Saturday, July 3, 2010

family around the corner ....

After having spent a fair amount of time on this earth, I have reached the conclusion that in the grand scheme of things, the only thing that actually matters is family. There may have been times way back when my thinking kind of skittered away from that fact, but I always came home. If you think about it, one works to support a family, votes to protect (hopefully) your family’s way of life, espouses causes to prolong or bring the planet back to what it once was – to save it for your family. Sooooo, pretty much everything you do ~ or at least I do, since I won’t speak for others ~ is essentially for family. We are eventually forgiven the lapses that occur in our late teens and twenties when we quite naturally became me-firsters.

Even though Mum’s family were in England and we were in Canada, there was a close relationship. Her sister Peg had one daughter and brother Den had seven children, and of the eight, only Den’s first son John is older than me. During the war, Mum and her sister-in-law lived with Gran ~ John and I were put to bed each night under the dining-room table to protect us from bombs if we could not be taken to the shelter in time. I once spent a holiday with his family before we came to Canada when I was nine. The next time I saw my cousins I was sixteen, then twenty-seven, then fifty-something – but –we were always in touch.

Which is why it is so difficult to understand that we knew nothing of Dad’s family in Canada.

Dad was an only child, so there were no aunts and uncles for us there. His Mum Nell had a brother Jim who flitted in and out of our lives as children. Jim had a daughter who was (rightfully I think) estranged from her father, so we never knew her. Grandpop of course had his three sisters, Ella in Vancouver who visited Montréal once, Lizzie in Dundee whose daughter Irene was mentioned occasionally and Jean, also in Dundee.

One of the first things I was to discover was that there are many, many more and not very far away …

family around the corner ….

Fifteen years ago give or take, an article of mine was published in our daily newspaper. There were several congratulatory calls, none of which prepared me for the one that opened with “are you young Harry’s daughter?” .. I am she, however only family would use the term - the few times I had heard it was when Grandad read us letters from Scotland – the gentleman went on to say that being young Harry’s daughter, I was then related to his wife.

He was Gordon and his wife was Anita, daughter of Mary – Mary proved to be first cousin to our Late Grandpop, Dad’s father and although Mum was aware that there was a connection she had no idea what it actually was. Mary’s name had been mentioned often when Dan & I were children, always in the context of one or the other of our parents or Grandpop having “run into Mary”, but never once was it said that she was family. Even more shattering to me was that Gordon & Anita had called from within walking distance of our home!

We got to know Anita and her family over the next few years. Mary had three children, one son Albert had gone to the Maritimes, another, Tommy to BC and Anita stayed here. At Mary’s 100th birthday party in 1995 we met relatives from both ends of Canada and from the USA . To think that we had grown up in this city, at times even on the same street, with family out there of whom we never knew just floored me. Anita’s children Donald and Maureen are of an age with Dan and myself ~ it might have been nice to have been friends with cousins in the neighbourhood as well as with cousins overseas.

Mary, whose story as I have come to know it I will tell you later, lived to the grand old age of 110. Anita, whose Gordon is also gone, is in her 90s now, very “with it”!! ~ I love her company J

We had been told all our lives that we were the only family to have emigrated – how wrong that impression was.

It was not until three or four years after this that I seriously dug into the family history. Mum had passed away after a lengthy illness, I had a hand-me-up computer from Liam and to be completely frank, I needed something to occupy my mind – this was it. So it was that I set off with absolutely no idea of how to proceed and funnily enough, it may have helped J Joined a genealogy message board mostly concerned with American ancestors and through the members learned what was out there and how to proceed. One of those “members” in Iowa remains a friend to this day, although we have never actually met.

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