• Sarah von Allmen

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 17.

Week 17 – Document.


Following this week’s prompt, I decided to look at my maternal grandfather and some of the documents (physical and virtual) I can link to him.


A short biography to place him in context:


William (“Bill”) Gosling was born in Stretford on 19 November 1903, the youngest of five children born to William Gosling and his wife Annie Hinton. As a child he suffered from severe back trouble and possibly because of this initially trained for office work. However, when he finished his training just after the end of World War I, employers were increasingly turning to female staff who could be paid less, and Bill turned to a range of manual jobs.


When his father died in 1927, Bill took over his job as apparitor/verger at St Peter’s Church, Gorse Hill, and shortly afterwards married Lilian Griffin, with whom he had three children. He joined the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps on 26 February 1940, and except for a few short leaves he was away from home until 1945. He went to Norway twice during 1940 and was then sent to Iceland until 1943, finishing the war as a Staff Sergeant.



After the war, Bill joined the railways, and was parcels foreman at London Road Station, Manchester (now Manchester Piccadilly) until 1965. He then worked as a dispatch clerk for a mail order company for several years and after retirement started a gardening round in Whalley Range where the family had lived since the end of the war.


Bill had an allotment for many years, and always grew vegetables in his garden, even after moving to a bungalow when the family house became too large for the retired couple. Lilian died in 1982 and Bill in 1985.


So, what documents do I have for Bill? To start with, the more or less official ones you might expect for a man of his generation:

  • Birth, marriage, and death certificates

  • Census returns for 1911 and 1921

  • Electoral register entries

  • 1939 Register entry

  • National Registration identity card

  • Army attestation paper

  • Soldier’s Release Book

  • Record of Service card

He also registered his children’s births and was the informant on his wife’s death certificate.


Then I started rounding up the other documents I have for him, and some of the ones I found most interesting dated from the war years. They include:

  • A letter Bill wrote to his wife from on board ship as he went overseas for the first time, speculating on their destination, and guessing correctly that it was Norway.

  • 20 editions of the “Midnight Sun”, a weekly newspaper produced by and for the Army in Iceland.

  • Christmas cards sent from Iceland to his children (incuding the one shown above).

  • A rather mysterious authorisation chit (below) which caused a lot of speculation when we found it among his papers – not least because it should almost certainly have been handed in at the time!


I add to this:

  • A diary he used for gardening notes - the dates he planted various vegetables and so forth. (He always held to the tradition that potatoes had to be planted on Good Friday, no matter when Easter fell.)

  • A Certificate of Merit (2nd highest points for vegetables) from the Stretford Amateur Horticultural Society Show

  • A letter of recommendation from the rector of St Peter’s


These are small, personal items, which would mean little to someone outside the family, but they are invaluable to me as reminders of my grandfather.

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