This is our story of the life of William Arthur FRASER.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Early days

My paternal grandfather William Arthur Fraser is almost a mystery despite years of relentless research, especially by my cousin Paulette Parkes nee Kerr who began a swathe of correspondence from the 1980s until her untimely death in 2008 trying to uncover information on the flimiest of clues.

The first official record found is of his employment at the Sydney City Council on 25th September 1911, then made a leading hand as a linesman in March 1912 and leaving after an accident on 2nd December 1912. He is living in Bourke Rd Waverley.

The next written record is to join the AIF on 28th December 1915 in Brisbane Queensland. Information he provides on his enlistment paper has his birth date on 18th October 1883 and his place of birth Cliffe Kent England.  It also states he has had previous service in the Fourth West Kent Regiment and left due to expiration of service. All records of this time were destroyed in a fire. There is a discrepancy to the date of birth that the family celebrated his birthday on 19th May with the year of birth 1885.

The next of kin is listed as Nellie –Jane Florence Smith, my Grandma, who lived in Bundaberg, Queensland with her family- whom he appears to be familiar with, as shown in later correspondence. As he lists his occupation as a labourer, he was probably in the area cane cutting.

The marriage certificate, provides a little more information from him stating his parents as Mary Jane McCallum and Angus Cameron Fraser, a cement works manager. Further research, visits and correspondence by Paulette has revealed Blue Circle  still operate a cement works in Cliffe Kent but no records have been kept. Many of the men who worked here had come from appalling conditions labouring on railway construction. Employment here meant conditions were not much better with many reported deaths in local publications. All too frequently alchohol meant a miserable domestic life for the children.  The names given of his parents give a clue as to Scottish heritage

From here all we have is those “family stories”. Of interest is that he was known as Jack, so with the added record of 3 vaccination marks on one arm and two on the other there is a possibility of a connection to the navy. My aunt recalls sighting a boxing medal dated 1905 ,Hobart. Research has shown that vessels from the fleet were in Hobart in 1905 and the Mercury published results of a Boxing match  of various weight divisions held between sailors and townspeople. No Fraser.

Other tales I have discounted as being rather fanciful, and Paulette has followed through to their consequent demise, with her usual tenacity. Searching through birth, marriage and death records was a physical and manual task that provided no results, as did each census as they became available. With the advent of digital records I was sure I was going to have a Eureka moment.  I haven’t given up hope even though I feel I have tried every combination. His later writings show an educated man with neat handwriting and good grammar. So the possibility of being institutionalised on the death of his father, may just not have come to light yet. The fact he insisted on his first son being named John Murray has even led us to research those names in varying forms.

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