Saturday, April 3, 2010

Where's I 'longs to, b'y?

A couple of weeks ago, I got back into researching my family tree. I initially became interested in genealogy many years ago when I had to dig up various 'long' birth certificates for a 'UK Ancestry' visa. That required my mom digging through a few boxes of stuff; old documents, letters, postcards, etc that belonged to her parents who had migrated from Scotland to Canada in the early 1900s.

What captured my imagination was a small notebook that belonged to my granddad. In it was addresses of people to contact for work and housing once they arrived in Canada, various 'to do' lists and, most interesting to me, a list of the possessions they had brought with them.

The list was so detailed and so short: various cooking pots, some dishes, 4 pairs of wool socks, some shirts, some coats and a baby cot. Essentially, not very much at all.

It made me wonder. Why would two people put themselves, three of their children (my mom was born in Canada) and a few bundles of possessions on a boat, in cattle class, to a different part of the world? Was it a push from or a pull to? Both? I've since learned a lot more about their likely motivations but my curiosity about my ancestry has not dwindled.

On my dad's side, when I first started my research, all anyone knew about his mom, my grandma, was that she was a Newfoundlander, born in St John's, Newfoundland and the names of her father and mother. Nothing else! She had died by the time I got interested in genealogy and because of Newfoundland's very unusual history, according to inquiries I made with their Vital Stats office, she didn't even exist!

Just a tree; visual appeal. ;-)

I had long since accepted that that branch of my family tree would be one big question mark. Where did my grandma's ancestors come from? Ireland? Scotland? England? Portugal? The Basque Country? Were they First Nations? All possible based on Newfoundland's history and my dad's 'look' (he could pass as First Nations). But then, a few days ago, I had a major breakthrough! I plunked my grandma's name into the site, like I do every now and then, and voila! I found her name on someone else's family tree and kinda creepily her progeny; of them, my dad and his children, especially lovely is the youngest daughter, ;-) though anonymously (living female).

I haven't verified the information from this other person's family tree yet (I'm a stickler for proper research), but if it does turn out to be accurate, my great, great, great, great grandfather arrived in Newfoundland, from a village in Dorset, England, in about 1750! You can't really get more Newfoundlander than that! Incredible!

Doing a brief search about the area they settled in, I found out that it is also the area of Newfoundland where The Shipping News and a Canadian mini-series called 'Random Passage' (which, to me, sounds more like a title of a cottaging flic, lol) were filmed. And even cooler, there is a site - a re-creation of what life was like in the early 1800's. It was used as the set for the mini-series and it's now a park or site or something. The website's not too clear: Random Passage Site.

And neither was the weather in this youtube video I found of it! But it has its charm.

I feel compelled to go for a screeching. Someday soon...

So much research to do now!


  1. That's great to find something. I have been looking for MLM's family tree on his mother's side but it's pretty much impossible as she is German and all the records were destroyed in the war. I wondered if it was worth paying the fees though, they are very expensive. How have you found them?

    Does this mean that you are no longer Native?

  2. Yeah, Dorset! And right near that Durdle Door place I never got to! More reason to go there now.

    I think the Ancestry sites can be worth it if you're doing a lot of research and/or not getting anywhere. Right now I'm on their free 14 day trial and it seems really good. I haven't decided whether to subscribe or not though.

    The 'Family Tree Maker' software by the same company is what I'm using to do my tree. I just upgraded it and it came with three free months access to their website... if I buy a year's subscription (I think).

    It's helped solve one mystery in my family... but there are so many more. ;-)

  3. I'd hate to research my family too much - what if I'm related to Lizzie Borden or Charles Manson or something? I'm here, I'm now.

    Still, it's interesting.