Let's have a look at how we identify an Australian soldier of The Great War from a photograph.Here he wears a typical World War One soldier's uniform of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Complete with fur-felt slouch hat, rising sun insignia on the collar tabs and puttees on the lower legs.
This portrait has been taken in a photographer's studio in front of a painted backdrop. Typical of the period, such portraits were often taken after basic training was completed, and before a soldier was sent overseas.
But which one of the more than 375,000 Australians who enlisted for service in WWI was he?
Let's look at the back of the photo.A relative has helpfully written "Joe Cox killed in first war" and at the bottom is printed "A J Vincent Talbragar St., Dubbo"
Ok, that makes sense since the photograph came from one of my distant relatives in Dubbo, New South Wales.
That makes Joe Cox one of the 2055 who enlisted at Dubbo.
Since we believe he was killed in the War, he is almost certainly commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
We can use the CWGC's record search function to find out more about him.
On the Debt of Honour Register we use the following search terms:
Search for Casualty
War First World War
Year of death From 1914 to 1919
Then click on "SUBMIT"
This yields 13 results.
Of these we can see 4 have Joseph as their first name.
We then can take note of the names and service numbers:
a. Joseph Cox [ 2160 ]
b. Joseph Christopher Cox [ 6063 ]
c. Joseph Claude Cox [ 1661 ]
d. Joseph Cornelius Cox [ 11935 ]
The service numbers are important, because they make it easier to do what we are about to do, search the National Archives of Australia.
We go to the NAA Recordsearch function. And search as a guest.
In the General Search page we use as a keyword the service number of candidate a.
searching for "2160" gives us 120 results. Lets narrow it down. try "cox 2160" as the search parameter instead. That's better. Just one result.
Cox Joseph : SERN 2160 : POB Northfield SA : POE Adelaide SA : NOK W Cox Annie E
That means: Place of Birth, Northfield South Australia; Place of Enlistment, Adelaide South Australia.
Probably not him since those places are not near Dubbo.. I'll click through to have a quick look at the digital copy of his service record. I'll be looking to see if his Next of Kin has a Dubbo address. Nope. One down.
Try candidate b. I'll try to search for "cox 6063". There is one record:
Cox Joseph Christopher : SERN 6063 : POB March NSW : POE Dubbo NSW : NOK F Cox Francis
Looking good! Place of enlistment, Dubbo NSW!
Scanning his digitised record, I see his original Next of Kin is listed as "Father Francis Cox Dubbo N.S.W. which was later amended to "Martha Cox mother P.O. Dubbo N.S.W."
But just to be sure, we had better check the other two J. Cox candidates.
Candidate c. Try "cox 1661":
Cox Joseph Claude : SERN 1661 : POB Wilcannia Rd NSW : POE Broken Hill NSW : NOK M Cox Grace
Probably not, but we had better check the address of his Next of Kin, who turns out to be his mother, Grace Cox of Milparinka N.S.W.
I must admit that I don't know where Milparinka is, so I had better check with Google Maps. Nope, Milparinka is nowhere near Dubbo.
Candidate d. Try "cox 11935"
Cox Joseph Cornelius : SERN 11935 : POB Mudgee NSW : POE Lithgow NSW : NOK F Cox Edwin I
Ok, Mudgee and Lithgow both have some directional proximity to Dubbo. Better check out the Next of Kin's address. Father lives at Lawson Street, Mudgee.
So, that leads us to conclude that the Joe Cox in the photograph is Joseph Christopher Cox of Dubbo, New South Wales service number 6063.
Let's double check.
There's an old family bible with the photograph. It was common in the olden days to inscribe family bibles with important dates. Births. Deaths. Marriages. I wonder ...
Joseph Christopher Cox. He's our man.
Rest In Peace, Joseph Christopher Cox.
We'll find out more about you in the next few days.