December 25, 2013 by auntkatefirmin
Once she had addresses, Kate wrote to her newly found relatives. I’ve picked Fanny’s letter to start with as she was a long term correspondent and included more family history than some of the others. I’ve made a separate post with the facts I’ve gleaned about Fanny’s life as she does not provide much about her personal history.
I’ve transcribed the full text of Fanny’s first letter to Kate and posted the first page to give an example of her penmanship. At age 70, Fanny had issues with her eyesight and it appears that she did not proof-read her letters to correct missing punctuation or curious sentences caused by breaks when she started a new page. I have added some names and dates in square brackets as well as closing Fanny’s parentheses, but I did not indicate where a new page starts as it seemed distracting. Mostly Fanny writes on very smooth, thin paper that is five inches by 8.5 inches and appears to be torn out of some sort of memo book that was intended to be used with carbon paper – the upper right corner of each page is numbered and each number appears twice. For example, both the first and second page of the letter are numbered “156” in the corner. This letter was written on one side only of seven sheets of paper. Fanny was very frugal and it’s typical that she would recycle something rather than use purchased stationery. Fanny’s early letters are written with a fountain pen using green ink.
Miss Kate Maud Firmin
My Dear Cousin
It is with the greatest pleasure I received your kindest of letters & I will endeavour to make you a little acquainted with your dear fathers relatives. I knew all who remained in England, vis, the Aunts Emily, Kate, (whom you are named after) & Harriet. The uncles Fred, Michel [sic], & Edward (& before I go any farther I must tell you they have all now passed away), but let me begin with your father, my dear Uncle John, whom my father (George Henry Berkeley) the 2nd son used to tell me about.
I understand there were two of you a brother, who was named Alfred Fouracre Firmin after a very dear friend of the family (whom I have a signed photograph of I will send to your brother if he would like it & is I trust still with you.)
My father & mother had five of us three girls & two boys. Kate, George, Emily, myself & Arthur (Emily died when quite a baby, more of us later on.)
There was no. 3 Osborne who left England when quite young, for Africa where he was killed by an Elephant when hunting. (I have a letter from him sent to my father just before he left England).
Our Uncle Tom I do not know anything about though I believe he went out to Canada with your father.
Uncle Fred lived quite near us in Reading for some time, he had one son Osborne who was never heard of & I never met him.*
Dear Uncle Mick went to Africa too & he came over to England some where about 1900 & we had a gathering of Clan Firmin on the steps of the Town Hall Portsmouth. He was one of the finest gentlemen I ever met, he returned to Africa some six months after & we completely lost sight touch with him & fear he too has gone.
Our Uncle Eddie I knew most of all, he only died a few years ago , just before the war ended. He never married (I forgot to say Mick never married).
Eddie always spent two weeks each summer with me at Witley & I was very fond of him.
Now cousin Kate if you are not getting bored with me I will tell you a little about the Aunts.
Dear Aunt Emily had one daughter Constance Trotter they lived at Bath & I used to visit them but you know something of them so I will pass on to your name sake Aunt Kate Maud Baynham who had four children, vis Amy, Horace, Laura & Nellie (twins) & as I lost my Mother when I was 15 years I spent a lot of time at my dear Aunt Kates & Amy & I have been almost sisters all our lives she has one daughter & Horace too had one daughter the twins had no children. The three girls are very well but both Horace and his wife have passed away.
Now shall I tell you a little about my family. My sister Kate went to the States & married in Boston she had one son out there, then came back to England had two more little boys then died when the last was two weeks old.
My two brothers one 25 years [this must be George who was 27 when he emigrated in 1902] & one only 18 years [Arthur who arrived in Boston about 1899 at age 20] both went to the States & are still there one in Southboro Mass [George] & one in Newark, New Jersey [Arthur] leaving only me in England. My father lived to 80 yrs & since I lost my husband now eleven years I am terribly alone. I have turned my three score years & ten but am very well. I live in a little Bungelow [sic] by myself but how I should have loved to have seen you when you came to England. Now to reply to your letter, we certainly do go short of some of the good things of life but we are not starving though no one ever before has offered to send me anything & I don’t know how to thank you for so generously thinking of us, but you must not do anything to send what you may need yourself. The whole world is in trouble so we in England must not be selfish, now I had better confess I had a very bad accident & lost an eye some years ago so if my script has much to be desired you will excuse.
Your new, old Cousin
Fanny A. Hall
[*This is interesting as Fred traveled quite a bit and no other source mentions him living in Reading. Fred also had a daughter Susie but it appears that Fanny did not know about her.]