Warren family feel instant kinship after decades apart
It was the type of thing that happens between cousins everywhere. One minute Cranston Warren was enjoying a family picnic at Clearwater Beach in St David’s, the next moment his much younger cousin Wendy Chrysostom challenged him to a running race.
A month later, Mr Warren, 85, is still crowing about how he beat her.
“I was really far ahead,” said Mr Warren, who retired from the public works department in 2002, where he was assistant buildings manager.
For Mr Warren, the light-hearted race was one of the highlights of a four-day family reunion that encompassed 80 Warren relatives from Bermuda, Trinidad, the United States, Canada and Britain.
They were all descendants of James Nathaniel Warren and Candace Simmons, who lived in the City of Hamilton in the early 1900s. The couple had seven children who survived to adulthood including James, Luther, Joseph, Samuel, Harriet Lewis, Catherine Lespere and Wilhelmina Warren.
Cranston Warren’s father was Samuel Warren.
The get-together was three years in the making, and more strategically planned than some military campaigns.
“There was a funding committee, a planning committee, a food committee and a T-shirt committee,” Mr Warren’s wife Marlene Warren said. “We also had a welcome committee and a fun day committee. We had to make sure everyone was on track and doing what they needed to do. One night we had a formal dinner at the Ocean View Golf Course. I didn't realise the amount of effort and time involved into putting together dinner for 80 people.”
The event had its roots in a trip the Warrens’ younger daughter, Kristy, took to Trinidad in 2006.
“I went to Carnival in London,” said Kristy Warren, who lectures in Black history at the University of Lincoln in Brayford Pool, Lincoln, England. “I loved it so much, a friend suggested I try the one in Trinidad.”
While she was there, she thought she would visit some relatives her family had not been in touch with for decades. They were the offspring of James and Candace’s oldest daughter, Harriet Lewis, born in 1896. Mrs Lewis moved to Trinidad as a young girl and married Randolph Lewis there. They had six children. She was never able to return to Bermuda, but her sister Wilhelmina Warren sometimes travelled from Bermuda to Trinidad to see her.
Kristy Warren’s Trinidadian cousins were only too happy to meet her.
“They were living in Arima,” she said. “I took a minibus to meet them.”
She felt an instant connection with them.
“My cousin Eldon Lewis in Trinidad looked like my uncle Joe, here in Bermuda,” she said.
After Kristy Warren’s visit, the Warren and Lewis families kept in contact. In April 2020, someone notified Mr Warren that the last of Harriet’s two daughters, Sheila “Teta” Chrysostom, had died in Lynn, Massachusetts at age 91.
“Sheila’s sister Daphne Francis, 89, is the only one of Harriet’s six children that remains,” Ms Warren said.“
She was was unable to make the trip to Bermuda, but her grandson Karim Gibson, was the chairman of the planning committee.
“We had never met Sheila,” Mrs Warren said. “But in 1987, when I accompanied my older daughter, Tammy, to Atlantic Union College in Lancaster, Massachusetts, I was given Sheila’s address and phone number, probably by Cranston’s aunt Wilhelmina. I called Sheila when I was in Lancaster and introduced myself and we had a little chat. After that, we called her once in a while to keep in touch, but we never got to meet her.”
After receiving the news of Mrs Chrysostom’s death, the Warrens met some of her family over Zoom.
“We spent more than two hours on this Zoom meeting getting acquainted,” Mrs Warren said. “It was then that some of Cranston’s cousins expressed the desire to have a family reunion in Bermuda.”
Initially, the event was planned for 2022, but, because of Covid-19, it did not happen until this year.
One of the cousins at the reunion was Mrs Lewis’s great-grandson Stefano Lewis, 50. He was born in Trinidad, but moved to England several years ago. He now works in information technology in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.
“This is my first trip to Bermuda,” he said. “It has been great meeting family members I have never seen before. Some of them I have spoken to on the phone, but never been able to put a face to the name.”
He has been interested in genealogy for a long time, but could only get so far with Mrs Lewis’s side of the family.
“Then, after Kristy visited Trinidad in 2006, one of my relatives there contacted me and said she was living in London,” Mr Lewis said.
So he travelled there to meet her.
“I discovered that she was doing something similar to what I was doing,” he said. “She had a whole lot more information because she worked as an archivist. I was like, wow, you just connected all the dots that I was missing. I think I also had some of the bits that she was looking for.”
During the family reunion he was amazed at the family resemblance between some of the Bermuda and Trinidad relatives.
“One of the cousins I have met looks just like my sister,” he said.
On the first day of the reunion on July 24, the group took a tour of St George.
“The town crier, E. Michael Jones, announced our Warren family reunion,” Mrs Warren said.
The tour was followed by a picnic lunch in the Olde Towne.
On another day, the group toured the City of Hamilton and saw the First Church of God, where the Warrens lived upstairs. They also learnt about the various Bermuda descendants of James and Candace Warren, such as son Joseph, who was a barber, and boxer Clarence Hill, the first Bermudian to win an Olympic medal. His grandfather was James and Candace Warren’s son Luther.
The group also saw the Recorder Building on Court Street to learn more about the history of Black-owned businesses in Bermuda. Cranston Warren’s father was best friends with Lefroy Brownlow Place, son of Alfred Brownlow Place, who started The Recorder newspaper in 1925.
Mrs Warren said the event was “awesome”.
“We met so many of my husband’s cousins,” she said. “Some he was acquainted with, but there were a number he did not know. All of the activities went well.”
The Warrens’ dream now is to visit the family in Trinidad.
“Hopefully, one day,” Mrs Warren said.