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Article posted: December 4, 2001



Family History Sparks Memories
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles


I published a family history recently.

I knew perfectly well what would happen. First, before the ink was even dry, some new stories would appear. (They did.)

Then someone would spot a mistake or two. This makes me cringe, but it still happened. Silly mistakes too, but I took some comfort, as I always do, from the stories about the Persian rug weavers who always purposely weave an error or two into their patterns, because no one is supposed to produce anything perfect except God.

The biography of my grandparents was distributed at my mother's eightieth birthday party in Oshawa. Most of my close cousins were there, so it was a good chance to share what I knew about them. The cousins had all been invited to contribute their own memories of our grandfather. There was a lot of repetition as they spoke about him sitting in the dark listening to his radio, about his music and his generosity.

The book has a narrative of the couple's lives, followed by a listing of all their descendants up to the most recent, born in July. As I handed her copy to my cousin Kari, her little boy Zachary was standing next to her.

"You're in that book, you know, Zach," I said.

His eyes got big. Kari said, "Let's find you."

So they leafed through the index, found his name and then turned to the page where it appeared. He glowed with pleasure. His younger brother ran up to see his name too.

I did the same thing with cousin Jim's grandchildren, with the same reaction. Little Jim is the image of his father and grandfather at the same age. They had followed in the pattern of my Uncle Bob, Jim's dad, who was killed in World War II at the age of 23. What a pleasure it was to think that Uncle Bob's face is still with us, and will be for many years since little Jim is only four.

Uncle George took me aside. He is the stepfather of Uncle Bob's boys. He told me that he had been in the same regiment as Uncle Bob during the war. Did I know that?

I didn't. Bob and George had not known one another. It was only when George met Aunt Marion that he first heard about Uncle Bob. He then told me that in recent years he had met another man from the same regiment, and this man had known my uncle. He had the full story of the day my uncle died.

Bob and another man were warned of a falling shell. The other guy jumped into a trench and my uncle jumped on top of him. Flying shrapnel killed Uncle Bob, but the other man survived. What a story!

It was quite a party. My mother received her old friends and young relations at one side of the room. I passed out the story of our ancestors on the other. Everyone talked and talked. And throughout the day, the new baby, Jessica, was passed from hand to hand, showered with love and placidly received it without a murmur.

I saw an old neighbour, last viewed thirty five years ago. I went up and introduced myself and he said, "You can't be, I was talking to you only a few minutes ago over there!" He had confused me with my brother. Not only did I gain a few stories for the family history, we created a few more at the party as we talked and laughed together.

Somebody said, "Usually we only see one another at funerals." That's true, but it should not be that way.

Let's not wait eighty years before we have another party like it.



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Norway Bay United & Anglican Cemetery
(Pontiac County, Quebec)






































The Merivale Cemeteries
(Protestant - Ottawa area)