How to find a D*t*man*

In my post An Incomplete Tale of three Deutschmann servicemen, (uploaded in March 2019) the man I called Deutschmann #1 was Herbert William Deutschmann

Deutschmann #2 was a German sailor, Werner Deutschmann, who died aged 21 on 13 July 1946 and is buried in Darlington Cemetery.  His story will have to wait, but he will be remembered as well.

Deutschmann #3 , Edward William Deutschmann turned up after I’d found basic details of the first two men via the database of War Dead maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 

I found this third Deutschmann while seeking further information on Herbert Deutschmann from digitised documents in South African archives, and happened, as one does, to come across another Deutschmann in the official South African Death Notices for Edward William Deutschmann, formerly a Trader’s Assistant and killed while on Active Service on 12 April 1918. Why had I not found him sooner on the CWGC database?

This Death Notice revealed that Edward had been born in Johannesburg, the son of Edward and Emma Deutschmann and was aged 28 years and 6 months at the time of his death, on 12 April 1918, while on active service in France. He is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, despite his death being within the given dates for the Pozières Memorial which commemorates most of the South Africans without a known grave, and killed during the first weeks of the Kaiserschlacht.

Edward’s case puzzled me immediately, because his name did not seem to appear on the CWGC list nor could I find him, using wild cards, via the usually extraordinarily helpful South African War Graves Project.  It wasn’t impressed by my wildcards, so I knew I should focus on finding a military document on which his name was recorded.

It was the use of the most basic of wild cards that got me there. Here is the search I undertook after my initial failure to find him the ‘normal’ way.

The most straightforward wildcard to use is the asterisk (*). It’s easy and powerful. Each search engine has its own peculiarities as to what each wildcard actually represents, but with most of them, you can apply the asterisk within your search syntax in an easily defined way. An asterisk placed in your search syntax can represent simultaneously three possibilities:

  • There is no character (letter) filling the place of the asterisk;
  • there are two characters filling the place of the asterisk; OR
  • there are any number of characters filling the place of the asterisk.

I eventually begin to hoover up records for Edward, after I searched the Register of Soldiers’ Effects using the wild card D*t*man* for the soldier’s name.  This series is one of my favourites when stuck for records for WW1 servicemen. You can also use it with Commonwealth servicemen. Their next of kin would receive any payments due via their respective High Commissioners.

Notice how few of the characters in the surname are represented in my search term. I couldn’t be sure how an English ear might transcribe either the German “eu” or the German “tsch” so I went for a space where the eu might fit, and reduced the tsch sound to a single t which I felt was likely to be one of the sounds most easily identified. (I would have tried again with ch instead of the t, had I not found the result I needed.)

I didn’t want to exclude a ‘mann’ ending either, hence the third asterisk, though I don’t think it was really necessary.

Here’s what resulted:

Results from the search for D*t*man*

Result: 5 Dutchmans, 2 Dettmans, and 2 Deutchmans. Once I knew how Edward’s surname had been spelt in this document, I was able to use that spelling to find his records in other army documents.

And if I can sneak in another extremely useful family history research tip

Where the speaker’s accent (when providing his or her name) might be a factor in your failure to find a record matching what you are convinced is the only spelling for that name, try suspending that conviction. Replace vowels, wherever they appear in the name with an asterisk. So my D*t*man* above, could have been further reduced to D*t*m*n*.

Testing (for your benefit) the omission of the vowel a between m and n, got me all nine of the above servicemen and also a tenth. He was 10889 Acting Corporal Arthur Henry Dotamone of the Essex Regiment. Arthur was killed on 1 July 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

If your interest in ‘my’ Deutschmanns has been aroused, there are links to my posts on Edward and Herbert from the hyperlinks below. Visitors help as currently curious, modern-day Deutschmanns will not find these blog posts on their relatives anywhere near the top of their search results. For war memorial research, I have a number of posts with advice for this elsewhere on this blog.

Edward William Deutschmann

Herbert William Deutschmann

Sources
The Soldiers’ Effects Records (1901–1929) are held by the National Army Museum, Chelsea, and have been digitised. You can find them on Ancestry and if you do not have an Ancestry subscription, your local library is likely to have a library subscription:
‘UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects’, https://www.ancestry.co.uk/search/collections/60506/, accessed 25/4/2020.

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