The names Ellen Marie (Gramma Ellen) and James Albert (Grandpa Jim Jim) Ebanks may not be familiar to many people in Cayman these days, but the couple left a significant and lasting legacy in the community of West Bay, and beyond.
Born in 1870 and a 1873, respectively, Grandpa Jim Jim and Gramma Ellen had 10 children, 105 grandchildren, and now, many great-grandchildren, all indelibly marking their spot in Cayman’s history.
The fifth annual reunion of the couple’s descendants took place on Dec. 26, 2015 at the Sir John A. Cumber Primary School Hall. Organizer Eziethamae Bodden, one of the Ebanks’s great-grandchildren, said it was an exciting opportunity to bring people together, sometimes for the first time, to explore and celebrate their common roots.
Ms. Bodden’s mother, Ima, is the daughter of Emily Ironie, known as Emmy, one of Gramma Ellen and Grandpa Jim Jim’s 10 children who survived into adulthood (Cora Perinda Ebanks died as an infant in 1896). The couple’s four sons, Cadie, Freddie, Mallie and Austin, and six daughters, Leila, Martha, Emmy, Delly, Ninny and Chrissie, each went on to have between five and 18 children of their own.
“It is now estimated that we have close to 1,000 cousins,” said Ms. Bodden.
“As attendees arrived, we had a welcome table with photos of Gramma Ellen and her children, with an attendance sheet for each child,” she said.
“Each attendee would then sign in under their parent, grandparent or great-grandparent,” Ms. Bodden added.
She noted that the records will be kept as part of the souvenir album of the Ebanks family reunions and gatherings.
Ms. Bodden arranged for the families of each of the couple’s children to present a part of the evening’s formal program. In the spirit of the season, the family joined together for prayers and Christmas carols, music, games, a talent show and, of course, a big meal.
Starting with an icebreaker by Marzeta Bodden, where attendees shared their favorite Christmas memories, Bernice Levy then led a prayer and played piano, and Karen Powery-Ebanks offered the prayer for the meal.
“New attendees got the opportunity to meet cousins they never knew were their family,” said Ms. Bodden.
“This is one of the reasons for family reunions, and as well, of course, as coming together for fellowship, reminiscing, eating and to enjoy each other’s company.”
“It was wonderful, for example, to see the men gathered and talking, one generation to another,” she added.
Ms. Bodden’s family slideshow contained a treasure trove of more than 1,000 photos, while Mark Ebanks displayed some of his artwork.
Ms. Bodden then led a family trivia game on the ancestors, and challenged the younger generations to research their own ancestors’ families. She is hoping a few will be able to produce their own respective family trees, and report their findings at the next reunion.