A Captive Audience

This past weekend I had the pleasure of sitting with my father in his ravine-side gazebo overlooking a canopy of trees, with tea in hand, and many folders full of material from our family history.  I had never sat with him before in this manner or read to him aloud.  It was “very Chekov”, a friend of mine pointed out.  I thought it was sublime.

On one of his birthdays past, I gave him a family history with all of the information in it, including a picture of his great grandfather. It did not seem to spark his interest.  Something was missing in my pursuit to inspire him, or hook him, into the past as I had been many years before. I lacked the confidence to convey to him the importance of it to me, or to engage him in a way that he could understand.

This time was different.  I had collected some new facts, and found a nugget that really interested him.  Our grandfather was a Reeve and owned his own land.  He had many properties.  My dad smiled at me as I read aloud, himself a business man with property.  He challenged me on a couple of things.  His questions peaked my interest and we sparred over whether or not such and such was true or not, or if we were related to so and so at all.  I believed we were, which fascinated him more. As he lay there on his lounger, head leaning back, eyes closed, I thought he fell asleep, only to arise with another question, “Do you think they were drinkers?”  I laughed out loud.

And…

“When are you going to find out more?”

I smiled. He was hooked.

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The Moores of Lanark County

Lawrence E. Moore, son of Thomas Moore, Lanark county

Although I was using this blog to relate to non-related topics (ie., genealogy and life,  not specific strands of the family), I decided it was time to use this device to publish what I am doing and investigating, and thereby help others in the same quest.  If you should happen to have information of interest, please send in your comments with your email address.

I am investigating William Moore b. abt. 1800 in Ireland (likely Down), living in South Sherbrooke, Lanark County South, Ontario, Canada from about 1829-1851.  He appears on the 1842 census for Lanark County with his wife Winnifred (Stephens) and children, but no more.

His son, Thomas Moore, Esq. of South Sherbrooke, was the Reeve of that county and of Oso/Frontenac for many years in the 1860s and 70s.  He was born abt. 1829 in Ireland.  He married Margaret Chambers, also of Ireland.  She was born in Ballydugan, Warringstown, Down, daughter of Moses Chambers and Sarah Harrison.  Both Moses and Sarah lived in South Sherbrooke with them, along with his mother from Ireland, Susanah.  I am sorry I cannot go into infinite details here, for it would take me eons – if you are interested, please write to me.

Another Thomas Moore, a Dr. of Picton, is also a possible nearby relative of this family, and is famous for having punched Sir John A MacDonald in the nose, and for being fined 6 shillings to settle the matter.  He served Picton for many years and was also very prominent in that town.  His daughter, Catherine Anne Moore, had dealings with the Moores and other families in South Sherbrooke, and appears on many land registry files.  She purchased land from our Thomas Moore of South Sherbrooke when he was liquidating some of his assets in 1877.  Our hypothesis is that she is a cousin of Thomas, and their fathers were brothers:  Dr. Thomas Moore of Picton and William Moore of South Sherbrooke.  Dr. Thomas Moore was born in Dundonald, Down, Ireland in 1796 as per his death record.

At the moment I am investigating the following associate names:  GARRETT, BUCHANAN, NORRIS, KORRY, MORROW, CHAMBERS, HUGHES.  I would like to surmise the migration pattern of these families from Ireland to South Sherbrooke/Bathurst/Lanark County South, Ontario in the 1820s-1840s.

In particular, if anyone has any  information on Thomas Hughes and Robert Hughes who purchased land and lived in South Sherbrooke, Iwould like to be in touch with you.  Robert Hughes married Letitia Chambers, a sister to Margaret Chambers above, and lived on the same land as our Moores in South Sherbrooke. I believe the families were very close, and wonder if they happened to migrate in a pattern from Ireland around 1827-1829. I have Township Papers with their signatures from the Archives of Ontario.

More “Moore” to come.

Why Research My Family History?

Sometimes I wonder if I escape to the past to discover my ancestors when I am feeling the most lost in my own life.  Is that such a bad thing?  In the absence of elders, in the absence of a community that we once felt vital to our existence, tribal even, we create our own connections across the cosmos – sometimes virtual, sometimes spiritual, and sometimes ancestral.  These connections are vital, though the people may be dead.  It is my belief that they do live on in us, and that they fashion our existence out of their own.  Their dreams and wishes become our own, remodeled for the 21st century.  There really is no difference between us – only flesh and mortar.  The building blocks change.  The desire to change does not.

Why research my family tree right now, in the middle of everything else a  “suburban” wife, mother and creator needs to do:  Make lunches, pack bags, walk the dog, kiss the kids goodnight, connect with my spouse…  Not to mention the other things:  goals and passions, work-related material, new business ventures, mistakes, travels, wonder, newness.  Why invite the old into something so vitally new and different and now?  Why invite question into what is already so questionable?

Perhaps we invite our families in, past and present, because those questions invite real answers.  Though everything else, the present and the future, remain quite uncertain, the past invites reflection, comfort and meaning, and gives us a sense that we are not alone – that we are well connected to our roots, and that we can yet blossom to fully aware and alive human beings.  This tree is good.  This tree is where we are standing, and everything that came before us stems out beyond us in every direction.  No wonder we feel overwhelmed!  But, what a blessing.

I have been tracing my family tree with my grandmother for about 20 years now.  It has been a great blessing to connect with her and see her as a little girl, a mother, a wife and even a confused human being, just like me.  With all her aches and pains she doesn’t complain much. She is just happy to share her story, and share in the adventure of learning where we come from and who our ancestors were.  She is one of mine, though we may not think of it that way, because I know she will not be here forever.  She is 92. I may be able to call her next week, now, but it will not always be the case.

I have spent most of my time with my grandmother recording her, transcribing, writing furiously, shuffling through photos, videotaping and asking questions.  Just in case.  That may seem morbid, but this is the way stories are passed down – oral histories are rare, and so it is my job to capture them in any way possible.  Modern technology is a genius.  Once the role only of  mothers and grandmothers, now we are all collective storytellers, creators and communicators – “Skyping” and “tweeting” across the globe our own life history. Why not include those who traveled before us and make it a family history?

Even in the movie Avatar, the ancestral tree was the most sacred.  Though the villagers were seen by modern audiences as more advanced in some ways – in their understanding of their interconnectedness to all things – they would still visit the dangling limbs of the ancestral tree, lit with the intelligence and whisperings of their ancestors.  This was their home. Their adventure. Their playing ground.  They were not going “back”, they were going forward.   Perhaps that is what I am doing too.

Ancestors, whisper to me, and take me home.