Another Letter to Dad- London Trip

My research into Dad’s life has led to many daydreams of conversations I wish I could have with him . As I learn more, I have more questions to ask him or news to report.

Dear Dad,

I am going on a trip this week, but I don’t think of it as a vacation.  It is more combination adventure, research, and historical journey for me.  I don’t know what to expect.

Did Mom ever tell you about her cousin—the Irish inventor Louis Brennanwho was related through her grandma, Mina Blue Downey?  The notes I got from Aunt Marian said he invented a dirigible torpedo, which was apparently quite the big deal in his day.  This was not his only invention, but the one for which he was most famous.  Final Tribute To Castlebar Inventor

After Aunt Marian died, I was given a very old and beautiful family Bible, which records the births of Louis and his ten siblings, as well as the deaths and marriages of many of his cousins, aunts, uncles, and siblings. I contacted a local man in the Brennan family’s village of Castlebar in Ireland. I learned that Louis was buried in an unmarked grave in London despite all the money he earned from his invention.  I was invited to the ceremony posthumously honoring him, which is being presided over by the Prime Minister of Ireland and the mayor of Castlebar. The ceremony takes place at a church and a cemetery followed by a reception afterwards at an Irish bar.  Who will I meet and what will the experience be like?  Will I meet the Prime Minister, or will I just see him from a distance?

In researching the story of how your family relocated from New Jersey to the Soviet Union when you were just a boy, I discovered that you spent five days in London with your family, so I am hoping to walk down some of the paths you traveled during your stay there in 1933.

I found the old diary in your dresser, so I know the name of the two hundred year old hotel where you all stayed—The Kingsway Hotel.  It no longer exists, but I contacted a woman at a local history and archives center in London, who found a photograph of the hotel taken just two years prior to your visit. I plan to see that picture, as well as visit the site of the hotel to see what it looks like today. This will give me 2 photos—Now and Then.

On the Friday prior to the March 11 ceremony for Louis Brennan, I hope to take a train to Southampton, which is the port town on the English Channel where your family arrived one week before Christmas. Most of the world was in the midst of an economic crisis, but your father believed that settling in Leningrad for ten years would open up opportunities not available in the United States at that time.

You also returned to Southampton four more times during your service in World War II.  Not only was Southampton part of your history, but this was also where the Titanic set sail.

I am hoping that returning to London and visiting some of the same places you passed through and taking the train from Southampton to London like you did will help make your story more alive to me, Dad.  I can’t wait to report back to you.




About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
This entry was posted in Dad, Genealogy Research Tips, Jersey to Leningrad and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Another Letter to Dad- London Trip

  1. Brian Hoban, Local Historian Castlebar says:

    Looking to trip to Gillingham and London and meeting you both. i will arrange a personal introduction to our Prime Minister Enda Kenny. .

    • kjw616 says:

      We are looking forward to everything about this event. You must be very excited. So far, everything has been wonderful. We did not get to Southampton, but we did find the hotel where my father’s family stayed on their way to the USSR in 1931. There was an interesting story attached to that location, which I will tell you and write about later.

  2. Ellen says:

    Wonderful opportunity….I’m so happy you’re taking this journey!

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