Long lost relatives discovered during WWI project

Albert Smith moved to Australia in 1925
Albert Smith moved to Australia in 1925

Long-lost relatives have been reunited thanks to a project commemorating the First World War.

Sue McCauley and her aunt Barbara Prescott began researching their family history after they were invited to a ceremony in St Helens to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War last August.

Sue's great-grandfather John with his brothers Joseph and Edward, who all died in the First World War

Sue's great-grandfather John with his brothers Joseph and Edward, who all died in the First World War

Sue’s great-grandfather John Smith and two of his brothers, Joseph and Edward, were added to the roll of honour last year after they all lost their lives fighting in the war but the pair knew that another brother had survived.

As a result, Sue and Barbara were then invited to be part of a project, commissioned by St Helens Library Service’s Cultural Hubs programme, called Here Now and Looking Back that saw artist Benedict Phillips create an interactive artwork based on artefacts provided by families from the area.

Sue, 55, said: “We met Benedict at the Central Library and made an audio recording about our artefacts and what they mean to our family. It was a very emotional event.

“It was on the way home after this meeting that we decided to find out more about Albert’s life in Australia.

“It was fascinating really. The more we found out, the more we wanted to find. We had absolutely no idea what we would find out though.

“My grandma, Lily Dillon, John’s daughter, had kept all her father’s papers from the war and we knew that there was a fourth brother who had fought, survived and moved to Australia.

“From family tree research via the internet we had already found a passenger list dated 1925 when he left for Australia aboard the Hobsons Bay eventually arriving in Melbourne.

“We already knew where Albert was buried and unusually the cemetery where he is buried gives details of the funeral directors involved. Barbara suggested that we contact them to see if they could help.”

The funeral home sent on their contact details to the family and Sue and Barbara received a response from Sylvia, Albert’s daughter, who is in her 80s and lives with her partner John in a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria.

Since making contact, the long lost relatives have been exchanging information about the brothers as well as sending pictures of long lost cousins and family members.

“We never thought going into this that something like this would happen,” Sue, who lives in Thatto Heath, said.

“We originally thought John had gone to Australia on an assisted pass with Pilkingtons but it turned out he went with Beechams.

“He went out there alone and got married and had children out there. He had surviving siblings back here but we don’t think he ever came back for a visit or anything. It is a long way these days never mind back then.”