Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 30th, 2011

Where did the last month go? As the Newfoundland expression has it: there she is, gone

There was the fire that Andreas made so we could celebrate Solstice.

And then, I loved reading The Big Love: Life and Death with Bill Evans by local author, Laurie Verchomin.

At our book club evening hosted by Chris & Dee Dee, we were all instructed in the fine art of traditional Danish dining, as well as the correct protocol for Aquavit toasts.
The fresh greens in Dee Dee's new garden.
The view of the wetlands from Sjogren's new home.

Then a few days later, the pleasures of a pizza that I made with French brie, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and rosemary ham.

Meanwhile, cruise ships out at sea cruised on past - oblivious to my incredible pizza..

Ah, yes. the month of June. Now I know where you went. There you are, gone ...

Where angels fear to tread.

For much of the past month, I have been treading where sensible angels fear to tread. Okay, it might not feel like this to some of my readers. No big deal, some of you might say. What is it that was so scary? Building a web site for your husband? Just a web site? Phht!
Andreas - photo by Laurie Sawchuck - as he appears on his web site.
The thing is, like much of what I do, I am an absolute rank amateur. On a good day, I console myself and recall that I once designed a four storey, circular tower, which Andreas & I built in the 1970s, and lived in for close to thirty years. Better yet – the tower is still standing. In fact, it remains much truer to a plumb line than that other tower – the one in Pisa.

Like this web site, our house had a few glitches, such as the number four skylight that leaked for years, but maybe that is not unlike some of the website layout issues that still defeat me. I think when it comes to them that I will wait until a young person visits me. Somehow they all seem to know how to do this stuff and their head doesn’t ache when they think about it. I think the trick is that they know how to do it without thinking.

Still and all, I am glad to have tried doing it. It has also been amazing to revisit all the books, articles, radio dramas – you name it that the lad has crafted over the years. When we first got together, he was writing Shaking it Rough which became a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for non-fiction back in the days when only academics usually had a crack at the prize.

I remember that one night when he was working on this book, that he put a TV dinner in the oven, and went back to writing. Eight hours later, he remembered the dinner. The bones in the chicken thighs had become two delicate black sticks; the peas had been reduced to dots; and the mashed potatoes had poofed up into an intricate black lace.It had become such a work of art that we kept in our photographic dark room for ages for still life compositions.

Tonight’s dinner will be much better than that. To celebrate, we are going to Sushi 5517. It makes not only the best sushi on the Coast, but would be the hands on winner compared to most sushi restaurants in Vancouver – which is really saying something. Scallop popsicles – here I come. 

Afterwards, we are going to hear the newly installed pipe organ at St. Hilda’s Church. Somewhere along the way, I also hope to connect with Rosemary to pick up some more Denman Island Chocolate, which might just be the best chocolate in the world. The company is owned by her son-in-law. As his web site says, Welcome to chocolate Nirvana. 

Anyway, if you visit Andreas’ web site, and see room for improvement (probably easy to do), and can tell me how to do it in a way that I might grasp (this part is harder), well, then, I am all ears. Until then, I plan to be up to my eyeballs in sushi, chocolate and J.S. Bach. Ahhh…..

Monday, June 27, 2011

Have trod, have trod ...

After three days spent decoding old deeds from Ireland, the poem God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins sprang to mind. The deeds had taken me hours to transcribe and annotate, all the while squinting at sometimes fuzzy and indistinct script. At the end of each day, my eyes were on fire, and my back approximated the posture of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.The lines that came to mind:

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

Okay, I know that Hopkins was talking about men who earned their living by toiling at trades linked to the soil, but I totally felt myself to be one with them as my eyes were definitely bleared, and smeared with toil.  And maybe I should also mention, I was  getting a little bit crabby towards the end of each day.

From the collection of Nigel Dickie - easy to read except for in the folds.

So what do I have to show for this last binge of document transcriptions? As usual, not much. This is the kind of work that is advanced by inches. The point of doing it is to lay out all the knowable pieces on a table, in my case a pool table. Until I do this, I have no way of knowing which essential pieces are missing.

Naturally, it also helps to know the limits to what is knowable. In some cases, records have been burnt, lost or chewed beyond recognition by various varmints. In the latter category, one of my favourite examples is the story of the guy who ate a better part of the Bastille records to save dozens of prisoners from execution. The reasons for the documents that I seek having gone missing is usually more mundane. They were binned.

This last batch of deeds came to me from two sources – each of them about equidistant from where I nest on the face of the earth: London for the first half of them, and Australia for the second.

In October of last year, I received an email from Nigel Dickie, a young man living in London. Like James Joyce in Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, he had a list of where he fit into the picture. Joyce’s young man situated himself geographically:

Stephen Dedalus
Class of Elements
Clongowes Wood College
Country Kildare
The World
The Universe

Nigel’s version indicated where he stood in the universe by way of his ancestors, starting with himself, and then his father, grandfather and so on back to Robert Dickie, the father of James Dickie who lived in County Louth 1771-1835. What Nigel did next was also brilliant. He had recently been helping out with cleaning out his grandmother’s house in Belfast after her death, and had come across some really cool items dating back to 1789 when Charles Coulter of Rochdale Co Louth Senior leased 20 acres of land from the McCormicks. Then he sent photographs of them to me. At least these deeds were not destined to become amongst the thousands that have been binned.

It has taken me almost a year to get back to them, but I have finally transcribed many of them, footnoted them and posted them to my website. They contain significant facts that help to answer some questions raised by a family in Burnsville, Minnesota who contacted me in the past year about the alleged murder of a long ago James Charles Coulter. This James' father had leased some of the land mentioned in these deeds, and as the family story has it - he may have been murdered on account of a dispute over this property. The Minnesota folk are waiting for the death certificate of James Charles Coulter to arrive in the mail. The supposed cause of death will potentially be quite revealing, although at this point it seems as if the land was probably rightfully owned by the family that was suspected of the murder, hence the key supposed motive for the murder evaporates. I have already posted what is known about this John Charles Coulter story. 

What these deeds have to do with my Sir Thomas Jackson story is that many of the people mentioned in Nigel’s deeds were either closely related to Thomas, or were family friends. The deeds are one of the clues that have helped me to understand more about the social circles he moved in as a son of tenant farmers growing up just outside Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh in the mid 1800s.

In connection with this latest set of deeds posted to my web site, I mentioned Australia. I had mentioned Wendy Jack from Australia in passing in an earlier blog, but she deserves more of a mention than that. I first connected with her in 2003 when she had free time, and even better - she had research skills that vastly exceeded mine. Time and again, I would ask her a question, and then a fifty page email would arrive in my inbox giving me more information than I could ever have dreamed possible. We finally met in Ireland in the spring of 2009.

The half dozen deeds from Wendy that I added last week-end – because they complemented the work that I had just done on Nigel’s deeds – were ones that she had done while we were in Ireland. I just hadn’t got as far as taking them the next step – making sense of them, and incorporating them into the wider picture.

So here we all are - me in Roberts Creek, Nigel in London and Wendy in Australia – and all of us together assembling the bones of what is becoming a truly fascinating study in local history -  in rural Ireland. I love the Internet.

I wonder what Gerard Manley Hopkins would have thought of all this. I think I will give him the last word:

Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!

NOTE: There are too many deeds to link to them individually in this blog posting. I suggest looking for the ones added June 25th & 26th, 2001 at What's New.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tales of the Elusive Julius – Part Two


Most of the time, I never know what I am going to stumble into next as I explore the tangents of extended family tales. I often start with a story that has been handed down through letters or diaries, and then I go digging around to see whether there are any verifiable facts to back it up. In my previous piece on the elusive Julius family,  I talked about the Dare-Julius family connections, especially those of George Julius Dare, son of Louisa Caroline Julius. Well, there is much more to tell.

Apparently, Louisa Caroline Julius not only received but also declined an offer of marriage from Horatio Nelson – yes, that Horatio Nelson, some time before she married Phocian Dare, father of George. Here is the earliest known version I have of this tale, dated sometime before 1882:

I now come to my mother's first cousin Mrs. Nesbit. This lady resided at Nevis where the late Lord Nelson, after making my mother Louise Carolyn Julius an offer and receiving a refusal, married her. My mother acting as one of the bridesmaids. King William 4th (then Duke of Clarence who with the fleet was anchored at Nevis) gave the bride away.

Like so many family stories, the facts bear out a fair bit of it, but other parts are still in the grey zone.  First of all, there is the question of how Mrs. Nesbit was related to Louisa Caroline Julius as a cousin. Frances Nesbit was born Frances Herbert Woolward, most likely at Nevis. Her father was a senior judge there, and her mother Mary Herbert, had two sisters as well as a brother. Mary Herbert’s brother, John Richardson Herbert, was President of Nevis at the time of this tale. Given that Louisa Caroline Julius’s father William was a landed proprietor in the island of St. Kitts, at Mankie estate, and his brother John Julius was Governor of St. Kitts, a cousin relationship between the two women is more likely than not. On such a tiny island, the marriage pool was small.

It is easy to track Louisa’s family ties through my Rootsweb tree, not that I can claim that it is all accurate. The best that can be said about much of the early material is that it is based on family stories from the mid-1800s. I have cobbled together a tree for Fanny, largely based on records in Caribbeana by Vere Langford Oliver: 

So far, I can’t nail down the connection between the two “cousins”. Somewhere amongst the various children of the siblings of Fanny’s parents: William Woolward, & Mary Herbert, and the parents of Louisa: William Julius & Jane Smith Edwards, there must be a link. If any readers know of it, I am all ears. One other possibility is that it was not a 1st cousin relationship, but rather some other level of cousin relationship, at which point, the name Hamilton would be a reasonable name to throw into the mix. These early family pedigrees are often hard to prove – thanks to the destruction of the records when the French attacked Nevis in 1706.

There is one other link worth exploring, and that is Marlebone, in central London. For reasons that escape me, I once had a birth entry for Louisa Caroline Julius as: Probably Marlebone, London, England.   Perhaps that was where she was baptised, and whatever record I once had found is since buried in my unfiled piles that cover my pool table. Marlybone Church is also where Walter Nisbit was married. He was the older brother of Josiah – first husband of Frances.

This clearly needs more work – it must be time for me to attack my pool table.

Still and all, I do love the vantage point of seeing Horatio Nelson as a young man in love. In May 1785, when he met Frances, he was twenty-seven years old.  Frances, recently widowed, had a five year old son, and was running the household of her uncle, John Richardson Herbert. He was the President of Nevis and was himself a widower. One May day, Horatio dropped in unannounced at Montpelier Estate, and President Herbert needed time to dress before receiving him. Herbert returned from his dressing room in a state of partial, albeit reasonable dress, and later described the scene that met his eyes: Good God! if I did not find that great little man, of whom everybody is so afraid, playing in the next room, under the dining- table, with Mrs. Nisbet's child! Two days later, Horatio and Francis actually met.

Their engagement lasted two years. Not that this would have been their choice, but Horatio Nelson’s private income was certainly too small for setting up house. It wasn’t that Francis’ uncle could not have helped them out, but he chose not to. Finally Nelson’s financial resources grew to be respectable enough that he and Francis were married March 12th, 1787, at her uncle’s Montpelier Estate in Nevis. Prince William, later King William IV, stood in for her father, and gave the bride away.

So far, there is no mention that I can find of Louisa Caroline Julius being a bridesmaid. It is also not clear that she herself was still unmarried at this time. It isn’t that her presence is impossible, only that it is so far invisible.  If there had been a proposal of marriage, and a subsequent refusal, it might very well have been on account of Nelson’s lack of financial resources.

Here is the little that I know that might help solve this question: Louisa married Phocion Dare, supposedly in 1784, shortly before Nelson’s courting of Mrs. Nesbit began. Phocion came from a financially respectable family, supposedly of Huguenot origins, although that has yet to be proven. His father was supposedly a close friend of the Duke of Bedford, although there are some factual glitches when it comes to definitively proving this part. Apparently, Phocion had no profession, but lived off the avails of Woodford Park, near Weymouth in Dorsetshire. None of this is documented, but that’s the family story. The best that can be said about it is that it is what the family has believed to be true for the past couple of centuries.

Today, we have two resources that our researching ancestors did not have: the Internet and the ability to play with data in databases. My family tree data base often alerts me to mismatches that would be readily missed if I had to stick to working from piles of paper notes, as my ancestors had to. One mismatch for me centers on the marriage date given for Phocion Dare and Louisa Caroline Julius.

The source for their date of marriage comes from a family tree done in the 1800s, and shared throughout dozens of Dare family lines all over the world. One aspect of it makes no sense to me, so here is my question: How could it be that Louisa Caroline’s first child is born thirteen years after the marriage, after which there is a child born every year or two until she hits the age of forty three, a reasonable age for the closing of the door on fertility?

There are at least two possibilities. Firstly, that the marriage date is incorrect, possibly a typo, and they married a decade later. Another possibility is that there were other children,  possibly who died in infancy, for which we have no record. 

Once again, one thing leads to another. There are always more questions than answers. The beauty of the internet is that it is not unreasonable to hope that some other researcher will read this, root around in their own piles of material, and help us all to click the missing pieces into place. This does keep happening. I continue to live and breathe in hope.

Tales of the Elusive Julius – Part One

Photo credit: Venetia Bowman-Vaughan
Near this place lyeth interr’d the Body of Capt. William Julus [Julius] late Commander of His Ma. Ship the Colchester who departed this life ye 3d of Oct. 1698 Aged 33 years

Behind the story of this inscription in Westminster Abbey are several stories that continue to tweak my curiosity. I had temporarily forgotten about this William Julius, but then my interest was reawakened during the television stories about the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton  – mostly because of the Westminster Abbey connection. 

William Julius was a great-great uncle of Amelia Lydia Dare, wife of Sir Thomas Jackson. The more I learn about her and her family, the more important it becomes to learn about her Julius and Dare family roots. The international business connections of these two families in the 1800s were a not insignificant part of her husband’s success in making HSBC such a major player. They could even be credited with being one of the convergences that laid the ground for HSBC’s later successes in the 20th and 21st centuries. I realize that may sound like quite a stretch, but Amelia Lydia Dare was born a child of the British Empire, if anyone was, and there were dividends to be realized on account of this.

She was born in Singapore in 1851, the seventh of nine children. Her father, Captain George Julius Dare, was a well-known “character” in Singapore. He had been a navigating officer in the navy, a midshipman in the East India Company, and had married Sarah Shrieve Parke when he was at The Cape. At the time, he was laid low and recovering from dysentery. In fact, had he not been decked by the disease, he would never have met his future wife. The connection came about because a friend, Captain James Sedgewick, took him to recover at the home of his future mother-in-law, Elizabeth Parke, a home that she ran as a boarding house for East India men who were at The Cape for health.

Not surprisingly, George had many business interests on the side, as naval men of his day often did. After all, before the telegraph was invented, it was the naval men who were most often in the know with respect to both sides of the imperial coin – importing and exporting.

After his wedding day, George and his friend James Sedgewick- who incidentally married George’s wife’s sister on the same day - sailed off together with their brand new wives in the ship that Sedgewick captained, and in no time at all, fortune fell into their laps. According to a letter from a cousin of Amelia Lydia Dare in the late 1800s:

On the way they fell in with a derelict, and your father said he could navigate her to the port if he had crew and Uncle Sedgewick gave him one. He took the ship to Ireland and was much feted by owners and got a large sum of money as salvage which of course had to be shared with Uncle Sedgewick’s owners.

The received family version has it that George Julius Dare finally received his own ship thanks to money inherited from his maternal grandfather, William Julius. This maternal grandfather would have been a nephew of the William Julius who was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1698, and who was one of the first of the Julius family to be connected to sailing ventures and plantations in the West Indies. The subsequent Julius family fortunes were made in sugar and tobacco, on the backs of slaves, although to their credit one of them was also active in the move to finally end slavery and experienced personal financial setbacks as a consequence.

George’s grandfather was already long dead before George was even born, and George himself was only seventeen years old when his father had died, so it is likely that the money for his first ship came as a result of a bequest from his mother, or else from one of the trustees of his grandfather’s estate. The will of his mother, Louisa Caroline Dare (née Julius), mentions bequests already received by her two surviving sons, John and George. It may also be that some of the money - which would have been a considerable amount - came from George’s uncle John Julius, who was fortuitously placed as Governor of Nevis in the West Indies.

Regardless of how George received the start-up cash, it was a good investment. He acquired more ships and was soon conducting trade with China using his three neatly kitted out vessels, all of which he owned outright. The telling detail here is that he was rich enough that no partnerships were required.

Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that his brother John Julius Dare also had substantial business interests in Demerara, and had married Louisa Antoinette de St. Felix, who as an additional bonus when it came to business connections, was the daughter of the physician to the King of France.

In the days of the British Empire, the notion of six degrees of separation was likely considerably less than that, especially if you moved in the right circles. It is very clear that the Julius and Dare families were right in thick of it all when it came to the entrepreneurial action of their times, thanks to their ancestors such as the William Julius at the start of this piece His memorial at Westminster Abbey was the niggling little bit that kick started this line of inquiry in the first place, so thanks to him - whoever he was. Obviously, I still have more to learn.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Staff of Life

My father baked bread, his father baked bread, and at least one of my brothers joins me in carrying on this tradition. Perhaps my family’s bread baking habits go back even further than this. That, I don't know. I do know that my grandfather used to bake bread after being away for weeks on the CPR railway lines in the early 1900s in Western Canada. Back then, he worked as an engineer figuring out ways to repair the tracks that had sunk into soft earth after winter frosts, or how to replace the wooden bridges whose trestles had burn to the ground. When he came home from being away in the field, he baked to relax.

The loaves in the picture above were ones that I baked as part of the food for the wedding of my eldest daughter Sabrina, and her husband Micah, in New Salem, Massachusetts. It was one year ago today. As part of the festivities, the two of them created a menu plan that included foods they had enjoyed when they were growing up, as well as foods that the two of them had cooked together.

My daughters used to help me make baby bum bread. The name may sound weird, but that was part of the fun of it. It came from the texture the dough needed to have when it was ready to put into loaf pans. The girls would pat the bread, and if enough flour had been kneaded into the dough so that it gave slightly, but didn’t lose its shape, then it was time for the girlish squeals of: baby bum!

Before I had children, I worked as a camp director for the YWCA at Camp YaWaCa on Saltspring Island, where amongst other pleasures, I also taught bread-making to all the campers. We had a routine where each cabin of eight girls would bake enough for the entire camp for the next two days. We had a microscope so the kids could watch yeast cells dividing. I mostly taught them the basics, my bibles in those days being The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown, and The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook by Jean Hewitt. Both books have served me well over the past four decades.

The campers were given pretty free rein. Once they had grasped the order that ingredients went into the bread, and the importance of beating the sponge to get the gluten strands to become elastic, then the choice of ingredients was theirs. White flour, whole wheat, other grains, nuts, dried fruits – you name it. Not that the camp cook probably ever forgave me for the time that the youngest cabin was let loose on bread baking detail. I can assure you that cooking French toast on a griddle for one hundred and twenty people with chocolate chip bread can be a titch aggravating, although it did add a certain je ne sais quoi to tuna fish sandwiches that were served later for lunch.

After my children were born, I usually made bread with a mixture of vegetable water from the previous night’s veggie cooking, eggs, cottage cheese, and white flour. The white flour choice was mostly because my husband was more of a white flour kind of guy – although he has recently been enjoying half and half . The loaves I baked back then were usually in the conventional loaf shape, and looked like the ones above, although for a while, I cooked bread in upright coffee tins.

This bread would rise to the top of the cylindrical tins, and then the tops would slightly overflow and tip sideways. For the obvious visual reasons, it became known as penis bread. In 1980 or 1981, I forget, I took a half dozen such loaves in a balsa wood peach basket to a dinner party at the home of sculptor Joe Fafard. It intrigued him how bread could be made to slump over the side of the balsa wood basket. I later revealed my secrets. At the time, he was creating large ceramic sculptures, and we all trooped out to his studio to see Margaret Atwood in his kiln, waiting to be fired.

Now there are only the two of us at home, I have adapted my bread-making habits. Often I grind hard wheat to make a half white, half brown loaf – roughly following the directions in the New York Times Bread recipe.  Recently, thanks to my brother Struan, I have added a new trick. Again, I roughly follow the NYT method, but I use a smaller amount of water, and then after an hour’s worth of rising time, I add salt, a wee titch of sugar, some flax, a handful of pumpkin seeds, whatever else strikes my fancy, but most importantly, I also add chia seeds which have soaked for the past hour in warm water. The bread then ends up having that glutinous chew that I really like, and also keeps pretty fresh for the next few days, until we can get through the whole loaf.

Today, I have baked a loaf to celebrate a convergence of weddings. Micah’s and Sabrina’s, naturally. Also, some of the food I am making today will be from the same recipes that Sabrina used when she cooked for Andreas and me at our wedding, when we finally got married after some three decades of living together.  Recently, there was a third marriage – the wedding of our friends Per & Kristjana was celebrated up here on the Coast a few months ago. They will be joining us tonight. I think the cocktail that I will serve should be Head Over Heels  - one of my faves for such occasions. Life is good.