In this week's Kith and Kin, Peter Munro from the Borders Family History Society highlights how one misread word means a lost family member could be closer to home than first thought...


Serendipity struck last week.

Everybody who researches their family history finds points where there is no satisfactory answer, or the records aren’t available; perhaps because they’ve been lost or destroyed or not recorded at all.

We often term these points “brick walls”, because they are like a brick wall blocking the road.

There are many “brick walls” for me: the identity of my father’s paternal grandfather; the parents of my three greats grandfather, Robert Munro; the surname of my paternal great grandmother; what did my grandfather, Harry Lowe, do between cooking the “devil’s porridge” and going to work at Bell Brothers (a subsidiary of Dorman Long); what was Aunt Amy doing in Greece and why did she die there?

It’s this last one that has long puzzled me.

My grandfather, Harry Lowe, had favourite aunts and uncles and less-liked ones.

That’s perfectly normal.

When he got so frail that he couldn’t be left alone at home, he moved into an old folks’ home and spent his time doing crossword puzzles and writing letters to his family.

His handwriting was always weak, as a result of a palsied hand.

His handwriting style was a mixture of copperplate and English cursive.

I imagine that he was taught copperplate at school, as I was at a primary school in Essex, which had antiquated teaching ideas; and then found that cursive was preferred.

Anyway, it was difficult to read, letters would be written differently; he wasn’t aware of that.

After my mother died in 1997, I found a bundle of letters from my grandfather, talking about various members of his family.

One of these was about his favourite aunt, Amy.

I thought it was Amy but I wasn’t sure, it could possibly have been Anne.

He had one aunt named Anne, and two named Amy, one of whom was really named Amelia.

This favourite aunt never married, came frequently on daytime visits but liked to be back home at night.

I remember that Grandpa wrote that she visited him once in Birmingham.

Travel abroad was rare in early 20th century England. Some men did go abroad on military service and their wives might accompany or visit them, and wealthy people might go abroad on holiday and take their servants with them but aunt Amy was unlikely to have fitted either category.

So, how was it that she went to Greece?

I wondered whether Amy had been a nurse and, like Elsie Inglis who worked in Serbia, gone to Greece to help in the Balkan Wars (1912 to 1913).

It’s a possibility.

However, last week, a friend posted on Facebook about her brother, Howard.

That brother, says his gravestone, was born in Greete. That was the serendipitous moment!

I had never heard of Greete.

On Google Maps it is shown as a place about five miles from Ludlow and it is about 35 miles from Oldbury, near Birmingham, where Grandpa worked in 1915.

A badly written Greete could easily look like Greece. Greete looks much more likely, so now I have to investigate deaths in Greete.