Monday, 4 January 2016

The Unstoppable Ethel springs another surprise

The re-appearance of a letter written by Ethel Bowker née Shorthouse in Australia in 1957 has opened up yet another facet of her life. Just as we’d got used to the already extraordinary aspects of her emigration to the hottest, driest continent on earth, of her dashed romantic hopes with marriage to Arthur Bowker, of the ignominious and devastating deportation to Hitler’s Germany, we now find that, in old age, she’d once more sailed the oceans to revisit her pre-WW1 haunts in Adelaide. And, of course, the letter also reveals another adventurous Shorthouse – her cousin Herbert from West Bromwich. Just when I expected to discover no more about Ethel and her family – well, there she goes, feeding the fires of my curiosity once more!

So Ethel had a second Australian adventure, and the incredible re-appearance of this letter written by her, which had been hidden in an Australian lady’s papers for over 50 years, reveals that Ethel had been trying to track down a cousin Herbert who’d emigrated a few years before she herself first went to Australia in 1913.

The contents of the letter have raised lots of questions, some of which I’ve answered by a more diligent search of Census records, and now I have been able to build a much more detailed Shorthouse branch of our family tree. Another puzzle is exactly when Herbert travelled out, and what he did for a living. Did he lose all contact with his UK relatives? Such things may only be answered by contacting his descendents if they can be found. The lady whose mother had hung on to Ethel’s letter all these years, a Janet Shorthose (that spelling is another mystery!), very kindly searched Australian newspaper records and came up with a very credible obituary in a New South Wales paper – at least I have a few names and locations, if not actual addresses. But it was the wonderful internet that helped Janet to find my sister’s online article about Ethel, so I’m fairly confident of discovering some of what I want eventually