The settlement

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December 25, 2013 by auntkatefirmin

Kate’s brother Fred received a letter in August 1941 with the terms of the settlement of the estate of their English cousin Constance Trotter (Connie).  The original letter (which might have helped in understanding the shares) has not been preserved.  Fred wrote to Kate on August 17th to summarize the settlement.

Of the estate, valued at £2987 and change, 5/9 was not distributed to the heirs; Fred presumed it went to inheritance tax or something similar.  The remaining 4/9 was divided into eight parts which Fred assumed meant that Constance had eight relatives who were equally close, probably all her cousins.  I’d like to understand the logic of the distribution into eight because actually the divisions don’t work out that way if the shares are based on relationships to Constance.

Constance’s mother Emily was one of ten Firmin children.  Of the ten children, five were either living at the time of Connie’s death or had living heirs who could be located.  The five were John Robert, George Henry Berkeley, Kate, Harriet & Edward; that makes five Firmin shares in my reckoning.  Connie’s other four Firmin aunts and uncles (Osborne, Fred, Thomas, Michael) could not be located or had no locatable heirs at the time of her death. The American cousins Kate & Fred only had the names from the newspaper advertisement for the heirs, primarily the three missing uncles who had left England and had not been heard from in some time (John Robert, Thomas, and Michael).  Since they only knew the relationships for the missing relatives, they were in the dark about which of the share recipients was a cousin, an aunt or an uncle. (Given that there was no will, I assume everyone with a share is a relative.) Fred & Kate’s father, John Robert Firmin, is the only one of the four of Connie’s uncles whose heirs responded to the advertisement.  Michael very likely died in Africa and Thomas remains a complete mystery – did he emigrate to the US or elsewhere?

While the advertisement states that the death of Frederick Thomas Kenning Firmin was proved, none of the family at the time was aware that Fred had a daughter Susie who moved to Australia and would have been entitled to a share. Susie was living at the time of Connie’s death but her connection to the family was only discovered recently.

1939 clipping from the Christian Science Monitor.

1939 clipping from the Christian Science Monitor.

Here is a list showing the shares as Fred understood them – although he did not know the relationships of the other parties to Connie.

1-3 John: three shares to his children (or heirs) Fred, Kate & Venoy

4 (George);  one share split four ways between George T Firmin, Fanny Hall, Arthur E. Firmin, with the fourth share split between Harold, Herbert & Leslie Sharpe.

5 Kate Baynham:  one share to her representatives

6 Harriet Blackley: one share

7 Edward D. Firmin: one share

8 The eighth share was divided between Elizabeth M. Anthony, James Millar, and Jane GIlchrist; I believe they are first cousins on Connie’s father’s side of the family.  I haven’t done all the research but it seems likely that Jane Gilchrist’s maiden name was Millar as James & Elizabeth had a sister named Jane.

This division into eight seems very odd to me.  According to this version, John’s children and each of the three living aunts or uncles (Kate, Harriet & Edward) received one share apiece while the children of John’s brother George had to split his share.  Also the arithmetic doesn’t seem to work out unless there were really large expenses or fees for the attorneys that are not mentioned. Another day I might try to run different versions of the numbers.  Perhaps there is another paper that I have overlooked that could shed light on the distribution.

Bottom line is that after costs were deducted, the three children of John Robert Firmin inherited £326:14:2 to be split three ways. In 1941, each of the three received £100 of their share, with the rest of the funds to be held in a “blocked account” until the end of the war.  Aunt Kate had some clues, but yet enough to find the cousins.


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