My name is Gillian Cooke, and I am the great, great, niece of Elizabeth Saunders.

I have worked on genealogy for 30+ years, and in my search I have found my grandmother's family and then her mother’s family, which included her sister Elizabeth. I found her on a census in 1901 listed as a 2 year old, and on another census, where she is listed as a domestic helper in her sister Margaret's household, helping with the 9 children including my grandmother.

Elizabeth found work in London with the Mitsui family as a nanny for their son Kim, at some point they deiced to return to Japan, not sure of the year, and they asked Elizabeth to come with them and help them settle in. Although she was supposed to return to England, she could not bring herself to leave Kim, so she stayed in Yokohama, living there with the family. How they EVER kept her safe during the war is one of my big questions. One I may never know.

Kim grew up and married but died of TB. When Elizabeth contracted TB, she contacted a friend, an English War Correspondent, and asked him to take care of her money after she passed, citing how she wanted it to help the poor and the children. Elizabeth passed away in 1946 and was buried in the Foreigners grave yard in Yokohama. The war correspondent kept his promise and donated her money to Miki Sawada to help start the home.

While researching my great, great aunt I found a bloggers website where several people were searching for answers about the home and Elizabeth. I started communication with several people and started to plan a reunion. I thought that the park across the bay from North Island would work well, partly because of its location, but also for its meaning. It’s there the statue of the girl in red shoes stands.

I then started the Elizabeth Saunders Reunion face book page, encouraged as many people as I could to join, and contacted several newspapers. We had the reunion and three of us attended. The second reunion was in Las Vegas, and more came. The third was held in San Francisco with an even bigger turn out. I love seeing how this site has evolved and that each of the members feels like family. You may be searching for your roots and while this group may not hold all the answers, we do hold each other up with encouragement.

When the Elizabeth Saunders home held it’s 70th reunion in Osio Japan, I jumped at the chance to go.  I can see why my great, great Aunt would stay, not only the family, but all the people around her were wonderful. I loved the people, the country, and that I was able to find my great, great aunt’s  grave and leave some flowers.

​©2018 by Ana Johns all rights reserved.​  author photo credit ©caseyandhercamera

  • Facebook - Grey Circle
  • Twitter - Grey Circle
  • Instagram - Grey Circle