Writeryogini

Writeryogini

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Family Mysteries

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!

14 comments:

  1. OK, you've got my attention. Best wishes on solving this mystery. Be sure to keep your followers posted. I went back and read your G post. Wow. Now THIS is a story.

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  2. This sounds like a major undertaking! What a mystery, and I have no idea where to start but I know there are genealogy researchers who can uncover all kinds of hidden information. My mom had an aunt who disappeared back at that time. She got on a train, never arrived, and no one ever found out what happened.

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  4. Trust me Melissa - there is a story here!!!

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  5. It took me a long time to see that there were stories in my own family - I thought only other people had stories! KarenG, your story is definitely better...get on a train, never get there...Wow - I think you should write the story of what could have happened. That's what I'll be doing with Mom's story - writing what could have been.

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  6. I hope you manage to uncover the answers to this mystery. Aren't families fascinating. We've been trying to trace some missing links in our family history but it's not easy, is it. Good luck.

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  7. I wish I could be of help, you have such an interesting mystery on your hand, good luck with it all, Melissa Ann :-)

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  8. You're so accurate about that generation: keeping up appearances, keeping secrets, cover stories. Sounds EXACTLY like my family -- and my grandfather was born in 1900 also! Have you thought about contacting the city of S.Francisco? Perhaps they have records of those who died, since it was such a major event. I'm sure many families wanted to know if their members in Cal. had died then. I've also heard that the Mormon church has by far the best data base for genealogy searches. It's part of their theology. I'm fascinated also that your grandmother seems to be the link b/t your two stories: driving off her dead-beat husband and making sure he stays gone, and then sending off your mom overseas(!) -- was she perhaps trying hard to keep your mom away from him? I wonder what she did during those years your mom was in England.

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  9. M.K. - good thinking about San Francisco and the Mormons - I will definitely pursue those. When Arthur left and Grandma sent Mom to England, it was so that Grandma could work as a governess. She had to live in other people's homes to do that, so it was hard to have a kid. That's the main reason she sent Mom to England. I understand now that she was trying to do her best and was probably scared, but she was still a piece of work and my mother never really felt loved by her, I don't think.

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  10. Wow...we all love mysteries unless it is our own to solve!

    Best of luck!

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  11. How fascinating! I don't have any ideas or suggestions, but I wish you luck. This sounds so interesting, I hope you are able to solve the mystery.

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  12. I love mysteries! One of my uncles disappeared and the story was a strange man spirited him away to join the circus. Definitely a story there, and in yours, too.

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  13. Wow! A mystery indeed. Have you tried ancestry.com or something? Maybe they have clues. Good luck, definitely! I'm looking forward to reading your future post on how you managed to solve this mystery.
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  14. Thanks everyone, for your supportive comments. I really don't know what is possible, given how little we know. But I think if we can track down some Simms in England, they might shed some light one way or the other. We'll see!

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