November 2006
Edition 19
Jerrems Family Newsletter
Annual Thanksgiving Issue...Heavenly Inspiration
  Dear Donald,
To help our US readers to celebrate Thanksgiving we have asked Big Bill to report on Thanksgivings held in Heaven by the Jerrems clan.

We trust this arrives in time as you gather your family "down here". This month's edition covers what goes on "up there". Enjoy.

In December, we will run a special edition just before the Christmas Holidays. As always, we accept contributions from our readership.

Heavenly Holidays
Email from Heaven from BIG BILL   It is a Big Deal Up Here Too
Ray in Sydney has asked me to tell you about the annual Jerrems Thanksgiving Dinner, which is held each year in our village’s Entertainment Hall.

Before I get started on Thanksgiving I would like to say something about my nickname “Big Bill”. This name is purely Ray’s invention because there are 9 consecutive generations of Jerrems people named “William” (I am the third one, born in 1782) and (so he says) my nickname distinguishes me from the others. He assures me that it not intended to be disrespectful of my robust 18 stone frame.

Some of your readers may not be familiar with the origins of Thanksgiving. Briefly, it goes back to the early 1620s when the original settlers in the US celebrated their first corn harvest, after a terrible winter in which half of the settlers had died. In the US Thanksgiving Dinner is of higher significance than Christmas dinner.
How We Started Having Thanksgiving Dinners
Big Bill Ghosted by Ray Jerrems   We are Thankful We made it Past the Pearly Gates
You may think it strange that my wife and I, born in Gainsborough in England in the late 1700s and never having lived in the US, should be invited to the US Jerrems Thanksgiving Dinners. The story goes back to the 1860s. When my wife Elizabeth and I arrived in Heaven there were a lot of my family there, going back 3 generations, and some other English relatives. But there were only a few Jerrems people who had been born in the US or had lived there.

David Jerrems, who had served in the Revolutionary War in 1771, was their oldest member, and Thanksgiving was a very haphazard affair. But things changed when young Jesse and Samuel Jerrems, who were killed in Virginia while fighting for the Union in the Civil War, arrived in 1862. They were so homesick that my kind wife took them under her wing. They had grown up on a farm in Utica, north of New York, so we all had a farming background and had lots to reminisce about. My wife, who is a marvellous cook, suggested that she prepare a slap-up Thanksgiving dinner for the boys and ask all the relatives along. It was a great success and we have been doing it ever since.

The ranks of the US Jerrems clan has of course swelled since those days, helped considerably by my grandson William George and his family.

We do not restrict the invitation list to people named Jerrems. Some are ancestors on the maternal side. The best example of this is Alexander Nicholl, who is the father of Mary Nicholl, who married my grandson William George l. Another is Patrick Joseph Healy, who is the father of Mark Healy, who married Annie Letitia Jerrems (we call her “Anne”), the youngest of William George l’s daughters.

Of course some people from large families only come to our dinner occasionally because they go to other dinners as well. By way of example, Alexander Nicholl had 10 children and Patrick Joseph Healy had 12, so we only see them occasionally.


My wife has made sure over the years that we have traditional Thanksgiving fare at the dinner. Personally I would like Yorkshire pudding to be added, but Elizabeth says if she agrees with that then she would have to agree to haggis (Alexander Nicholl’s favourite) and billy tea and mutton (suggested by my grandchildren who grew up in Australia). That convinced me not to insist on Yorkshire pudding.

People can come dressed in “smart casual” (as they now call it) if they like. Having come from a farming background in Gainsborough this suits me fine, but others like to dress more formally. Alexander Nicholl wears a kilt and all his Scottish paraphernalia but we draw the line at him eating his helping of Thanksgiving turkey with his dirk. My grandson William George l and his sons William George, Alexander Nicholl, Arthur Wallace and Donald Edwin like to dress up in true “Jerrems Tailors” formal clothes. Mark Healy ll wears very suave 1930s sports clothes. At the other end of the scale your editor’s father sometimes wears a track suit and joggers.

The men are very conservative in their dress compared with the women, who have developed the idea of wearing the clothes they wore on Earth in their era. My wife wears an 1820s bonnet which she used to wear to Church and my great great granddaughter Sydney wears a smart suit.


There has been considerable discussion and experimentation on the subject of entertainment at the Dinners over the 144 years we have been having them.

After the Civil War ended Samuel and Jesse Jerrems celebrated by bringing some of their friends (including several Johnny Rebs) along. They sang some of the Civil War songs to us, but the songs (for instance "The Vacant Chair" and "Lorena") were so melancholy that everyone ended up in tears. I could understand why the Army Generals had banned the singing of "Lorena" by their soldiers. On the plus side it was good to see that all the soldiers on both sides had become good friends.

After that episode there was sporadic discussion about whether we should play musical instruments instead but nothing eventuated for a long time. Then, in the early 1900s when he first arrived, Alexander Nicholl (a rather forceful personality, if I may say so) wanted to play the bagpipes. Luckily St Peter had imposed a complete ban on the playing of bagpipes in Heaven so this saved us from telling Alex that we did not want him to play them. For once I agreed with St Peter.

The subject of après dinner music lapsed again for some more years, until Mark Healy l arrived. He and his father Patrick Joseph Healy put their experience in the famous musical firm of Lyon & Healy to good use by making a harp. Not one of those fiddly little harps that the angels and cherubs play, but a big concert harp which was the same 1880s design as Wagner had acclaimed. Mark’s wife Anne has been playing it after dinner ever since. If the angels are having choir practice next door at the time they come in quietly to listen. Editor's Note Mandolin pictured. We have an archived story on the musical firm.

Speaking of angels reminds me that one time the angels’ choir came in to listen to Anne’s playing they asked if we would like them to sing some songs, accompanied by Anne. But their repertoire was limited because St Peter had issued an edict that angel choirs could only sing hymns. Unfortunately their hymns reminded us of funerals, putting a real dampener on our celebrations, so we did not repeat that idea.

Discussions At The Dinners
Big Bill   No Political Discussions Up Here...Really Heavenly
I am really looking forward to a discussion, which is bound to occur at the Dinner later this week, between my great grandson William George ll and our most recent arrival William George lV (known as Jerry lV) about their collections.

Previously the title of “The Greatest Jerrems Collector” clearly went to William George ll. He collected coins (for which he was best known), postage stamps, fossils, Indian artifacts, books and medals. But Jerry has been a collector also. He had a Pullman railway carriage and a caboose (known as a guard’s van in Australia) in his back yard. I imagine that he will argue that his collection is much bigger than WG ll’s collections in terms of weight.

On the subject of trains, the topic of transport often crops up amongst the men at the dinner. Personally I prefer a horse to trains and the new fangled cars, but it needs to be a big horse. William George ll boasts that he was the first of the Jerrems family to buy a car. He often tells the story of how his second wife Genevieve borrowed it in about 1905 and was booked for exceeding the 20 mph speed limit in a town outside Chicago. Shortly after he paid the fine she showed her appreciation by eloping with another fellow.

Mark Healy used to have a Cadillac in the early 1930s on the family farm in Arizona, but it got washed away in a flood. At least my horse would have had the sense to keep away from the floodwaters. Mark says that the prize for the fanciest car should go to his son Mark,, who owned a 1932 Auburn Speedster (pictured) which looked like lightning on wheels.

My wife tells me that Patrick Joseph Healy and Alexander Nicholl will both be coming this year, the first time they have both come at the same time since 1981 (Elizabeth keeps a diary setting out when people have come before, and the recipes she used). There should be some lively discussions between the Irishman and the Scotsman, they were both very successful businessmen in the US at almost the same time, commencing in Chicago in the late1860s.

We get an interesting range of accents at the Dinners. Some English, Scottish, Irish, and northern and southern US. If any Aussies are invited they add to the cacophony.

It is a pity that Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday in November, only a month before Christmas. It does not give Elizabeth much time to prepare for the avalanche of Aussie relatives at Christmas.

Finally, Elizabeth and I send our kind regards to all your readers, particularly those attending Thanksgiving dinners later this week.

PS: Please keep that pesky ghost, Old Rascal Ray, down there for another hundred years.

We might have to dispatch him across the pond to the US, so he can perform his mischief to other parts of the Empire.

Donald Jerrems, Editor and Publisher of the Jerrems Journal since 1955   Family News from Around the World and Heaven
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