RIDDLE SOLVED: Relative of John Cowper, Betty McDonald, with Ipswich Genealogical Society president Irma Deas and (behind) the portrait of Private John Cowper.
RIDDLE SOLVED: Relative of John Cowper, Betty McDonald, with Ipswich Genealogical Society president Irma Deas and (behind) the portrait of Private John Cowper. Gary Worrall

Newspaper helps solve mystery of First World War soldier

THE determination of the Ipswich Genealogical Society to solve an outstanding mystery has reunited an Ipswich family with a "lost" photo they never knew existed.

Irma Deas, president of the society, fondly known as "the Genies", said the group was given the portrait some time in the past, and had never had any knowledge of its history.

"It is still a mystery how the photo came to be found, there is no clear evidence of where they were, they had passed through a couple of sets of hands before they got to us," Mrs Deas said.

After the story of the "found" photo first appeared in the Ipswich Advertiser, Mrs Deas said they were contacted with information saying it was in fact Private John Cowper, originally from Basin Pocket.

Final confirmation came from an unexpected source, when Betty McDonald, a relative of John Cowper, came forward with research on Mr Cowper's First World War service.

"There had been no talk of the photo's existence within the family, the only previously known photo was from 'The Queenslander' in 1915, when troops were posted overseas," Mrs McDonald said.

A descendant of John Cowper's older sister Elizabeth, Mrs McDonald was establishing a family history of the Cowper family when she saw the Advertiser story.

"My mother said I should read this story, and there was a photo of John, so we contacted the Advertiser and came out to meet Irma at the Society."

While the original portrait of John Cowper, along with a smaller photo of his brother Thompson, will remain as part of the Society's collection, Mrs McDonald is thrilled to have a copy in her family history.

"I have been doing this history for about seven years, I had many roadblocks, had a break, but returned to the project with a lot of success, now we have this to add to it," Mrs McDonald said.


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