Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thomas William Tracy : a Salvation Army man

Thomas William [de] Tracey / Tracy : Salvation Army Officer.

In search of descendants

In days gone by, it seems that communication was not so different from today. While today’s communication may take the form of a quick email or text, previously, especially with the advent of the photographic post card, many were whipped up and sent off to family members both close and distant, with message that seem obscure to many, the meaning only decipherable by the recipient. My husband’s ancestors seemed to be very prolific post card writers, and I have in my possession one sent from Thomas W. de Tracey to an unknown family member. Thomas William Tracy / Tracey was only very indirectly linked to my husband’s maternal family via the sister of his mother. I would dearly like to reunite this wonderful photograph, with its accompanying message to a direct descendant, instead it of lying idle in the bottom of my unknown photos box.

The photo, taken in Ararat, Victoria or its surrounds, shows Thomas de Tracey standing, dressed in his Salvation Army uniform, along with salutation, “Yours on service, Thomas W. de Tracey” across the front of the picture. The photograph was taken by “TRG Williams, photographer and picture framer ARARAT” This photographer's mark takes the form of a blue oval ink stamp, placed on the top left corner of the post card.

The card has no postmark, so the date it was sent is unknown, but with the inclusion of the “de” in his name it would most likely been taken around 1915-1920 based on the response received from the Salvation Army archivist, which is included below.  No postal address is recorded either, just the message written on the verso which reads:

“I hope you know who this is? It isn’t Felix O’Callaghan on his last legs, but simply your humble [illegible]
Hope you like it.
Ta – ta,
Be a good boy,

I carried out some research on Officer Tracey through the Salvation Army Archives, the Victorian Births Deaths and Marriages historical online indexes, and a quick search for any reference to him on any Australian Ancestry family trees, as well as Google. Enough information was gained from these sources to clearly identify him, without going to the expense of purchasing all relevant certificates for someone, who is so distantly related, that he and his family have not been added to my family tree - though I did purchase his marriage certificate, which I thought would give the most accurate information as it was provided by the man,  (along with his wife, who was herself a Salvation Army Officer) himself.

After my initial enquiry with Salvation Army Archivist, located in Melbourne, the answer I received states that:

“I have found that we had a Thomas De Tracey who was a Salvation Army officer. At times the 'de' was omitted and he was Thomas Tracey. It seems he became an officer in 1904, was married by 1915 and in 1922 was no longer an officer, but attended the Sunshine or Footscray Corps. It was in 1922 that an infant was dedicated. In 1904 he was appointed to Devonport, 1906 he was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain. In 1907 he seemed to be a member of the Biorama Company, 1907 he was appointed to Beaconsfield, 1909 he was appointed to Rochester [Vic.], 1917 he was appointed to Preston [Vic.] We do not have any photos of him, so are not able to confirm him with the photo you sent. However, the initials T.W. in our database would seem to be the same person. It seems that after his marriage the 'de' was used.
Please do not hesitate to contact us again if we can help further.
Dorothy Hill, Mrs.
Research Officer”

I fully understand the implications for the compounding of errors on many family trees that are found online, however having been in contact with some of the owners of the trees in which Thomas was found in trying to locate direct descendants, I believe that the majority of the information to be well sourced and correct.

The information I gained from indicates that Thomas William Tracy, the son of Thomas Henry TRACY (1857-1921) and  Alice Jane CUTTING (1862-1949) who married in 1883, was born in St. Arnaud, Victoria, during 1884, dying in Fairfield, Victoria, on the 19th June 1964. He was the eldest of nine children. His 8 siblings, all born in St. Arnaud, Victoria were named:

1.    Edward Ernest Tracy (1887-1963)
2.    Alfred Frank Tracy (1888-1889)
3.    George James Tracy (1893-1959)
4.    Ellen Martha Tracy (1895-1963)
5.    John Clifford Tracy (1897-1897)
6.    Alice Florence Tracy (1898-1898)
7.    Arthur Patrick Albert Tracy (1900- ?)

Thomas De Tracy married Eleanor Gertrude Barnett (born 1883 in Hamilton, Victoria, her parents being George William BARNETT and Elizabeth Ann ALDRIGE) at the Salvation Army Hall in St. Arnaud, Victoria, on the 22nd December 1914. Their children are unrecorded in any of the online trees, though as stated in the response from the Salvation Army, it seems they did have at least one child. The restrictions placed on searching births recorded in Victoria only prior to 1913, means that it is impossible to check how many children were born to this couple.

I find the decision to change his surname fascinating. The fact that his surname and that of his father and siblings were all spelt TRACY is obvious from the birth records. That he decided to not only add the “de” in front of his surname seems odd, but to also change the spelling to TRACEY seems even stranger.  This change of spelling is noted in his marriage and death certificate and indexes, as well as on numerous Australian Electoral Rolls after 1915 while previous Electoral Rolls for 1907 and 1909 have his name recorded as TRACY. I am sure this is the same man, as his occupation in each case is given as Salvation Army Officer.

If anyone with direct links to this upstanding young man would like to have this original photographic post card, I would be happy to pass it along to home were it can be truly valued. If a home among descendants cannot be found, I may donate it to the Salvation Army for their records, if they are willing to give it a good home.           

·      Ancestry Australia public family trees
·      Australian Electoral Rolls sourced on Ancestry Australia online
·      Photograph held by self
·      Salvation Army Archives, Bourke Street, Melbourne, Victoria
·      Victorian Birth Deaths and Marriages Index
·      Victorian Marriage certificate purchased by self

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