Thursday, January 9, 2014

A letter out of the blue

Yes, I’m still here.

Another long hiatus, for sickness, holidays, etc. – I haven’t posted since November. And now another slight detour: I’m temporarily setting aside the Blackwells-in-Oz narrative, and back-tracking to the Lillies, our paternal grandmother’s family.

The reason? Two days ago, I received a letter from a distant cousin, Jeremy Lillies of Mitcham, Surrey. Jeremy is the great grandson of George William Lillies, who is great great grandfather to baby-boom Blackwells and Breens. Jeremy found my blog and when he couldn’t reach me with e-mails, winkled out my snail-mail address and sent an actual letter. How charmingly 20th century!

The exciting news is that Jeremy and his cousins have family artifacts, including George Lillies’ bible with handwritten notes about the birth of his children, and a diary that George William wrote while serving as a surgeon on the HMS Styx in the 1840s. Jeremy is in the process of transcribing the diary digitally.

“[I]t makes fascinating reading!” he wrote in an email yesterday. “I should have it finished in a week or so – at present I am on page 20 of what will be about 36. We also have a silver scalpel case for 4 scalpels, with one still remaining, belonging to GWL which I will photograph in the next day or two for you.”

I’m hoping Jeremy will give me permission to publish excerpts from the diary and anything else he sends along, including, perhaps, scans of the diary pages, and a photo of the bible with the handwritten notes in it.

Jeremy confirms some aspects of the Lillies story that I wrote about but wasn’t 100% sure of – such as that George Lillies (GL), the earliest ancestor we’ve identified for certain, practiced as a surgeon in Poole, Dorset in the late 1830s and early 1840s after retiring from the Royal Navy.

He also added interesting new information in today’s email. “It is pretty clear that GL was born in Ireland. I am now also in contact with Marj Lillies in Canada, and I have attached an e-mail from her, which contains some information which shows pretty clearly that the Sligo Lillies moved out to Canada at the time of the Irish Potato Famine.”

I haven’t yet figured out if these connections are confirmed or still tentative. I’ll keep you posted. You may be able to access Jeremy’s family tree at by searching on his name with the ‘family trees’ filter selected. If not, I’ll ask about getting invitations from Jeremy for anyone interested.