BEYOND THE TREE | To find the brother she never knew she had

The Beyond the Tree exhibition at Liverpool Regional Museum includes a growing community tree to which you can add your own family history. Bring in photos of your family moments to be scanned, printed, mounted and added to the display. It's in conjunction with Liverpool Genealogy Society. Volunteers on Tuesdays to Saturdays help with research and family enquiries. The Champion is running a series of local family stories to tie in with the exhibition. Pam was shocked to learn she and her twin sister Wendy had a half-brother after all these years, and thus began a journey across the world to find the details they could piece together . . .

WHEN I first joined Liverpool Genealogy Society, in 1989, a member suggested I write away for the World War I service records of my father, HarryValentine.

Imagine my amazement when I found a note in the records stating: "Wife claiming gratuity." This was written in 1919 and I knew Dad didn't marry my Mum for another 18 years . . . so this came as quite a shock.

These documents led me on an exciting search with my twin sister and fellow family researcher, WendyValentine, to find our Dad's first marriage to FloraCohen.

It turned out that Flora had died in 1926 and the informant on her death certificate was "Harry Frank Valentine, son". Wow! We had a half-brother! This came as a shock, a complete surprise.

Where was he? Is he still alive?

My search to find out more about him has been a 20-year journey that's taken me from here in the South-West to Westminster in London.

Harry was born in Paddington, Sydney, in 1910. He went to St Mary's Cathedral School and worked as a hospital attendant at the St Vincent's hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne.

During World War II, in 1940, he enlisted in the RAAF and then he served as a medical attendant on the Queen Elizabeth from 1942 to 1946, travelling between London and New York.

After the war, he served on merchant ships and eventually settled in London in 1954. He worked as a waiter at the upmarket Grosvenor Hotel in the heart of the city.

He may even have had a wife living in America -- and if so, were there any children of that marriage?

Tragically, Harry took his own life in 1958, at only 47. I was 11 and could have known him.

In 2011, I made a nostalgic pilgrimage to London. I had a meal at the Grosvenor Hotel and chatted to a resident at Harry's Westminster address who took me inside to see his flat.

Most poignantly, I visited his grave in the City of Westminster Cemetery at Hanwell. I made a makeshift cross and placed it on his unmarked grave with a red poinsettia flower. It was lovely to be close to him after all this time, now knowing so much more about him. It was a very touching moment. I may be the only visitor he's ever had.

I wonder if Harry ever knew he had identical twin half-sisters who would've so loved to meet him?

Comments