I kept trying to get into the archives that I was sure were stored in her house, but the DAR ladies would have none of it…or me. Upon hearing that the house’s cellar had been given a new concrete floor without any archeological dig had me about done with THEM. I endured a Christmas party at the house listening to a handful of ancient women sing Christmas Carols in the key of screech JUST to spend some time REALLY close to Catharyna’s father’s Grandfather Clock. That came over on a boat way earlier in the 1600’s. Somehow the bottom it looked/felt very familiar as if Catharyna played near it as a small child. I looked in the glass museum case that allegedly contained her belongings and felt very strongly that the doll (a grown up lady doll, not a baby doll) was hers, but the shoes….no. They were guessing. I always found it amusing that the Homestead cat, whose name was Catharyna, hissed at me every time she saw me. What. You see someone standing behind me

At one of the libraries where I was driving the historical librarians quite mad, I came upon a folder that actually had contact info for a few direct descendents of the Brett family. With a whole new surge of enthusiasm, I began writing to them. One returned a very disappointing letter that she had nothing of the family’s as she’d donated it all to the Homestead where she felt it belonged.

Another had a phone number in NYCity, so I got all brave and called, stopping just short of leaving one of those “You don’t know me, but…..” messages on her answering machine. I realized I honestly couldn’t EXPLAIN why I was so obsessed with her family, assumed I must have sounded like a major wing-nut, and figured I’d never hear back from her.

But I did. She was DELIGHTED and called me (just as that strange woman all dressed in black at the homestead that very first day) ‘an answer to a prayer’. She had recently been lamenting that she HAD all this stuff from Roger’s side of the family and nothing was being done with it and she just couldn’t scrape up the energy go write the book.

So back there in 2003 we exchanged a flurry of emails where she told me about going to England and actually visiting Roger’s family’s CASTLE and seeing the coat of arms and how she owns the pewter tray he sent for when he decided to remain in America. Oh, how I wanted to just TOUCH that tray. I figured that she, of ALL people would have the DATE of Roger’s birth. She didn’t. I was astonished. Seems that since Roger was the SECOND SON, he counted for virtually nothing. The first son (that would be Richard) inherited everything and the second son was merely expected to join either the clergy or the military, and records simply weren’t kept on them. Suddenly for Roger to lose HIS first son and watch Francis, his SECOND SON go on to outlive everyone and be the eventual head of the family must have been just life-rattling for him.

Betsy Brett Webster and I kept trying to make plans to meet in person, but somehow just never pulled it off. She was off to ‘summer in the Hamptons’ where she kept a big trunk of family stuff, but somehow we just lost touch…..

I simply could not believe that no one had the year that Roger was born, and therefore, I had no way of finishing the love story here. If he was 25 years her senior, that changes everything. All references I could find merely alluded to ‘quite a bit older’. Catharyna was 16 when they married and 31 when he died.

If any records existed at Trinity Church in NYCity where Roger was a deacon for a few years, they were all destroyed in a fire. This was going to drive me mad.

Another long night of internet research unearthed, of all things, a dictionary of Royal Naval Slang from the later 1700’s and I scribbled pages and pages of notes as now, FINALLY, Roger had a voice. He had phrases. I now knew that HE would have saluted with his LEFT hand every time he stepped off a boat. I knew that the family would have held the superstition that when the glasses on the table start clinking together, it means a sailor is drowning and now I had the ‘scene’ for the suddenly stormy day that he died. I knew that he would have to spend at least 3 years in the Royal Navy before attaining the level of Lieutenant. But the vocabulary was fascinating and kept me up for hours. They had a HALF-HOUR glass and measured time as ‘we should finish in 3 glasses’ which would be 1 ½ hours.

Canteen medals” were food or drink stains down the front of your clothing.

A DUTCHMAN was a German ship, but a HOLLANDER was a Dutch ship.

Pieces of Eight” (I never knew this) were old Spanish silver coins with 8 reals; and each real was worth a sixpence.

A matter of fancy waistcoats” was a nicety of detail of no importance to the major issue.

Floaters in the Snow” were sausages in mashed potatoes.

To “Knock the gilt off the gingerbread” was to spoil the best part of the story (referring to both the bakery cake and the guilded décor on a ship)

Officers wore brown leather gloves, not white.

 The word JURY referred to the Jury-mast and to ‘jury-rig’ means temporary.

Back then, the men would cheer “Hip, Hip, HORRAY” (not hurrah)

If someone is ‘copper-bottomed’ that means they are well-to-do

A telescope was a ‘look-stick’.

The men did not sport mustaches without beards. (who knew?)

They had a drink called a Prairie Oyster which was a morning-after reviver made of Port wine, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper, mustard and the unbroken yolk of an egg.

Way back then they had PERKS…PERQUISITES….allowances that came with the job.

Roger would have called each of his new sons his SPROG, a new entry or new, small son.

This was all just FASCINATING, it would flesh Roger out, but what EVER shall I do about not knowing how much older he was than Catharyna……without that, I just can’t write their story properly……….

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