With all the excitement of searching names, I decided to take a lunch break. I’d been in the British Library for about four hours, and felt pretty invincible thus far, having made copious notes about my findings. During lunch, I had a load of unanswered questions from my morning pursuit, to name a few:
- Was ‘Pereira’ Portuguese or Spanish (or another nationality)? Does the (living) family have any knowledge of this? (i’d never heard of it before)
- Do any of the names i’ve discovered mean anything to any (living) family? Could these names trigger anything in their minds?
- What additional information would help propel what i’ve found into ‘generation 7’?
- I needed more information about Edith Hassett – when was she born? when did she die? what is known about her?
Given my resources, I used my ‘phone a friend’ option and called my Aunty Diane.This led to useful additional information (thank you Aunty Di), particularly in relation to Edith Hassett. More importantly, ‘what about uncle Lennie?’ – I had forgotten about Elaine’s (my Nana’s) brother, Leonard Hassett. One of the most interesting pursuits of my Anglo-Indian ancestry, has been the number of anecdotal family stories that have been passed down over the years. Many of these I used to formulate my initial plan for researching the lineage, and these informed my initial judgments and perceptions of the names and records as I found them. For example:
- Edith Hassett – my great grandmother – ‘lied about her age’, she may also have ‘been a witch’ (she was born on Halloween), ‘she re-married a rogue’, ‘she wasn’t very nice’, and alternatively ‘she was very kind’, ‘she was the 7th of 7 children’. Edith, it would turn out, was the most interesting person of discovery at the end of day 1 in the British Library.
- Leonard Hassett, ‘uncle Lennie’ – my great Uncle – ‘was about 3 yrs younger than Elaine’, ‘married a Gemrose, who died of Leukemia’, ‘he was an alcoholic’, ‘he wrote letters to Elaine’, ‘he never visited England’
- David Hassett – Leonard and Elaine’s father – ‘was an alcoholic’, ‘he played for the customs hockey team’
These are just a few stories that I had heard over my years growing up. I was reminded of some of these stories and others from my telephone conversation, and heading back to the Asian and African Reading room in the British Library, I had some additional theories to contend. Priority was Leonard Hassett and his mother, Edith Wharton/Hassett (I had previously discovered Edith’s baptism record). Very quickly I discovered the references to records of the marriage of Edith Aileen Hassett and Clifford Melville Carr Smith, ages listed as 34 and 23 respectively. This led me to the baptism record of Clifford Smith and his parents, Clifford Melville Smith and Violet Emma Smith. I also discovered Leonard Hassett’s baptism record:
- His birth date as: September 6th 1925
- Baptism date: November 21st 1925
- Baptism location: St Mary’s Church, Parel, Bombay
- His name: Leonard Havelock Hassett
- His parents: David Vincent Hassett and Edith Aileen Hassett
- His parents abode: Sion
- His fathers occupation: Customs Officer, Bombay
This was further confirmation of (1) David Vincent Hassetts work as a Customs Officer in Bombay, (2) parents abode, Sion, (3) confirmation of birth and baptism dates (including location), and (4) his middle name was ‘Havelock’. For day 1 in the British Library this is as far as I got – they booted me out at 1700, something about ‘they had to close’ – oh well.
On returning home, full of positive energy about all the information I had discovered, I quickly jotted down the ‘family tree’ as it appeared so far. I left this (below) with the following (slightly amended) message to some of my family:
After my first day in the British library searching through records (baptisms, marriages, deaths), here’s what i’ve found. The picture isn’t too clear, but shows the trail and names (I have much more information). Managed to go back 6 generations. The quick highlights: … 2. The furthest I got back today was to Elaine’s dads mams dad (so my great great great grandad) was John Pereira (this name is Portuguese) not uncommon for Anglo-Indians at the time. 3. Some interesting records on the locations they lived / worked / were baptised / buried. Plenty of food for thought…
The hawk eye among you will notice the quote missed out ‘quick highlight number 1’ – this was regarding Edith Aileen Hassett. She became the most interesting focus of my attention after day 1 in the British Library. Did she lie about her age? was she, in fact, a witch? Did she marry a rogue?
She was so much more.
Cover picture credit: Vivien Marshall
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