Though perhaps not one of the best searching techniques, at times I have found that simply inputting a person’s name into the Google search engine (and crossing your fingers) can yield some positive results. Of course if you are searching for someone named John Smith, you should definitely keep well away from trying Google lest you die of fright from the sheer amount of results generated.
Herbert Henry Voss was born in 1902 in East Maitland in New South Wales and married my Grandpa’s Aunty, Violet Constance Barratt in 1929 in Western Australia. As part of my internal checklist, I opened up the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board (MCB) website in the hope that the details of his death and burial were listed. He was indeed listed as being buried in the Karrakatta Cemetery but what surprised me most of all was that he died at age 29 on 26 January 1931. At the time of his death, he and Violet had only been married for two years.
The fact that he died at such a young age stuck with me and I found myself constantly speculating as to what could have happened. Could he have died of an illness? Was there a tragic accident? With all these questions brewing in my mind, on a whim, I typed his name, “Herbert Henry Voss” (including the quotation marks) into Google.
Much to my surprise there were two results listed, both of which were from the National Library of Australia – Australian Newspapers website. This was a site which I’d never heard of nor visited before. Feeling excited at the possibility of discovering the answer to my questions, I quickly clicked on the link and waited enthusiastically for it to load. The two headings in ‘The Argus’ immediately grabbed my attention.
“Killed by Electricity”
“Man’s Scalp Torn Off”
The enthusiasm quickly evaporated as I sat attempting to make out the faded words. I enlarged it, I printed it, I pored over it until the words stood out and the sentences formed. There were a few words that I just couldn’t make out but nevertheless you can get the gist of what happened even without them.
KILLED BY ELECTRICITY
Man’s Scalp Torn Off
PERTH, Tuesday – Herbert Henry Voss, aged about 32 years, engine-driver, of West Perth, was killed by electricity at the Perth Ice and Cool Storage Company’s works at West Perth last night. He was on a landing near the roof of an xxx shed when his wife entered with tea. He turned to speak to her and his head touched unxxxxxx wires carrying 450 volts. He was thrown to the floor dead. His scalp was torn off.
My heart instantly bled for Herbert who died tragically at such a young age and for Violet who witnessed the horrific accident. He was in the prime of his life and had only been married a short while. After speaking to my Grandpa more information came to light. Herbert had been unemployed for quite a while before he’d finally gotten this job and in a cruel twist of fate, it ultimately led him to his death.
When I finally made my way to Karrakatta Cemetery I stood at the gravesite of Herbert Henry Voss with a heavy heart. I read the inscription on the headstone “In the midst of life we are in death” and could hardly begin to imagine the pain Violet would have felt at losing her husband so suddenly.
Though this story was full of tragedy, I cannot discount the fact that all that I discovered was because of a simple search on Google. I have never forgotten this and whenever searching for information on a certain person I almost always try searching for them in Google. Just in case.
New South Wales Births, Deaths & Marriages (http://www.bdm.nsw.gov.au/)
Western Australian Births, Deaths & Marriages (http://www.bdm.dotag.wa.gov.au/)
Metropolitan Cemeteries Board (http://www.mcb.wa.gov.au/NameSearch/details.php?id=KB00042902)
NLA Australian Newspapers (http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/4253116)