TODAY we have a Dutch mystery - one which local historian Peter Stanhope hopes you may be able to help solve.

Twenty years or so ago, a young Dutch woman was walking along a street near Rotterdam in Holland when she saw something on the ground. It turned out to be a postcard portrait of Gladys Cooper, the English actress famous in the early 1900s. There was a message on the back of the card, which was addressed to Ethel West of 9 Haley's Terrace, off Haxby Road, York. The postcard was dated August 28, 1917 -100 years ago to the day.

The card has been cut about a bit - possibly to make it fit into a frame - so it is not possible to read the full message. But it goes something like this: "Dear Ethel, Thanks very much for your card from Castle Howard. I hope you had a nice time, in spite of the showery weather you are having. I am enjoying ....... With love from ......." The card was postmarked as being posted from Northampton - but apart from that, we have no idea who sent it.

The Dutchwoman who found that card lying on the street in Rotterdam 20 years ago was named Susi Oerlemans. She has kept hold of it ever since. But she has always wondered who sent the card, who Ethel West was - and what happened to her subsequently. Susi recently contacted Peter, asking him to find out if Ethel still had any family in York. "Susi would like to return the postcard to the family as it may have important family history connections for them," Peter says.

He himself has done some family history research on Ethel. She was born in 1893 in Manchester, the first child and daughter of George West and his wife Mary (nee Johnson). In 1901 they were living in the Manchester area, father George being listed in the Census as a 'waterman - Manchester Corpn.'

By 1911, however, George had moved the West family to 9 Haley's Terrace, off Haxby Road, close to the Rowntree's Chocolate factory. Those houses, built by Rowntrees, were always used to house the Company Fire Men with their private works fire station, Peter says. And in fact George was listed in the 1911 census as "Watchman, Fire Brigade, Cocoa works".

Ethel was listed in the same 1911 census as 'box labeller - cocoa, chocolate confectionery'. She was 18 years old. Also in the household were the other West children: Lucy, Stanley, George and Hilda. All had been born in Manchester except Hilda who was five in 1911. So the family had been living in York since about 1905.

When the card was sent 100 years ago today, Ethel would have been about 24. According to marriage registers an Ethel West married a Walter Wilson, here in York, a couple of years later in 1919. "Is this the same lady?" Peter asks. "If so, could the card have been sent to Ethel by Walter just two years before, when they were 'courting' perhaps?"

If there are any members of the West or Wilson families still living in the York area who recognise Ethel as being an ancestor (perhaps a grandmother or great-grandmother) Peter would love to hear from you.

"Susi is anxious to return this postcard to the family and to possibly learn how ever it came to be lost on a street in Holland twenty years ago!" he says.

BLOB Peter Stanhope can be contacted on 01904 760467.