I'm on a mission these days, to see if we - my sister, brother and I - can solve some of our family's mysteries. If you read my previous post, you know we are close to finding out what boarding school my mother was at when she was evacuated from Liverpool, England to Beaumaris, Wales at the start of WWII. But we have an even bigger mystery that we have been trying to solve for far longer: What ever happened to Arthur Simm?
Arthur was my mother's father. He and my grandmother emigrated to the U.S. around 1920 and lived for a while in Nutley, New Jersey. Arthur was a ship's steward, and through the Ellis Island website, we have seen documentation of his crossings between the U.K and the U.S. He was listed as a duty officer on the Aquitania and the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria during 1921 and 1922.
Around 1933, when my mother was eight, Arthur left for good. Grandma said he was a "rake" and unreliable. She implied that he liked the ladies and to party. But we don't know if he really was a louse, or if that was just Grandma's story, because Grandma had a lot of stories. If you read my "G" post during the A to Z challenge, you'll know that my grandmother, Gertrude Waghorn (yes, really, Waghorn) was a difficult woman. It's possible Arthur couldn't put up with her.
What we do know is that Mom never saw or heard from her father again. She always wondered if he just didn't love her, just didn't care enough to try to see her. But we have always suspected that if he had tried, Grandma would have run him off. If she thought he wanted to see Mom, Grandma would have punished him by not letting him, she was definitely like that. And in those days, you could get away with it.
I remember that Grandma told us that Arthur had died in an earthquake in San Francisco. But we are pretty sure that was just a story she told so they could eventually declare him dead. Later, she said he died while fishing in a river, and they were a few other stories too. Mom remembers her Uncle Fred (Grandma's brother), saying that Arthur's best friend had seen him alive. The trouble with that generation was that they were big on keeping up appearances, and they would go to great lengths to do so. They could really keep a secret, and they were good at making up cover stories.
From time to time we've tried to solve this mystery. My sister has looked on Ancestry.com, and you wouldn't believe how many Arthur Simms there were/are! We have so little to go on - he was born in 1900 in or near Liverpool. A age 21, he was 5'10" and weighed about 150, according to the ship manifests. No social security number, no known addresses.
For all we know, Arthur Simm did die in an earthquake in San Francisco. Or, maybe he remarried and had a whole other family. We just don't know. But since I am having good luck on this whole evacuation to Wales thing, we are feeling encouraged that we might somehow solve this mystery too. I think that our best bet is track down Simm family members in England. Enough time has passed, and Arthur is certainly dead now - one way or the other - and so there's no need to keep the secrets anymore. The worry though, is that by now, the secrets have all been lost.
I'm wondering if any of you have ideas about how we might proceed with this kind of search - other resources, websites, organizations. Better yet, do you know any people named Simm? Or, better still, do YOU know what happened to Arthur Simm? That would make it so easy!