Mudlarker reunites dog tag with descendants of original owner

Mudlarker Jason Sandy found the dog tag in the Thames and was able to return it to the family thanks to online research

Mudlarker Jason Sandy found the dog tag in the Thames

A mudlarker has returned a dog tag lost in the Thames over 100 years ago to the family of the original owner, thanks to family history research.

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Jason Sandy, 44, from London, found the dog tag at Barnes in August while mudlarking (scavenging for historic artefacts in the mud of the Thames).

“It looked like just another Victorian coin, but then when I excavated it, I saw that it had some writing on it,” he told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine.

It looked like just another Victorian coin, but then I saw that it had some writing on it

Written on the dog tag was the name and address S. SMITH, 13 DELORME ST, FULHAM PALACE RD – just a couple of miles from where Jason found the tag.

He shared the find on a Facebook group, where fellow mudlarker and family historian Karis Lacy helped him by uncovering a Samuel Smith living at that address in the 1911 census on Findmypast.

Samuel Smith in the 1911 census, via Findmypast
Samuel Smith in the 1911 census, via Findmypast

She then discovered that Samuel’s daughter Norah married Stanley Shayers in 1928 and they had a son, Peter, who was listed on the 2014 electoral roll as living in Uxbridge.

Jason wrote to Peter’s address and found he’d sadly died the previous year, aged 89.

However, Peter’s widow Joan was still alive and wrote a response, including a photograph of Peter as a boy with Samuel and his dog.

The letter from Joan Shayers, with an old photograph of Samuel Smith, Peter Shayers and the dog
The letter from Joan Shayers, with an old photograph of Samuel Smith, Peter Shayers and the dog

Jason said: “That’s very rare for us mudlarks, to actually be able to track down a person actually associated with the objects that we find in the river. That was one of the best finds I’ve ever made in the Thames, just because I was able to find the descendants of Samuel Smith.”

Jason has over 70,000 followers on his Instagram account, where he shares his mudlarking discoveries.

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He is the author, with Nick Stevens, of Thames Mudlarking: Searching for London’s Lost Treasures, due to be published in 2021.