Woman's devastating search for grandfather ends after Hillston Cemetery records lost

When Vicki Morris first set out to track down the grandfather she never knew, she could not have imagined it would bring her such heartache.

Ms Morris pieced together the final days of Francis ‘Frank’ Coll Morris after more than a decade of searching, discovering he was buried in an unmarked grave in the Hillston cemetery in 1973.

But it is there her search hit a dead-end.

She says no one can tell her exactly which unmarked grave belongs to Mr Morris, because Carrathool Shire Council lost the burial records back in the 1980s.

The news was a devastating blow for Ms Morris who had come so far, only to learn she would likely never be able to find the peace she was searching for.

“I’ve been looking for 13 years for my grandfather and to know he is there in the cemetery and I can’t stand in front of his grave, it is quite heartbreaking,” she said pausing for a moment as tears threatened to overwhelm her.

Soldiering on Ms Morris eventually asked council and the Hillston cemetery for any records they had on hand, determined to continue her search.

She contacted the funeral director listed on her grandfather’s death certificate, the grave digger, and people in the community.

And among those calls she says she heard something truly upsetting - allegations the loss of records could mean unmarked graves are being accidentally dug up as other deceased's remains are laid to rest.

It was news prompting Ms Morris to make a formal complaint to council, voicing her concerns and calling for an investigation into how the records could have been lost.

“I put it all in writing because families deserve to know what has happened to these records,” she said. 

“Even if people can’t afford headstones council should still know who is in what grave.”

Ms Morris says since making her complaint the previously helpful council has been resistant, telling her she would need to fill out forms, and pay fees and staff to search for the missing information.

“But they lost those records, they should be waiving that fee,” she said in exasperation.

It was a tragic twist, but to go with the details of Mr Morris’ tragic life.

“My grandmother died when my dad was just 12 years old giving birth to his little sister,” Ms Morris explained.

“My grandfather was a WWII veteran and they didn’t have counselling back then, he wasn’t coping very well, so my dad and his brothers were put into boys homes and from there they never had anything to do with him.”

It was a hurt still running deep decades later when Ms Morris’ father received a call informing him his father had passed away, buried in an unmarked grave and forgotten until Ms Morris began her search.

“I feel as though I can understand what he went through, I get why my dad is angry but I just feel like I can relate to what he was going through,” she said.

“It is not nice to think he was a nobody, he was a WWII veteran who fought for our country, but it doesn’t matter who it is people need to be treated with respect.”

Anyone who knew of Ms Morris’ grandfather or who knows where he was buried is urged to contact her through The Area News office.

“I found out he worked at Hunterwang Station so I rang and got onto a man who remembered my grandfather, he said he had a suitcase of belongings that were in a storeroom for years waiting for someone to claim,” Ms Morris said.

Carrathool Shire Council were contacted for comment on this story.