In between work and sleep, I’ve been researching my ancestral family tree, focussed on the Simkin (father), Marshall (mother) families primarily, largely in Australia, South Africa, England, Canada and China. This is not a typical family tree (like most others), but rather, a family fact album, containing copies of records, photos (both people and time and place), and in some cases, extensive and interesting individual histories from:
- immigration (Henry Simkin was the first our our Simkin’s to leave England and sail for Australia in the late 1800’s);
- long line of military service (Henry Walter Simkin faught at Passiondale in WWI (see below), his son Roy Simkin also faught in WWI, gassed by mustard gas & shot, and his son Max Simkin started Army Aviation in Australia and faught in WWII, Korea & Vietnam, and his wife, a WRAF Flying Officer who served in Malaya and met my father while teaching him how to parachute, and their son, my brother Tim Simkin was the Australian Military Adviser to the UN);
- business (in the 1700/1800’s our family were largely Silvermiths in Birmingham, Roy Simkin heading Dunlop Rubber in Australia);
- or the arts (James Simkin was a artist painter in London in 1870’s, and myself, a Broadway Producer)
So far, I’ve uncovered over 1,000 names in our family site dating back to 1711 — my work is in progress, researching various census, birth & marriage & death records, newspapers, libraries and contains additional research from family members.
I’m hopeful that 50 and 100 years from now our descendants will appreciate my aim to preserve family history before it’s lost forever, for future generations.
In researching my great grandfather, Henry Walter Simkin, I came upon a treasure trove of over 75 documents from the National Archives of Australia and other sources, and thought you may enjoy a quick scroll in chronological order of JUST the highlights….
Henry Walter Simkin enlisted in the Australia Imperial Forces (Australian Army) in 1915 – one week AFTER his son (my grandfather) enlisted.
Henry Walter Simkin RE-ENLISTED in 1916…
He was sent to France, and went AWOL (absent without leave) a couple of times:
THEN charged on May 9, 1918 he was found Guilty of DESERTION, and charged with 3 years of Penal Servitude…
BUT, and it’s a BIG BUT….
His wife is told he’s dead from the Battle of Passchendaele! (one of the worst battles in modern history)
She is granted a widow’s pension (even the army thinks he is dead)…
THEN, a couple of weeks later, he is found alive, and the widows pension is cancelled…
His full service records:
I note from historial records and dates, he deserted a single week after the Battle of Passchendaele — I assume there were traumatic and mental health issues with this desertion since the battle was unbelievably traumatic and deadly.
On June 12, 1918, his sentence was suspended.
On August 9, 1918, he was returned to Australia.
THEN upon the poor guys return from France, he likely becomes an alcoholic:
Hi wife changes her address and tried to hide from him….
…and he received the British War Medal and Victory Medals following the war….
His wife left him (and re-married).
I also uncovered in archives from UK registries that the tiny building where I was born in, located in the village of Chalfont St. Giles, in England called “The Stone”, still maintains all original interior paneling and ceiling beams from the original house built in early 1601. Oliver Cromwell stayed in The Stone after the skirmish at Aylesbury in mid 1600’s. It was built as the home in the 17th century of John Ratcliffe (1549 – Dec 1609) who was captain of the ‘Discovery’, one of three ships that sailed from England on 19 December 1606 to Virginia to found a colony (now known as the USA), arriving 26 April 1607. John Ratcliffe later became the second president of the colony which later became Jamestown. John Ratcliffe was portrayed in Disney’s Pocahontas as Governor Ratcliffe, a greedy and ruthlessly ambitious man who was the main antagonist.