Researching your family history: Commonwealth Graves Commission
Published on 6th April 2021
Welcome to week seven in the second series of researching your family history during lockdown. Last week we looked at James Callan’s will and saw that he had left all his possessions to his mother, Katherine Callan who lived at Marlborough Street, Dublin. Using this information in conjunction with the census records and the website it is possible to paint a fuller picture of James’s short life.
Using the 1901 census and working backwards we were able to discover that James was born on 16th February 1897. His parents were James Callan and Kate O’Hare. The 1901 census also shows that James had a sister, Alice, aged five years of age and a brother, Patrick, aged two who were living with their parents in Dublin. However, at this time James, aged three years, appears on the census as either staying with or visiting his maternal grandparents in Dundalk.
When we go forward to the 1911 census we see that James now aged fourteen years of age has another brother, Owen, aged nine. This census also states that James’s grandfather, Patherick O’Hare (note the misspelling of Patrick) is now staying with his daughter, her husband and the family at Glouster Street Lower, Dublin. Six years after the 1911 census was taken James had been killed in the First World War and was buried by the Commonwealth Commission in Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery.
The Commonwealth Graves Commission database holds details of 1.7 million men and women casualties of the First and Second World Wars. The database also contains correspondence, staff records, photographs and press cuttings. Find out more about these records. The Commission went to great lengths to check that all the soldiers’ details were correct before they were engraved onto a headstone. For instance the Register Entries provided basic information about the casualty and sometimes the name of next of kin. Headstone Schedules recorded what was to be engraved on the head stone. The Commission sent out verification forms to next of kin to make sure all details were correct and to add any additional information. Additional information allowed the next of kin to add a personal message to the inscription on their loved ones headstone, here are some examples found on the website: “lest we forget”, “Faithful unto Death” and “Life’s fight well fought”. As we can see from the picture of James Callan’s headstone his family chose not to add any further inscription. Inscription on headstone reads, 26192 Private, J. Callan, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 25th February 1917 age 20.
The family laid a wreath at The War Memorial Gardens, Islandbridge, Dublin 8 on 25/02/2017 to mark the 100 year anniversary of his death.
Submitted by Helen in the Reading Room.