Making Plans & Finding Clues

On Sunday evening, my mom called to share some interesting news.

During a phone conversation with my uncle from Florida, he suggested that someone should organize a birthday party for my great-aunt Milda, who turns 100 next year.

Of course, knowing my uncle, so it’s a not just a “suggestion”. He’s already brought it up with my uncle Egton in Jamaica, is willing to put a little money towards the shindig, and thinks Mrs. Shearer (one of my distant cousins) should help organize it.

This last point has me arching an eyebrow.

From what I’ve heard, my great-aunt was something of a — shall we say — strong personality in her younger days. So a number of family members who really know her, aren’t exactly Team Milda – Mrs. Shearer included.

But, my mom said, my uncle explained that Mrs. Shearer organized the last family reunion roughly 15 years ago (I didn’t go at the time), so she could make things happen. Plus, he added, no matter how anyone felt about Milda, she was the matriarch, the only one left from that branch of the family, and since she was reaching such a huge milestone, the least we could do for her was to celebrate the occasion.

From what I understand, one of Milda’s daughters goes down to Jamaica occasionally (either once a year, or once in a while, I don’t remember), and so Egton will have to broach the subject with her, to see what she thinks. We’ll see.

After the call with my mom, I went online to see if I could find anything new on any of my ancestors.

Given my recent windfall of records for Collin and Clemise, I didn’t expect to find anything.

I started out searching for documents linked to my aunt Milda’s spouse. But at some point, I typed in “Helen” – just for laughs – and in a matter of moments, I was staring in mild bemusement at three indexed border crossing records for my great-aunt, from the mid-1930s.

The timing was … odd. (Maybe this was Ellen’s way of approving of the idea of a party for her baby sister.)

Based on the information listed on each of the cards, here’s what I think I know.

First, it’s definitely her – the bottom of the cards list her original date of arrival in Montreal. Plus, it lists “Hanover, Jamaica” as her place of birth.

Other details:

Ellen’s “home” address was one I hadn’t seen before. I cross-referenced it with a Montreal city directory from that time, and based on what I found, I can only assume she was renting a room from the person listed at that address.

She had a friend in New York. The cards all state that she visited a fellow domestic named Sylvia Hill – in Corona, (which I think is now Queens) New York, in August, 1934. On the third card (from 1936), it listed a Mrs. Lillian Robinson, with an address in Harlem, but no additional information explaining who she was.

One of these things is not like the others … Two of the cards listed a Mrs. John Gilpin, with an address that differed from Ellen’s home address. There was a word preceding Mrs. Gilpin’s name … it looked like “Guardian”, but I wasn’t entirely sure, because the scanned image’s resolution was blurry, and the word had been typed over. The third card listed a Mrs. Ingham, whose residential address matched Ellen’s.

SO, I thought. Ellen DID have other employers. Interesting.

What was even more interesting was that the top of two of the cards were stamped with the words “DEBARRED” and “REOPENED AND ADMITTED”. I didn’t really pay attention to the stamps at first, but they would be explained to me later.

Tuesday afternoon, to be exact.

I’d been studying those cards for two days, when it suddenly occurred to me to check the scanned images to see if the cards were only one-sided.

Nope.

Typed on the back of two of the cards was the following:

Mrs. Gilpin, former guardian, and applicant “had fuss”; no other friends or relatives in Montreal. Employed by Mrs. H. J. Ingham.

The back of the card was time-stamped December 20, 1935 and December 23, 1935 (twice).

So Mrs. Gilpin was Ellen’s guardian in Canada. But why did a 26-year-old woman need a “guardian”? (I suspect I’d understand why, but there’s nothing to back it up — yet.)

The note confirmed that Ellen had no relatives here in Canada. I was, however, puzzled by the notion Ellen didn’t have any friends here — that she was completely alone.

I shared my newest findings with the administrator from one of the Facebook genealogy groups. She had looked at the cards, and pointed out that Ellen was refused entry back into Canada.

Of course, this only sparked more questions:

Why was Ellen refused entry back into Canada? What sparked the “fuss” between Ellen and her guardian, Mrs. Gilpin? Did that cause problems for Ellen at the border? Was Mrs. Gilpin solely Ellen’s guardian, or was she also her employer?

And what about Sylvia? If Ellen had no friends in Canada, then how’d they meet? Was Sylvia a friend from back home? Or did they befriend each other in Montreal, only for Sylvia to move to New York (for whatever reason)?

Beyond these questions, this search reminded me of a valuable lesson:

When finding an ancestor’s records online, ALWAYS check to see if there is a second page. Because you never know what you might find.

“Meeting” Clemice

As I mentioned in my last post, a while back I’d come across an index of marriage registrations in Wolverhampton, England, which had a listing for my great-uncle Collin and his wife — a woman named Clemise Wilson.

Before my recent discovery, when I’d been searching for documents for Collin, I tried looking for documents for Clemise as well – a birth or death certificate, anything. But I hadn’t had any luck.

One evening last week, while sprawled out on my couch and checking social media, I came across a tweet which had a link to a post giving tips on what it claimed was an effective approach to finding relatives through searches on the genealogy site I frequent. It’s called the “wildcard”.

The article explained that it wasn’t unusual for people who indexed records for previously deceased ancestors to either input names incorrectly, or for officials who filled out the original records to be inconsistent with spelling names. Either they wrote the names the way they heard them, or were simply poor spellers.

The “wildcard” search involved using asterisks or question marks in place of letters, in order to trigger different results.

So, on a whim, I decided to test out the method. I typed in part of Clemise’s name, using an asterisk.

BINGO.

In a matter of seconds, I was looking at her birth certificate.

And her name wasn’t Clemise. It was Clemice. No wonder I couldn’t find her before.

Armed with brand-new information, I went to the family tree I’d constructed on Ancestry and plugged in her birth date.

Almost immediately after saving her profile, three hints materialized.

In a matter of moments, I learned when she arrived in England …

And when she died.

Considering the weeks –  even months – when countless searches turned up nothing, when inquiries on different forums didn’t yield a single answer, and the frustration and impatience I’ve often felt with (what seemed to be) the lack of progress, finding so much information in such a short amount of time has been remarkable.

I realize this lucky streak has come to an end.

But I really don’t want it to.

On a Roll (of Records)

In late August, one of the Facebook genealogy groups I’m a part of posted a notice to let members know that the genealogy Web site Ancestry was allowing access to its UK records for a few days.

This piqued my interest, because I knew my grandfather and one of his brothers (one of my great-uncles on the Campbell side) had gone to England in the 1950s. My grandfather eventually returned to Jamaica, but my great-uncle Collin stayed and lived there for about 30 years (he died in Wolverhampton in 1985).

Up to this point, I had some previous luck in finding an index for marriage registrations in Wolverhampton. It didn’t have an image of the actual index itself, but there was a listing for Collin and his wife (who I’ll discuss in the next post). I also located a very minimal listing for his death 30 years ago.

One evening when I had some time on my hands, I clicked on the link and signed into Ancestry.

For starters, I returned to the link for the marriage registration listing that I knew about. And this time, while there was no image for the actual marriage certificate, I could see two scanned images of the marriage registration index – one listing my great-uncle Collin’s name, one listing his wife’s – so I made copies for my records.

Then, I decided to do a cold search for Collin’s name, keeping in mind that I’d also have to use a variation of his name in case using the proper spelling didn’t work.

Well, well.

I found a couple of records of Collin’s arrival to the United States – one in 1944, and one in 1945. Both of them terminated in the US. But they were still interesting nonetheless.

The record from 1944 showed Collin arriving in New York in early June – which happened to be a couple of weeks or so after my great-great-uncle (Jonathan), who lived in New York, had died. Which I why I assumed he went to New York at that time.

Or, did he?

The 1945 record shows him arriving in Port Everglades, Florida. And in one of the columns, it says that the year before, he’d been in the state of Virginia — for six months.

This was surprising, but not a complete surprise. You see, my mom told me that when she was younger, my grandfather used to go to Florida to work as a migrant worker, picking citrus fruit. He’d work for a period of time, and when he got tired of it, he’d tell the employer he was sick, and then go home …

But not before taking his earnings and spending it on stylish new suits. He never sent any money for my grandmother, mom and aunt.

So when I saw the second record, I thought for a second, and considered the possibility that perhaps both my grandfather and great-uncle went up to the States to do migrant farm work. In fact, when I looked at the page with my particulars about my great-uncle, most of the people on that list were from Hanover parish.

But that still didn’t explain the information about Virginia … or the record from 1944.

Did Collin go to New York, and on his way back decide to stop in Virginia for six months? Or did he even make it up to New York?

I tried looking for a similar record for my grandfather, but couldn’t find anything that I could link to him with any certainty.

After more searching, I found not only a record for a flight from Kingston, Jamaica to New York, in 1954 — the year Collin went to England — I found the passenger record for the ship he took from New York to Southampton, England. Final destination: Wolverhampton.

I’m still a bit astounded I found as much as I did, really.

It’s just weird to know that someone I’ve never met – an uncle that I’ve only heard about in stories – is now the most documented of all my ancestors to date.

Go figure.

Who’s THIS Guy?

Several days before I arrived in Jamaica, my aunt (who’s currently staying with one of my cousins in the US) had her house in Montego Bay broken into.

It’s the first time my aunt’s house was ever broken into, in an area where this type of thing isn’t unusual. But whomever they were (and my aunt claims she knows who did it), they made a point of  leaving their mark.

Like, for example, taking her TV. And her refrigerator.

Earlier in my visit, Kaye and I dropped by the house to see the mess left behind. When we entered the front yard, there was a bottle of cooking oil lying in the grass.

Inside, a dining room chair sat at an awkward angle on the living room sofa — they’d used it to break a few slats of glass in the window looking out onto the verandah.

In her bedroom, drawers were pulled out and emptied. Various articles of clothing, undergarments and papers lay in a pile on the floor.

Fast forward a few days, and we’ve returned (with Uncle Eucline) to the house, because the welder and a couple of tradesmen are coming to (a) fix the bolt on the security gate that had been pried open during the robbery, and (b) fit the window overlooking the verandah with its own set of security bars.

Around the time we’re there, a woman from up the street stops by – her name’s Honey, and she’s a long-time family friend. (Apparently I met her when I was really young.)

As we sit inside the house to keep Kaye company while the tradesmen work, I grow bored and start wandering. I peer inside the kitchen. It’s much smaller than I remember (amazing how one’s memory makes everything bigger), and it’s dark.

2015-07-27 15.44.05I return to the living room, looking at a few photos upended by the break-in.

There’s a photo of my late grandfather as I remember him, sitting in profile on his verandah. There are other photos of my cousins at a much younger age.

I eventually enter my aunt’s bedroom. Other than the mess on the floor, it looks a bit sparse. I peer into her closet – which isn’t wide as it is a bit long – and see all the various objects – sheets, blankets, and I think a hat or two. It smells a bit musty.

I step out, and before I know it, I’m bent over, rummaging through the mess on the ground.

2015-07-27 16.10.58This woman keeps everything, I think to myself. Old immunization records, invoices of different types, and even the odd old photos of my cousins.

I open and close a couple of the empty drawers of my aunt’s dresser … and shoved in the corners of one of them, I come across a couple of dog-eared photos.

One of them was a photo of me at three and a half months old, apparently “blowing bubbles”, according to the description in my mom’s handwriting.

And then, there’s THIS one.

2015-07-27 16.10.28-2You have to understand, my family doesn’t have old black-and-white photos of immediate OR extended family members.

And the oldest photos I’ve ever seen were when I was in Jamaica 22 years ago, at my grandfather’s house. They were colourized portraits from the 1950s — one of him, and one with his wife (who’s also since passed away).

But this. I look into the face of the well-dressed young man in the picture – specifically his lips – and goosebumps go up my arm.

I have a very strong hunch I know exactly who this is, but there’s really only one person who might be able to tell me – and right now she’s in Toronto.

I really, REALLY want to put this photo in my purse. But given what’s been taken from this house already – and knowing how much my aunt like holding onto stuff – I resist the urge, snap an image on my phone and return it to its (undignified) home.

*************************************************************

I return home on July 28th, and visit my mother a few days later.

We’re in her living room chatting away, when I bring up finding the two photos … and that’s when I bring them up on my phone and show her.

Upon seeing the second photo, she gives a smile and says, “Yep. That’s my daddy.”

**************************************************************

My trip to Jamaica was a sweltering whirlwind. But I was glad I managed to do it and to see some of my family.

I still have questions. And who knows if I’ll ever get them answered. But it’s a start.

And if I’m lucky to visit Jamaica again, I hope I don’t wait so long next time, and that I get to see even more of my ancestral home and family.

*Photos taken are mine. Please don’t use without my permission. Not for commercial use.

Meeting Mrs. Shearer

K drives down from the hillside, back into the chaos of downtown. She expertly manoeuvres past cars, around wayward pedestrians — and stops off at the hardware store run by one of my distant relatives.

The lady I’m about to meet is related to my mother’s father’s side of the family*, but everyone knows her as Mrs. Shearer.

She’s busy with the operations of her business — which I completely understand —  but she does make a little time for us.

She says she doesn’t have anything that say about my great-aunt Ellen – those are questions for Milda. (I don’t see it at the time, but my cousin says she makes a face at my mention of Milda’s name. Apparently Milda was quite the piece of work in her youthful days.)

Before leaving for my trip, my mother told me she thought that Mrs. Shearer would be glad to meet me and help. Now that I’m in her presence, I’m not so sure.

She makes an almost-dismissive comment (at least, to me) about “Canadians always asking about the family tree stuff”, and when I mention the gentleman who seems to have done the same thing I’m doing now, she says, “That’s him.” Apparently he’s due to come down to Jamaica for a family reunion (for more immediate members of his family) in August.

She tells me my great-grandfather was one of three brothers (her grandfather being one of the other brothers), and they were really close. (My mother has said the brothers had a bit of an unsavoury reputation in the community where they lived.)

They all had nicknames, so she isn’t sure of what their real names are. That doesn’t surprise me.  She makes a brief phone call to ask someone (I’m assuming another relative) if they can recall, but no dice.

Mrs. Shearer says she’ll try to consult the “book” (of family information, I presume) and get back to me. I would have to drop by and check with her.

Then it’s back on the road, going from errand to errand with K, before heading home for the evening.

It’s been a whirlwind past couple of days, and I’m still trying to process the bits and pieces I’ve learned. But it seems that this portion of my trip is done. We’ll see what else is in store.

*My great-grandfather (on my mother’s father’s side) and her grandfather (her mother’s father) were brothers … which I think makes me her second cousin, once removed? Genealogy experts, let me know if I’m remotely right. I had to look this up on the internet, and I’m still not sure.

Milda Speaks.

I don’t see Milda at first, because the adult care nurse is trying to wake her up.

As K and I file into the room, we see this tiny woman, startled out of her morning nap, slowly sit up, blinking and and trying to get her bearings.

So this is the infamous Aunt Milda, I think, my mind shuffling through all the things – for better or for worse – that I’ve heard about this lady.

Aside from her wee, skinny frame, she’s dressed in a patterned housedress and a beige head-tie. She puts her hand on her forehead and pulls it upward, as if the gesture helps her to see more clearly.

We tell her our names, and who we are, by way of our mothers’ pet names.  It takes about several tries back and forth, but we think she eventually gets it. (As she tells us a bit later, she’s hard of hearing — but that tends to happen when you’re her age.)

I give her a scarf that my mom sent for her as a gift. She can’t use it in this heat, but hopefully she’ll make good use of it when the evenings get cooler.

I suddenly kind of lose my nerve and my brain briefly goes blank. What on earth do I ask her? Where do I start?

K kind of prompts me to start — we haven’t got all day — so I sort of stammer out my first question about her siblings …

The conversation’s not completely linear, but when Milda says something I recognize, I start jotting things down.

I ask (awkwardly) about Ellen and where she lived in Canada, and Milda mentions Montreal – she doesn’t mention any other place in our conversation – and that she died years ago. (This isn’t news to me.)

My cousin listening to my great-aunt.
My cousin listening to my great-aunt.

She mentions there were four sisters — which I presume includes Ellen and herself — and gives me the names of the others, who she says died in 1934 and 1936. (Close enough.)

She says Ellen returned to Jamaica in 1938, and that she actually had tried to send for Milda to come to Canada, but things didn’t pan out.* Her big sister suggested instead that she try going to live with her Uncle Jon in the United States. Sadly, that path never materialized either, as he died, and his widow returned to Jamaica.

Milda then mentions the names of her aunt — the sister of my great-grandmother, Jane Ann Clarke, who I’d found in records last November —  and another uncle, whose names I’d discovered around the same time, but couldn’t be too sure of … until now.  That’s one great-great-aunt and two great-great-uncles**!

She also reveals something else. In a low, almost mischievous tone, she proudly proclaims her age, and that she hasn’t told anyone – she’s not even sure her own children know how old she is! She says her 100th birthday will be next March.

After that, the conversation turns away from talk of family that’s passed, and she chatters about life in the home — how independent she is (and how she hopes to stay that way), perhaps even complaining about things, but she seems so happy as she speaks, it’s hard to tell.

She talks about the food and snacks she gets – I’m assuming they’re not exactly up to snuff – and K asks her what she would like Milda to bring her the next time she visits.

Without so much as batting an eyelash, she says, “I would really like some Kentucky Fried Chicken — it’s nice.” (I think it takes everything for either of us not to completely crack up.)

Before either of us forget, I snap a few photos on my smartphone. I can’t come all this way and not get a picture of the woman I’ve waited months to see!

When we ask, she pauses and — putting her hand to her forehead — says no … not until she can put on her wig. We smooth talk her into taking a photo just as she is, and voila.

2015-07-22 14.11.28I’m not sure how much time we spend there, but Milda chats for a very long time. K silently asks me whether we should go, and I say yes (a little reluctantly).

I leave with my cousin with a lot of unanswered questions.

I still don’t know why Ellen left, what kinds of things she might have seen living in Canada, or when she died (other than “many years ago”).

But I hope (selfishly) that if Milda’s lived for this long, that she gets to live another year – I’d like to see her reach 100, and I’d like to see her again.

Now that we know where she is (for the time being), I hope that my relatives drop in from time to time to check up on her.

(Photos are mine. Please do not use without permission.)


*THIS is new information.

**I’ve actually found three great-great uncles through records. Even though Milda didn’t mention the third – and oldest – by name, confirming the others lets me safely assume that he’s also from the Clarke branch of the family.

Searching For “The Lady”

2015-07-22 10.34.06

Wednesday, July 22nd.

I’m so tired from the day before, I sleep in until 9. I get up and apologize to K for oversleeping. She dismisses my apology, saying she understands.

Breakfast is a big plate of ackee, saltfish, roasted breadfruit, dumplings and banana (which didn’t have that taste I dislike) — filling and absolutely delicious!

Then, it’s out of the house and on the road. Today’s objective: finding our great-aunt Milda.

We know she’s in a nursing home (or “adult care” home, as they’re called down here) in the community of Mount Salem, which is just outside Montego Bay proper. We don’t know the name – just that there are a couple of homes, and she’s in one of them.

After stopping several times to ask for directions, we finally pull up in front of one. Looking beyond the front gate, we see a few people sitting out on the long “porch”.  To be honest, the place doesn’t look very home-y.

The gate’s a bit hard to open, and it doesn’t open very wide, but we manage to squeeze through. We approach a guy sitting at a desk just inside the building, give Milda’s name and ask if she’s there. He says no – apparently she had been there last year, but had been moved. They don’t know where she’s gone.

I’m not immediately discouraged. But I can literally see K’s shoulders slump. She’s already frustrated.

The prospect of searching for a nonagenarian in this sweltering heat isn’t appealing in the least. But we have to find her.

And, as we’re about to find out, there are more than two adult care homes in Mount Salem.

We’re directed to another one farther down on the same street. As soon as we pull up in front of it, I take one look at what lies behind the gates and know there’s no way Milda is here.

There are a couple of residents in sitting in wheelchairs. One of them looks like he’s barely awake. A young woman is sprawled out, stomach down, on a run-down couch.

Having heard about my great-aunt’s reputation for complaining, I know she wouldn’t put up with a place like this.  But still, we try.

We approach a worker standing in a nearby doorway and ask for our aunt. She says she doesn’t know and suggests we check with the front “office”, which was a closed door just behind us.

After knocking several times, the door opens a sliver. K asks the woman behind the door if our aunt is there. She says there are no Campbells there, and closes the door.

We’re walking back towards the front gate, when the worker gestures for us to come back. She says there are two other nursing homes a couple of streets over that we could try.

Back in the car, K calls our uncle to see if he knows the name of the adult care home where Milda’s living. He calls back several minutes later with the answer.

We pull up in front of the gate at home number 3. My t-shirt is starting to cling to my back, so I’m truly hoping this is the place.

The nurse in charge confirms that Milda is there, brings us inside and finds us places to sit while we wait. We’re under the impression that perhaps they’ll bring Milda out.

But 10 minutes pass. Then 15. Then 20 …

I look around. One resident keeps trying to wander into the kitchen. Another sits slack-jawed in a chair on the other side of the room. A little boy — around two years old — runs in and out of the house.

There’s a woman sitting adjacent to me. I presume she’s visiting her relative, who’s barely awake and sitting in the couch across from me.

She tells him she has to get to the bank and needs him to sign something. He’s practically comatose. She puts a pen into his immobile hand, wraps hers around it and literally guides it along the bank form.

I turn to K, and she suggests that perhaps Milda’s sleeping and that we should return later.

I’m reluctantly agree. What can we do? She’s sleeping, and we can’t sit here all day.

When the nurse re-appears, we tell her this.

“Oh!” she says. “I’m so sorry – I thought you were here to visit with her,” referring to the lady who basically just forged her relative’s signature. We shake our heads.

“This has been a complete misunderstanding. Please let me offer my apologies. I’ll take you to her,” she says.

But isn’t she’s SLEEPING? I’m thinking …

But we’re up on our feet. The nurse walks over to a room just off the main sitting area and opens the door …

(Photo taken above is mine. Please do not use without permission.)

PLOT TWIST.

As I may have previously mentioned, I joined a number of Jamaican genealogy groups on Facebook in hopes it might help me with my family research.

Just over a week ago, the administrator of one of those groups posted an entry inviting members to share their “brick walls” – those ancestors whose research trails seem to have hit a dead end.

I decided to add my brick walls – my paternal grandfather, my maternal great-grandfather, and my “favourite”, great-aunt Ellen – to the list. Couldn’t hurt, I thought to myself.

The next day, the administrator posted my brick walls first and asked me for some information. I gave what I could – making sure to clarify/correct some details in the process.

She started with my paternal grandfather, posting some birth and marriage record information she thought could be leads. She even listed a ship manifest, in which a guy with my grandfather’s name and his wife apparently went to New York.

Considering that I know that my grandfather died in a railway accident in the early 1950s, I’m not sure that what she’s found are records for him. But I’m not sure they’re not, either.  In order to try and verify this, I’d have to find a family member who actually had some sort of contact with my grandfather and ask them things I can cross-reference against the administrator’s findings. That could prove quite difficult.

Next, she mentioned that she’d found some possible sources on information for my maternal great-grandfather, but she was still digging for more information. Given what she’d turned up on my grandfather, I suspected she might have found some of the same documents (birth certificates for children) that I’ve stumbled across. I’m cynical, but waiting patiently.

Then, she moved onto my third brick wall — the ever-mysterious Ellen.

The administrator first responded with initial information about Ellen’s employer. I wrote back explained the work I’d already done in this regard. She asked about whether I’d contacted any descendants (I did – one phone call to a great-grandson), whether I contacted any descendants of Ellen’s siblings (it’s complicated), and then suggested possible theories that perhaps Ellen married (unlikely) or went to join other siblings in Canada (nope, she was the only one in Canada).

She found a burial date and a lot number for an Ellen Campbell in Montreal in 1944. I quickly found the woman’s marriage certificate and told the administrator it was the wrong one.

She suggested that since she arrived in Montreal, that she might have been listed in documents as Helen or HélèneI conceded it might be possible, since for years folks originally thought her name was Helen.

You’re rambling – get to the point, you’re probably saying by now.

Wait for it …

Three days ago, she posts a link to a passenger manifest for a ship travelling from the Panama Canal Zone to New York in June, 1938.

Guess who may have gotten on in Kingston, Jamaica?

At first, I misread it and grumbled. Based on Ellen’s first trip to Montreal in 1929, I had already crafted this narrative in my mind, and I saw this document as an attempt to unstitch what little I knew.

But then I stopped, and read it again.

This time, she was on to something.

The woman was listed as a Helen Campbell (the name we all thought was hers). The age was off by one year, but all the other particulars lined up – a domestic, born in Cascade, whose father was a J. Campbell.

She had paid for her own ticket, and was travelling to Canada, via New York. She carried about $15.00 in cash (which is worth about $243 CAD today).

But a couple of things on the manifest stood out.

First, it listed her last permanent residence as a place called Rollington Pen. As best I can guess – with the assistance of Google – it’s Rollington Town in Kingston, Jamaica.

Secondly – and this is what’s currently burrowed in the folds of my brain – she had previously passed through the U.S. on her way to Canada. In 1937.

When would Ellen have gone back to Jamaica, and why? I’ve been wondering how long Ellen had stayed with her employers in Montreal. But I never truly considered that she could have gone home, whether for a visit, or as a temporary arrangement. The administrator mused aloud about her status. But weren’t Jamaicans (and other West Indians from British colonies) considered British citizens (on paper) before independence? This is something I’d need clarified.

Why was Ellen living in Kingston? Was it a matter of convenience for travel purposes? Was she waiting to be called up to her next job? Did anyone know Ellen was living in Kingston?

Was THIS when the family rift ACTUALLY occurred?

And, of course: Where in Canada was Ellen going? Did she go back to Montreal? Did she end up in Toronto?

SO. MANY. UNANSWERED. QUESTIONS.

My kingdom for a temporary census records leak … Sigh.

A Guide to Understanding Cousins

I’m a member of various novice genealogical groups on Facebook, and recently joined one started specifically to help us beginners with our research by providing various online resources.

The administrator of one of these groups has been fantastic in finding links, including this one about cousins, courtesy of the Rootsweb community on Ancestry.

For the more experienced folks out there, this is probably elementary.

But now I think I FINALLY understand the definition of cousins who are removed.

If you’re ever confused, keep this handy.

Where’s Aunt Milda?

On Sunday afternoon, my mom tries calling her sister in Jamaica. She doesn’t get through; she gets a strange automated message, saying that calls are somehow “banned” at that number.

A little weirded out, she calls her niece. Same thing.

Now she’s getting a tad concerned. She calls her other niece in the States (the one who recently visited Jamaica) and explains what happened. So her niece calls home and gets through, no problem.

In the phone conversation Mom and I have on Sunday evening, she recalls her American niece calling her back, assuring her that her sister is fine, and explaining that she (Mom’s sister) did try to go visit my great-aunt Milda at the nursing home.

Here’s where things get even weirder.

According to what my cousin says, my aunt arrives at the nursing home, only to be told by staff that Aunt Milda is no longer at the nursing home.

She’s been moved.

We don’t know where she’s been moved to, or when this happened.

So, doesn’t she have any kids? you’re asking. Why don’t you just ask them? And herein lies the beauty (translation: frustration) with extended family. Either you’re close-knit, or you’re not. In this case, it seems to be the latter.

At least one of Milda’s kids lives in Florida. Once upon a time, my uncle used to be fairly close with them, when they first moved to the States and were – legally, physically and figuratively – trying to get settled. But it seems they’ve drifted apart and lost contact with my uncle.

The other daughter we know of, my mom has never met.

But never fear: one of my uncles in Jamaica is on the case. Hopefully we’ll find out soon.

One current hunch is that perhaps she was taken back to the town she was living in previously, before her kids moved her to Montego Bay, and is in a different nursing home. But it’s all theory.

For now, we all have to sit and wait as this (accidental?) game of “keep-away with Aunt Milda” plays out.

Wherever she is, I hope she’s still alive and kicking (or quietly reading her Bible) because, for the amount of effort it’s taken to try and see her, never mind find her, I now reeeally want to meet her.