Genes Reunited Blog
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This week's Who Do You Think You Are is the family history of the comedian and presenter Alan Carr. Alan was interested to find out more about his paternal grandfather Wilfred Carr who played football for Newcastle between 1928 and 1930. Alan's own father, Graham, also has a career in football. He is the chief scout for Newcastle United. Alan's memories of his grandfather are of him as an old man kicking the football with his walking stick! So he was surprised to learn how talented his grandfather had been.
Wilfred Carr actually worked in the mines in the north east. The Carr family had worked in the same mine in Burradon for many years. Football was a big part of a miner's life and each colliery had their own football team. It was seen as an alternative to the dangerous life in the pits. After Wilfred played for Newcastle for 2 years he went back to being a miner. Here's Wilfred in the 1911 census.
Alan then went on to look at his mother's family. Alan didn't know much about them except that there was talk of a name change and the name Richard Henry Carter/Mercer was mentioned. Her Dad, Cyril, had been in the Navy. He sadly died when Alan was a child. Alan's Mum had done a little research and knew her Grandma had been married before she met Cyril's father, Henry Carter.
Alan discovered that Cyril's younger sister Doreen was still alive so he went to Crayford to meet his great Aunt for a Carter family reunion. Doreen knew her father as Richard Henry but had no idea why the surname might have changed. The plot thickens...
Annie Wayman (Alan's GGrandmother) had married a Thomas Laing and had 2 children with him before she then met Henry Carter and had Cyril and 11 more children with him. Alan did some digging and discovered that by 1911 Annie was boarding with Henry Carter.
They weren't together at that point but they did go on to have a family and eventually married in 1938.
Alan then looked at Henry's attestation form and saw that he joined the Army in 1915. He became a driver in the Artillery in Camberwell. Henry's documents showed that he went absent a few times, returning a day late back to work. He eventually deserted the Army on September the 13th 1915, shortly before he would have probably been sent to fight on the Somme. The Army went to his home address to look for him but he wasn't there and neither was Annie. Choosing to desert the Army may have saved his life, but it made him a wanted man.
Life on the run would have been tough for Henry and his family. Desertion in World War 1 was taken very seriously. The maximum penalty for those who deserted from the Front was death, but for a domestic deserter like Henry the maximum penalty would have been two years hard labour. Between 1914 and 1918 there were around 50,000 deserters in total. Henry's desertion from the Army may well have provided a motive for the name change within the family.
In 1916 Henry Carter was working for Vickers, the armaments factory, in Crayford. Alan took the address he was living at from one of the birth certificates of his children. On the certificate he was named as Henry Carter. They then cross-referenced this with the electoral roll for that year. At the same address there was a Richard Mercer. They did the same thing again for a later certificate and this time it was Richard and Annie Mercer living at the address. It looks like Henry Carter had become known as Richard Mercer to the outside world. They'd gone to start a new life in Crayford where he worked at the Vickers factory. With a new identity and a new start it made him hard to find.
Alan went to see the house where they lived and it was actually only a stone's throw from where Alan himself had grown up. Alan summed it all up very nicely by saying Henry had chosen "love over war".