When a close friend shared this information, it was with a hint of pride. Jack the Ripper added a salacious touch to his lineage. Which got me thinking. What about mine?
Little did I know what awaited me.
A word of warning. Unless you have at least two generations of names and dates from which something concrete can be traced, be prepared to play the frustrating detective.
My search began with an elderly aunt, the last living relative on my mother’s side with any sense of historical pride. She lives in New Brunswick. We live in Ontario.
Although you can research on the internet, there’s nothing like touching base with a real person who might have actual photos, records, stories, about your ancestors. So we drove to New Brunswick where the plot thickened.
My mother’s family did not seem to care about lineage. I could acquire some scant knowledge about my grandparents on her side, but one generation earlier? Not much from the early 1800s except for the names of both my great grandmother and great grandfather, their original country of birth, and two grainy photos. This was a breakthrough.
With great enthusiasm we followed what we thought were her instructions. (Amherst is a town in Cumberland County nestled between the Bay of Fundy and Northumberland Strait.)
First harbinger of discouragement. The keeper of records, the Cumberland County Museum and Archives, did not open until 11 a.m. We looked at our watches. 9 a.m.
Not people to waste time in this fast-moving century, we drove 20 minutes to the town of Oxford, Wild Blueberry Capital of Canada (who knew?). Auntie identified a nearby village called Oxley where she was sure the family home was located. She was sure the family burial ground was in Rocky Cemetery. Both places were definitely located along the Rocky and Roslin county roads, aka old Highway 321, a little-used thoroughfare running through sparsely populated areas.
And so began our quest. Sparing the frustrating details, we discovered Rocky was actually Rockley, Oxley was actually Oxford, and the family home had been reduced to ashes. Apparently, vagrants were living in the deserted house and the good village fathers, after placing a newspaper advertisement seeking permission from the family, received the okay for the local fire department to burn down the home. Problem was Auntie’s sister, who granted the permission, didn’t tell Auntie until much later.
Wow! What is more exciting than a swashbuckling relative who sailed the open seas under the skull and cross bones black flag? Why did George become a pirate? What treasures did he plunder and where were they hidden?
So maybe this ancestry stuff is worth all the time, trouble, sweat and tears after all. And there’s so much more to learn.
Move over Jack the Ripper.