I had great fun doing research for my forthcoming book Unchained Man talking to people in Brigus who knew Captain Bob Bartlett, finding archived letters like the one from Hilda Dove to her uncle Bob, seeing Bartlett’s large scrawl on pages almost 100 years old.
But there were frustrating moments, too. One of these was sorting out who was who in several generations of Bartletts (and Leamons and Normans!). The central problem was the pattern of repeated first names in the family. This is in keeping with Newfoundland and general Christian naming traditions and it can create a lot of confusion for researchers.
Bob’s middle name was Abram. He was called after his grandfather Abraham, better known as Captain Abram Bartlett, Jr. Bob shortened the name as well. Abram, in turn, was named for his father. Hilda, the niece I mentioned above, was the namesake of her aunt – thankfully for me they had different last names.
Bob’s brother, William, was actually the second William born to their parents, William and Mary. The first William died in infancy. The idea to use the name of a dead child for a new baby might make us squeamish today but it was Newfoundland practice in the late 1800s. Fortunately the second William survived and sailed with Bob to the Arctic many times.
Bob’s mother Mary Jemima Bartlett was named after her mother, Mary Norman Leamon. To minimize confusion in Unchained Man I refer to the former as Mary Jemima and the latter as Grandmother Leamon. Bartlett adored them both.
As we get the book ready for press, I hope I got all these names right and did the family justice.
(The photo above is Bob with his parents, Captain William and Mary Jemima Leamon Bartlett.)