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A legacy for all Bermudians

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A quiet but illustrious life: Clara “Keggie” Hallett with her daughter, Mary Saunders, and grandson, Cardy Saunders, on the occasion of the launch in 2008 of her monumental transcription of Captain Nathaniel Butler’s (1619-1622) History of the Bermudas

In the genealogical records of Bermuda, a new entry will be made for November 15, 2018, for that is the day that the eminent genealogist and historian Clara Frances Edith Hallett (née Gilbert), of Canada and later Bermuda, passed on to meet her maker, leaving behind a significant legacy for many Bermudian families, here and in places we settled in early centuries.

Such heritage matters, as many seek to look for their roots by way of tracing their ancestors, a genealogical quest that has been further aided by the historical search abilities of the internet.

To be of lasting value to all, such research — and “old-fashioned” delving in the Bermuda Archives, newspapers and other sources — should be published.

That is what Clara, known affectionately as “Keggie”, and her late husband, A.C. “Archie” H. Hallett, the brilliant Bermudian and president of University College Toronto, and later the founding president of the Bermuda College, accomplished over the past four decades.

Born in Canada in 1926, Keggie graduated from Trinity College Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics with Honours and indeed remained a fluent scholar in Latin, for example, throughout her long life of 93 years.

It was at university that she met Archie and they married in the late summer of 1950, eventually raising three children.

In 1977, they moved to the ancestral home of the Halletts at Juniper Hill in Pembroke and, from that time, Keggie developed a particular passion to make Bermuda’s genealogical and historic information accessible to as many people as possible.

Under their own imprint, Juniperhill Press, named for the homestead, the couple produced a dozen books, and Keggie later edited several for the National Museum of Bermuda Press, including a new transcription of Captain Nathaniel Butler’s book on the first decade of settlement (1612-1622).

She also edited for the museum the late Cyril Packwood’s (chief librarian, Bermuda Library) unpublished work on the Reverend Edward Fraser — from Slave to Missionary and a new edition of his seminal book Chained on the Rock — Slavery in Bermuda.

Other works of import for all Bermuda families were the Bermuda Index 1784-1914, Early Bermuda Wills, Early Colonists of the Bahamas and 19th Century Bermuda Wills, but perhaps the most influential is the bible of Bermuda genealogy, which she did with Archie.

Otherwise called “The Yellow Book”, the 1,406 pages of 19th Century Church Registers of Bermuda are an invaluable record of ancestry in the island, touching most of its families and their forebears.

Keggie is survived by those outstanding books and her three children: all of their publications and her files of more than a million references on genealogy have been donated to the library and archives of the National Museum of Bermuda at Dockyard.

To assist future research, their entire library of Bermuda historical books and documents, probably the most extensive collection in existence, will now be donated to the National Museum of Bermuda.

Some of the collection will eventually be available on the museum’s website.

Active until the very end of a quiet but illustrious life to recapture Bermudian history and family heritage, only early this year, Keggie dusted off an article on 1860s Bermuda, which she began 35 years ago.

A reconnection was made with her correspondent in Britain and thus was obtained for Bermuda a copy of the travel journal on which her paper was based.

Thus, posthumously, a few more entries will come from Keggie for the genealogical heritage of Bermuda and hers is a legacy that will keep on giving, perhaps until the end of all our times.

Edward Harris, PhD, is founding executive director emeritus of the National Museum of Bermuda

Outstanding contribution: Clara Frances Edith Hallett (née Gilbert). From her arrival in Bermuda in the 1970s with her Bermudian husband Archie, Mrs Hallett developed a particular passion to make Bermuda’s genealogical and historic information accessible to as many people as possible
At rest: Clara Hallett earlier this year during her gifting of files to the Bermuda National Museum