A few years ago I made contact with a cousin in the United States. My cousin, Cheryl, is the granddaughter of my Aunt Essie, my father’s sister. Although my mother did keep in touch with Essie and her daughter-in-law, Gloria, Cheryl’s mother, the family was never close, though I do recall that Essie would send us a box of Whitman’s Sampler chocolates at Christmas. Cheryl and I corresponded several times by good old snail mail, and she sent me a number of photographs which she had found in her grandmother’s possession. Most were not identified, but I am pretty sure that a couple of them were of my grandfather, Leopold, and of his wife, Alice. Here is the photo which I believe to be of Leopold:
Of course, I have no proof that it is him, but I like to think that it is. Also in the photos I received was this one, which I am quite sure is of Alice and two of her children, my father, Michael and his sister, Essie.
I see the resemblance to my father in the eyes of the little boy, but I’m even more sure of the little girl, especially when I compare her face to the one in this photo of my Aunt Essie:
It’s always been one of my regrets that I never knew either of my grandfathers, both being so much older and dying long before I came on the scene. Ironically, I have no photograph of my grandfather, William Dey Smedmore, but I certainly knew quite a bit about him, thanks to my mother and her siblings. My grandfather, Leopold, was a mystery. He was from
So now I knew exactly where they were married, but more questions arose. Where did they meet? Was it in
? Did Jamaica Alice go to to get Leopold to marry her? I wondered if Colon Alice’s pregnancy had become a scandal in and that marriage was the only option. The notice in the Gleaner might well have helped to stop some of the gossip. Again, who knows? Leopold was Jewish, Kingston was Catholic, and marriage in a church must have been out of the question, hence they were married by the registrar. Unfortunately I have been unable to find a record of the marriage. At that time Alice Panama would have been a colony of Colombia and I assume records of civil registration for Panama in the 19th century must be somewhere in , but I have not been able to discover how to access them. Colombia
From what little information I could glean about my grandfather it appeared that he was a traveller of sorts. According to the family story, he was an optometrist, and I found the same information in my father’s entry in the Jamaica Who’s Who of 1941-46, keeping in mind, of course, that he would have given that information
However, I never found any evidence to support this. On the various records of birth and death for his children, I found Leopold’s occupation variously described as “merchant”, “book clerk”, “accountant”, “book-keeper”, and “clerk” – no mention whatsoever of “optometrist”. He married
Alice in in 1886, was still there when Daisy, the eldest child, was born. He was in Colon Kingston for the birth of his second child, Lucien, but was listed as being in , when Essie was born in 1891. He was back in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for the birth of Gustave in 1894, and I have no idea where he was for the births of Leo and Joe in 1895 and 1900 respectively, as he was not the informant for either event. As I mentioned before in an earlier post, the family seems to have moved from one address to another in Kingston ; in fact, they lived in seven different places in the span of fourteen years between 1886 and 1900. Kingston
Apart from the above the only other tangible record I had for Leopold was his signature on two documents – the birth of his son, Lucien in 1887:and as a witness at the marriage in 1907 of his wife’s niece, Naomi Da Costa, to Gabriel Oppenheim Alexander.
So at least I knew that he was in