May 15, 2013 by auntkatefirmin
Aunt Kate’s trip to London in 1925 did not bring her any closer to finding her cousins. She didn’t really have much to go on. Firmin isn’t as unusual a name as one might think. Once the family members left London, and especially married and changed their names, finding them in a phone book wasn’t really a option.
In the end, Kate’s cousins found her. It was due to the death of her cousin Constance Trotter. In 1938 an advertisement appeared in the Christian Science Monitor and a number of other international newspapers naming the potential heirs of Constance, including John Robert Firmin. Constance was John’s niece, daughter of his sister Emily. Constance had been quite a wealthy woman, although about half the estate went to inheritance taxes before being distributed to many heirs. For Kate and her brothers the family connection was the real gain.
It has been interesting to catch glimpses of Constance’s life from as many sources as possible. From the family photos, we can see that Connie was a beautiful woman. We also know that she led a very sheltered life with her mother, Kate’s aunt Emily, in Bath. Connie’s father, John Marshall Trotter was considerably older and he died at the age of 71 when Constance was only 21. The family had lived in Bath all her life and if the family correspondence is to be believed, Connie and her mother had a very limited social circle.
Using standard sources I have located all the usual documents – primarily the census, civil registration index listings, and her probate entry. I’ve been playing with findmypast.com recently and I turned up her obituary from the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 4 June 1938; which is nice although it doesn’t really add much to the picture.
“LATE MISS CONSTANCE TROTTER
Funeral at Bathwick Cemetery
The funeral of Miss Constance Louise Geraldine Trotter, of 26, Kiping Avenue, Bath, took place on Monday at Bathwick Cemetery and was attended by many friends. The Rev. W. J. Hopkins, Vicar of Luke’s, officiated.
The funeral was conducted by Godwin’s, Ltd., Wellsway.”
However, I found some real treats online. One is the charming site for Bathwick cemetery inscriptions – follow the link in section D for a photo of the family tombstones. Don’t be confused by the name, the Bathwick Cemetery is located in Smallcombe Vale.
The next treat is a site dedicated to the history of the Sydney Buildings, Bath. Yup, Sydney Buildings is the name of the street where the Trotter family lived from 1884 to 1923. Check out the page for their home known variously as Guindy or Grundy Lodge. This is really fascinating because even though Connie’s mother owned #12, in the 1891 and 1901 census the family is living elsewhere. In 1891 they are a few streets away at #8 Darlington Street and in 1901 they are two houses down at #14 Sydney Buildings, called St. Ronan’s. The other fascinating bit of information is that Emily Louise Trotter appears to have purchased the property in her own name – there’s no mention of her husband, even though he was living at the time.
Visit the Bath in Time site for a view of the Avon Canal just below the street where Connie lived in 1915 and stay to enjoy the thousands of photos. The Bath skyline walk is definitely on my agenda for a future trip!
What we wouldn’t know, if not for the letters, is that in later years Aunt Emily was estranged from most of the family. We have only one version of the story, from Fanny Agnes Firmin Hall, the woman who placed the advertisements in the paper. In a future post, I’ll jump ahead and let Fanny tell the story of how she came to place the advertisement.