Saturday, November 12, 2016

A treasure out of the blue ..........

Family history and the research thereof has been my avocation for close to twenty years. During that time I have found ‘previously unknown’ cousins of all degrees from the UK to western Canada, Australia and even in my own city – it has been quite a trip. The greater part of my work has involved repositories in Wales, Scotland, England and ‘both’ Irelands as well as Canada - with an awful lot of help along the way. For the last five years however I have been fairly inactive, having pretty much exhausted all available sources. 

Then, along came this ………… Within the genealogy community there are central message boards where one is able to leave requests for help, be it with family names, locations or even research avenues. Not having left such a request in a very, very long time, it was a complete surprise a couple of months back when I received a response to one by way of an email sent through Rootsweb. 

A gentleman in Wales, in helping clear the home of a relative’s parents who had both recently passed away, had happened across a suitcase in the attic labelled ‘Cecil Stockwood’. A genealogist, he initially attempted to find links between the name on the suitcase & his relative’s family – and found none. He went to the message boards on the off chance that someone was researching Stockwood, and found me. After the first contact, he sent scanned images of some photographs and a hand-written family tree….. then kindly offered to pack everything up and send it off to me.

 An absolute treasure trove arrived. 

The minute I first saw the name, I was 99.9% sure that Cecil Stockwood was my Gran’s first cousin of that name and the hand-written family tree served to confirm that. My gg-grandfather Thomas Stockwood was drowned at sea in 1874 on the shoals at Sancti Petri, off Cadiz, Spain. He left behind his wife Angelina, two children, Thomas William & Annie Gertrude, and a third child on the way who proved to be our great-grandfather Alfred John. Three years later, in 1877, when their mother and paternal grandfather passed away within months of one another, the children were left with no means of support. Young Alfred John was placed with a maternal uncle, Annie Gertrude was admitted to the Mueller Orphanage and Thomas William became a youthful clerk to family members running the Junction Hotel in Taff’s Well. The children were effectively separated and from all indications, lost touch. My late uncle once said that Gran never mentioned any family belonging to her father ……….. except to say that she was related to the Archbishop, which she indeed was. Cecil was Thomas William’s eldest child – he had a sister Lily (called Poppy) & also a brother, Hubert. 

 Cecil Thomas Stockwood …. 1900 - 1967  

 This photograph is inscribed on the reverse, “Thomas Stockwood”. 
There are many “Thomas” in this family, but the most likely one I think would be Thomas William, Cecil’s father and brother to g-grandad Alfred John 

Cecil passed away in 1967; his wife Doris in 1993 and since they had no children, it appears that the contents of the suitcase were left in limbo, ending up in the aforementioned attic. Although the contents do not contribute a significant amount to our tree, they are an intimate portrait of their life & love at the beginning of the 20th century. 

 .a photograph album inscribed ‘to Auntie, Christmas 1918, from Cecil” … he does not name Auntie so I shall have to see if there were any maternal aunts – he had only Annie Gertrude on his father’s side or perhaps Alfred John’s wife Eveline, but I doubt it would be this last 

 . a second album, this one of a trip to Europe in 1927 taken by Cecil, his sister Poppy and two friends. There are photos of Cannes & Mont St Michel – all accompanied by letters from the Hotel Biarritz home to Doris (not his wife at that point) expressing how much he misses her – he was very romantic, poetry and all. 

 . a series of letters from Cecil to Doris in which he calls her ‘Cromwell’ – these are of a more intellectual bent but romantic just the same 

 . Certificates of business proficiency issued to Doris in the early 20s in Cardiff 

 . official thank yous for her participation in the Home Guard in WWII, her ration book & identity card 

 . certificates of merit for courses taken by Cecil in his capacity as an employee of the Great Western Railway – it seems his father was also a railway employee and I know his g-grandfather William (my ggg-grandfather) to be stationmaster for the Taff Vale at Pentyrch 

 . correspondence from a family friend who was helping to clear out Poppy’s home after she passed away as well as paperwork relating to her death – Poppy and her husband also died childless 

 . correspondence from friends in Europe before Cecil’s death & afterwards 

 . dozens of condolence cards received by Doris upon Cecil’s death 

 . not to mention the hand-written family tree 

 . photographers’ envelopes containing b&w photos, some are copies of those in the albums, some later

. photographs by the dozen, unfortunately most subjects are unidentified but I feel as did the gentleman who found the suitcase, that most would prove to be family & friends of Doris.

. Studio portraits of all sizes including close to two dozen cartes de visite.  

. a possible daguerreotype 

 . there is even a certificate of shares in a long defunct company ….. 

 . various certificates of birth, marriage & death 

 . photographs of company ‘outings’ 

 . and of his acceptance into the “Pelman Institute” (google it )….. 

 I am sure I must have left something out, but you get the gist………. 

So far I have read only a small portion of the letters and what I see makes me want to hibernate for a bit & read everything! There are letters from friends in nearby England, from friends and family during WWII stationed in such diverse places as Iceland, India and Ceylon. Unfortunately, preparing for the arrival of the chubby man in the red suit precludes that right now, but once his visit is done, I will get to it!

 As I sit here I foresee future blogs with more photographs and excerpts from the letters ……. 

 Stay tuned …

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Angel & Richard III

Quite a few years ago in a tiny bookshop in Evesham I purchased a copy of "The English Inn Past & Present", written by A. E. Richardson & H. D. Eberlein. It was published in 1925 and describes the architecture, surroundings and history of inns as found in their research tour of the country. Under a subheading "The Fifteenth Century Inn" they imagine the scene in 1420 on a walk in London, eventually arriving at The Angel in Grantham.

Which is the part I thought might be of interest since, without getting into personalities, they describe what that scene may have been in October of 1483. The following is an excerpt.

"With our minds centered on the aspect of the fifteenth century, we looked upon the stone front of The Angel at Grantham with feelings of respectful enquiry. It stands in the middle of the town, facing the Market Square and the ancient cross, a guardian of the North Road from the late fourteenth century, a silent witness to the momentous events of peace and war. Gone are its more ancient glories, the galleries and external stairways, the timber-built wing to the right of the front, the rambling barns at the back. There have been many later additions, interesting as relics of travel and having a place in the sequence of the life of the house, but at this stage we are concerned with its aspect on the night of the 19th of October, 1483, when Richard the Third was housed within.

Seated in the oriel window of the room on the ground floor to the left of the entry we speculated on the former character of the house, and endeavoured to reconstruct the development that had taken place in social life between the years 1420-1483. It was assumed that few changes had occurred in the matter or manner of building during these sixty-three years. The monasteries were intact, so were the pilgrim inns and "Royal houses" in various parts of the country. In London at this time rumours were toward of the movement against Richard, The Duke of Buckingham had the sympathy of the people; but it is in the long room forming the first floor of the "Maison du Roi" that a significant incident in history was enacted. We thought of a pack train approaching the town, making for York, the merchants discussing political events; the packmen, and the dogs, already six days on the road, sore tired, the gloom of the North Road having affected both man and beast. Perhaps it is a matter of urgency that the train enters Grantham before dusk and inns at The Woolpack, for The Angel this day are closed to ordinary men. As these ruminations were continued, we thought of the King signing the death warrant of the Duke of Buckingham in the room above. We had a picture of the town in the gathering dusk of the October evening with the twinkling of the torches, the assembly of men-at-arms, archers and crossbowmen, of soldiers billeted in the houses of the townspeople, of the King's archers standing at the entry of The Angel the open doors of which reveal horses and messengers. How little has changed , and yet how much! The torchlight of 1483 lit up the embayed façade and flicked the tracery before us; it showed up in the deep recessing and the regal integrity of the building. In the fifteenth century, suspended from a heavy oak frame, there was a painted sign of an angel with a flaming sword. From the adjoining buttress projected a stave, at the end of which was carved the sign of a bush. We pictured the house as it appeared to the entourage of the King lodged in the neighbouring buildings. We thought of the knights and officers who used this room, of the rush-strewn floor, the log fire, the ceiling beams, the grotesque heads, and the tapestried walls. The apartment in which the King lodged then extended the whole length of the first floor. There are still to be seen the two stone mullioned bay windows, following the lines of those below, one at each end of the room. At the center is the semi-circular oriel with a raised seat, from whence can be viewed the Cross in the Market Square. We pictured Richard the Third and his attendants, the halberdiers on guard and the firelight showing up the tapestried scenes of biblical subjects.

It would be impertinent to attempt to dramatise the scene or to give personality to the characters. They must remain hazy and indistinct, but we can imagine the scene, the marshalling of the troops, the stopping of the pack trains till the King and his following have departed, the splendour of the cavalcade, and the pageantry of the mediæval setting. It is above such things that the gilded angel has cast its sightless eyes .... "

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spirit & Mister

She’s called Spirit because that is how I saw her in the parlance of the day, a truly free spirit. Mister was her rock. Their ‘real’ names I will keep to myself … 

We met, Spirit and I, before Mister, at work. We were teenagers; she had come to the city from a small town north of us and was living in a ‘young ladies’ residence – I was still at home with my parents. She jumped whole-heartedly into life in the big city as she saw it and within what seemed like days was announcing her impending marriage to a flyboy, a marriage that kind of faded away. Undaunted, we became a part of a little ‘gang’ – gang bearing no resemblance to today’s connotation – of unattached girls who worked together & played together. If ever a period of time in one’s life is deserving of the caption “those were the days” this is it. We even had our very own Cheers where everybody knew our names. 

Spirit met a man and married him (not Mister). 

They lived in a teeny basement apartment along with two spaniels (one called Gumper), a guinea pig called Alice, a bunch of mice both black and white (her contribution to ending segregation) and a canary that flew free and did its business over the bathtub. Oh, and a rabbit, also roaming free, who wore rubber panties ~ as well as a slightly miffed cat who was denied access to all those delicious mice. One afternoon there was a knock at the door – a gentleman presented himself as being from the Board of Health to whom the superintendent of the building had reported the presence of multiple animals. {I must interject here to say that Spirit’s home was scrupulously clean – no ‘animal’ smell – and all those residents that were not caged were trained, with the exception of the rabbit :>)} G’bless our Spirit, she simply led the inspector to the building’s garbage room which he found to be infinitely more objectionable than her home and issued a warning to the super! 

The marriage ended ~ I think he tried to cage her spirit to no avail… 

The years passed and then she met Mister. It is difficult to explain how friends know instantly when one of them has met “the one”, but we all did. Spirit glowed, she confessed amazement that Mister wanted to be with her, Mister was understated, always by her side. 

They moved away, several thousand miles and we kept in touch, mostly by phone. Mister had a successful business & they were enjoying life. Then Spirit was diagnosed with breast cancer – the treatments were debilitating, but she beat it, according to her mostly because Mister was there with her and for her. 

One more time they moved, back across the continent, not to our city but not as far away. I travelled to visit and took my son along. We used the phone and chatted for hours. Spirit and mister set up home near the ocean. They had two cats and all the wildlife she loved right outside the door – which she fed religiously all winter long. 

They kept the birdseed in the attic. 

Mister hauled the ladder down, stepped up to grab a bag of birdseed and was greeted by wee cascades of seed husks and two tiny eyes peering over the edge of the ceiling. “We have squatters” he told Spirit. Field mouse. She knew that the mouse who had set up home in her attic would have to go, there was already a mess with the birdseed that might attract other, less desirable tenants. She began to call hardware stores and the like looking for humane mouse traps – bear in mind that this was quite a few years ago and humane mouse traps were not de rigueur yet ;>) Mostly the stores thought Spirit was unhinged, but she eventually found some a short drive away. 

Mister set up the traps in the attic. 

A while later, in the middle of the night, Spirit woke Mister when she heard the trap go off. He suggested that they look into it in the morning but Spirit was adamant, what if the mouse were hurt? Unsure of what exactly he could do if the mouse was hurt, up into the attic went Mister, flashlight in hand, to find the mouse in one piece, albeit in the trap – and outside the trap, her babies. This instantly complicated things because neither he nor Spirit had been aware of babies. The plan had been to trap the mouse and then set it outside in a sheltered area with a supply of food, but now babies too? Spirit insisted they had to be moved, the mother could not be let out of the trap obviously but neither could she be left in, after all she had to feed the babies, didn’t she? 

This was the winter of 1993. The winter of the perfect storm. 

I really don’t recall the details but I DO know that in the wee hours of a very stormy night Mister got dressed in his warmest clothes and transported the mouse family, complete with food, out through the wind and snow, and deposited them in a cozy place. Once more back in bed and dozing off, Spirit wondered out loud if they should perhaps have kept them in a cage until morning. She told me it was the one and only time that Mister ever yelled at her. 

Spirit had joined a group of cancer survivors who were giving support to those still fighting the disease ~ she had now been cancer free for seven years, then the magic number for breast cancer survivors, it supposedly indicated that their battle was truly over – you know, well if it hasn’t come back in seven years …………. chances are, etc. She called me regularly, our Mum was in the final stages of colon cancer & Spirit wanted to know how Liam and I were coping; she knew and understood the effect a loved one’s illness had on those around them. “I know how your Mum is doing – how are YOU doing” I can still hear her saying.

Chance however, was not kind to Spirit and Mister – a few years later the cancer that had attacked Spirit all that time before came back with a vengeance. More debilitating treatments taking such a toll on her and Mister – they did not help and the cancer spread. In the month of August in what was to be the last year of Spirit’s life I stopped off to visit her during a trip elsewhere. We had such hope – except for the kerchief covering the loss of hair and bouts of extreme fatigue she looked and sounded like Spirit always had. We talked and we talked – I managed to get her out for a walk along the shore, stopping at every bench along the way. She knew she was going, she was content that her cats would be looked after but she was terrified for Mister, there had been just the two of them for so long. I left knowing in my heart it was the last time I would see her. 

Mister worked in Manhattan. 

In September of that year the Towers were destroyed and I panicked – Spirit depended upon him so much. The phone of course was useless – I emailed with no results and then I remembered that Spirit’s brother, whom I had met only once, lived in our city. I found him & he was able to tell me that Mister was ok – that on the day before Spirit had had such a terrible reaction to her treatment that he was late leaving home – he watched the Towers fall from his bus. 

 In October Spirit slipped away. I think of her still ……

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

our John

As babies in our Gran’s house we were put to sleep every night under the dining room table John & I ~ bombs you see ~ this was early 1940's England. His Dad and mine were often away on duty but in that tiny council house lived Gran & Grandad, Mum’s little sister Peggy, John & his Mum (known as ‘big’ Peggy), our Mum and me. I have never managed to figure out who slept where, with the exception of John & myself.

From the under-the-table days until I was about ten we spent time together as cousins do ~ he visited us in Surrey and we travelled to Evesham to visit them. I was even sent up there alone a couple of times to spend a week or so. We swam in the local river with his younger brothers and sisters ~ we pinched (green, much to our dismay) apples from orchards and suffered the consequences ~ we went to get eggs from the nearby farm for his Mum ~ but mostly we just wandered in the daylight as little groups of children are wont to do & I looked up to my older cousin..

We never really knew each other as adults on a day-to-day basis ~ thousands of miles separated us ~ yet sometimes two people simply have a connection ~ he was always the one in touch when it meant something. I am sure he had his faults and foibles but I was not witness to them, all I see is the child, and even what I see may be romanticized just a wee bit. Our John was not a good ‘letter-writer’ nor was he ‘internet-inclined’ ~ no matter though, we saw each other over the years when I visited our grandparents, aunts and uncles. He called on my wedding day ♥ There were other not so happy transatlantic calls when we lost Mum, then his Dad, his beloved sister Kath and our Aunt Peggy, who left us much too soon.

The last time we saw each other was rather a special occasion ~ Dan, Maggie & I made a trip to Wales, it was fifty years since we had left & Dan had not been back. John drove down to meet the cousins he had never seen and to (I am sure) give me a hug. I can still hear him say “There she is!” with open arms. There was a wonderful family dinner, Auntie Peggy & her family, the three of us & John. We walked for hours round a car boot and then said goodbye in the parking lot because he was driving back home from there. We cried.

Recently I wrote John a letter, telling him of family news including the impending birth of my first grandchild – I never mailed it. A few days ago I mentioned the letter to Maggie saying that I would update it and mail it ~ well, now I cannot.

We lost John this morning, on the first day of the new year.

John was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather and my heart breaks for those he leaves behind. To me, he was the childhood companion I will always cherish.

G’bless John ~ and maybe we will ‘gather’ more apples when I get there ..

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Copper ~ the only television series during which I did not do a knit-a-long

Some time back when chatter was about a new show being produced by BBC America, I was not terribly hopeful with regard to what the quality might be. After all, we in North America have been subjected to so many pale imitations of UK & Continental successes (Torchwood, my personal eek!) tailored to a less adventurous palate that they defy counting ~ so what kind of chance would a period piece have being produced here in its entirety, even given that the story takes place here?

My doubts have been proven resoundingly unfounded and I am ecstatic.

A huge amount of credit for what I feel to be realistic portrayals of life and surroundings of the era and location goes to the producers and directors for insisting upon it; to the makeup and costume folks who kept the fingernails dirty and the wristwatches out of sight; to the designers & crew for an amazing set (as I have read described elsewhere); to the writers for not holding back an inch and to the cast, definitely the most obvious to those of us out here watching, for giving us characters we could love/hate. Each & every one seemed to immerse themselves in the filthy, no holds barred world of civil war era New York. How awful life must have been – most people in Five Points were not long off the boat, escaping horrific conditions in Ireland & Scotland only to find life was not much better – they were still downtrodden, life was cheap, there was war, there was disease, perhaps the only difference was that they could make a little money, any which way they chose. And that they did, following the highly notable example of Boss Tweed & his cohorts at Tammany Hall.

Not so strange then given the era, that even with a comradeship formed under the worst of circumstances, Morehouse, Corcoran & Freeman clearly exhibit the separation of class – the great divide as it were.

So, what do I think the future might hold? hmmm .. musings follow …

Forgive me for this,, but I cannot see any logical way in which Matthew might escape persecution/prosecution ~ he did beat up a white man, unforgivable back then no matter the circumstances, no matter the ‘guilt’ of the victim. One has to wonder what Corcoran might do ~ he and Matthew have already had (negative) words about their civil war experiences and as we have seen is increasing his drug dependency. My feeling is that Kevin’s good side will win out (eventually) and he will do whatever is necessary, by any means, to help Matthew. And of course Sara will find something else for which to blame herself – or will she surprise us all and fight for her man? And unrelated – will we ever learn how Matthew came to develop medical skills.

What of Morehouse? He has thrown Daddy to the wolves (just deserts) but will he be able to follow through? Behind the carousing drinker there is a heart, controlled as it may be by the constraints of society. Has he been looking for Daddy’s approval all along? Hopefully he will discover Elizabeth’s southern connections – the man who fought for the north cannot (as we have already seen) abide a person’s collaboration with the Confederacy. Will he extend a hand to Matthew? (Correct me if I am wrong but I seem to recall reading or hearing that Morehouse is not aware that it was Matthew that performed his surgery, he believes it to have been Kevin – is this true or am I imagining?) If I am not, then perhaps it will be revealed to him to secure his help. Then again he might not want that to be public knowledge.

Ah Francis … g’bless. Of all he has done, using the excuse that Kevin was off to war to justify sleeping with his wife is just simply the worst, and indeed a good part of the cause of his torment. So what might happen to Maguire in the future? I think he may go back to being a copper, I think he will have to work very hard to regain Kevin’s friendship , if ever he does. I think Andrew may blame him in part for Kevin’s addiction – all in all our Francis has difficult times ahead even assuming that no-one takes action about the murders. Yet the mores of the day would not condemn his murders any more than those committed by Corky, Annie or Eva, would they? Francis is like the little child looking for love (in all the wrong places, to quote the country song).

Annie’s future baffles . Eva has told her that she has a real chance to be a child, but does she really? Here is a little girl, forced into a ‘marriage’, abused, whose little sister has been murdered. Certainly, with a lot of help, she MIGHT be able to shuffle all this off into some hidden compartment of her mind – but what about the killings? Can she ever really forget Mr. Haverford’s death even if she felt he deserved it – what about the Madam whom Corky dispatched – and last but not least, her ‘husband’. Judging by her actions so far, I am fearful that she might use Corky’s involvement against him, threatening to tell all if he does not do what she wants (whatever that might be). There are sadly no shining examples for her to follow insofar as doing a turnabout.

Eva ~ will Francis discover that she murdered Mollie? God help her if he does.

Ellen ~ I feel no sympathy for this lady. Yes, the accidental death of her own child by her own hand is traumatic yet I think that she is perhaps more desperate about how she will survive if there is no Corky than she is about their daughter’s death … just an opinion. In my heart I hope she disappears in some fashion but I really don’t think that will happen.

Elizabeth ~ not really a lady before her time, history shows that upper class folks of this era projected a patently false aura of morality whilst indulging in all sorts of vices. There was a hint that she may have been poor in her past, so was she subjected to god-knows-what in order to become Mrs. Haverford – was this why she was so upset when she discovered the truth about Annie’s ‘husband’? Methinks her downfall will be her association with Southern sympathizers.

Kevin Corcoran ~ COPPER ~ tough, violent, caring, gentle and by any standard save that of the day, corrupt. A man frustrated by the unexplained death of his daughter while he was away fighting; his own inability to find his missing wife & living with the guilt of not being there for them. When he finally does find her, the revelations are almost too much ~ his daughter was killed by his wife ~ his wife was having an affair with his best friend (and she had an abortion because of the affair) ~ his best friend had been hiding his now addicted wife from him all along. What does his daughter’s image leaving the home signify ~ that now he knows what happened her ghost can rest? Again, my opinion only ~ I believe that with Matthew’s persecution Corky will find himself torn – can he or does he want to help Matthew, who certainly did the crime but who had what he felt were extenuating circumstances ~ I believe he will have opposition from Morehouse who, until he realizes Matthew’s importance in his own life, will tell Corky to leave it alone ~ I believe he will be discouraged by both Andrew & Francis from trying to help Matthew . I also believe that he will hit bottom with his addiction and claw his way back to help Matthew. I hope.

At first, when you look at the murders these folks have committed you might wonder that they do not use knowledge against one another ~ Corky knows what Francis has done (as does Andrew) but will his own guilt associated with Annie stop him from doing anything about it ~ Annie of course knows what Corky has done, but can she take a chance & tell the world (to get her way) given that she has committed two murders herself …. Oh what a tangled web etc.

Flawed heroes ~ I love them, dirty fingernails & all ♥

For a little while, Sunday television fare was extraordinary and we know it will be again.

psst - if you read this without having seen COPPER, do yourself a favour and watch season one so as to be prepared for season two - another opinion

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Good Stuff

Hello, it’s been a while. I have erased 2011 from my memory as much as I can and have begun a beautiful 2012.

Something happened genealogy-wise recently which is what brought me back here – a good something. When doing family research one tends to accumulate a lot of data about people long passed on, which of course is interesting, but a huge perk is finding living family members about whom you knew nothing whatsoever. This has happened on both sides of our family through the years and has garnered us relatives all over the world and right in our own back yard so to speak.

We had a great-aunt-by-marriage who passed away about 30 years ago. She was Isabel, married to our great-uncle Jim, Nanny (King) D’All’s brother & they had a daughter Patsy. Many times I had looked for Isabel & Jim – I did find Jim on a passenger list in 1927 coming to Montreal, his contact was Nanny. Dan & I knew Uncle Jim as children and in later years Dan bought some property from Auntie Issie (she & Jim were long separated). Patsy I recall visiting our house but it is all very vague.

One big problem was that I had no idea of Isabel’s maiden name until about a month ago when a search for Patsy turned up her birth record – Isabel was a Skillen. Repeatedly I searched but only found a passenger list with an Isabel Skillen coming to Montreal from Ireland in 1930 – unfortunately there was no contact name other than a lady who would be her employer and without her parents’ names I was stuck.

Then last week I was chatting with a friend who does research & who has enviable contacts with those in charge of records. A mere 15 minutes later I had Isabel & Jim’s marriage record from 1932 complete with both sets of parents’ names added in the margin by a conscientious church staffer – gifts like these are rare.

So, now to search for Isabel Skillen’s birth in and around Belfast with parents John Skillen & Sarah Black.

I still have trouble believing what followed.

Immediately a family tree popped up for a couple with identical names, in the correct area, in the correct era but with a daughter Annie born in 1906 – no sign of an Isabel in 1908. Regardless, I sent an email to the tree owner – it turns out that his mother-in-law is the daughter of Annie Skillen – she is called Isabel after her aunt who emigrated to Canada in 1930 – she has a daughter Trish, married to the tree owner, who is named after Isabel & Jim’s daughter Patsy! Which makes Trish our second cousin J

All this in less than two hours. I have to say that this has been the exception to the norm. Finding family can take years even if you have all sorts of pertinent information & I certainly don’t want to give the impression that family research is a constant string of exciting events – it is not – but I think all of us who do it hope for things like this.

Till next time

Sunday, November 7, 2010

on behalf of one veteran

This morning it was my intention to post a page from the defunct family history site, a page that commemorates those in our (extended) family that served in the military and went to war ……. some came home, some did not. Then, two headline stories caught my eye, one on the audacious disguise that failed for an illegal refugee from the far east and the other on the proposed changes to Veterans’ benefits. What leapt to my mind was the outrage our Dad would have felt at each of them.

Dad arrived in Canada from Scotland in the late 1920s with his parents. He was old school – you worked therefore you ate - so did your family. As a product of those times he would have been astounded that someone would even attempt to sneak into our country wearing a disguise and then to top it off be supplied with food, housing and all the necessities while waiting for unnamed bureaucrats to decide their fate. That we as a country could have homeless families and jobless youth and yet still accept people from elsewhere who immediately end up being government-supported would have been beyond the pale.

Even more demoralizing would have been that we as a country had allowed this deplorable situation to develop on one hand while attempting to take away from Veterans with the other. Were he aware of the costs of health care today, the (de)value of the dollar and the lump-sum payment proposal he would be horrified. The military fought for their country and as such should be able to count on that country in time of need. That being said, there was only one reason in his estimation that anyone should call on the VA for help – military wounded and/or incapacitated during service was who the pensions were for, as well as their dependents; those who needed extensive medical care (no government medical insurances existed for anyone back then).

Admittedly being part of the Commonwealth had allowed for his parents’ routine entry into our country and everyday jobs were not difficult to come by .. but still, nobody handed you a damn thing. You were not paid if you were ill – he even went to work with a full-blown case of the mumps because he knew the family needed his salary. Dad’s way of thinking may have been somewhat extreme – he for instance did not want to avail himself of the “unemployment insurance” that was temporarily available when he retired – it took Mum months to convince him that he need not be embarrassed to ’collect’; nor did he ever consider applying for any kind of help or support from Veterans’ Affairs. Handouts. It would have been dishonest to accept any support when he was perfectly capable of working.

His views on the world situation may seem a bit bizarre to some – each year the minister from our church used to visit parishioner’s homes in order to obtain donation commitments. He arrived armed with ‘collection’ envelopes – you were expected to pledge for the year and donate a portion each week. Each envelope had two sections, one for the church and the other for missionary activities. Dad flat out refused to give to any missions – it was his firm belief that a goodly proportion of the world’s wars may never have happened had no-one been allowed to travel afar forcing their beliefs on whomever they encountered. “What gives us the right?” he would ask.

Dad, in my heart I know you can see this and I hope I have not presumed …… I think I got it right …. Stop accepting immigrants unless they have a job to come to and don’t take a damned thing away from the vets who fought and are still fighting to make this country the envy of the world.

Thanks Dad