The Genealogy File-A Brief Afterlife in Cyberspace

To Michael K Blanchard

 Ena in Cyberspace

***

 
Ena Henry, Circa 1944

Ena Henry, Circa 1944

 

This is my Auntie Ena. My dad is Graham M. Henry Sr, her bother, who passed away this year in February. She looked so much like him and appears to have been a hard worker like her brother. (Helen Jean Henry Ursery)

 
This is my aunt Ena and three cousins whom I have never met or knew.(Graham Henry Jr.)
Wow it was great to find these pictures online and be able to see part of my family I did not know. I am the Grand Son of Graham Henry who is Auntie’s Brother. I would like to contact you all again…I contacted Auntie when I was living and working in Jamaica from 2004-2005 but lost your numbers. My name is Michael K. Blanchard. Unfortunately Auntie passed before I was able to get over to Old Harbour to see her.(Michael K Blanchard)

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A Brief Afterlife

***

Except for the bizarre overlay  of satellite TV reception from  the U.S. and the ubiquitous cell phone, Ena Henry Williams, lived her eighty two year life  beyond modernity, stranded in a rural enclave of timelessness, Old Harbour Bay, within an island, Jamaica, and in an area, the Caribbean, which tends to resist the neurotic and fashionable intrusions of planned obsolescence and change for its own sake.

Despite the digital intrusions of the twenty first century, when Auntie’s ruled the roost in her independent Republic, called  Auntie’s Hot Spot, this ambiance of stubborn timelessness was the norm. In her realm, the early part of the twentieth century had decided to stick around for another century or so. Like so many hundreds of millions of other people in rural communities across the world in regions of uneven or no industrial development, she led a simple life making a living from hard work, entrepreneurship and her wits. Ena Henry Williams died in September 2005.

An elegy to Ena was posted on this website in August 2013. She was briefly resuscitated from her eternal repose by a flurry of interest in the post. (See Caribbean Routes-Part 2 Old Harbour Bay in Archives)

August of 2013 saw a spike in the daily viewership on this remote, little viewed blog site in a rural, out-of-the-way outpost of the blogosphere. The family of Ena’s brother Graham Heny Sr. had discovered the memorial on this website and for a week Ena was revitalized, escaping  briefly the deficit of attention paid to the departed. Her memorial post added over a thousand views in a week.

Ena had played a role, albeit in a passive way, in bringing together parts of a family dispersed early in the twentieth century from the Caribbean to North America. She was indirectly the instrument that generated social energy to initiate communications among the living of her tribe which in turn stimulated research into the lives of the children of Ena’s parents, Mabel Campbell and her mercurial partner known variously as George Henry, Jorge Montaque, Jorge Herrera. (For update on George Henry see Michelle Ray’s comments in the comment section at the bottom of this post).

Michael K. Blanchard, son of Helen Henry Ursery, one of Ena’s newly rediscovered American family reports the following from his research:

Henry Family Tree
George Henry and Mabel Campbell—
later became Mabel Campbell Henry
Siblings: All born in Clarendon, Jamaica—Scottish Irish Descent
  • Kenneth Cleveland Henry 3-8-1909
  • Clement Rupert Henry 8-11-1913
  • Donald Leigh Henry 9-15-1915
  • Graham Martin Henry 4-11-1920
  • Moreton Llewellyn Henry a.k.a. Geoffery Henry or Jack 4-11-1920
  • Ena Violis Henry 4-25-1922
  • Norma May Henry 12-28-1924 
  • * Addendum from Michelle Ray (See letter below for comments by Michelle Ray about an additional child) “Hugh Vivian Henry born March 6, 1911, in Orange River, Clarendon was the second child born to George Montigue Henry and Mabel Aneita Campbell. It is highly likely that Hugh died in infancy and may not have lived long but I wanted you to know for the record that there were 8 children born to “Georgie” (that was how he signed his name on documents) and Mabel”. (From Michelle Ray’s research)

***

 In Cyberspace

***

The words quoted above under Ena’s portrait are from her American relatives and reveal surprise to find evidence of Ena pulled into a digital existence from the relative obscurity of her life in rural Jamaica and even 8 years after her death. Digital communication has highlighted the improbable linkage of people in widely dispersed locations with a single, albeit important commonality: that of  ancestry.

Cyberspace: where exactly is that? What is it?

Cyberspace draws attention to remediation of culture through new media technologies: it is not just a communication tool but a social destination, and is culturally significant in its own right. Finally, cyberspace can be seen as providing new opportunities to reshape society and culture through “hidden” identities, or it can be seen as borderless communication and culture.[14]( Wikipedia)

Cyberspace: metaphor, shared illusion, digital mirage, shared hallucination, one of the 10 dimensions of the universe predicted by string theory or simply a worldwide network of computers storing data: what matters is that some humans long dispersed in time and space from their common starting point found connections with each other and acted briefly upon these connections. How cool is that?

***

Post Scriptum:
  •  All Saints Day is celebrated in many parts of the world November 2nd to remember those who have departed the physical realm. Still recognized notably in Latin America, (especially Mexico-el dia de los muertos) it is described as a vestige of pagan societies. Pagan or not, this gesture seems to be somewhat more civilized than the current practice across our enlightened societies to plant the dead and then forget  them. (See link below for one such celebration from Sweden).
 
  •  We are thinking of you Ena, and will raise a glass non-judgementally in your memory on the second day of November. Rest in Peace.

6 thoughts on “The Genealogy File-A Brief Afterlife in Cyberspace

  1. Gary,

    I enjoyed reading the post about Ena but I forgot to share one story with you that proves the world has become smaller.

    In 2007 while I was living and working in Miami FL for Miami Dade County I was discussing my Jamaican roots with a young man who was actually born and raised in Jamaica. As we shared our stories he told me he grew up in Old Harbor Bay and began sharing a story about how he would by fish tea from a lady named Auntie Sis! I had previous shared with him about my history, about Ena and Graham…..Both of us began to smile when he described the woman as fair skinned or Coolie as they say in Jamaica….When he described your Mother it was no doubt we were speaking about the same person. This was great because this gentleman was 33 years old and I was 42 years old at the time. We exchanged numbers but saw each other frequently because he was a bus driver for Miami Dade County and I worked for Miami Dade in securing the buses along with the nightly intake of money contained on them. What are the chances that I would actually meet someone who grew up in Old Harbour and who actually knew Ena’s “Hot Spot”!

    Much Love,

    Michael

    Michael K. Blanchard

  2. Garry, I know it’s been quite some time since we last connected. My only excuse is that work and the rigors of life has occupied much of my time but it is no real excuse for not staying in touch however.

    I came across this blog while surfing the net and I must tell you it brought tears to my eyes. I was actually trying to find records of Uncle Graham and his brother Jack when I stumbled across this post. I want you to know that Aunt Sissy has always held a special place in my heart. I benefitted from many bottles of cream sodas from the shop and she always had my favorite dish ready, curried lobster with white rice and eaten with a big spoon. I celebrate her and the other strong women in the Henry clan (maybe the Campbell clan for that matter) each and every day – they are an enterprising and strong lot!

    I want to thank you for posting the image of Uncle Graham who I had never before seen. I saved the photo to my files and will post as part of my ancestry project. What a dapper Dan! Not at all what I imagined he would look like. He has a similar look to Uncle Donald.

    Since you are keeper of family facts and the storyteller amongst us, I want to provide you with some additional information. There was one additional sibling not listed in the records provided by my cousin above. Hugh Vivian Henry born March 6, 1911, in Orange River, Clarendon was the second child born to George Montigue Henry and Mabel Aneita Campbell. It is highly likely that Hugh died in infancy and may not have lived long but I wanted you to know for the record that there were 8 children born to “Georgie” (that was how he signed his name on documents) and Mabel.

    While I have heard the stories about George having Spanish blood and that he died tragically in a car accident (as told to me by my mother) I did find records that he was of mixed race and was one of several children born to Francis Henry (a shoemaker) and his wife, Anne Maria Binger. In historical documents kept by the British, the children of their union were classified as “colored” as differentiated from black, Sambo and African. Notwithstanding, I just completed a DNA test and there is no trace of Iberian ancestry but plenty of stock which ties me to the British Isles.

    Unfortunately, poor Georgie died in 1924 at the age of 48. He died on December 19 and Norma May was born on December 28. It must have been devastating for the children and more so for Mabel trying to raise young children and being pregnant with the last one. I think the situation greatly impacted my grandfather who was 11 years old at time along with his oldest brother Kenneth who was 13 – they both had to seek work to help their mother.

    This is now conjecture on my part but Georgie’s brother, Theodore Theophilus Henry, who married Caroline Adina Campbell (Mabel’s sister) tried to help out with the kids. Miss Addie, as she was known, took Aunt Sissy and the twins to help Mabel but your mother often ran away. (This I did not make up as Aunt Sissy told me this herself). It was Theo who was with George when he died – according to the death certificate – in Crawle River. He apparently was suffering with acute gastritis when he experienced syncope and died.

    I did not mean to ramble on but wanted to connect with you and to let you know that I admire your ability to tell compelling stories – stories that are personal and expose your heart. #nofliter #henrybloodstrong

  3. Dear Michelle,

    Thanks for taking the time to share this information with us. Your remarks have made my day, or even my week. This information has shed some more light on a part of our heritage which has been largely unknown. As can be deduced from the posts about Ena, I have magnified the infrequent contacts I had with her.

    “A riddle in a mystery inside an enigma” (Winston Churchill) could well describe the person she was. We all live within a context composed of a complex matrix of events, historical, regional, familial and personal which shape our destiny, and Ena, like everyone else was molded by the conjunction of all these powerful forces. She eventually emerged in her geographical area as an iconic figure with a significant impact on her community.

    The other members of the Henry clan with whom I had some limited contact were, Norma who apparently was the person who registered my birth at the registry office of vital statistics in Clarendon, thus proving in an official way, my existence: your grandfather whom I met on a couple of occasions in the early 1950s on visits to Old Harbour Bay, and also Graham who was visiting from the U.S on another of my yearly visits from Kingston in the early 1950s to Old Harbour Bay. On a visit to Old Harbour Bay in the 1990s I met June Yvonne (Zana) and her children.

    I will pass on this information to my children and grandchildren with a hope that some day we may be able to know the wonderful people who are our nieces, nephews and cousins. In any case we celebrate the achievements and the strength of character of our Henry family.

    Love,
    Garry

    • Garry,

      How wonderful that I could contribute to your joy and to provide information about your genealogy. I actually have more information to share but once my project gets further along, I promise to send details to create a better picture of your ancestry. Like you, I bear the burden of a family steeped in secrets and mystery but I have endeavored to seek answers and tell my truth, whatever that may be!

      Despite what you may know, you should take pride in knowing that your Henry, Campbell, Rowbottom and Binger ancestors were pioneering people who made their way across an ocean – some willingly and some not so willingly – to seek out a better life than the one they had in England, Ireland and beyond. Your mother and her siblings may not have been born wealthy or had the benefit of parents who could provide amply for them but they made it through with flying colors. They imbued to their children, a strong work ethic and a drive to succeed and amplify their potential. Each successive generation has improved their lot (if we analyze things in terms of first world success) and have made great contributions in their respective realm.

      In the spirit of joy, I want to take this opportunity to share with you an excerpt from my cookbook which pays homage to your mother. It is outlined below:

      HOW I CAME TO KNOW CURRY

      A personal favorite, curried lobster served as one of my earliest culinary memories. It incorporates the finest aspects of my East Indian heritage with local ingredients caught in the deep, dark waters off the southern coast of Jamaica, in a little fishing village known as Old Harbour Bay.

      Funny enough, the person that I identify most closely with this recipe is my Aunt Sissy, who in the 1950’s and until she died in the 2005, ran a catering establishment and a watering hole with my Uncle Arnold known as Hot Spot. Even though she was not East Indian, she turned out to be a better cook than many of her East Indian in-laws.

      My Aunt Sissy’s heritage is somewhat mixed: her father’s family was said to be of Cuban extraction (which was later proved to be untrue) and her mother’s Irish/English background contributed greatly to her physical traits. She, of course, was born in the hill country of Clarendon, Jamaica and hailed from a relatively remote area known as Kellits – not known for its culinary diversity. I don’t imagine that she started off her life with ambitions of being a chef or pioneering new and now established Jamaican seafood recipes but as luck would have it, she turned out to be a most extraordinary one.

      Curried lobster for me is best eaten with plain white rice in a big bowl with an equally big spoon, the way my Aunt Sissy usually served it to me.

      “Curried Lobster: An Interpretation”

      Ingredients
      • 2 (1 1/2-pound) lobsters
      • 2 quarts water
      • Pinch black pepper
      • Pinch salt
      • tablespoon curried powder
      • ½ stick of butter
      • 1 large onion (chopped finely)
      • 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
      • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
      • 2 stalks of scallion chopped
      • 1 bay leaf
      • 1/4 cup Calvados
      • 3 cups reserved cooking liquid

      Preparation
      There are two steps to this recipe, and you will want to try to separate the process. First, in a large pot boil 2 quarts of water. Once the water comes to a boil, place both lobsters in the pot and boil for 10 minutes. Do not overcook as the lobster meat will be rendered chewy.

      Remove lobsters from pot with a tong and place in a large bowl of ice. Once cooled, remove meat from the shells and chop into bite-sized pieces, the tails about ½ inch wide, and set aside. Remember not to leave any meat behind in those little spindly legs.

      In a skillet, sauté 4 tablespoons of butter with crushed garlic, onions and pinch of salt and pepper. Once onions become translucent add cooking liquid from lobster, Calvados, thyme, scallion, bay leaf, and curry powder. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes or until sauce becomes thick. Add cleaned lobster meat and any juices from the lobster. Toss over heat for 2 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Notice that there is no mention of the word scotch bonnet pepper in this recipe but I always add it to every dish.

      Walk Good!

      • Michelle,

        We are indebted to you for what you have brought to us by way of these 2 extended comments. The recipe is a bonus which we will savour and pass along. In our side of the family escoveitch fish is the quintessential Aunt Sissy recipe which, like you I have tried to replicate and pass on to our part of the tribe.

        Post Scriptum:
        You define yourself through your ideas so elegantly and with such ‘flavour’ that I am delighted to have your written expression on the blog.

        Love,
        Garry

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