I sit here in the darkness thinking of a story I feel compelled to write of my ancestors. As part of my Blogging 101 assignment we are to write a blog to our dream reader. I would direct my blog to my family to learn of our ancestors
who came off the boat for dreams of a better life. After the devastation of the Great Potatoe famine of 1845-1849 they survived and without them I wouldn’t be here today to tell this story. Michael and Elizabeth left Ireland at the age of nineteen for Scotland, then travelled by ship to South Hampton, England. They landed in New York with two daughters Annie and Roseanne in tow. Which for anyone who’s read Gangs of New York, or seen the movie it was a dangerous time to be Irish indeed! They made their way to Boston and settled in for awhile. With competition for jobs, financial security, and food being scarce with the population boom, they made their way to Canada and settled in Fernie, BC.
My Great Grandfather Michael found work in the mines and was there for twenty-nine years. They hadn’t lived there long when a devastation ravaged the town with floods from 1848, to 1947, the mining disaster in May of 1908 that killed one hundred and three miners, and the Great Fire of August. 1 st of 1908 that destroyed the town. My Great Grandma Elizabeth was pregnant with my Gram Margaret and due to give birth anytime. There was ten lives lost and thousands of homes burnt to the ground. A lot of hardship and sadness that my ancestors had to encounter in the new land. My Gram made it safely into the world as the hospital and the church were the few buildings that were left.
Time passed on with my Gram and her sisters growing up and their parents had added on to their family with four more daughters Thresa, Nellie, Elizabeth, Josephine and a son Peter. More hardship would come to the family as the mine would be closed in order to investigate the fire of 1908. My Great Grandpa Michael had to find work elsewhere. All the daughters worked as well, or helped look after the youngest children. That was the life back then, everyone had a strong work ethic and supported one another. I remember my sweet Gram Margaret telling me stories of her housekeeping days, collecting oranges at the trainyard, and working as a caddy at the golf course.
A tragic accident in 1917, took the life of the youngest family member Josephine and she died at the age of two, with severe burns to the chest and abdomen in. Poor baby girl lighting up the world with her beauty and smile, and for her life to be snuffed out like a candle is so sad. Peter, the only son of eight children returned home from World War 1 in fell ill as well. He succumbed to cerebral meningitis at the age of twenty-six on March. 17 th 1922. He was to sing in the St. Patrick’s day concert that evening for the Knights of Columbus, and he sat up in bed and sang then died. The song that he sang was Danny Boy, a beautiful Irish melody that is dear to my heart to this day. My beloved Gram couldn’t talk about her only brother and baby sister without shedding many tears.
Time marched on and my Gram’s sisters were marrying and her turn came to fall in love and get married too. Her and my Grandpa were all set to wed when my Great Grandma fell ill a week before the wedding and died of endocarditis at the age of fifty-three. There was to be a big church wedding in 1929 as the last one of the family to get married, but instead it was a small ceremony in the priests quarters. How tragic for my family to lose their one and only Mom. A pain I today know all too well…
So much tragedy for one family to endure let alone survive the grief! Now I know why I’ve survived my pain and peril, it’s in my DNA. To turn grief into gratitude, and pain into power! My Mom came a year later in 1930 after the Great Depression and she was loved and cherished and would remain my Grandparents only child. She took three days to come into the world, and my poor sweet Gram nearly died in childbirth. Even those times were tough after the stock market crash, my Grandpa continuing mining and supporting his family. My Gram had her five sisters and they were very close to their Father, the only living parent she had and she looked after him into his senior years. My Grandpa went off to war in 1938 when my dear Mom was only nine years old. For the next six years my Gram raised her daughter as a single parent while looking after her Father. When my Grandpa returned home he didn’t recognize this teenage girl my Mom had become.
She was wearing makeup, curling her hair, and going to picture shows with her friends. He had to get to know his family all over again and he did. They settled into a comfortable excistence and my Gram’s youngest sister went off to live in the USA and attend the convent. She proudly became a nun and took the name of Sister Michael. She loved her vocation and took up teaching in the convent. Tragically she was in a car accident and died at the age of thirty-two. It was a death that affected the whole family, as Elizabeth was living far away and they didn’t see her very often. With raising their families and being busy with life and they hadn’t lost anyone since their Mom.
I remember my own beloved Mama telling me stories of her Aunt Elizabeth her kindness, devotion to God, and her beautiful smile that would light up a room. My Gram had her two sisters living in the same town and one out of town and her Father. He was getting older and suffering with diabetes and Coronary Thrombosis. He lived until eighty-one years old and died of acute diverticulitis in 1951. My poor Gram was so devoted to her dear Father that his death left a void in her life and heart.
My Mom went on to marry my Dad and they had six children who all married and had children of their own. I look back over all my family history and I feel very grateful. My parents lived a very long life, saw their children happy, and had beautiful Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren to spend their remaining years with. My parents only knew my oldest son so there’s a sadness in me that they didn’t get to watch him grow up on this earthly plane. And they didn’t know my youngest either. I know with each memory and picture I share I’m keeping their love alive. As I truly believe in order to for us to know our future, we must discover our past.