Laurence Harris, MyHeritage's Head of Genealogy (UK), led a small team to quickly trace the living relatives of these men who were killed in action, to invite the relatives to a ceremony on Remembrance Sunday, in which the board was rededicated and their stories retold.
Over the next few weeks, we'll demonstrate how Laurence was able to do this, while sharing some of the stories of these unsung war heroes.
Flight Sergeant Joseph Shaer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR).
Joseph (also known as “Joey”) was a son of Samuel and Clara Shaer, and attended Raines Foundation School. He enlisted in 1940 and trained to be a navigator. He was attached to 540 Squadron operating Mosquito aircraft from RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. On April 13, 1944, his Mosquito sustained fatal damage from enemy fire. The plane almost made it back, but crashed near his base in Oxfordshire. Joseph was 24.
To find Joey's relatives, Laurence enlisted the assistance of some members of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (JGSGB). They worked collaboratively using MyHeritage family tree software to build up a family tree, and to record and share research findings on Joseph’s family, with the aim of tracing living relatives.
Sources of information searched included the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, indexes of birth, marriage and deaths (available on MyHeritage's SuperSearch), electoral rolls, phone directories, and the Jewish Chronicle newspaper archives.
As the collaborative tree grew, a rather unusual surname of Tarl appeared as being related to the family. Further searches using these sources revealed contact details for a member of the Tarl family who confirmed that he was a nephew of Joseph, and provided a lot of interesting materials including pages of Joseph’s Flying Log book including the final entry written in (presumably by a colleague) “Aircraft Crashed … Killed in Action.”
“This proves the power of collaborative research,” commented Laurence. “What we achieved in just a few days would have taken significantly longer, and may not even have been possible, without the collaborative research facilities possible using MyHeritage Family Sites. It was gratifying that living relatives were found for all of the 11 Servicemen very quickly enabling them to be invited to the ceremony.”
Do you have stories to share about unsung war heroes in your family? Let us know in the comments below.