In many ways I am the family archaeologist, piecing together the remnants of my ancestors’ lives and trying to fill in the gaps to complete the picture. Oftentimes the answers are a matter of conjecture and other times it comes down to elimination.
Last week I discovered two letters in the old mustard box which perhaps has housed them for over 100 years in the solitude of Great Grandfather’s army trunk alongside his riding whip, spurs, packs of military bandages, bridle hardware and field notebooks from World War I. Yes, I am blessed with the treasure trove of items that have been silently waiting to be found all these years.
Each time I file through these items looking for information appertaining to a certain time in my Great Grandparents’ lives, the relevant material always seems to materialize at the most opportune time. My current research has taken me to Roma where William and Cis began their married life; she became a housewife and he took up a post as Second Class Drill Instructor with the Queensland Mounted Infantry.
I already knew that William was a Drill Instructor as the title had been bandied around by various family members for years. However, I had little concept of what the job entailed. I imagine he taught soldiers how to ride a horse. Thanks to his detailed paperwork, books and manuals that he kept I have been able to gain a much greater understanding of what his career entailed.
They say that you can gauge much about a person’s personality and character by the items they kept and I have known for many years how important my Great Grandfather’s military career was to him. Even when he died in 1955, the items he had stored behind the old cupboard doors were 40 years old and more. I guess that is one of the reasons why it is important to me, knowing that he would appreciate that his story is being written for posterity.
Drawing your attention back to the two letters I found, one is an application for position of Drill Instructor dated January 1901 and the other is dated February 1901 advising him to take the next steamer to Gatton in order to take his new post. The former is somewhat confusing as it is signed (or it seems to be) J. Lyons. William’s brother was John and he was also a veteran of the Boer War. However, I am inclined to think it refers to William rather than John, as the latter went to the Boer War in 1902 but he had no prior military history. Whereas the experience outlined in the letter matches William’s work life.
Also, the handwriting is not that of William Lyons so I am assuming it is a handwritten copy of an original letter, or perhaps someone has written a guide for William to follow, when applying for the position. I am also inclined to think this because of the scrappiness of the letter, with the cross-outs and handwritten additions. Click on the link below and take a look for yourself. Whatever the case, I will never know for sure.
Researching family history is a road blotted with holes and confusing signs that could easily see you taking the wrong turn. However many wrong turns I take and potholes I hit, my search will never stop until I have found the answers; and if I can’t find the answers now, I know that I might sometime in the future.