Monday, May 11, 2015

Cousin meets Cousin


In my previous two posts, I had discussed having ownership of my great uncle’s gramophone Uncle Fred and the Gramophone, and how more than 70 years after his untimely death, I had made contact with his direct descendants for the first time. A letter to the Editor

My Aunt Margaret called me out of the blue one day to tell me she had received a phone from her first cousin, Anthony Chinery.  This is the first time they had ever communicated.  He told her he had been in the US, and was on his way back home to the UK.  He mentioned that he happened to have been in Vail, Colorado.  Vail is only an hour and a half west of where I live.  And I had just been there a couple of days previous.   Just missed him!

She did have his phone number and passed it on to me.   “Tony” and I chatted a short time later, and I caught him just as he was leaving the east coast back to the UK.  He informed me he had a place in Vail, and returns a couple of times a year.  We agreed to make contact again when he returned.

In the meantime I researched more of what had happened to his father, Frederick Chinery, when he was presumed drown in the Java Sea on 13 February 1942.
Frederick George Chinery c1935

Frederick was working for the Malayan Broadcasting Company, and he and a few of his co-workers were among those of about 300 who made passage on the small cargo ship HMS Giang Bee.  His wife and 2 children had departed earlier on a different ship.  A survivor of the sinking gave a first hand account stating he had been with Frederick clinging to a raft for 24 hours after the sinking.[1]  There is an account online of the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the HMS Giang Bee, which was one of many ships sunk in the evacuation of Singapore.  To do the account justice, I suggest a quick read here-Sinking of Giang Bee

Tony and I missed finding an opportunity on his first return visit towards the end of 2014, but we finally found a day that worked for both of our schedules in March of 2015. 

I was a little nervous as I prepared for my trip up into the mountains that day.  I had always hoped to return this possession to its rightful family.  I had wrapped the gramophone in brown paper and twine, so it wasn’t evident immediately what I had; I wasn’t sure that he knew what I possessed.

Upon arriving in Vail, we quickly found his condo and went up to meet my cousin for the first time.    We met his lovely partner who helped make us feel very welcome.  I laid the package in the hall as I entered and we all introduced ourselves. 

Barbara, his partner, could barely contain herself and immediately went to the hall to retrieve the package.   Together, we all gathered around the kitchen island, as it was unwrapped.   I know there were tears in my eyes.   He was only a couple of years old when he lost his dad.  My father too, never knew his own dad.  I think I was imagining how my father would feel if he could connect with something of his dad’s in some way.  I could tell he was moved as he looked over the gramophone and some of the other items I brought with me; one of which was his niece Lori’s initial letter to my grandfather 30 years ago.

Once we got that out of the way, we stood around chatting and getting to know each other.  He told me I was the first relative he had ever met, outside he and his brother’s family.  I brought a family photo from 1965.  It was the last time my mother and her family were all photographed together.  With that photo, I introduced him to his Uncle, (my grandfather), and his three first cousins.  (My mom and her siblings)  There were also other pictures of his dad's brothers and sisters I had met.

He recounted to us the story of his family as refugees in South Africa during WWII. His mother knew no one.  They arrived with nothing.  His story is personal, and I did not ask him permission to share it here.  But it is amazing, and I am impressed by the incredible success he has made of himself.  In addition to success in business, he has climbed great peaks in the Alps, and has sailed across the Atlantic several times.   

We had the most enjoyable evening and then joined some visiting friends of theirs from the UK for dinner.  The friends were amazed by the dumb luck story of how, after all these years, we were able to connect while living worlds apart.  

I see the term over and over again in this hobby of mine….”Serendipity in Genealogy.”

[1]  citing Chinnery,-Frederick.  Also citing Medcalfe-Moore for additional details regarding Frederick.

No comments:

Post a Comment