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Hartlepool firm helps identify family after appeal to find brave soldier’s relatives

Ans at the grave.


A Hartlepool firm has stepped in to help locate relatives of a town soldier killed in ther Second World War. The Mail launched an appeal earlier this week to find relatives of Lance Corporal John Chapman, who died on September 20, 1944, in the Oosterbeek area of Holland during the Battle of Arnhem.

After the war schools in the area asked pupils to adopt the graves and Dutch pensioner Ans van Wijck-Hobé tended the grave of an unknown soldier and the grave of John Chapman. Ans is appealing for people from Hartlepool to come forward in a bid to locate his family in the hope of getting in touch. Ans was a 12-year-old girl when she says she met what she thought was Mr Chapman’s parents. An interpreter was present to help with communication, and Ans was photographed with the two Chapmans, but unfortunately she lost the picture.

Hartlepool firm HeirHunter UK has looked into the case to help out with the search. They have discovered that John Chapman was one of six siblings which also included Clifford, Thomas, Isabel, Edward and Alexander. Sadly, Thomas died aged one, Edward died aged three and Alexander died aged one, leaving John, Clifford and Isabel as the surviving bloodline. Although Ans remembers meeting a pregnant woman and small child, HeirHunter UK are unable to determine if John Chapman ever married.

His brother Clifford married Esther Frost in 1955. Clifford passed away in 1986 and Esther passed away on July 1 this year, with her funeral service held this week in Huddersfield. The town research firm says John’s mother, Jane Mary Chapman (nee Boumphrey) died in 1926. John was raised by his father and maternal auntie Frances Ann Graham (nee Boumphrey), it is believed that Ans must have met John Chapman and Frances Graham when she refered to the deceased’s parents.

Sarah Kinnie, of HeirHunter UK, said: “Prior to the article being released, we were contacted by a local ex-soldier to ask if we could help locate the relatives of John Chapman. After hearing the moving story of Ans and how she had attended the Hartlepool soldier’s grave, we were eager to help.”

“We are probate researchers and family tracing specialists based in the town so, we used all of the resources at our disposal to locate his relatives.”

“It is difficult to fully comprehend the great courage that these soldiers had. We reunite long, lost family members day in, day out. However, this heartfelt story will be one that sticks in my mind over the passage of time.”

Schoolchildren of Oosterbeek have been placing flowers on the graves from September 1946 until now and Ans, as well as the other schoolchildren, was provided with a candle bearing name of the deceased, his grave number and a small map of the cemetery so the children could always find ‘their’ graves.
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Northern Warrior

Northern Warrior Image


Life was changing all the time and I was living at my Auntie Ellen’s and sharing a bedroom with my cousin’s Kevin and Kenny, when one day Auntie Ellen was looking through some old photographs and pointed to one and said to me “That’s your sister there”, I knew I had two sister’s but had never seen a picture of any of them and now here I was looking at one of them. I couldn’t stop thinking about it over the next week or so, ‘what do they look like now’, ‘do they know they have a brother’, ‘would they like to meet me’ and things like that where going through my head. My mam got in touch with their mother Violet -my birth mother –and told her that I wanted to meet my sister’s so she arranged it and I went and met them both. It was a surreal feeling meeting my flesh and blood for the first time, I didn’t know how they would react so I didn’t say too much as I didn’t know what to say. Both had partners and children of their own so I didn’t want them to feel like I was interfering so I didn’t go and see them as much as I’d liked.

We found out that there wasn’t just the three of us as we had thought and that Violet had given birth to a baby boy in 1959 and had him adopted. I searched for years without success to find my brother. I even went on the TV programme Surprise Surprise back in the 1980s and went on a part of the show called Searchline, making an appeal to find my brother, all to no avail. I was sick of getting asked by people ‘Did you find your brother’ only having to say ‘No’ to them.

I found out he was called John and was born on 8th August but that was the only information I had for all them years, every time I searched I hit a brick wall. A lot of the time it was just so frustrating. One day my mam had a letter through the door and when I went to see her she said “Have you been threatening the woman at the Durham Diocese”, I said ‘no what are you talking about’ and she showed me the letter. I must have sounded threatening because I was so frustrated at the lack of information because they have a privacy policy they are not allowed to breach. I actually got a copy of his birth certificate in 2012 and it felt like I was getting somewhere and it proved to me that he was real and I did have a brother.

A year later 2013 I got in touch with After Adoption and was assigned a case worker. I gave them all the information I had and left it with them. We exchanged e-mails and phone calls but they are not allowed to divulge any information and I got a phone call to say they found a man that matched all the information I had given them. They had wrote to him and told him the story and that his brother was looking for him and would like to meet him etc. I was buzzing. I had to wait a few weeks and there was still no news, maybe he didn’t want to know or maybe he was having a long think about it and wasn’t ready yet or needed more time. My mind was boggling with it all. My wife Wendy went through it all with me and was as excited as I was, she was hoping for a happy ending. He was on the electoral role at that house until 2006 and he hadn’t moved anywhere else and nobody else was down as living at the property. When there was no reply they wrote to him again and said the same things in this letter. They told me they couldn’t write again because it would be seen as harassment so were hoping he might reply to this.

As the weeks went by there was still no reply and I was thinking he didn’t want to know or he would have been in touch by now. If he didn’t want to know I would rather he said and then I’d know to forget it and say at least I tried. The waiting was doing my head in and as the weeks came and went there was still no reply. I messaged my old mate Eddy Ellwood and asked him if he knew a man who fitted the description because he was from the collieries and so was my brother, but Eddy didn’t know him but what he did say was “Why don’t you put an appeal on Facebook you never know who might see it” and that’s what I did.

It wasn’t on very long and my old pal Vulture phoned me and said “Why don’t you get in touch with Fraser, he does stuff like that for a living. He will find your brother”. I hadn’t seen Fraser for years and didn’t know he was into that kind of thing. I spoke with Fraser on the phone and gave him the little details I had and he said he’ll be in touch. Less than an hour later he phoned me and said “Out of all the people in the country, only one matched your information and he lives in Easington Colliery. I’m going up there now to knock on his door”. My god I couldn’t believe how fast he found him and all the years of frustration would soon be over one way or another.

Fraser knocked on his door but there was no answer. He didn’t want to leave with no information so he knocked at next door. The neighbour said that John had died in 2006 after falling down the stairs drunk and smashing his head at the bottom causing a severe Haemorrhage to the brain. He had laid there for a couple of days before a neighbour noticed he hadn’t been taking the dog for a walk so they phoned the cops.

When The Police went in the house they found John at the bottom of the stairs dead and the dog by his side, what a tragic end. When Fraser phoned me and said “It’s not good news I’m afraid” I thought he was going to say he had spoken to him and he wasn’t interested in meeting but when he told me what happened I felt like I’d just been hit with a hammer. Then I started to grieve for John even though I’d never met him, it was the closing of the story that had been playing an on off role in my life since 1984 and it was finally at the journey’s end.


BBC One Family Finders programme

Our researchers featured in two episodes of the BBC One programme, Family Finders.


Series 1 – Episode 8

When she was a child, Sandie Smith opened a cupboard looking for some colouring pens and stumbled across a piece of paper which revealed she had been adopted. Sandie waited until she was an adult to try to trace her birth parents, but despite unearthing some tantalising leads she was unable to make a breakthrough until a professional family finder stepped in to help. Sadly, Sandie’s mother had passed away, but the family finder had much happier news – he’d traced her sisters, Sandie’s aunts. Sandie meets up with her aunts for an emotional journey into their past, as she finds out much more about the mother she never had the chance to meet.


Series 1 – Episode 9

Christina Boston grew up always knowing she was adopted. But when she set out to find her birth sisters with the help and encouragement of her adoptive mum Pam, Christina had no idea how difficult the search would be. It was a case that left the online family finding community baffled – until a professional got involved and was able to track down her sisters. In an emotional encounter, Christina introduces mum Pam to her sisters Rachel and Sarah for the very first time.

Albury pensioner reunited with his daughter after 51 years of searching

An Albury man has been reunited with his daughter after spending 51 years apart in opposite hemispheres.

Katie Bergin was nine months old the last time her 24-year-old father, Tony Brown, saw her in London.

Katie’s mum was taken to a home for unmarried mothers and asked to give up her daughter for adoption. She vehemently refused and eventually gave birth to Katie, in Liverpool.

“She told me that my dad’s name was Anthony Brown and he was originally from Wales,” Ms Bergin told 9NEWS.

The information proved to be little help in the search for her father, who had served in the RAF, moved to Australia by 1975 and remarried.

Ms Bergin contacted Fraser Kinnie of HeirHunter UK, who appeared on the BBC Family Finders Programme, he told her that the search would go far beyond the borders of the UK.

Ms Bergin told the Border Mail when she finally spoke to her father “it was a flood of tears – we both couldn’t speak”.

“He said to me, ‘It’s like the moon and the stars have finally arrived back on Earth’, and that’s what it’s like,” she said.

Ms Bergin has stayed almost two weeks at her 77-year-old father’s home, and soon plans to introduce him to his 21-year-old grand-daughter, Grace.

Albury Pensioner

Hartlepool fundraisers back charity by sleeping on the streets

Staff from Hartlepool firm HeirHunter UK at the Big Tees Sleepout.

It was a freezing night but it did not stop these Hartlepool fundraisers from raising thousands of pounds as they slept – or at least tried to. Staff from town company HeirHunter UK proved they had warm hearts to go with their cold feet on a night of impressive backing for charity.

“We won’t change the world through the Big Tees Sleepout but we are helping to raise some money and raise the profile of an important issue” Andy Preston

They braved the freezing temperatures by sleeping out to help raise nearly £7,000 to fight local homelessness and poverty. They joined employees of RMB Auto and the local branch of Biffa for the chilly charity challenge. And they were among more than 50 fundraisers who took part in the eighth Big Tees Sleepout, which was organised by the charity Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.

The event was held on the pavement outside Middlesbrough College, and is the latest in a series of sleepouts which have been held over the past four years.

So far, the Big Tees Sleepout has raised more than £94,000 for worthy causes.

All of the funds raised in the latest sleepout will go towards supporting local food banks, as well as homelessness charities. It will also support Christmas appeals which are organised by the Salvation Army. Foundation chairman Andy Preston said: “I think we would all agree that homelessness and poverty should not exist on Teesside in the 21st Century, but sadly both are very real and affecting increasing numbers of local people.

“We won’t change the world through the Big Tees Sleepout, but we are helping to raise some money and raise the profile of an important issue.”

Mr Preston praised everyone who took part in the event for helping to back an important cause as well as putting up with horrible conditions.

He added: “Those who took part deserve massive plaudits for giving up their warm beds for a truly freezing cold night on the streets.” But now, the search is on for people to support the next fundraising event.

Organisers are hoping to hear from people wanting take part in the next Big Tees Sleepout in April next year.

Those interested should contact Mandy Shields by emailing or by calling (01642) 686018. The Ultimate ‘Making Your Nose Happy’ Shop The Ultimate ‘Making Your Nose Happy’ Shop It doesn’t matter if its big or small, we’ve got the perfect gift for her.

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