Recently, I was talking to an older lady who wished she’d asked her parents more questions about their lives and relations. I could have said the same thing. I never asked either of my parents about their early life. My mother just told me snippets that grabbed my interest such as my grandmother’s love of visiting churches and her enjoyment of flowers. This came up because my mother saw my own keen interest in our local cathedral in Canterbury. Years later, I discovered that my great grandfather was a Welsh Baptist who helped found a church in Ynyshir, South Wales. Being involved in church ministry, I was delighted with this information which is an important part of my heritage. We became Anglicans after my parents moved to Kent in 1929 but my love of the Bible I feel sure comes from my Welsh family background.
Have you got questions about your own family members who have died? If so, I suggest you ask anyone old enough to remember them to tell you all they know. If they have links with the UK, there are many records on line through Ancestry and also through the Family Records Centre in London UK. In the past, I helped an older lady who thought her family had come to Canada after 1881. A check on the 1901 census in Alberta proved that one great-uncle was born in Ontario in 1865 so she had to re-think when the family came here.
Looking at local history of South Western Ontario, I find many families came as loyalists from USA in the late18th century and quite a few pioneers came from Scotland in the early 19th century. Their names have now been used for local roads and their families still live in our area. It is fascinating to think of settlers who were part of the local militia during the War of 1812-14 and the 1838 rebellion. This past summer, two Church members ensured that their loyal ancestors were acknowledged in restored stones commemorating their part in the 1812-14 War. Visiting one site in a bush, we could imagine how people lived so long ago. I read The Trail of the Black Walnut by G Elmore Reaman published in 1957. It is an absorbing account of what happened to one group of these Loyalists–the thousands of men and women known as the Pennsylvania Dutch who toiled through a trackless wilderness to reach Upper Canada.
Another lady I knew came from Russia along with many Mennonites who were escaping persecution in the early part of the 20th century. It was a hair raising journey to get here. They also spoke German and there was intermarriage with German immigrants too. Some family names were changed because the numerator could not spell or because they chose to blend in; that was hard on the family, I’m sure.
Does your family has a special story to tell, one that you could take pride in knowing? There is always a chance to find out. There are also many useful sites on the internet which help with immigration. PIER 21 has a website for those who landed first in Halifax and I realize we did just that in 1965. Through that website we discovered the actual name of a boat one man’s family came on from Ireland. The University of Waterloo(https://personal.uwaterloo.ca/marj/genealogy/thevoyage.html) has also done plenty of research on immigrants and the way they arrived here too. Local History and Genealogical Societies have much to offer. Through our local HEIRS resource centre(http://www.heirs.ca/), I discovered land records and found that our present home was rented before 1870! Now I need to track backwards to see if there is an early sale of land.
We are fortunate these days to have so many resources on the internet that help us be more accurate when we write up any family history. Fall is a great time to consider doing this. The children are back at school and you can take the time for a quiet chat with an older relative.
You can help to leave a treasure of information for your children. Just think of the possibilities. I will continue this theme in my next few blogs with more useful ideas.