It’s funny what becomes the root cause of a post of mine. Sometimes it’s a new piece of research that solves an old mystery, maybe a new record set becomes available shedding new light on a family – or sometimes it can be something a bit more unexpected.
For example, this one. A few days into the New Year my mum messaged me saying that my father (who has never really been hugely interested in the family history) had asked about Grampy Eddie’s first wife and did I know anything about her. Of course I did, I swiftly replied, and sent her what I knew. Only, it turned out that what I knew wasn’t exactly the truth …
We’ve met Grampy Eddie before. We’ve heard about how he married Eliza Dowse in 1930, and how she died in 1946. Only … he didn’t, exactly.
I’m being dramatic. He did marry Eliza Dowse. However, when I went to check on her birth/baptism records it turns out that she seemingly was never born. I had her date of birth from her death entry so it seemed a little strange, even accounting for mangled spellings of Dowse or there being an issue with the year given for her birth (she wouldn’t be the first person in my researches who got creative with their age).
I hadn’t ordered their marriage certificate (and, to be fair, all of this could’ve been avoided if I had done so …) but I am not one to be beaten so easily. With a little bit of finessing the search parameters over at the joy that is FreeBMD I found a likely first marriage for her: Eliza Askey married George Charles Dowse in Collingbourne Kingston in June 1916.
For this to be Eddie’s first wife, two things had to happen: George had to die (given his occupation at such a perilous time, this seemed plausible) and Eliza had to have been born in 1890/1891 (which matches the age given on the certificate). A simple search showed a death and associated burial for a George Charles Dowse of Aughton (a small hamlet close to Collingbourne Kingston), but not until the second quarter of 1930. If this was Eliza’s first husband then she didn’t leave it too long to marry Eddie later that year.
The baptism of Eliza (my father remembers her being referred to as “Bette”, so I suspect it may be an Eliza/Elizabeth situation) was trickier to track down. The only Eliza Askey born anywhere near the right time was from all the way up in Stafford – over 120 miles away. Could this be her? An online baptism gave the correct date of birth, and the same father’s name as on the marriage certificate. Looking more closely into the father gave a likely death in Stafford in 1910 – consistent with the deceased notation on the marriage certificate.
In 1911 Eliza is living with her brother and widowed mother in the household of her married sister – and although they have moved south, they are in Northampton – still around 90 miles away. There are no other Askey events in the area and there was no known connection with Wiltshire in the family. Sadly, the reason or reasons behind why she had moved to a small village in Wiltshire by 1916 to go into service remain a mystery.
Eliza[beth] died in Collingbourne Kingston on 16 April 1946 due to myocardial degeneration and chronic interstitial nephritis.
What of Eliza’s first husband, George Charles Dowse? As we have already seen, he died in 1930. However, travelling back to October 1910, George signed up with the Coldstream Guards. In 1911, he is recorded as a Private in the Coldstream Guards, residing at the Guards Depot in Caterham.
The Guards Depot site has a wonderful history of the Guards Depot Caterham, and Surrey in the Great War has more wonderful photos.
By the time of his marriage in 1916, he is still a Private based in Caterham, yet his discharge certificate, dated 16 February 1919 states that he has reached the rank of Lance Corporal and was serving in the Machine Gun Regiment. His discharge was due to pulmonary tuberculosis. However, in 1920 he was awarded the Silver War badge as he was honourably discharged, and we can tell that he was initially part of the 1st Regiment of Life Guards. In 1918, the regiment was converted to the 1st Battalion, Guards Machine Gun Regiment.
Using that information, I was able to find the regiment’s likely footsteps during WWI as part of the British Expeditionary Force. I’m not going to repeat them here, but the Long, Long Trail site has a wonderful summary of their actions, including how George survived an air raid at the base of Étaples-sur-Mer which killed at least 42 and wounded 83 others.
I’d still like to get my hands on his service record if it still exists and find out his exact movements during WWI, but to go from the son of a roadman to a member of the Household Cavalry isn’t too shabby a rise.
Wow, you never know where research will take you. Very interesting article, Dominic! Thank you for posting and good luck finding George’s service records!
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Ha – thank you! And yes, you never know what rabbit holes you’re going to go down or what you’re going to find!
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