Thomas Purcell and the Sinking of the Llandovery Castle

Victory Bonds (Llandovery Castle)
This victory bond poster, published in English and French, depicts the sinking and uses it to reinforce support in Canada for the war effort and to promote the sale of victory bonds.

Thomas James Purcell, was born in Liverpool on the 7th May 1886, the Son of Rose Anne Purcell.  Rose Anne married William Mitchell three years later in 1889 and the 1891 census finds Thomas living with his Mother, William, step brother William James and step sister Elizabeth.  Two more step sisters would join the family Esther and Margaret.

By 1901, the 14 year old  Thomas was working as a Railway Carter, probably in Docks near the family home at 1 Mark Street, Everton.   Thomas seems to have a change of career, as when he marries Ada Anne Taubman in February 1911,  he is listed as a “Trimmer”,  a trimmer was one of the heavy and dirty jobs aboard a steam ship,  and involved managing the coal stores aboard ship to ensure the weight remained evenly distributed across the ship to prevent listing and to move coal down to the stokers to feed the boilers.

The 1911 Census finds Thomas among the large crew of the S.S Tunisian, a passenger liner sailing between Liverpool and Canada, in port in the Kirkdale area,  while Ada is living on her own at 6 Slade Street.  It’s not long though before Thomas and Anne have a daughter Rose Anne (June 1912), a son William James (December 1913) who sadly dies before his first birthday and Esther who was born on April fools day 1916.

Thomas is still working on the ships as a trimmer and June of 1918 finds him working on the HMHS Llandovery Castle.  The “Llandovery Castle” was built in 1914 as a passenger liner and sailed between England and East Africa,  but was requisitioned for service as a hospital ship for the Canadian Army Medical Corps in 1916.

Hospital Ships should have been protected from attack under international law and German standing orders,  but during the First World War many were torpedoed and some sunk by mines.  The Llandovery Castle had already had several lucky escapes, but when on June 27th 1918 she encountered SM U-86, her luck ran out.  Torpedoed and confirmed sinking the crew and medical personnel abandoned ship in to the life boats, but the captain of the U-86Helmut Brümmer-Patzig, sought to destroy the evidence of torpedoing the ship. When the crew took to the lifeboats, U-86, surfaced, ran down all the lifeboats and machine-gunned the survivors remaining in the water and on the lifeboats. Only 24 people in one remaining lifeboat survived to tell the tale.  The loses included 16 nursing sisters one of whom, Margaret Marjory (Pearl) Fraser from Nova Scotia was the daughter of Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Duncan Cameron Fraser), this meant there was a huge public outcry especially in Canada and the sinking was the subject of the Victory Bond poster seen here.

Tower Hill Memorial
To the glory of God and to the honour
of twelve thousand of the merchant navy and fishing fleets
who have no grave but the sea

Thomas was not lucky enough to be one of the 24 people rescued and is listed among the 234 people lost that day.  He is commemorated on the “Tower Hill Memorial” along with 35766 other merchant seamen killed in both wars who have no known grave. As such he is listed on the Commonwealth War Graves site.

After the war, in 1921, the captain of U-86,Lieutenant Helmut Patzig , and two of his lieutenants, Ludwig Dithmar and John Boldt, were arraigned for trial in Germany on war crimes. The case became famous as one of the “Leipzig trials“. Patzig left the country and avoided extradition; and though Dithmar and Boldt were convicted and sentenced to four years in prison, they both escaped. At the Court of Appeal, both lieutenants were acquitted on the grounds that the captain was solely responsible.

Mean while Ada is at home at 6 Slade Street off the Vauxhall Road,  with two small girls to support and no income.  So she has to start the long slow process of claiming compensation from the Government and the shipping company. . .  to be continued.

For more details of the Sinking of the Llandovery Castle please see Wikipedia

Word full Wednesday

Just a bit of fun, inspired by Jill Ball’s new Geneadictionary. Click on the Solution link at the bottom, if you get stuck. By the way you should be able to print the page if you want to complete the puzzle. If you try it, please leave me a comment to let me know how you got on.

G C R D N O I T A R G I M E S D Y N 
R T E S Y M N S N R C G I S K G H O 
A C S R D I U O A O C H E M O H I I 
N I E B T S T N I S I N U L G C S T 
D R A B N I D P E T E T A R O Z T A 
F T R E N M F C A V A E A U C S O C 
A S C O O E R I I T N T N P V H R I 
T I H T T U W T C E I T I Y U A Y D 
H D H A O F N Y G A Y E G C Y C M E 
E E T S P E R S I S T E N C E A C D 
R S S E V I H C R A I E Z C R J C O 
E B B N R E G I S T R A R R E O G P 
I I I F D N A B S U H E I K U H N P 
B U R I A L H R H R T A C N K T I A 
C L I B R A R Y H T G O T O F A L R 
C K L N I S U O C E R R H Y R E B I 
T O J M Y X W S S T Y I H X V D I S 
H I E D P Z Q W I F E S B Z U R S H 

Created with Discovery Wordsearch

National Family History Month 2014 Geneameme

National Family History Month 2014 Geneameme


Although not in Australia,  after my visit to Australia in February,  I now have a few Australian “mates” who are currently having “National Family History Month”,  a couple of them Jill and Pauline have posted Geneameme posts for the event and it seemed a shame not to join in so here are my responses to the challenge.


  1. What are you doing for NFHM?
    • Well I attended Jill Ball’s hangout event, revamped my Family History website and researched 3 of the people in my tree who died in WW1.
  2. What do you hope to learn in NFHM?
    • I am always learning something,  but I concentrating on getting better at researching WW1,  referencing as many online sources as I can.
  3. Do you research at a family or local history library?
    • Sometimes,  although it’s tricky as I still work full time,  so they tend to be shut when I am not working.
  4. Do you do all your research online?
  5. What’s your favourite place to store your family tree?
  6. If offline, which genealogy program do you use? (do tell us its strengths/weaknesses if you like)
    • Family Historian,  for me it’s real strengths are it’s flexibility and stability, and the fact it stores all it’s data direct in Gedcom format, so it’s easily portable and of course it has a great user group ( which I am proud to have set up over 10 years ago.
  7. How do you preserve your family stories for future generations?
    • With the re-launch of this site I hope to write up more of our family stories and bring some of the characters in my family tree to life
  8. Have you any special research projects on the go?
    • Only as mentioned above the research into WW1
  9. What is your favourite family history research activity?
    • Building narratives and fleshing out the facts from Census and other sources, to build pictures of our families.
  10. What is your favourite family history research place/library etc?
  11. What is your favourite website for genealogy research?
  12. Are you part of a Facebook genealogy group? If so which one?
    • No I don’t use Facebook,  I don’t like the Ts & Cs.
  13. Do you use webinars or podcasts for genealogy? Any tips?
  14. Do you use social media? eg Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn
    • I use Google+ and occasionally Twitter,  I do have a linked in profile,  but that is mainly for my day job.
  15. What genealogy topic/class have you learnt the most from this year at a webinar/conference/seminar?
    • That’s easy the Unlock The Past Cruise I went on in February,  great lectures and chatting to like minded people for over a week was wonderful.  
  16. Do you have a favourite research strategy to knock down your brick walls?
    • I hadn’t got a name for my strategy,  but Jill has named it “PIP” so that’s my favourite one, see below.
  17. Have you used DNA testing for your genealogy?
    • No
  18. Have you made cousin connections through your DNA tests?
    • No
  19. Do you have a wish list of topics for NFHM 2015?
    • No,  but I have booked another Unlock the Past Cruise,  so I shall be learning in July 2015.
  20. What do you most love about your family history research?
    • Learning, Exploring and the chance to remembe
GeneAus said on her post for National Family History Month 2014 Geneameme 
The PIP Process. Persistence, Inventiveness and Patience. Persistence – keep at it, try, try and try again. Inventiveness – harness your creative powers, think laterally to find your way around a problem. Patience – just like Snow White believed that “one day my prince will come” believe that some day you will find your answer, it make take two, ten or twenty years to find that magic sledgehammer. Hey – I just invented the PIP process – my bit of creativity for National Family History Month.

Dead Man’s Pennies

A Dead Man's Penny
Dead man’s pennies or more accurately memorial plaques were issued to the families of those killed in world war 1.

“I once had a sweetheart, but now I have none,
Since he went for a solider to carry a gun,
What can you buy with dead man’s pennies?”

Robb Johnson, from the Gentle Men Song Suite


While looking through the lists of events at our local theatre I saw an advert for a concert called “Gentle Men” which will be on in November, I was intrigued by the concept, as it was a song cycle of Robb Johnson’s Grandfathers’ experience of the Great War.

A bit of googling found a book and cd, plus a You Tube video, the book and CD arrived last week and I can highly recommend both. I can only echo the review from the Guardian newspaper:

‘with vocals by Johnson, Roy Bailey and Barb Jungr, and the often upbeat, jaunty melodies are inspired by music hall, hymns or marching songs, and set to variously bleak, angry and poignant lyrics. A folk classic.’

Robin Denselow The Guardian ****

It really needs to be listened to,  it’s message is clear,  and a songs like “Dead Man’s Penny” and “An empty chair” seems to echo the tragic loss of life.  If you have the chance to also get the book,  it’s well worth having as it extends the story from the songs and contains many photographs and additional information.  For more information check out the Gentle Men Site



Latin Roman Catholic Records

Latin Roman Catholic Records

Name: Gulielmus Albertus Taubman Birth Date:16 Dec 1860 Baptism Date:	18 Sep 1875 Parish:	St Francis Xavier's (Francisci Xavarii), Lancashire, England Father's Name:	Edwardi Taubman Mother's name:	Annae Clegg
Name: Gulielmus Albertus Taubman
Birth Date: 16 Dec 1860
Baptism Date: 18 Sep 1875
Parish: St Francis Xavier’s (Francisci Xavarii), Lancashire, England
Father’s Name: Edwardi Taubman
Mother’s name: Annae Clegg

Stephen’s Great Grandfather is an elusive soul, so when I decided to check Ancestry for some records in the Liverpool Parish, I was not surprised to have no match for William Albert Taubman. However a search for simply Taubman returned 7 records.

JacobusTaubman 26 Jan 1855 11 Nov 1876 St Francis Xavier’s (Francisci Xavarii) EdvardiTaubman,
Catharina Clegg
Gulielmus AlbertusTaubman 16 Dec 1860 18 Sep 1875 St Francis Xavier’s (Francisci Xavarii) EdwardiTaubman,
Annae Clegg
JosephusTaubman 13 Sep 1868 18 Sep 1875 St Francis Xavier’s (Francisci Xavarii) EdwardiTaubman,
Annae Clegg
Joannes EdwardisTaubman 10 Sep 1877 16 Sep 1877 St Francis Xavier’s (Francisci Xavarii) Jacobus ThomasTaubman,
Maria Warnick
Maria HildaTaubman 24 Jul 1879 27 Jul 1879 St Francis Xavier’s (Francisci Xavarii) Jacobi Taubman,
Maria Wernock
Maria CatharinaTaubman 6 Mar 1881 13 Mar 1881 St Francis Xavier’s (Francisci Xavarii) Jacobi Taubman,
Mariae Warnick
JacobusTaubman 10 Mar 1900 30 Jun 1900 St Patrick Jacobi Taubman,
Annae Moore

There he is as “Gulielmus Albertus Taubman”  so a word to the wise,  some Roman Catholic priests latinised the Christian names,  and this particular one had really poor hand writing,  just take a look at the Maria Vernick spellings.

It’s also interesting to see the Latin note on the left, but I have not translated it yet.  William had already been baptised in an Anglican Church back in 1860, so it may be related to that, but it also has “Sub conditione”, which suggests the Priest knew this or just suspected it.



When Grandma worked in London

When Grandma worked in London

Mollie and Stella in London in the 1920's
Mollie with her friend Stella

My family rarely travelled in the past,  but I knew my Grandmother Mullins (Mary Margaret Bowditch, known as Mollie)  worked in London in the 1920’s having been trained by her Grandmother and then loaded on a train to head to London when she was 14.

I’d often wondered where she had worked and the other day, while looking through the Ancestry Catalogue I spotted the “London Electoral Role”,  and thought “Why not?”  and as luck would have it there was an entry for Mary Margaret Bowditch,  I was doubly lucky as she only made it as she only got the right to vote when the suffrage age for women was dropped in 1928, to match that of men at 21.
That not only gave me an address.  but also her employers, Robert Ernest and Edith Sarah Smith. In 1911 the Smiths had been living in 38 St Gabriels Rd, Blomesbury, Cricklewood, and Robert was shown as an Umbrella manufacturer, tracing him back he was the son of James Smith, an Umbrella and Walking Stick manufacturer originally born in  Bloomsbury, who in 1881 was living in a Farm house on Milkwood Farm, in Woodford Essex. Robert died in Golders Green on the 14 April 1930, in Hayes Crescent Nursing home, but his addresses were given as 31 The Ridgeway and 53 New Oxford Street, as of 2014 “James Smith & Sons” still operates from the same premises on New Oxford Street and it probably looks much as it did in 1929.  Robert left over fifteen thousand pounds in his will,  around one million pounds today.  My Father remembers Molly telling him that she worked as the housekeeper for the Family and she does appear to be the only servant resident in the house, but this of course may only be that any other live-in servants were under 21.
The 1931 Electoral role still shows Molly in Golders Green with Edith along with Kathleen Edith and Marjorie Evelyn Swinstead-Smith (most likely her daughters), but by 1932 a new housekeeper is living at 31 Ridgeway.
The Probate for Edith Sarah in 1951, sees her leaving £5227 18s 3d to Marjorie as the only named beneficiary.
James Smith and Sons Umbrellas
James Smith and Sons Umbrellas
31 Ridgeway,  Golders Green from Google Street View
31 Ridgeway, Golders Green from Google Street View

  1. “London Electoral Register 1931 Hendon, 31 The Ridgeway”.
  2. “London Electoral Register 1929 Hendon, 31 The Ridgeway”.
  3. “RG14 Piece: 7002 Schedule Number: 168 Tregarthen, 38 St Gabriels Rd, Brondesbury, Cricklewood NW Robert Ernest  Smith”.
  4. “RG11; Piece: 1734; Folio: 53; Page: 2 Woodford, Essex Robert E Smith”.
  5. “Ancestry Tree davidthorp1952 Throp 2012”.
  6. “National Probate Calendar 1930 Robert Ernest Smith”.
I am a West Country Girl

I am a West Country Girl

Janes Ancestral Map
Events involving my ancestors over the last 300 years.

When I stand up to speak at conferences or on training days,  I often open with the fact that my Ancestors come from Dorset in the south west of England.  This is not entirely true,  some come from Wiltshire and some from Devon,  but the vast majority come from the south and west of Dorset,  mostly clustered around Bridport and Dorchester.

I always feel I belong to that area, despite having been born and brought up in Somerset when my parents moved up in 1961.  I suspect that because all of their friends remained in Dorset, so childhood weekends often involved returning to Sydling St Nicolas or other of the villages whose names occur regularly in my tree, I feel tied to the place.

I recently plotted all the events of my Ancestors lives (at least the ones I know about) and with the exception of the time my Mother spent at Teacher training college and my paternal grandfather spent in the Dorset regiment,  the dots on the map show all the events going back at least 7 generations on all lines.

So when they are “Who Do You Think You Are”,  I can answer,  “I am a West Country Girl”.



Charles MOORE (1892-1915)

Charles Moore in Uniform

If you search for Charles in my family tree, you will not find him, in fact if he had lived there would be no family tree here at all. Charles Moore was born in Donyatt in Somerset in 1892, the third child and eldest son of William and Bessie Moore.

By the time my story starts William, Bessie and their 9 children are living at Elwell Farm, near Netherbury in Dorset. Charles is courting a girl called Nellie Record who lives in Rampisham around 7 miles away. Nellie Record is a pretty girl, two years younger than Charles the daughter of the local carrier Henry Record.

Charlie cycles over to see Nellie on a regular basis, often sending postcards to let her know he got home safe or to say he will be over in a day or so. The year is 1913.

August 4, 1914 Britain declares war on Germany and Austria-Hungary.

1st September 1914 Charles goes down to Dorchester and signs up to the Dorsetshire Regiment

Over the next few months he moves around the country getting his training. Sending Nellie postcards from all over the UK.

Now a member of the 5th Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment, which were attached to the 11th Northern Division, on the 1st July 1915 Charles set sail from Liverpool, bound for Alexandria, and on to Mudros, once all the troops were concentrated on the 28 July 1915, they set sail for Suvla Bay, Gallipoli landing 7 August 1915.

Charles survived the initial landing and attack between the 6th and 9th of August. Along with the rest of the division they dug in just above the beaches on which they had landed.

back of postcard

On his last postcard dated the 20th August 1915 he asked if Nellie could send him paper to write a letter, I do not suppose he ever got it. On the 9 September 1915, he was killed in action in Suvla Bay.

His brother Percy, serving with an artillery regiment continued to write to Nellie through out the war, and Nellie put all the postcards in an album. No letters were ever found, perhaps Nellie destroyed them.

In August 1918 Nellie married James Crabb, 12 years her senior. James and Nellie are my maternal grandparents.

Offsite Links

Grandad Mullins in the Dorset Regiment

My grandfather Mullins was born Albert Jack Mullins on the 25th of February 1906 in Holywell, Frome St Quinton in Dorset. The second son of Henry Charles and Susan Mullins ne Pitcher (Pilcher). Henry was a lineman on the Yeovil to Dorchester line, Whose ancestors had lived in Evershot since at least 1825. If you do not know Holywell, Frome St Quinton and Evershot are close together in the rolling hills north of Dorchester.

Jack, as he was known, grew up in Holywell before joining the army at the grand age of 17 Years 5 Months 26 Days in 1923. Although his army book shows him born in 1906. As a member of the 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment (Number 5613417).

His postings 1 were as follows

Home 31.08.23 29.12.24
India 30.12.24 17.03.26
Aden 18.03.26 28.03.27
Home 29.03.27 30.08.30

As can be seen from the dates Jack did 16 months at the regimental depot for his initial period of service before joining the second battalion in India where they had been stationed since 1919 2.


When Jack arrived in India the battalion was serving as a unit of the Viceroys Guard, which consisted of one British infantry battalion, and Indian infantry battalion and a Royal Horse Artillery battery. The battalion had been involved in the fighting around Waziristan, in what is now Pakistan, but by the time Jack arrived its duties were predominately ceremonial, a modicum of training combined with great ceremonial,King’s birthdays, heroic funerals which could have rivaled those of any Moghul Prince and a regular diet of inspections.

The Battalion spent the “cool season” in Delhi (November to February) moving out to Kailana in March or April as the weather became impossible. Single men like Jack stayed for 3 months from March to June, then returned to New Cantonments to be replaced by another party for the next three months.

Kailana is north of Delhi and 7,500 feet above sea level. One officer described it as not unlike the Scottish Highlands wild rhododendrons instead of rowans and once the monsoons started ‘Dark Indian oaks, pines, cedars, wreathed in creepers festooned with roses . . . the ground beneath displaying brambles, violets, ox eye daisies, buttercups, dahlias in a riot of colour’. And, fifty miles away, but looking in the diamond sharp air as if it could be reached in an afternoon’s stroll, the 27,000 feet high peak of Nanda Devi ‘the blessed goddess’ — believed by many travellers to be the most beautiful mountain in the world.


steamer point baracks adenJacks Record Book shows him transferring from India to Aden in March of 1926, which is somewhat strange as the Battalion would appear to have been in Aden since at least June of 1925.

Most travel books mention that the town stands in an extinct volcano surrounded by arid rocks and with an average annual temperature of 86 o c. The heat is damp and steamy. Of the two main centres of troop concentration, Crater and Steamer Point some idea of the delights offered by Aden can be discerned in the suffuse quality of its place names. Steamer Point is to be preferred as it sometimes enjoys a sea breeze. ‘Aden swarms with bugs, they are to be found everywhere’ the intelligence report from the Royal Scots goes on ‘. . . A block of buildings at Crater called “Prickly Heat Alley” provides a liquor and supper bar. The only recreations are fishing and rock climbing men who do this get lost and have to be rescued. Water difficult and strictly rationed. All drinking, cooking and dhobi water is condensed, brackish and unfit for Europeans. Special rations are issued to combat BeriBeri (no cases in the Royal Scots but the Border Regt. had some). Dengue Fever is prevalent; particularly among families Aden is a bad place for families: all who can should go on home to England.’

On a more cheerful note the report ended with the remark that Aden was only a short-stay station and that the next stop was usually Britain.


On the Battalions return to England, the regimental history has little to say other than to state that the battalions health was poor. Jack once told his son Alan that return across the Bay of Biscay was horrendous and once you got to a toilet you stayed with it.

Although the dates are not known at the moment Alan can remember a picture of Jack with the Regiments rugby team and that Jack was always very knowledgeable about the sport.

Jack served for 8 years in England before his discharge.

He was then in the reserves until 30/8/39. He told Alan that he wanted to re-enlist for the duration of the second world war, but his employer said that if he did his family would have to leave their tied cottage. As a protected occupation Jack had no option, but to comply.


1 :Jacks Army Record Book
2 :The Regimental history – The Bloody Eleventh : History of the Devonshire Regiment Volume III 1914-1969 WSP Aggett (Exeter 1995)