Holroyd genealogist unravels family mystery

From her father’s war service records, Pam Valentine unraveled a family mystery that led her from western Sydney to Westminster.

"People think you can do it all on your computer, but you can’t, you need guidance. It’s not like Who Do You Think You Are, I’ve never been into a records office and they say “here are your documents,” that doesn’t happen. You’ve got to go looking yourself and that’s what we can help with." - Pam Valentine, of the Holroyd Family History Group.

"People think you can do it all on your computer, but you can’t, you need guidance. It’s not like Who Do You Think You Are, I’ve never been into a records office and they say “here are your documents,” that doesn’t happen. You’ve got to go looking yourself and that’s what we can help with." - Pam Valentine, of the Holroyd Family History Group.

Buried in the documents, the 76-year-old outgoing secretary of the Holroyd Family History Group found a reference to her father’s son, Harry. Until that point, Ms Valentine had no idea she had a brother.

‘‘I was kind of excited, and a bit shocked and amazed,’’ Ms Valentine said.

‘‘That’s the thing about family history, you never know what you’re going to find. I wouldn’t have found all of this just by going to Ancestry, you have to look at the primary documents.’’

After her initial discovery, Ms Valentine searched the archives for more references to the half brother she never knew, and in 2011, she travelled to London, where he died at 47 in 1958, to lay a makeshift cross and a red poincettia flower on his unmarked grave.

Maybe I was the only visitor that he’d had. The word I would use is poignant. - Pam Valentine, of the Holroyd Family History Group, on visiting her lost half brother's gravesite.

‘‘It was lovely to be close to him and to recognise him... By that time, I’d more or less traced most of his life.

‘‘Maybe I was the only visitor that he’d had. The word I would use is poignant.’’

Ms Valentine also visited the Gloucester Hotel next to Victoria Station, where Harry worked as a waiter and ordered a meal.

Harry Valentine, aka Harry Frank.

Harry Valentine, aka Harry Frank.

But her journey didn’t end there. Along the way, Ms Valentine found another lead. Harry - who served on the Queen Elizabeth as a hospital attendant during the second world war and had travelled to New York - may have once been married to an American named Dorothy.

A young Harry Valentine, aka Harry Frank.

A young Harry Valentine, aka Harry Frank.

‘‘If we can find a wife or children that would be great.’’

To mark National History Month in August, the Holroyd Family History Group, which meets on the second and third Monday of each month, will hold an open day on August 9 at Merrylands Library from 10am to 3.30pm. Members and librarians will be available all day to help with family history research.

Ms Valentine at her brother's grave site in 2011.

Ms Valentine at her brother's grave site in 2011.

‘‘We can get you started... If you’ve got a problem, you can ask the other members for other avenues you can try. We’re very friendly and we always have a cuppa.’’

Details: hfhginc2@hotmail.com

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