February 10, 2016 by auntkatefirmin
For the most part, the correspondence of Kate Firmin with her English cousins is one-sided. We don’t know what news she shared of her family, except by the responses from the cousins. One draft was saved – Kate’s first letter to the relatives which I have transcribed here.
Sept 8, 1947
My dear Mrs Blackley
The receipt of this letter, I feel sure comes as a great surprise to you. I hope it is not entirely unwelcome. It is a letter I wished to write soon after we received from the firm of Arthur Taylor & Co., the names of the heirs to the estate of Constance Trotter. Since no addresses of the heirs were given, I wrote to the solicitor’s office requesting that they be sent to me. No reply ever came, either to my first communication or to my second, which led me to believe that the office of the firm had been completely destroyed. I knew no one in England who might make enquiries for me, so the years have gone by with no knowledge of how to get in touch with my new found English cousins.
Some months ago, however, Mrs Gertrude Cowper of 18 Girton House, Manor Fields, London SW15, a friend of my cousin here in Carmel was able to secure the addresses for me, & I am especially grateful to her for her kind efforts.
All my life I have wished to know about our English relatives, but since my father died when I was a small child and had left only a letter bearing a London address on Orchard Road, there was almost no clue to follow in getting in touch with them. I was in London during August 1925 & while there telephoned to several Firmins in hopes of finding one who might be a relative. Now that I have a definite clue, I have great expectations that I shall at last learn something of them.
Anything you may wish to tell me about yourself & family will be of much interest to me.
Every report of England’s welfare is of interest & concern to us. You, as well as we, I’m sure had high hopes that somehow the recovery of Europe would be accomplished quickly & successfully after the terrific years of the war. It is a tragedy that the world is in its present plight. Especially am I sorry that England must still endure such rigid restrictions in living & I feel keenly that I would like to do a little to ease the burden which you now have in your economic crisis. I wonder if boxes of food of the size which we are permitted to send would be of some help to you? If you think they would, I shall be delighted to send them to you.
I am mailing a duplicate of this letter to Mr E D Firmin, & to Mrs F A Hall in the hope that in so doing I shall succeed in making a contact with one of you, or, better, with each of you.
Sincerely, [no signature appears on the draft]
-I am not certain how Kate chose her first three correspondents out of the list of the 12 heirs (which also included the Marshall family heirs who were only related by marriage). Even if I were to re-read all the documents, I’m not certain I could figure out when & how she deduced the relationships of all the heirs. Clearly she had worked out who was who and her objective appears to have been to contact the eldest generation (Mrs Blackley & Mr Firmin) first, as well as the only representative of George H B Firmin still in England (Mrs Hall).
-I found it surprising that Kate included the address of Mrs Cowper, but apparently Fanny Hall did phone Mrs Cowper to check the veracity of the letter.
-Though by 1947 both Aunt Harriet (Mrs Blackley) and Uncle Eddy (Mr E D Firmin) had passed away, the addresses were still valid. Aunt Harriet’s granddaughter, Felicia Hill, acted as the correspondent for her branch of the family. Edward Firmin’s landlady replied to the letter addressed to him.
-The cousin in Carmel was Louise Kellogg, whose nickname was “Kelly.” I suspect that cousin Louise met Mrs Cowper during WWI, when Louise was an Army Nurse stationed in France.