03 May 2016

Elsie's Receipt Book--The Heart of the Home

Good cooks have always collected recipes, or receipts as they were sometimes called. My mother-in-law's mother, Elizabeth Mary Stephens (Drapes) Churton, aka Elsie, was no exception. We recently uncovered a little journal, begun on 16 June 1918, eight months after she married, and about the time her husband was to return home from World War I, minus an arm and in need of much nurturing.

Elsie was born 12 July 1885 in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, Ireland. She met her future husband Harry Leslie Churton when he was working at the Asylum there as an electrician.

Cooking being at the heart of what we consider home and family life, this little book gives us insight into Elsie's world. Maybe because Elsie was born and raised in Ireland she didn't know some of the recipes that the English ladies already had ingrained in them, but for whatever reason we find some classic English foods, along with little hints. The page below has a very simple recipe for that most cherished dish, Yorkshire Pudding.

Beneath that is a key to which sauces must be served with which meats. Critical that the sauce changes depending on cooking method, so a roast chicken demands bread sauce, while boiled chicken wants a parsley or egg sauce. I remember my mother-in-law still holding to these hard and fast rules and wish I had known at the time that she had it all written down! Entertaining the in-laws might have been a little less stressful had I been able to anticipate the proper sauces!

Initially I thought it would be fun to work through each recipe in order, as an homage to ancestors, cooking and love, but mayonnaise sauce and many of the other treats don't really fit into our current dietary regime. What else, what else might Elsie have a receipe for?

We learn that Elsie was an orderly sort, for she created an index at the back of her little book. Oh, I like this lady!

Now this would all be quite wondrous enough, but upon further examination I found that Elsie and I have a few other things in common. First, she was a singer! While techniques may have changed a bit, I love that she recorded these warm-up exercises.

As if that weren't enough to put me into a swoon, I then discovered we have a pastime in common--knitting! Here are directions for making socks for her new husband. Now there's something I could try. You can see that she has squeezed in a receipt at the bottom, sideways, just as my mother-in-law Rosemary used to do on aerogrammes when she wrote to us and had one last message!

Finally, in anticipation of having children, Elsie also had some instructions for knitting baby garments.

Did mother-in-law Rosemary and Auntie Tealy (Sheelagh) end up wearing these woolly pants? Probably!

If we are lucky our genealogical research turns up documents, and many of those are dry--full of facts, and lacking in warmth, but helping us link together the generations with proof. Most are transactions between men concerning war, purchases, migration, and death and probate, in sum, the harsher side of life. This pleasing little journal, on the other hand, gives us a peek into the softer side of our family history and we will cherish it always.

05 April 2016

Brian Robert Rowland Kimmitt, RIP Dear Father-in-Law

I am completely saddened to say that my much loved father-in-law, Brian, passed away four days ago. Being a genealogist, one of my first concerns was to pull together his death notice and obituary.

People often use the term obituary to refer to a death notice. They are not the same thing. The death notice is much shorter and serves just to give the critical information that someone has died, and to relay information about the funeral and burial. An obituary is longer, describes the person's life, family and loved ones, in as much detail as can be arranged, depending on cost or time. In modern times those are both paid notices. There are also cases in which a newspaper will decide to do an article on someone who has recently passed away at no cost to the grieving family. Some newspapers also call this an obituary, some do not, so it can get confusing.

Brian lived in England and procedures and wording are a bit different than in the States, but it is essentially the same. Here is the death notice the funeral home sent to local and national papers:

KIMMITT--Brian Robert Rowland. On 1st April, at the Countess, Chester. Brian, aged 85 years of Malpas, loving father to Myles and daughter-in-law, Polly, much loved Grandfather to Ryan, Nathan and Daniel, and great friend to Anne.

Funeral Service at St. Oswald’s, Malpas on Monday April 11th at 11am, followed by interment at Shocklach Church. Family flowers only please. Donations if desired to St. Oswald’s Church or Rotary Club of Whitchurch. Enquires to Rolfe’s, the Family Funeral Service, Whitchurch. Telephone (01948) 662209.

Rather stark, isn't it? Now below is the obituary I wrote for him. I kept to the facts and did not delve into his wit, humor or kindness because it was intended for a British (more conventional?) audience. But I feel it didn't really paint a proper picture of him. Perhaps the description of his personality has no place in an obituary. I don't know. When you're in the middle of grieving and arranging travel and funeral plans it's hard to get a sense of it all. But he sure led an interesting life.


Brian Robert Rowland Kimmitt of Malpas, 85, died April 1st at the Countess of Chester Hospital. The son of Lt. Col. Gordon Robertson Kimmitt and Anne Hill (Meredith) Kimmitt, Brian was born 28 January 1931 at the Woolwich Army Barracks in the East End of London.

He attended Lancing College, Sussex, and received a BA and an MA from Trinity College, Dublin University. As a young man he worked in various schools in Dublin, Birmingham and finally in Berkshire where he met and married Rosemary Churton on April 4th, 1957.

He joined the Colonial Office in 1959, then took his young wife off to teach school in Kenya. Son Myles was born there shortly afterward. His 21-year career in East and West Africa culminated in his appointment as Chief Education Officer to the Federal Government in the East of Nigeria where he founded a 1,000-pupil college and acted as Educational Advisor to the Federal Military Governor. After their return to England in 1980 Brian ran a small engineering firm in Shrewsbury, and retired in 1988.

A 50-year member of The Rotary Club (inducted in Tanga), he belonged to The Rotary Club of Shrewsbury then Whitchurch, where he served as president in 1994-95. There he chaired the International Committee for several years, instigating matching grants in Ethiopia and Tanzania with Water Aid.

Always keen on the outdoor life, he climbed Kilimanjaro four times, and walked to the peaks of Mt. Kenya three times. He played most sports, but particularly enjoyed tennis and sailing. He owned two Cessna airplanes and clocked up a thousand hours as a private pilot. He was a Lay Reader in the Church of England for many years.

A widower since 2001, Brian devoted his time to church activities along with his volunteer work with the Masons and the Rotary. He enjoyed socializing and traveling with his companion Anne Proudlove. Since 1990 he has spent two months a year with his son’s family in America and loved watching his grandsons grow up.

Loving father to Myles and daughter-in-law Polly, and grandfather to Ryan, Nathan, and Daniel. He leaves his brother Maurice FitzGerald Kimmitt and sisters-in-law Mhairi Kimmitt and Sheelagh Churton. He also leaves his very special friend, Anne Proudlove, who devoted herself to him, and cared for him in his waning years. He was predeceased by his wife, Ida Rosemary (Churton) Kimmitt and brothers Richard Desmond FitzGerald Kimmitt and Michael Richard Kimmitt.

Funeral services will be held April 11th at 11:00 am at St. Oswald’s church in Malpas. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to: The Rotary Club of Whitchurch (http://www.surftech.co.uk/rotary/Main/index.htm).

Okay, he did a lot of interesting things, but we still don't get a sense of him as a man. But I have a blog, and though my blogger expert friends would tell me this post is too long, well, it's my blog and I'll write what I want to! Brian lived a long full life and there's much to be said.

What I really wanted to talk about was how he welcomed me into the family so warmly. He was a charmer, and gracious, and was able to set anyone at ease (except, perhaps, naughty grandsons). Before Myles and I were married we visited his parents, and every morning Brian would bring me a cup of coffee in bed! I took this as an excellent predictor of boyfriend's future behavior. An equal and opposite action in the evenings was delivery of a perfectly crafted gin and tonic, with just enough bite in it to make the conversation flow. He would then regale me with stories of their time in Africa and the joy would radiate across his face.

Brian loved family, especially children. He doted on only son Myles and often said he regretted they were unable to have more children. He and Myles called each other Gully, a remnant from something in Myles' childhood. He taught Myles everything there is to know about mechanical bits, plumbing, car engines, world travel, home repair, and most of all, how to be a gentleman. He never spoke badly of anyone and never cursed. He was quietly religious and spent many years being a lay reader, often "taking the service" when the local vicar was off somewhere, and I can attest that his sermons were very well written and executed. He had a lovely singing voice and we even sang a few Hallelujah choruses together driving around in Massachusetts.

Brian and Rosemary came to stay with us for two months of every year until Rosemary's death in 2001. While I found it extremely challenging to have household guests for that length of time, it nevertheless gave us two additional guiding minds to help our boys grow into the fine fellows they are today. Granny and Granddad had strict standards of behavior (and not just for the kids!), and we encouraged them to make their opinions known to the boys. Once we had small children running around, the evening cocktail received a new nickname: "anti-buggering fluid," as in, "give her some anti-buggering fluid," which meant that Mom was wound up at the end of the day and needed calming. At that point, though, I had to keep my wits about me, however much I might have wanted to fade out a bit, and that put Brian's nose out of joint--that I wouldn't join him in a long slow cocktail at dusk. When you have three hungry boys clamoring for food and a dinner for four adults to put on you can't indulge!

Brian rejoiced in the accomplishments of his son and grandsons. When Rosemary died in 2001 Myles' office sent us a nice potted plant that flourished (we still have it!) and he never failed to remark on how highly Myles' boss must have thought of him to send such a potted plant. To him that plant represented compassion, reward, and admiration, even. As for the grandsons, he adored them beyond measure. Once they got big enough for him to get a good hold on, and that didn't take long, he never let go. He fed them their "bops", gave them baths, read stories, tucked them in, played Monopoly, watched baseball, cheering on the Boston Red Sox in their World Series win after an 86-year lag in 2004, and rejoicing as much as any local fan did. He attended their baseball games, graduations, their violin concerts, anything they had on when he was here. His big regret was not being able to make the trip last year to see Daniel graduate. Being an educator, he was thoroughly pleased with the fine education the fellows received at St. John's High School, and appreciated the input they had into turning them into fine young men.

He used to get his battle gear on when companies made mistakes or treated him badly. He was furious at American Airlines for canceling their direct Boston-Manchester flight and engaged in a protracted letter-writing campaign with them for years! He complained to the CEO. ticket agents, the air hostesses, the phone reservationists, anyone representing the company! Probably the baggage handlers, too. He once told me I didn't write enough angry letters!

After Rosemary passed away Brian was bereft. He moved to a smaller house in the sweet village of Malpas and took up a close friendship with Anne Proudlove. Anne provided much needed companionship and cheerful conversation and he brightened up and began to live his life as before. He adored her. He continued to come visit us, sometimes dragging Anne along, and even bought a condo so he could have his own "digs" nearby. He loved that place, and would wax on about how the wisdom of the realtor who found it for him, the fine view from his deck, the cherry trees, and how loud the fridge was.

I lost my father only two years after I met Brian but he happily stepped in as a substitute dad for me, and I loved him for that. I couldn't have asked for a better father-in-law. Rest in peace, Gully.

Happily, the local newspaper wishes to send a reporter out to talk to us to get a fuller picture of the man. Perhaps then we will get the right proportion of facts and emotional impact. When that is published I will post it here.

19 February 2016

I'll Warrant Not Much Has Changed

I sing in a chorus that rehearses in a church hall in Worcester, Mass. On my way into chorus rehearsal a few weeks ago I came across this notice on the door. I was struck by how little has changed since the earliest days in Central Massachusetts when it was required to post the warrant for the annual meeting on the front door of the church. We're still electing a moderator and other officers, still voting on new and old business. And still physically posting the notification on the door!

Warrant for Annual Meeting of 31 Jan 2016, 2nd Parish, Worcester,
posted on the door to the First Unitarian Church,
photographed by Polly Kimmitt, 26 Jan 2016.

What has changed is who qualifies as an eligible voter. Only Freemen could vote in early town and parish meetings. That meant males over 18 who owed no money, were not in servitude, were in good standing with the town and church, and had taken the Freeman's Oath. Once they were Freemen they were allowed to own property and vote: a far cry from who is allowed to vote today.

Here is a transcription of a warrant for neighboring Shrewsbury, Massachusetts from 1756.

Left Sidebar: Notification for the first precinct In Shrewsbury, November the 1, 1756
Body: These are to Notifie and warn all free Holders and other Inhabitants
Living in the first precinct In Shrewsbury Qualified by Law to
vote In precinct affairs to meet at the Meetinghouse in sd precinct on monday
the first Day of November - Next at one of the Clock In the afternoon
then and there In the first place to Chuse a moderator 2. To bring in precinct 
Depts and grant Money to pay the same 3 To see what the precinct will
give the Revd Mr Job Cushing for the present year to Make a sufficient
Sallary for his support 4 To Chuse a committee to Reckon with the
precinct Treasurer and to make Report at the Next Meeting \   \   \   \   \   \  
5 To Chuse a committee to Reckon with the Revd Mr Job Cushing In
order to get a Discharge 6 To See if the precinct will grant money
to Repair the windows of the Meeting house 7 To See if the precinct will
Chuse a committee to [Shut up?] the [ally] in the meetinghouse through the
Body of Seats as hath been voted or to act -- anything there on as the precinct 
shall think fitt 8 To See if the precinct will come into sum way to clear the
Burying place and to mend the fence or act anything thereon as the precinct
shall think fitt   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   
Shrewsbury first precinct                    Simon Maynard    }         precinct
Oct. the 11 1756                                  Ebenezer Keyes    }         Committee
                                                             Job Cushing Jr      }

11 February 2016

"Colored Citizens of Worcester" Honor Roll, World War II

Worcester professor Thomas Doughton recently brought my attention to the fact that this "Colored Citizens" of Worcester [Massachusetts] Honor Roll from World War II is currently missing. It was installed outside the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Zion Church at the corner of Clayton and Belmont Streets, but was removed during the construction of Route 290. I have asked for and received Prof. Doughton's permission to reproduce his photos of the memorial and pages from the dedication program. [1]

When the Worcester City Council met on 26 January 2016, the agenda included a request from William S. Coleman III to have the city administration support the efforts of Worcester's African American community to locate and [re-]establish a long lost World War II Memorial honoring Worcester’s "citizens of color who served our country.”[2] It was referred to the Veterans' and Military Affairs Committee. [3]

According to the program, the memorial was constructed by the Van Slett Advertising Company, sometime before August 1945 (the war was still on), on land donated by the AME Zion Church. Below is detail of a map of Worcester from 1891 in which the church can be seen, at the corner of Clayton and Belmont Streets. [4] Construction for Route 290 began in earnest about 1955-1960, I believe, so it was not up for long before it was removed and lost or destroyed.

A Google map of the area is below, rotated. It looks like the Route 290 E off-ramp is what used to be Clayton.

Here is a transcription of the names found on the memorial and in the booklet.

Adamson, Elijah
Harrison, Percy
Prince, Daniel J
Adamson, James
Hawley, Arthur V Jr
Prince, Walter A
Aikens, Mattie
Hawley, Erill
Randall, Geraldine W
Anderson, Kenneth A Jr
Hawley, William L
Richardson, Roland A
Anderson, Roger B
Hazzard, George W
Robbins, Alfred F
Bates, Ernest E
Hazzard, John H
Saunders, Kenneth B
Bates, Frederick S
Hazard, Leon
Schuyler, Webster W
Battle, John A
Hazzard, Leonard
Scott, Lyman E
Benjamin, Theodore R
Hencey, John E Jr
Shropshire, Louis T Jr
Benson, Eugene F
Hencey, Harry W
Smith, Carroll
Benson, William B
Higginbotham, Charles W Jr
Smith, Clarence E Jr
Black, Harold T
Higginbotham, Forrest I
Smith, James M
Boone, Frank
Higginbotham, Gordon H
Smothers, Tolbert Jr
Bostic, Edward S
Hogan, John H Jr
Spence, George O
Bradshaw, Andrew
Hogan, Thaddeus G
Spring, Ellis
Bradshaw, Wesley
Hoose, Howard F
Spring, Eugene R
Brevard, Ernest
Hopewell, Andrew C
Storms, Donald E
Brevard, Paul S
Hopewell, James H
Taylor, Waverly
Brevard, Robert D Jr
Hopewell, Robert D
Teixerla, Edward
Brisbane, James M
Howard, Alonzo E
Tolson, Joseph
Brown, Hadlin H
Jarrett, Robert
Toney, Albert M
Byard, John A
Jarrett, Willard
Toney, Frank A
Carlos, Stanley H
Jenkins, Rozell
Toney, Frederick L
Cato, Roy W
Johnston, Sidney W
Trusedell, Joseph N
Chatfield, Edward L
Johnson, William O
Tyrance, Leslie L
Clark, Robert C
Joyner, John A Jr
Vickers, Edward
Cole, Robert A
Kelley, Harry C
Wade, Robert A
DeBois, Joseph
Kelley, James W
Walley, Reginald H
Delgado, Antone J
Kennard, Henry C
Ward, James G
DeWitt, Arthur
Kennedy, Alfred Jr
Ward, James H
Downes, Clarence
Kennedy, Carlyle M
Wheaton, Bernard A
Dupree, Zack
Lane, Marvin A
White, James R
English, James L
Laws, John S
White, Wilmore H
Farrell, John W
Levicie, Lester P
Wicks, Luther B
Fisher, Earl F
Majors, George E
Williams, James D
Gaylord, Calvin D
Marshal, Ralph
Wilson, Charles F
Goldsberry, John J
Marshal, Robert
Wilson, Ellsworth
Gray, Holmes C
McCorn, William M
Wilson, Elwood P
Hadley, George L
Monroe, Henry D Jr
Wilson, Frank H
Hall, Eugene E
Nelson, William A
Wilson, Franklyn L
Hampton, Everett B Jr
Nevins, John J
Wilson, George M Jr
Hampton, Heywood
Nichols, Walter D Jr
Wilson, Herbert D
Hampton, Mahlon F
Perkins, Leroy D
Wilson, John D
Harper, Wesley H
Perkins, Leslie
Wilson, Leslie M, Jr
Harris, Harold L Jr
Perkins, Walter W
Wilson, Oliver U
Harris, Richard L
Pope, David F
Wilson, Ralph J
Harris, Waverly
Price, George W
Wilson, Robert W
Harris, Willie J
Price, Henry L
Wright, Carroll S

Wright, Robert C

Also inscribed on the stone is "United We Stand," and "They serve their country in many places: United States, Iceland, Iran, China, North Africa, England, Australia, Italy."

Below are Professor Doughton's images of pages from the dedication booklet.

So where is it now? Inquiries are currently being made. Stay tuned! I will update this when/if we can track it down.



1. Thomas Doughton, shared post to "Your (sic!) Probably from Worcester, MA if______," Facebook page, digital images and description of Colored Citizens of Worcester WW II Honor Roll memorial; Facebook (www.facebook.com : posted 1 February 2016).

2. Mike Benedetti, "Worcester City Council, Meeting Agenda, 26 January 2016"; Worcester.com, blog, (http://wrcstr.com : posted January 25, 2016).

3. "City of Worcester, Agenda of the City Council, February 9, 2016" Journal of the City Council, 26 January 2016; Worcester, Massachusetts, website (http://www.worcesterma.gov : accessed 11 February 2016).

4. G. H. and O. W. Walker, City of Worcester. Revised by Chas. A. Allen, C.E. (Boston: G. H. Walker, 1891); David Rumsey Collection (http://www.davidrumsey.com : accessed 11 February 2016).

29 November 2015

Garrald Fitzgerald, Goldsmith of Galway

In April of 1979 on a twenty hour train journey from Rome to London I met a chatty but cordial gentleman from Rainham, Kent. Amongst many, many other things, he told me that he was a coin collector. He had a metal detector and spent his time scanning dried up riverbeds and other places for his favorite treasure––Roman coins. When he found out my surname was FitzGerald he was delighted to present me with a coin he had dredged up from the banks of the Thames Estuary one particularly dry year. Since it wasn't Roman he wasn't interested in it, so he gave it to me.

Thames Estuary and Wind Farms from Space NASA taken by Operational Land Imager,
public domain file, created 28 Apr 2013; Wikipedia.com.
I’ve held onto this coin for thirty-six years: through all the time I lived in Rome, moving from pensione to pensione to apartment, then living in several apartments in the Boston area, my parents' house, grad student housing in England for a year, and two family homes in the 'burbs since 1989. That's a lot of moving, but I kept it stashed away with a few other treasures and keepsakes. I had always assumed it was a novelty token rather than a real coin.

Recently it has begun to gnaw at me. I Googled it a few times but never found anything like it. Finally yesterday I came across a fantastic website called Irish Coinage. I sent an email to the webmaster/author, John Stafford-Langan and he replied right away. I am so impressed by the extent of his knowledge and his willingness to share it with me. Here's what I learned.

The front (obverse) design is a set of arms  - he suspects of a goldsmith's guild - but has not been able to verify that. The name Garrald Fitzgerald surrounds the arms. The words that ring the coin are called the legend.

The reverse has a legend that reads "Goldsmith of Galway." Aha! I hadn't deciphered the "smith" part. John says, "It has a large 'I' with a small D above it - "double struck" so it looks like an 'L' (D was the old abbreviation for a penny (from the old French denier and originally the latin 'denarius'). Stars are often used on these tokens to fill the design around the denomination." So being double struck makes it hard to read both the word smith and the letter D. 

In summary, it is a penny token issued in the 1660s (!!) by Garrald Fitzgerald, a Galway goldsmith. There was a severe shortage of small change in the mid to late 17th century and many English and Irish merchants issued token coins to alleviate the problem. In 1673 they were replaced by official coin. There are over 800 different types from Ireland and more than 16,000 from England. It is probably made of brass, but I should get it checked, not by a regular jeweler, though, because they are apt to file a bit of it off to test it and that would reduce the value. It is scarce, as most of the Irish ones are, but not particularly valuable unless it turns out to be gold.

He says: "I'm assuming that the token is brass based on the colour and because these tokens were generally made of brass or copper. However a very small number of examples were made as presentation pieces in silver and fewer again in gold.  The silver and gold specimens are normally much better struck than the normal circulating brass and copper example so the doubling of the letters in the legend and the striking crack suggest that this is most likely a brass example. There are no known Irish examples surviving in gold, only a few from London (from where a great many tokens were issued) so a gold example is unlikely, but would be of significant interest." 

Normally the merchants who issued these tokens were prominent citizens - the city records often show them serving on the town council, or providing services to the town. I've traced my own FitzGerald line in Kerry only back to about 1790 or so. There is no way I could ever definitely tie them in with this fellow. But it's not out of the question to think that he could be related in some way. Pretty cool stuff lurking in my jewelry drawer all these years.

Tomasso Garzoni, Goldschmiede, or Ständebuch & Beruf & Handwerk & Goldschmied, Saxon State Library,
Dresden [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.