Friday, November 07, 2008

The thing about coming from a dysfunctional and fractured family, is that I don't really know a lot of my relatives or our history.

My father is one of ten children; born to my Welsh Grandmother and Canadian Grandfather. While I knew my Welsh Nanny (and love her dearly), I met my Grandfather a total of once in my life and even then, I vaguely recall the circumstances of it (winter and a snowmobile ride at the family farmhouse in Prince Edward County).

You see, after meeting my Nanny during World War Two and bringing her over to a remote part of Canada and having ten kids, my Grandfather left (and eventually divorced) my Nanny, which had a devastating effect on the ten children. This was all before I was born, of course, but I assume my Father remembers it quite clearly because he never took my brother and I to meet his own Father. When my Father called to inform us that our Grandfather had died, I asked if we were to attend the funeral but he replied with a curt "no".

And yet, after he died, I came to know my Grandfather's new family even better then any of my other aunts and uncles. Perhaps this was because he had three other children with his new wife, who were closer in my age then to my Dad's. When I was younger, I always felt a bit guilty and that I was somehow betraying my Nanny by going to visit my Step-Grandmother and half-uncles and aunt. One time, however, I recall my Nanny telling me to not hold my Grandfather's "sins" (hey, she's a Catholic) against the innocent kids and that I shouldn't feel bad about wanting to go hang out and play with my younger half-aunt. I thought that was pretty cool of her.

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that circumstances before my own birth, still have an impact on my life. The actions of my family so many years ago, created a fractured family wherein most of my Father's nine brothers and sisters do not like one another and I don't know the majority of my aunts, uncles and cousins. Who they are, where they live, what they do, what they're like - I haven't the faintest idea, although Facebook has helped me to find some of them.

In fact, only last year did I find out that I have a cousin in London, England. And it was only last month that I was told that I have second-cousins in Belfast (two of whom, apparently, were in the IRA). It sucks to hear that I have relatives only a few hours away (instead of an ocean) but that I don't know the first thing about them.

So, I want to trace my Welsh Nanny's roots. If I can't know my relatives well, I might as well know my roots. It's just....where the hell do you start!?

1 comment:

David T. Macknet said...

I think that you start by coming down to Mitchell Library & talking to the lady up on the 4th floor (I think it's 4th, at least). She's got all sorts of microfilms of genealogy & things, and she can tell you where to look & whom to talk to about it. And she'll be happy that you're there to do something other than just surf the internet.