I did not know on August 11, 2003. Nor did I care. Not even so much when my cousin Sue commented at the old dinner table in front of the wood stove, “Around this table we always tell the same old stories.” Now Sue is gone. I’m dedicating my booklet to her memory. I’m gathering the stories. I’m reaching out to people I don’t know, the distant cousins who share my genes, introducing myself and asking them questions. I’m compiling their stories. I’m dressing them up in active sentences, hoping the words will make our ancestors dance like drops of water on that hot wood stove. But did I have a single moment when I knew? I do believe it was more a series of first steps that I took, each one defining my purpose and turning it into a passion.
My Uncle Jim died in May of 2003, and his family returned his ashes close to his birthplace on August 12. After the brief memorial service, my Aunt Phyl was the first to turn her back and walk away, alone. I caught up with her, talked with her, remembered with her. We, my cousins and I, went back to the farmhouse where Uncle Jim was born, and sat around the old table. We reminisced and reacquainted. We rambled around what was left of my Grandparents and Great Grandparents’ farm, rooting in closets and drawers, chuckling over our finds, laughing at our childhood memories. We opened the desk drawer in the parlor and took out the old photographs. Karl asked me to scan them and send him copies. I stepped into the early 1900’s world of photography with scanner and photo editor, and I was hooked. I’d glanced at those old photos from another era many times. It was my first step in my historical journey. I took those photos to my mother and learned who those people were, all dressed up in their funny clothes, unsmiling, looking directly at me: daring me to tell their stories.
I was a latecomer to the internet. My husband and I visited his sister and brother-in-law in Long Island, and I sat down in front of their computer and began to play. Scared, I was, afraid to break it, to introduce some virus, to get lost in some place and time where I could not get back. Timidly I approached the search engine and typed in a name. My father’s name. There he was! Donald Malcolm Moore. He married Mary Margaret Holmes on July 2, 1949. Of course I knew that, but there it was in print for all the word to see! I typed in more names: my grandparents’ names, my aunts and uncles. I had to have it, this internet highway, to travel places I could not literally go. I brought it into my own home and took my first genealogical step when I downloaded my family tree program. In a few short days I proudly showed off hundreds of my ancestors and their siblings. I started off blindly, with no proof, but names, names, names from many diverse sources. I stepped into the world of genealogy via the internet, almost tripping over my ignorance in my excitement.
The unveiling of an artist's depiction of my great-great grandparents from cabinet photos. Artist is cousin Jean Fogg Brock, and my cousin helping with the unveiling is Brett Nolte.
With the thrill of the novice in new terrain, I began planning a family gathering. I began small. I invited our local cousins to the farmhouse for a potluck luncheon. We gathered round that table where my grandmother and great-grandmother used to feed their children. My appetite was hearty, both for the food we placed on the table and the stories that they shared with me. It was my first step into organizing our reunions, and then, on my birthday in June, 2005, I received the call. It woke me up. “He’s gone, Peg.” I hadn’t the heart for a reunion that year, with no Dad in it. But I was awake. And I’ve gathered them back to the farmhouse several times since, more and more of them.
It was not a moment, no; it was a series of first steps that led me into this ancient world of my family history. Like the day when I took my first baby first steps, I teetered and tottered. I fell and pulled myself up again, and I took another, and another. I learned with each timid step. I grew stronger and braver. With each step came a joyous discovery. Sometimes I came to the end of a road, with no fork in it to choose from. Sometimes I found obstacles to climb up, over or around. I found many trees to climb as my little genealogical legs became sure-footed. These steps lead to the party to celebrate the 200th birthday of my great-great grandparents, the bewhiskered Daniel and the fan-waving Charlotte of the era of cabinet photographs. In 2014, we will gather together, my cousins and me, in the area of the country where they raised their children almost two centuries ago. It is my task to gather them in, begun with my first few steps into the world of my family’s history.
by Peg Vasseur
|Peg exploring near her Grandparents homestead|
You can find Peg at her blog that she shares with her Holmes family at http://oldpostroad2014.blogspot.ca/
Peg isretired from CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) in 2008, and she works part time at a large bakery in Moncton, New Brunswick, McBun's Bakery and Pizzeria. She has plenty to keep her busy. Besides family history and genealogy, she also enjoys nature, hobby photography, writing, and crocheting old doily patterns which she gives away to her friends and family for gifts. She rescues old doilies made with very fine thread to sit under her own photos and knicknacks. Peg sends a quarterly newsletter out to her Holmes family. Most of the time, it features a long gone family member, as well as current events in the family tree and a reminder of the upcoming 200th birthday party of her great great grandparents in 2014. Peg and her husband have two grown daughters, and her Mom, at 90, is still telling her family stories. Peg is currently following our blog to book project in the hopes of having her book ready for her 2014 reunion.