I am an inveterate family history researcher and I have been researching the families from whom I am descended, both Paternal and Maternal, for about 15 years now.
To date I have researched 21 different families from England, Wales and Ireland, including: Boyle,Burns,Doran,Davies,Edwards,Evans,Fitzwilliams,Germaine,Hall,Hill,Kenyon, Mannix, Mills, Ratcliff, Rice, Roberts, Robinson, Sammond, Smith (Paternal),Smith (Maternal) and Wynn.
I have used the majority of tools onsite in order to conduct my research, the surprising thing being that it is not always the most sophisticated tool which proves to be the most useful. I find the ability to print off a printer friendly version of a transcript really helpful.
I was not aware that my Gt.x 2 Smith (Paternal) grandmother was Irish, but using this facility enabled me to discover that she was born in Newry, Northern Ireland. This was something that my grandmother had neglected to tell me.
The furthest I have managed to trace any of my families for absolute certainty is to 1728, with my 6 X GGF Richard Fitzwilliams, though most of my families have been traced back to the 1700s, and I am still going strong.
My mother’s youngest brother, William Roberts, was born in 1917. My mother and William were 2 of the 6 children of Thomas Roberts and Louisa (who married under the maiden name of Boyd, but was in fact born Boyle).
Louisa sadly died in childbirth in 1923 at the age of 39. My mother, as the eldest daughter of the family at only 13, had to become the 'mother' to her brothers and sister. This was in the 1920s of course when poverty was very grinding for the poor.
As young William grew into manhood, the call of the sea took a strong hold, attracting him to join the merchant navy. In 1938 he married his wife Louisa Boggild and in 1939 their daughter Mavis was born.
Born with a spinal defect, Mavis was to require an operation to correct this, scheduled to be carried out in 1941. William doted on his daughter and as the date of the operation drew near it was obvious to him that he would be at sea when it was carried out. Knowing that his daughter needed him, he took the decision to miss his ship to be with Mavis for the duration of her operation.
Being that this was wartime, William’s actions were a very serious offence, but his love for his daughter came above all else. The operation was a complete success and William went to the authorities to confess what he had done. He was met with compassion and understanding, and was later ordered to join another ship, the SS Aguila.
Aguila was the designated commodore ship for convoy OG 071, this meant that it was to lead a convoy out to Gibraltar. OG71 left the River Mersey with her supplies for Gibraltar in August 1941 and sailed in a zigzag pattern to try to foil the German U-boat pack.
At this time, the German Luftwaffe were trying out a new tactic of spotter planes to find British convoys. One of these planes managed to spot OG71 off the west coast of Ireland and radioed its position to the U-boat pack.
Unfortunately, OG71 came under sustained attack for days on end, losing many ships and hundreds of hands. Finally, on 19th August, Aguila was hit by a torpedo fired by U-201, literally blowing her to smithereens. William and many of his shipmates lost their lives during the 45 seconds in which Aguila was defeated.
Sadly, William died not knowing he was to be a father again, his daughter Norma was born on Christmas Day 1941.
The tragedy of OG71 was hushed up by the admiralty for some years after the war, and my aunt Lou, William’s wife, could not find out what had happened to her husband.
Gradually the story came out and was made famous by the book "Nightmare Convoy" by Paul Lund and Harry Ludlan. The book and film "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Montserrat made the story of the convoy even more famous.
As a family, we eventually got to know the whole story, but we never found a Death Certificate for William, even though I personally searched for years for one.
It was on a visit to one of those helpful sites that I mentioned my search for the death certificate of William and a friend suggested I contact the Genealogist. ‘They are very helpful’, he said.
I did so and in only 2 days I was sent a copy of William's Death Certificate, I didn't even have to search for it. This is an act of kindness that I have never forgotten.
I have had my Mannix family tree professionally printed and I am now in the process of getting my maternal tree ready for printing.
Please login if you wish to rate this article.