A Timeline Guides Research Questions

Having catalogued and scanned the Bill Lawrence collection, I now have a good idea of the contents, and loads of questions.  So the next step is to analyse the contents further and decide which questions to investigate first.

An overview of the main events and themes revealed by the documents helps me identify and narrow down to priority questions.  Main events documented include:

Year Event
1886 Birth of Edith May Spencer (Bill’s mother) in Surrey, England
1913 Marriage of William Henry Lawrence & Edith May Spencer (Bill’s parents) in New South Wales, Australia
1915 Birth of Gwendoline Dorothy Brown (Bill’s wife)
1915 Bill’s birth
1919 Bill’s father sent a telegram from Liverpool, England to his wife in Australia, about to embark for America
1920 Death of Bill’s father
1922 Robert Spencer & Mary Ann Marsden Spencer nee Bentley (Bill’s grandparents) voyage to Australia
1925 Bill, his mother &  grandparents return to England from Australia on the Largs Bay
1931 Funeral of Arthur Spencer
1940-1946 Bill’s WWII service
1946 Bill’s National Health insurance & ID card issued, resident at Russell Road
1953 Photo of Bill & his mother
1961 Marriage of  William Henry Lawrence (Bill) & Gwendoline Dorothy Meacham (nee Brown)

Both of Bill’s parents were born in England, but married in Australia. There is nothing in the collection that documents their emigration.  For me, this is the big question, or rather series of questions.

Marriage certificate. New South Wales, Australia. William Henry Lawrence & Edith May Spencer. 25 October 1913 WHL/1/2/2

Marriage certificate. New South Wales, Australia. William Henry Lawrence & Edith May Spencer. 25 October 1913 WHL/1/2/2

Another question is what the enigmatic 1919 telegram from Bill’s father was about.  I wonder if it is connected with what Bill’s father did in the First World War, of which there is also no record in this collection.


Telegram from Harry (Bill’s father) in Liverpool, 1919

The lack of documents after Bill’s marriage makes me wonder why they aren’t included.

The rest of the collection reveals a somewhat different story than I had been told.  Bill’s maternal grandparents spent considerably more time in Australia than is suggested by the received narrative that they went to collect their widowed daughter and grandson.

What questions do other family members have?

© Sue Adams 2016

2 Comments on “A Timeline Guides Research Questions”

  1. The telegram is too faded to read. What does it say?


    • Sue Adams says:

      The telegram is written in light pencil rather than faded. The essential information is:
      From: Liverpool Post Office.
      To: Lawrence, 193 Dandenong Road, Melbourne.
      “Had a good time Erdington know nothing our trouble sailing America today. Love Harry”

      Liked by 1 person

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