Thursday, 12 June 2014

52 Ancestors #1: Long Lost Arthur

Dearest Arthur; he missed you.

Arthur Gordon Stephan b.1911
When I say he, I mean my Grandfather.

I was celebrating my graduation with family when my Auntie brought along some family photos for my research. I mentioned my search for an Arthur STEPHAN and surprisingly she seemed to of heard of him. The only thing was, we were talking about different people!

I had been searching for an Arthur Stephan from the previous generation (my Grandads Uncle) who disappeared after the 1870 census.

My Auntie was talking about her Uncle (my Grandad's brother). This Uncle I knew nothing about.

My Aunt said that her Father told her that Arthur disappeared when they were quite young and he spent many years of searching for him - how handy the internet may have been for him!! My Grandfather sadly passed away in 1981 (before I was born) and had never been able to find Arthur.

My next mission had begun...

It was fairly evident that Arthur was born after the 1911 census as he wasn't listed with family (although this wouldn't be the first time I have had to 'collect' family members from other census records!). Given the birth dates of the other siblings, I first started sifting through the early 1900 birth records. I struck lucky fairly quickly but ordered the certificate to be sure.

Arthur Gordon Stephan was born to George Edward Stephan and Hannah (nee Haynes) in Madeley, Shropshire in 1911.

The next (and more difficult step) would be trying to locate his whereabouts thereafter. He would be 103 years old by now and the possibility of still being alive was slim. I stumbled across a couple of possibilities and just committed to ordering the death certificates. I was determined to get to the end of this mystery. I struck lucky again (well as lucky as a death certificate could be...) and found my Arthur. Arthur was mysteriously located in Milton Keynes!

Of course, a death certificate gives you very little insight into a persons life. After unsuccessful contact with the addresses given by the informant on the notice, I put an article in the local press. I was over the moon to hear back from Arthur's step-daughter!

Arthur had become part of her life quite late on (marrying her Mother in 1981 at the age of 70!) and she had some lovely things to say about him. A gentle giant that looked after and adored her Mum. She also provided me with the photo above; the only photo I have of Arthur.

I still wanted to know more; I still wanted to know why he ran away, where he went, what he did for work, why he never went home. What happened. Just so I could say I had tried for my Grandfather.

I then had contact from a local genealogist who had done a little digging (big thanks to Lewis McCann!) - he had managed to locate Arthur's youngest son.

Unfortunately this led to another cul-de-sac (I don't like the term dead end, at least you can walk back round and out of a cul-de-sac!). The son was born late in Arthur's life - there was 10 years between him and his older sisters and could remember little about his Father. He also had no photos... The tone of his email seemed to suggest that he wasn't overly keen on discussing the matter any further and I didn't want to push.

The next step is to try and locate the older sisters (Arthur's daughters). Its possible that the Isle of Wight may just be my next port of call...

I really must find out more for my Grandad. IOW County Press, here I come!


  1. An interesting puzzle.youre doing well with it. Good luck to finding out the rest of it.

  2. Congrats on your 1st blog. Cool research project! Good luck!