By Patricia Gordon (2018)
We live in a world which has become fast-paced and chaotic. It is understandable, then, that for some people uncertainty evokes a yearning for the past and a moment of reminiscence. For myself, my memories revolve around my family, especially my maternal grandmother we called Nana. My maternal grandfather died before the Second World War ended, so I never got to know him. While Nana had the appearance of being a stiff disciplinarian, my memories of her are those of someone who was caring. I adored her.
Although I was close to my Nana, after her passing and then decades later the death of an aunt, I became aware I knew very little about my grandparents and their upbringing. I did not know, for example, if Nana had sisters. Who was her best friend at school? Did she even go to school? I was overcome with a deep sense of guilt and regret. While children of my generation had been told not to ask questions about “the war” perhaps to bury the painful memories, I realized that generally we did not ask family members questions about their past at all. We were taught “not to be nosey.” Still, I had heard that Nana had lots of children, but several had died; however, I did not dare bring up the topic for fear of causing my grandmother sorrow. Decades later, though, and now in my 50s, I found myself wanting to ask those questions. I yearned to know everything about Nana, including the names of my grandparents’ deceased children so they would not be forgotten. Thus, my quest to put together my family tree began.
Working on my family tree was a labour of love. I was able to utilize my research skills not put to the test since my university days. Although I signed up for a membership with Ancestry, much of the research I was able to put together was through online parish records and by connecting with the various cemeteries. Dissimilar to my mother, another dear aunt, now in her 80s, has an amazing memory and thus unlike my childhood days I now felt comfortable asking questions about the family past, which may also have been driven by an added urgency given my aunt’s age. To my relief, my aunt appreciated my interest in our family and was only too happy to learn of my progress in putting the unknowns together. In a way, I felt I was bringing the family back together again and sensed that my grandparents would be pleased.
Over the course of two years, I not only put together my paternal grandparents’ family, their siblings, their parents and grandparents, I was able to put a name to each of the lost children. Discovering the name of my grandparents’ first lost child, Charles, who passed at the tender age of just 1 month, was one of those high moments in my family research. Although his passing was sad, to me I felt he had been reborn – he had a name. This lost child was my Uncle Charles. There was also some comfort in being able to finally convey the names of the lost children to the surviving siblings.