into the records I have been able to add some further information about the circumstances of Charles’s death. Firstly, using ancestry.co.uk, I found the probate record relating to his estate in the Calendar of the Principal Probate Registry:
HEWITT Charles of 24 Black-lane Lostock Hall near Preston
Lancashire died 19 April 1917 near Arras France Administra-
tion London 19 November to Elizabeth Ann Hewitt widow.
Effects £42 10s.
I had not previously known that Charles died near Arras, and was spurred on to search further. On the Find A Grave website (www.findagrave.com) I discovered that Charles’s grave is in the Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery at Arras, in Bay 6. On the Forces War Records website (www.forces-war-records.co.uk/Unit-Info/250) I found information about the history of the East Lancashire Regiment, which gave me a list of the regiment’s engagements in 1917:
The First and Third Battles of the Scarpe, The Battle of Polygon Wood, The Battle of Broodseinde, The Battle of Poelcapelle, and The First Battle of Passchendaele.
I then looked at the Wikipedia website, and found that the three Battles of the Scarpe were part of the battle of Arras, a major offensive in Northern France. The First Battle of the Scarpe took place on 9th – 14th April 1917, and the Second Battle of the Scarpe did not start until 23rd April 1917, so it seems possible that Charles was mortally wounded during the first of these actions. As he died five days after the First Battle of the Scarpe it could be that he died a few days after being wounded, maybe in a field hospital.
Maybe the next step in this research would be to try to obtain the regimental War Diary covering the time of Charles’s death, in the hope of learning more of the circumstances of his death.
Having learned more of Charles’s demise, I then looked into the lives of his four children, and managed to add quite a lot of information to our records. All this tends to emphasise the point that it really is worth re-visiting previous research to see whether we can expand our knowledge by using sources that have appeared on the internet more recently.