I have spent the past two days scouring Bridgetown historical documents. I’ve been to the Barbados Museum and Historical Society – twice; the courthouse, the national archives and the public library. At the courthouse I found the death record for my grandmother Malvina Alkins (pronounced “All-kins”) and learned that she died of apoplexy on August 13, 1936. She was widow and the person responsible for contacting the funeral home was Noel Alkins, my father’s brother, whose profession in his mother’s death record is listed as a printer. I didn’t find much in the national archives. No birth record for an Ebenezer Wray – which I have been told by everyone from taxi drivers to archivists is a really rare last name. And there are not many people with the name “Ray” either. A the library, I found the obituary for Malvina in the August 15, 1936 issue of the Barbados Advocate, a daily newspaper. it reads:
“We regret to chronicle the death of Mrs. Malvina Alkins of Brittons Hill, which took place on Thursday last after a brief illness. Just the day before Mrs. Alkins suffered a paralytic stroke and passed to the Great Beyond next day, just one month after her husband. Her mortal remains were laid to rest yesterday in the presence of a large gathering, which bore testimony to the wide respect she had earned. ”
She leaves to mourn her two sons, one of whom is on the staff of The New York Age and the other employed in the office of a local newspaper. We tender them our sympathy. ”
It’s a brief item, but considering there were not many obituaries in the paper, except those of fairly prominent officials, businessmen and their relatives, I was pretty impressed. I searched the pages of The Advocate for the entire month of July to see if there was an obituary of a Mr. Alkins, but could not find one.
So, I still don’t know where the name Wray or Ray come from, and I don’t know Mr. Alkins’ first name. Don’t know if he was my father’s stepfather or his father. But I have lots of New York Age columns to look through, and I imagine there will be some clues there.
At the moment, I’m in the lobby of the Hilton Barbados, where a steel drummer is playing “A Christmas Carol” and “O Holy Night ” to a calypso beat and a Barbadian man just greeted me with a tray of saltfish fritters. A rum punch is headed my way. All of this sifting through brittle, yellowed documents and squinting at microfilm has made me thirsty.
More to come.