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  • neilduffin

A Sad Little Tale.

As both of my avid readers may have noticed , it has been a bit quiet here of late, basically I have been a bit side-tracked by a not strictly relevant line of enquiry.

My Mother in Law ( MiL). Jessie Gertrude Weston / Dowling comes from a large family in the tiny former South Wales mining village of Tairgwaith. She married Jack Weston having two daughters, Sandra & Linda, I am married to the younger daughter Linda. As I have long had an interest in family history, the possibility of looking into Linda's family obviously came up. Neither Linda nor Sandra ever seemed keen to look under this stone, a wish that I have always respected, despite the temptation to "take a wee peek".

Jessie was never all that keen on talking about her family background, but the absolutely taboo subject was that she had been married before she ever met Jack Weston. All that she would ever say about her first husband was that he was "such a nice man, a really, really nice man". They had married in 1941 at the height of World War 2. Her husband, Arthur George Clark was a "Stoker class 1" in the Royal Navy. By 1941 a Stoker was no longer involved in stoking coal fired furnaces, his job was more about minding the oil fired steam turbines that powered the Navy's larger ships. This still however meant that a Stoker worked far down in the bowels of the ship, with precious little chance of escape if the ship was hit or sank, as so very many did while the German U-Boats decimated British Shipping. Jessie and Arthur can only have spent a few weeks together as husband and wife before the inevitable happened, his ship was hit by a torpedo and sank, taking Arthur with it. They had no children, they hadn't had the time !

After the war Jessie lost touch with Arthur's parents and family, whether by accident or design I have no idea, she seemed to want to expunge Arthur from her memory, tearing up and burning every letter and photo that she had about him, a single photo remained along with his service medals and a letter from King George to say:--

Thanks for lending us your husband, sorry we broke him but you know, it happens. Bye

This was all that we knew about Arthur. Her was "such a nice man", was very dead and was as forgotten as Jessie could make him. Then I got an e mail.

Quite out of the blue I got this message on Ancestry asking if I was connected to Arthur George Clark, killed at sea in 1943. When I had picked myself up off the floor and replied, I was hopeful that a new branch of family history was about to open up. After a few checks and queries this lead turned out to not be the hoped for breakthrough, the guy had made a very easily made mistake and had put the wrong two Arthur Clarks together, he was not in fact related. By this point though my interest had been piqued, as had Linda's finally giving me a green light to investigate her family background. We both wanted to see if we could find any living relatives of Arthur Clark., As Jessie was his legal next of kin when he was killed his service medals etc were sent to her but she had not kept in touch with the family. We thought any living relatives might quite like to have his medals etc even after such a long time.

They proved to be a tricky family to trace. At one point I was fairly sure that I had it sorted, with a family tree that agreed with those of quite a few others who had researched others in or close to the family. There were however some inconsistencies and the more I looked the more I found, and the bigger the inconsistencies became. Finally the point was reached where this family tree was clearly just plain wrong !!

So back to the beginning and start again, starting with details from the Navy Records that I had not previously seen, gave me a firm platform to build on. From here I have so far got back to his Great Grand-parents and can hopefully go further. It would seem that Arthur had two sisters, Mabel & Violet but sadly they were of that post First World War generation where there was a huge shortage of men hence lots of unmarried women. Neither of his sisters appears to have married, though that is not definite and I will keep looking.

If anyone is remotely interested this family tree is on Ancestry, it is a public tree available to anyone and is under the name. "Clark / Weston alternative Family Tree". There is another tree just called Weston family tree but this is the initial tree before I decided that it was wrong.

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