25 May 2020

CWGC Beechwood Cemetery: William Matthews

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission registration for William Matthews who died 25 May 1920 shows he was Company Quartermaster Sergeant and age 50. That would make his birth year 1870.

According to his service file, he enlisted on 22 February 1915 giving his birth as 24 December 1875 in Cornwall, England. Some of the documents in his service file show a middle initial J and his wife's name as Annie.

There's an 1896 Ontario marriage registration showing a William Matthews marrying Anna Thomas with his age as 28 implying birth ca 1868.  It gives his parent's names: Thomas and Mary. That's consistent with the 1901 census which has a birth date of 24 December 1868 and that he arrived in Canada in 1871.

It's not unusual for men to lie about their age when joining up. Did that lie carry over to his obit in the Ottawa Journal of 26 May 1920, which gives his name as William John Matthews? It informs "He was born in Cornwall. England, 45 years ago and came to Canada when a boy." That's consistent with an 1875 birth date. It also mentions a brother Thomas, sister Mrs. B Burnside, both of Ottawa, half-siblings John and Richard of Ottawa, as well as his children.

Tracing the siblings, a death registration for Thomas Matthews at Ottawa's Civic Hospital in 1943 gives his birthplace as Cornwall, date of birth 9 October 1867, and parents names Thomas and Grace (with Mugford added later).

There's an 1892 Ontario marriage registration for Mary Matthews, spouse Thomas Burnside. her parents are Thomas and Mary; they are repeated in the 1931 Beechwood burial register which gives her age as 59 (born 1872).

Three siblings with two different mothers?

I checked the 1871 census in England and found a family in the Cornwall registration district of Camelford, sub-registration district of Boscastle

First name(s)Last nameRelationshipMarital statusSexAgeBirth yearOccupationBirth place
ThomasMatthewsHead-Male241847-Cornwall, England
GraceMatthewsWife-Female221849-Cornwall, England
ThomasMatthewsSon-Male31868-Cornwall, England
WilliamMatthewsSon-Male21869-Cornwall, England
Mary GMatthewsDaughter-Female01871-Cornwall, England

There's an Ontario marriage in Ottawa for a Thomas Matthews, age 28 in 1877, born in Cornwall, marrying Mary Nichol.  It seems likely William, and his sister confused their mother and step-mother. There is a marriage between Thomas Henry Matthews and Grace Stevens in the registration district of Penzance in the third quarter of 1868.

Sergeant William John Matthews was a member of the 31st Battalion, transferred to the 2nd Battalion, died of heart disease and pneumonia and is interred in Section 29, Lot 14 at Beechwood Cemetery.

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