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I would like help finding out what happened to my great-uncle Sydney Thomas ARROWSMITH, born 28th August 1885 at 112 Pownall Road, Haggerstone, Shoreditch, London.

When I first started researching my family history some years ago now, I decided to start with my mother’s family as she had a lot of information and memories. Her mother May ARROWSMITH was born 28th January 1892 and was, she told me, one of six children: Agnes, born 1881; Arthur 1882; Beatrice 1887; Annie 1888; May 1892; and George born 1895.

Their parents were Josiah ARROWSMITH, an upholsterer and furniture dealer, and Agnes (nee WESTBROOK) who married on Christmas Day 1878 at St Mary’s, Haggerstone. When I looked them up on the 1901 census, I was surprised to find there were two more brothers – Josiah, aged 16, and Sydney, aged 15. The most obvious answer seemed to be that they had died before my mother or her brother were old enough to remember them, although it did surprise me that my grandparents had never mentioned them. I quickly found Josiah had died later in 1901, and their father Josiah died in 1904. But despite searching right through till the 1960s I have not found Sydney’s death registered. I have also tried the online Commonwealth War Graves Commission site with no success.

Very recently I obtained the 1911 census entry for the address in Hackney that my mother knew as her grandmother’s home. I found Sydney still alive then, living with the family and working as an upholsterer. This makes it seem more likely to me that he died in the First World War, but if so I am surprised that there are no photos of him in uniform among my grandparents’ things as there are of the husbands of Beatrice and Annie as well as of my grandfather. So I am left with the question – what happened to my great-uncle Sydney?

Janet Turnbull


Sidney Thomas ARROWSMITH was, we know, alive in 1911 and living in Hackney. So what are the possibilities for what happened to him? Firstly, as you rightly suggest, he may have served in the First World War: this may have been in the army, navy or air service. That he was killed during the war is a possibility. But did he marry, before during or after the War? Did he emigrate? Did he live into very old age, beyond the 1960s, which is only as far as you have researched? All these you need to check out.

Using the FamilyRelatives websites ( there is no marriage listed up to 1920 in England and Wales, so you would need to search the quarterly indexes beyond that. Using the same source, a search for deaths to 1920 does produce one for a Sidney T ARROWSMITH in Romford Registration District in the September Quarter 1917. As this Sidney was then aged 32, therefore born about 1885, this must be a very strong possibility – have you checked this entry out by obtaining the death certificate? If you have, and have ruled it out, then you will need to continue your search in the death indexes beyond where you previously stopped, in the 1960s.

What about sources for service in the First World War? The WWI Campaign Medal Roll is the best initial source for discovering those who served in the army. This is available online through The National Archives (TNA), on DocumentsOnline ( However, I note that there is no Sidney T ARROWSMITH listed. You could also search the surviving WWI Army Service papers. These are held at The National Archives, but are also available to search on the Ancestry website ( There are two series, the ‘unburnt’ collection (WO 364) and the ‘burnt’ collection (WO 363) – only surnames beginning A to C are currently available online for the latter. But again I can not see anything for Sidney Thomas. If he had served in the Royal Navy, then service records for ordinary seamen, those who did not serve beyond 1928, are also available on DocumentsOnline.

Lastly, the possibility that Sidney emigrated also needs to be investigated. Passenger Lists Outwards are held at TNA (BT 27). These commence in 1890 and end in 1960. Available online are searchable digitised image of these records, at At the time of writing these extend to 1939 only but these series will be completed soon. Included are two Sidney ARROWSMITHs (to Quebec in 1924 and to New York in 1927), and 21 S ARROWSMITHS. All these might need to be investigated further.

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