This past week I had a break through and I have to give credit to the Internet for my success along with some living relatives. I have a Great Uncle who has been a bit of a ghost for our family. In pulling together the bits and pieces for our family history book it was apparent that we knew little about William. He was the black sheep of the family. Even after conversing with his sister who is elderly and ailing I couldn't but a definitive birth date or death date to him. Bill was born about 1913 in Preston, Ontario. He was a brother to my paternal grandfather. He became a roamer whether that was his nature or due to the fact that he was looking for a job during the depression or his tumultuous relationship with his father it is hard to know. He eventually joined the army and served in World War II. There is speculation about whether he completed his tour. I would love to but those stories to rest.
Bill changed his last name to his mother's maiden name not sure when or why. There are many family stories as to the reasoning for this but not one has been confirmed. We know that he lived the majority of his life after the army in Quebec with a women we knew only as Francis. They had no children. He worked for the Eddie Match company. So you can see, Bill's life intrigues me.
I knew that when Bill was elderly and after Francis died he moved to the Thornbury, Ontario area and lived near his brother Robert. He was buried in this area but I had been unable to find out which cemetery he was in. I knew once I had that I would be on my way. After a chat with my Uncle Rick last week I came to know that he had visited Bill during some of the last few years of his life. I told him my dilemma and less then 24 hours later, he had made a couple of phone calls and not only did I have Bill's birth date but also the name of the cemetery.
I immediately googled the cemetery but the records were not online. Then I stumbled across someone on the Ancestry boards inquiring about this very same cemetery. They had received a response from a gentleman who had information. I emailed this gentleman and presto he was able to produce for me that Uncle Bill was indeed buried in the Thornbury-Clarksburg cemetery, in the Veterans section with birth and death dates.
From here, I came across a great website www.legionmagazine.com. This website publishes short death notices for Royal Canadian Legion members with military backgrounds, Canadian veterans and Legion members with police service. This database contains over 130,000 names. This website lists postings of veterans who served with their credentials.
Now I sit here and wonder and have even more questions about his story. If he is buried in the Veterans section, and was a Legion member then I can only conclude that if he had some misunderstanding with the military then that must have been resolved. Maybe someone has a better understanding of this area can shed some light on this for me.
This is what I know at this point, William James Stapleton, born William James Kowalsky was born July 17,1913. He died Mar 3,1988. He served during WWII with the Allied Forces in the Royal Canadian Army Services Corps. His sister tells me he was a combat engineer and he did go to Europe. He never talked about his experiences. So as one door has opened with regards to Uncle Bill another dozen doors remain closed to this mystery man.
I now have his service number. If I can obtain a picture of his gravestone as proof of his death, then I can apply to the Canadian government for his service records and give Bill the acknowledgement he deserves in our upcoming family history book; my ultimate goal for William. I would also like to find a picture of him in uniform or later in life.
My lesson learned this week, it may take more then one connection to solve a problem but once again my living ancestors played a key role along with this great big medium called the Internet. Put them together and you can solve just about anything.