Wartime horrors uncovered in search

Paul Whitton working on his family history
Paul Whitton working on his family history

FRUSTRATION, elation, and a sheer will to succeed.

Each one has driven Paul Whitton on in his quest to research his family tree.

But it has paid off in abundance and yielded tales of human struggles which are a fascinating read.

CHRIS CORDNER reports.

IT was his father’s death which spurred Paul Whitton into action.

In 1994, his father Arthur Whitton died aged 66 after a lifetime of running his own butcher’s shop in Middlegate, Hartlepool.

Paul said: “I decided that I wanted to get back as far as I could in my family ancestry.

“And now, my message to other people after doing it all for myself is to persevere and you will get there in the end.”

Paul himself was born the fifth of six children.

And he soon found that he did not have to go far back in time to uncover tales of wartime troubles which affected his grandfather Arthur Whitton, who lived from 1895 to 1983.

Paul, 50, explained: “Arthur had four brothers and a sister. The First World War devastated the family.

“Arthur survived Ypres where he was gassed, but William was killed going “over the top” with the Gordon Highlanders on the first day of the Battle of Loos in September 1915.

“Six hundred of his battalion of 1,000 men were killed in the first two days. It highlights how appalling conditions were.

“Another of Arthur’s brothers, Nick, was tied to a gun carriage and whipped for leaving ranks to visit Arthur when both were serving at Ypres.

“And as was customary in the First World War, one brother was not conscripted to keep the family name going in the event of loss of the rest of his brothers.

“Youngest brother Tom stayed at home, though barely old enough to fight. Arthur in later years was a well known caddy and artisan at Seaton Carew Golf Club.”

We will look further at Paul’s story next week.

But in the meantime, Paul wanted to share his own experiences with other people so that they can enjoy the experience of genealogy.

He explained: “There are some great sources of information available for would be researchers, and lots of it is free.

“For local history, do a search on Tees Family Archive, which gives births marriages and deaths back to the late 1800`s for the surrounding area”.

Paul is married to Jane, 45, and they have three children Laura, 15, Lucy, aged nine, and Oliver, seven.

Paul worked for Expanded Metal in Hartlepool for 33 years until Easter this year, and was a sales manager.

The former Brierton School pupil said: “I have researched my family tree since 1995 and it all really started when my dad died.

“I worked quite a lot in London in recent years and rather than stay in my hotel on an evening I would often go to the National Archives at Kew, and do some research there. The facilities are excellent and also available online at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk.

“Generally, I have found that people who research their family trees need to have patience and perseverance.

“But be warned… as well as being really rewarding, genealogy can be addictive.”