Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lieut. James Kay (1888 – 1917) - Update

As mentioned in my previous post, my sister had given me some medals and a dog tag belonging to my step-great uncle James Kay. With these I embarked on a search of his military records.

My first step was to check the Canadian Soldiers of World War I on Ancestry. I didn’t have much to go on except his name and that he lived in Montreal. I found a record for a James Kay with a relative of Elizabeth Muirhead Kay. On selecting that one, I found an Attestation Paper indicating Elizabeth Muirhead Kay as next of kin, who lived at 38 Overdale Ave., Apt. 4, Montreal. Overdale Ave. rang a bell, so I double checked some papers that I had and found an old Income Tax receipt for a Helen Kay dated 1923 (she owed a whopping $.72) that said that she lived on Overdale Ave; however, the street number was 36 Overdale. I knew that my step-grandfather had a sister named Helen. I printed off the Attestation Paper just in case this was my James. I then decided to go a different route and typed in my step-grandfather’s name, Adam Sinclair Kay. First record that showed up had a relative of Elizabeth Muirhead Kay. It was Adam’s Attestation Paper listing Elizabeth Muirhead Kay as next kin (mother) living at 38 Overdale Ave.! I have a postcard that James wrote to his mother in January 1916 and it was addressed to E. M. Kay. This was the clincher that confirmed that I had found the right James Kay. I couldn’t believe my luck that within a ½ hour I had found both James’ and Adam’s Attestation Papers. The papers had their date of births, location of birth, their occupation and their service number. It also listed previous military service. James had served seven years with the Royal Highlanders of Canada. One of James’ medals that I have is from the Royal Highlanders!

The Attestation paper was for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. I had never heard of this so I decided to google it. The first link that showed up had a complete explanation of this special force. Apparently during World War I, Canada didn’t have a fighting militia so Canadians signed up to fight with England. This force was later disbanded in 1919. The article I found had links to other sites and one of them was Veteran’s Affairs Canada. Veteran’s Affairs Canada has a Canadian Virtual War Memorial. The introductory paragraph says “This site contains a registry of information about the graves and memorials of more than 116,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who served and gave their lives for their country. Included on this site are the memorials of more than 1500 soldiers who died in service to Canada since the Korean War, including peacekeeping and other operations.”

I plugged in James’ name (you can also enter date of death if you have it, which I didn’t). Two entries showed up. The first was for a James Kay, Regimental Sergeant Major (WO.I) who was part of the Canadian Infantry, Manitoba Regiment (which also showed his service number) who died in 1919 – not my James. I selected the second record and hit pay dirt! Lieutenant JAMES KAY who died on July 28, 1917. Force: Army; Unit: Canadian Garrison Artillery; Division: 5th Siege Bty. The dog tag that I have says Lieut. J. Kay, 5th Can. Siege Battery. I now had a date of death and a location in France where he is buried. The memorial lists the cemetery and even a location within the cemetery where his grave is.

(To Be Continued…..)

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