Kimmitt Genealogical Research

13 November 2017

The Joys of DNA: It's a Girl!

This was my year to study DNA in more detail, so I enrolled in the Advanced Genetic Genealogy course at the July 2017 Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). It was an informative and fun class, led by CeCe Moore and Blaine Bettinger. Late at night on the first day of class I visited to explore a tool mentioned in class that I hadn't played with much. When I navigated to the "DNA Relatives" page, imagine my shock when I saw this!


I nearly jumped out of my skin and had to stifle a squeal of delight. I messaged my match noting that we shared a goodly amount of DNA and I was ready to hear her story. Then I started my calculations. At 25% the relationship also could have been half sister, double first cousin or grandparent/grandchild. I was able to rule out everything but niece. I noted that the test taker's mtDNA haplogroup was A2g1 and in my initial late-night Googling found that meant either Asian or Native American maternal lineage. Well, well!  I was therefore sure this was not my sister's child. I have two brothers. One served in Vietnam, lived in Massachusetts and (died too young) in 2003. The other one lived in New Mexico for a while but is now in Massachusetts.

Tuesday morning I had a response that she was specifically searching for her father, so I asked if she could provide place and date of birth. In class I was all aflutter but luckily the material being covered was still pretty basic, so I spent the morning investigating.* I didn't want to scare my new relative by asking too many questions. At that point she had provided only a first initial and surname. The surname is Hispanic, and I located a possible candidate from Santa Fe, New Mexico born about 1985, but I couldn't be sure with only a first initial. It just so happens that brother lived in New Mexico in the 80s, so I could tell I was getting warmer. My match then emailed me her date and place of birth: 1985, New Mexico! Bingo, I found her dad!

Courtesy of Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce
I spoke with brother on phone and he was shocked! He had not known of this baby and initially had a hard time believing it, having heard that the DNA sites were "BS." I explained the difference between the ethnicity estimates which can be very imprecise, and the actual segment matching which leaves nothing to doubt, and he came around to the science at that point––that New Baby Girl Niece and I were a 25% match and he had a not-so-new child. I advised he just go let it sink in for a day.

From then on in I served as intermediary, trying not to push Newest Precious Niece to share too much about herself, but wanting to see that raw DNA file so that I could make a direct comparison, since brother had tested at Family Tree DNA. By uploading both raw data files to Gedmatch I could directly compare and there would be no doubt. After only a day brother was so intrigued that he was ready to meet her! I can only imagine what they both were going through at that time. I just know that I felt much as I did the on the days all of my nieces and nephews were born. This surprised me a bit! How can you instantly feel love for someone you've never met? It must be built into our genes. It took all of my self-control not to ask questions or be too creepily warm and welcoming, so I tried to just let her know that wow, but okay, we're on board!

My good friend (a psychologist) told me that both of them (and their families) would need at least a couple of months to come to terms with this news, so once I connected them by providing emails, I backed out of the situation completely. Brother broke the news to his wife and three children. And Adorable Accomplished Artsy Niece planned a trip north to meet her dad, accompanied by her good friend.

So I got to meet this Brand New Relative two days ago. Her name is Raelynn. She is lovely. I'm a little freaked out at how familiar she seems. She is a really nice young woman (and so is her friend). She is well educated, has good manners, is a great conversationalist, is artistic, has a good sense of humor, and a great job. The most amazing thing is that she managed to get my husband to talk, not an easy feat! As we spoke and she registered various emotions I could see the features of other family members skittering across her face.  She says her thoughts have often been drawn to coming north to visit, with images of seafaring people and stained glass windows. I don't discount these feelings and wonder what mysterious force could be giving her hints of her ancestry all along. Most of her paternal ancestors have lived near the sea, and she's got a number of sea captains and mariners in her ancestry, not to mention Mayflower.

I'm in love. We're all in love. Welcome to the family, Raelynn!

Raelynn, me, Myles (my husband), brother Tim

[I don't like this pic because I wasn't ready with my smile yet. I felt a lot happier than I look!]

* After lunch I started paying attention again!

13 September 2017

Proof That You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover

I recently attend the 41st Triennial Congress of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants in Plymouth, Massachusetts, along with ~599 other enthusiastic descendants of our earliest Massachusetts settlers. It was a great experience and many exciting developments of genealogical import were announced. More on that in a later post.

One little fun aspect was a freebie book table. I don't need any more books and I try not to browse, but they were from the Mayflower Society's library and so I had a gander. I picked up one called Vermont Guide since many of my clients' ancestors migrated up to Vermont and then to NY and I thought it might be of interest.

I opened to the first page and found the page below. So far, cover and inside match. No date of publication, and clearly about Vermont.

By thumbing through I learned that it is several booklets, only the first 50 of 173 pages of which are about Vermont!

The booklets are numbered sequentially and bound in order. They cover all of the New England states and those that are dated were published in 1926. For each town it gives the map reference, population, description, historical events and advertisements. So what we really have inside is well beyond a guide to Vermont. [Official National Survey Maps and Guide for Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Southern New England  (Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island) (Chester, Vermont: National Survey Co., 1926).]

Why is my house always in the binding?!

On top of that, someone has added bits of extraneous articles that got bound right in with the booklets.

Above is a typical story of a house that remained in one place but fell into the jurisdictions of multiple states and counties over time--a not uncommon story.

Somebody also made annotations, especially Native American names of towns/areas. For Scituate it references the Bates' sisters house and the site of the Old Oaken Bucket.

The clip below is a bit of a head-scratcher and causes the immediate urge to Google, but I'll leave that to you!

So instead of simply a Vermont Guide we have a 1926 New England business directory specialized in travel, along the lines of AAA's guides, but with customized with personal notes. See what you can miss if you don't at least flip through the pages of a book?

23 August 2017

St. Patrick's Missionary Society, Kiltegan Fathers

Courtesy of Saint Patrick's Missionary Society, "Our Work."

When Myles' family lived in Africa (circa 1960-1980) they were friends with some Catholic missionaries, both in Kenya and later in Nigeria. They called them the "Catholic fathers."  I was always a little surprised by this because father-in-law Brian was fairly rigid on his Church of Ireland theological doctrines. But he also enjoyed a good debate, so I expect he welcomed a discussion on the finer points of Biblical exhortations.

They maintained contact over the years through Christmas cards, phone calls, and even a few visits. Since Brian passed away last year Myles has been gently closing the various chapters of his father's life, and this was one that cried out for closure. So on a recent visit to Ireland we made it our mission (pun partially intended) to seek them out.

Idyllic countryside

Saint Patrick's Missionary Society maintains a retirement home for these missionaries in beautiful Kiltegan, County Wicklow. It's probably not accidental that it is located not too far from the ancient monastic city of Glendalough. After a long and winding drive through the gentle hills we arrived at what seemed to be a campus, and indeed, this is where they had all been schooled by the Saint Patrick Missionary Society. I like this concept and hope that someday the University of Massachusetts at Amherst will have my cohorts and me back for retirement, perhaps giving us our old rooms back!

Poor Father Lawler at first was puzzled as to why we were there. He was humble and honored by our visit and showed us around. Since we arrived half an hour before lunch he invited us to join him. They have a fine, efficient cafeteria and we enjoyed a healthy meal together. Father Lawler pointed out a few other priests that had served with him and Myles vaguely remembered them, too. A few of them joined us at our table. I loved seeing them perk up as the memories started to flow. They became quite animated and stood a little straighter by the time we left.


Remembering Africa

It looked just like any other retirement home, but I had to marvel at the collective global experience of those men as I scanned the room. They have seen a lot of suffering, probably endured it themselves. And they've done a lot of good as well.

Well cared for in their old age

Of course as a genealogist I was drawn to the cemetery. The uniformity of the markers was striking but it seems a suitable resting place.

Row upon row of identical cross grave markers at the cemetery of the Kiltegan Fathers

As I sat among them I fervently hoped that they had been untouched by scandal, but sadly there was one case where a man was associated with another who had abused a young girl. These guys were once young, idealistic and brave, and I hate to think of all the good they have done being ruined by the corrupt, but that's the story of today's church. 

There are no more missionaries being trained here. The seeds these men planted 50 years ago have come to fruition and now missionaries hail from the very countries they served in--Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, and more. 

15 June 2017

Sheelagh Leslie Churton, 1925-2017: Tribute to an Extraordinary Woman

We lost Myles' Aunt Sheelagh (Auntie Tealy) a few weeks ago. She was precious to us and to everyone who ever knew her. A highly unusual example of a completely selfless person––tolerant, kind, nurturing, hard working, capable, and fun! Here is the tribute I read at her funeral last week, on June 8th at the Chester Crematorium. Sadly, her church, St. Mary Without the Walls in Handbridge, was closed for repairs. 

There is so much more to her than I was allowed to delve into in the precious six minutes I was alloted, but you get the gist. The majority of it was written by Teals herself. I just interjected here and there. I didn't mention her sense of humor. She had her feet planted firmly in the world of fun and enjoyment, so she was just a great person to hang around with. The vicar pointed out that another thing I missed was her incredible stillness. She NEVER got flustered, ever. Never got angry. She was never gossipy or hateful or jealous. She just existed to please others and in doing that, pleased herself and her God. 

Sheelagh once said “I can’t imagine a world without me.” Well, Teals, neither can we!…

Anyone who knew Sheelagh knew she was highly efficient. So it won’t surprise you to know she provided me with her obituary over 25 years ago! It’s how she wanted to be remembered and I am honored to be the one to present it, with a few tweaks, on this solemn occasion.

Sheila Leslie Churton, born July 9, 1925, premature and weighing just under 5 pounds, was teeny. When big sister Rosemary tried to say teeny, it came out Tealy. And the nickname stuck—for 91 years. It seemed everyone had a pet name for her—Churt was another big one. Professionally she was known as Sister Churton. And to everyone else she was just Sheelagh. But despite what it says on her birth certificate she did not spell it in the conventional way. Instead she adopted the Irish spelling of Sheelagh, as a nod to her mother’s Irish heritage.

She was the youngest daughter of Harry Leslie Churton and Elizabeth Mary Stephens Drapes. And she was so proud of her parents: Leslie was a Cestrian with deep roots here [Chester, England], son and brother of two mayors of Chester. He was an electrical engineer and met Elsie when he was sent to work in Ireland at the Asylum in Enniscorthy. In World War I he served in the Cheshire Regiment and lost an arm in battle. He adapted by taking a degree in law and joined the family firm of W. H. Churton and Sons.

In the days before dyxlexia was understood, Sheelagh suffered through her early school years and had sad memories of being shamed, forced to wear a dunce cap and ridiculed. She worked extra hard to compensate for her dyxlexia and took a domestic science degree.

But since the age of four she had always wanted to nurse, so she pursued her SRN at the QE Hospital. She took her first part midwifery at the City Hospital, Chester, and her second part in the slums of Birmingham, delivering 99 babies without losing a-one! Just as they do on Call the Midwife she rode her bike everywhere, but she said the show is a highly sanitized version of conditions at the time. She donated many a cardigan to families that had not even a rag in which to wrap their babies.

By 1950 she was appointed Ward Sister of the Medical Professional Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and at 25 was one of the youngest ward sisters ever to be appointed.

Sheelagh never married, but that was not for want of proposals! She was tops in her field, and the demands of her profession precluded marriage. Eventually she decided marriage would have limited her ability to help so many people, and she was happy with her single life.

In 1960 she was sent to the US and Canada to gain experience in the care of patients undergoing open heart surgery.

Also in 1960, her nephew, Myles, was born in Africa. At eight he was sent to school in England while his parents remained in Kenya, surely a jarring experience for any child. It was then that Auntie Tealy became his surrogate mother. She came to see him on his sports days, brought him home for school holidays, nursed him when he had a relapses of tropical illnesses, and drove him to the airport, reassuring him that at 8 years old he could make that flight to Africa on his own!

In 1967, Glaxo Pharmaceuticals awarded her a scholarship to study nursing in the Far East, at one point even working with lepers. In Australia she served with the Flying Doctors Service. She had a great urge to travel, and felt privileged to have visited so many countries.

Before retiring, she worked in a hospice in Sheffield, studying the effect on children of a death in the family.

Once retired, she greatly increased her volunteer work, including
  • cooking for the luncheon club at St. Mary’s Church,
  • doing the Housebound Library, 
  • helping with the homeless Soup Kitchen for 18 years, 
  • helping with the Parkinson’s Society, 
  • leading foreign visitors on tours of Chester, 
  • and visiting families through the church’s Pastoral Link.
She had many interests, one of which was shell collecting, chiefly from the coral reef in North Africa and the southwest coast of America.

She was an avid travel photographer and her sensitive shots reveal the deep empathy she felt for all of humanity.

She was a keen sportswoman! In Birmingham she belonged to a hockey and tennis team and studied dance. Skiing, water-skiing, swimming and walking were also activities she enjoyed. She was in great shape her whole life, and at 90 could spring up from a low sofa better than most 40-year olds!

In her "auto-obituary," Sheelagh wrote: “Sheelagh attended the births of her three grand-nephews in America, supplying love, support and stamina to the family. She visited every year and enjoyed watching them grow up.”

What an understatement! What Sheelagh couldn’t describe was how much she was loved by those around her, especially our little family. I know each one of you has a story about her: how she came to care for a shut-in, to give the caregiver several days of relief—sometimes difficult patients, with the violent type of Alzheimers, sometimes, heartbreakingly, her own friends who were ill. Or children. And, as in my case, new mothers. She came to us as an aunt but transformed into a nurse when we really needed her. She was a phenomenal help, taking babies to change and “wind” them just when we were on the verge of collapse. She once pulled an all-nighter the day she arrived from England!

Of course our boys adored Aunty Tealy. She played endless imaginative games with them and spurred them on to be sensitive and creative fellows. I will always be grateful to her for the gentle love and nurturing she brought to us and to everyone with whom she came in contact.

Aunty Tealy, your favorite saying was “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Surely, there is a shining place for you in heaven today.

19 July 2016

Justice of the Peace Records and Silvanus "Who's Your Daddy" Savage, Part 3

Continued from previous two posts... This is Part Three of a Three-Part Post. which we've seen the originals and transcriptions of two separate complaints of paternity sworn against one man, Silvanus Savage. The two complaints were sworn on the same day, 27 May 1802, in Princeton, Worcester County, Massachusetts, to a Justice of the Peace name Michael Gill. First, Debby Smith fesses up on the same day she delivers a baby girl. She was very likely interrogated during her labor. Next thing you know, Polly Clark chimes in, accusing Silvanus of fathering a son she had borne on the 22 February previous. Both women give the date of conception: Polly was first, on 20 June 1801, and Debby on 9 October 1801, both in Princeton.

So, Silvanus and Polly conceived a boy on 20 June 1801 who was born 22 February 1802 (about 9 months gestation). Silvanus and Debby conceived a girl on 9 October 1801 who was born 27 May 1802 (only 7.5 months gestation). Polly did not mention Silvanus' name during her labor and waited until the day Debby gave birth to make her complaint.


What was the impact of these two births upon Silvanus Savage and his descendants? What constraints did the law place upon Silvanus? Was he whipped, fined, imprisoned? How old were the women at the time, were they under age? Contemporaneous sources should be consulted to ascertain whether the births were correctly registered, and whether any of these four people (Debby Smith and her daughter, and Polly Clark and her son) reappeared in Silvanus Savage’s life at any later time.


Princeton’s Boundaries and Jurisdiction
1759, set off from Rutland
1771 Incorporated as a town
1810 Part of Hubbardston annexed
1838 Part of unincorporated lands known as “No Town” annexed
1870 Part of Westminster annexed

Justices of the Peace

In Massachusetts the Justice of the Peace was the official to whom minor complaints were made. He was entitled to take depositions, impose fines, order property seizures, perform marriages, and try small cases (no jury). Since this lowest court was usually held in the justice’s home, the resultant records are scattered about in repositories and private collections, and are extremely difficult to locate. These complaints would initiate a subsequent court case, so a search in the Worcester County Courthouse may prove fruitful.

Excellent Resource

An excellent resource to consult on illegitimacy and fornication cases in early Massachusetts is: Melinde Lutz Sanborn, Lost Babes: Fornication Abstracts from Court Records, Essex County, Massachusetts 1692 to 1745 (Derry, New Hampshire: Melinda Lutz Sanborn, 1992).

Sanborn’s book covers Essex Co. 1692-1744 and contains hundreds of unrecorded marriages. Though the county is different, and time period earlier, the law did not change substantially. She also has a useful discussion on Massachusetts law on illegitimate births in which she reveals, for example, that a disproportionate number of servants, African-Americans and Indians are represented in these types of cases. In addition, she states:

"In the case of an unmarried woman, the law required that she state when, where, and with whom she conceived the child, and whether she had any other partners. The midwife and another witness were to repeatedly question the mother during her labor, asking her to name the father. It was believed that while facing death in labor, the mother would not lie. Even if the accused father denied he was such, he would be convicted..."

"People found guilty of fornication could be fined, or whipped, or both. The fines varied... but were generally higher if the unmarried man named was from some other jurisdiction, or if the woman refused to name her partner. The assumption in the latter case might be that her partner was married and she was protecting him from the much more serious charge of adultery. Repeat offenders were sometimes not given the option of a fine, but simply whipped."

"Unmarried fathers were ordered to pay maintenance charges on a child through its sixth birthday. At that time, the child was eligible to be put out into service and would no longer be a charge on the town if the mother could not support it."

Legal Considerations
According to Blackstone, a "bastard" in the legal sense of the word is a person not only begotten, but born out of lawful matrimony. Had Sylvanus married either of these women, her child would have been born legitimate. Bastard children are entitled to maintenance from their parents. To protect the public from their support, the law compels the putative father to maintain his children. We would want to search for some evidence of both Silvanus’ payments to his children and whether or not he was sentenced.

Considered as nullius filius, a "bastard" has no inheritable blood in him, and therefore no estate can descend to him; but he may take by testment, if properly described, after he has obtained a name by reputation. But this hard rule has been somewhat mitigated in some of the states where, by statute, various inheritable qualities have been conferred upon bastards.

"Bastards" can acquire the rights of legitimate children only by an act of the legislature, therefore legislative records should be consulted, perhaps twenty or so years after the births until approximate period of parents’ deaths.

Children born out of marriage may be legitimated by the subsequent marriage of their father and mother. Legitimation may even be extended to deceased children who have left issue, and in that ease, it enures to the benefit of that issue. Children legitimated by a subsequent marriage, have the same rights as if born during the marriage.

The illegitimacy of these children makes genealogical research more complicated and it would be essential to check the court records for further proceedings against Silvanus and/or the mothers. Did either of these children ever try to establish heritable rights with either parent? A search of probate and guardianship records could indicate the succession of any land Silvanus might have possessed. Did he ever marry? Was his will contested by either of these children?

More Questions
Was Silvanus a Native American, servant or African-American? What names were the babies given? Did they grow to adulthood and produce families? Did they try to claim on property or probate? Did the mother’s go on to marry other men, have other children? It would be essential to follow the census records and see if the name Savage appears in Princeton. Vital records are essential as well.

Quality of Data

The data in this record is of varying reliability. It was given contemporaneously with the events, by women who most definitely would have known the truth, and therefore it would be considered of high quality. When analyzing documents we usually make the assumption that people are telling the truth. However, these women were in a highly vulnerable state. It would be in their interest to accuse any man of fathering a child so that they would not be alone in the support of the child. Whether they named the correct father or not would depend upon their state of mind at the time. There are at least two reasons for naming the correct father: hope of coercing him into marriage, and basic honesty (fear of Divine retribution). Yet there are incentives to naming another man as father: revenge for some past act, hope of cornering a more desirable man into marriage, possible drunkenness at the time of the conception, and perhaps even hysteria. In any case, they were biased and their testimony should be questioned.

The two records would therefore vary in reliability. Debby Smith swore on the day she gave birth, probably whilst in labor, that Silvanus Savage was the father of her child. Midwives were encouraged to drag the name of the father out a laboring unwed mother’s pained lips. So Debby could have just succumbed and told the truth, she could have blurted out the name of some man she didn’t care for or she could have named one she coveted. There is really no way to ascertain the level of truthfulness, so we just assume truth.

Polly, on the other hand, swore out her complaint two months after having given birth. And she swore it on the same day that Debby had her baby and Silvanus was named as father. Polly, in essence, jumped on the Silvanus bandwagon. Further research into court records may or may not reveal Polly’s real motivations


This is an original source containing primary information and providing direct evidence of the fact that these mothers claimed Savage as the father of their babies. It is also direct evidence of the birth dates of the babies, and the names of the babies’ mothers. It tells us that Silvanus Savage was a Princeton blacksmith in 1802 and that he had been in Princeton at least on 20 June 1801 and 9 October 1801, if the women were telling the truth, and we assume they were. It also places the women in Princeton on the dates in their depositions.

It does not provide enough evidence to state that Silvanus was the father of either child, however. A search for court records might reveal whether Silvanus was ever sentenced, whether he paid support for his two babies and whether he ever married either of the women, but we will never really know. We can only assume, based on the weight of the evidence.

This case cries out for DNA follow-up.

Ascertain town boundaries and dates of annexation, using: William Francis Galvin, Historical Data Relating to Counties, Cities, and Towns in Massachusetts (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1997).

Check for previous studies in the literature on Silvanus Savage. Start with, Jeremiah Lyford Hanaford, History of Princeton, Worcester County, Massachusetts; Civil and Ecclesiastical; from its first settlement in 1739, to April 1852 (Worcester: C. Buckingham Webb, 1852).

Search online catalogs at,,,, PERSI, and

Locate all relevant censuses from earliest to last one of children (1790-1880) on, HeritageQuest (accessible at participating libraries), and at NARA Waltham facility.

Consult for implications of illegitimacy in the culture: Melinde Lutz Sanborn, Lost Babes: Fornication Abstracts from Court Records, Essex County, Massachusetts 1692 to 1745 (Derry, New Hampshire: Melinda Lutz Sanborn, 1992).

Were the births properly registered at the time, specifically listing both parents? What surnames were the babies given? Did they live to adulthood? Did either one name a child after him? Whom did he eventually marry? Did he have other children? What did he name them? Search for births, marriages, and deaths in MAVital Records to 1850 online, and in VR Tan Books series for Savage, Smith, and Clark. Search in the “Massachusetts Vital Records1841-1910” online database at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS).

Were there any court cases filed against Silvanus for these two illegitimate births? Did he get charged with a crime, serve punishment and/or go on to support them? Was he accused of the same or any other crime by anyone else? Were either of the mothers accused of a crime or obliged to pay support? What are the implications for land and probate: did the babies later contest Silvanus' will, even though they were not eligible to inherit? A trip to the Worcester County Courthouse, is definitely in order!

Examine newspapers of the time. The American Antiquarian Society holds a wealth of original newspapers. Also check online databases such as and Newsbank, 19th Century Newspapers at NEHGS.

Look into church records. See if there was a permanent minister in Princeton. Did he keep a diary? Is there a diary from anyone in town at that time? The Congregational Library in Boston has a wealth of documentation on early churches. Examine cemeteries, look for their graves and note how their burial plots are laid out.

Consider DNA testing for any known descendants of Sylvanus, Debbie, and Polly.

You can see there is plenty to do-- I've generated a huge research plan with just these two documents. Justice of the Peace records reveal the most intimate details of people's lives. These three young people lived over two centuries ago, yet their troubles are timeless. In any case, let us hope that babies, mothers and even Silvanus, managed to pull together a happy life, despite the setbacks.

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 (

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 ( : posted 1 February 2016).

2. Mike Benedetti, "Worcester City Council, Meeting Agenda, 26 January 2016";, blog, ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : accessed 11 February 2016).