How the Past Can Heal Us

Krista in front of oldest tree in Maberly, where Morrow Hotel once stood.

Krista in front of oldest tree in Maberly, Ontario

It occurs to me that in family tree hunting we sometimes forget the most important things: story.  After all these years I have to ask myself, someone trained to live in the present, why going back so far to people who lived before me, who perhaps share some remote traces of my DNA, matters.  What is it that draws me to them, and arguably them to me?  What makes them eternal in my mind, and connects me to their story?  And why does the mystery of what we do not know tantalize us so, so that we never give up wanting to know more?

Funny enough, I am also trained through my hypnosis practice to study and explore past lives – I mean mine, not someone else’s – what some would call reincarnation.  You may not believe in such a thing, and it may go against your spiritual or religious beliefs – or perhaps you believe we are here for a good time, not a long time, and that’s it – dust to dust.  End of story.

Then why the insatiable curiosity?  Whether it be past lives through our ancestors or past lives through our own subconscious or “superconscious” (higher) mind or cellular DNA memory, what links us all together and makes the past come alive – makes US come alive with questions, with desires, with feelings?  Why do we cry when we hear about a hardship our ancestors suffered, or a good story ending in triumph or reconciliation?  It seems I am asking more questions than offering suggestions, but give me a moment.

These questions answer themselves.  The fact is, we do want to know.  Not everyone, to be sure.  Some people may rightly feel that to look back is to get lost in the past. And some may simply not want to hear what might trouble them in the present.  But those who do ask, have a burning desire to know not just for the sake of a good story, but because it tells them something about themselves.  It answers the question: Who Am I? and Why am I here?

If we can look at our lives or the lives of others in retrospect, we see patterns, shapes, stories.  We see parallels.  We see PURPOSE.  And we see PROMISE.  We understand that hardship and suffering can be followed by breakthroughs, and that even death does not stop life from continuing on – we are evidence of that.

Our past stories are collective. What a prominent psychologist, Carl Jung called “the collective unconscious”.  Everything that has ever happened to anyone, and all its apparent meanings, is held there – along with all the wisdom and “knowings” that sometimes  cannot be explained by our current, more limited thinking.  These pieces, these stories have a common source, a common thread through human history, through human consciousness.  It doesn’t matter the time or the place – we find ourselves in its reflection.

Once a year I follow the popular American TV show (now on TLC) “Who Do You Think You Are?” – featuring prominent Americans (mostly celebs) who want to discover something about their ancestry, and the origins of their family.  Notice, the show title is not, “Who Do You Think They Are?”  but rather “Who Do You Think YOU Are.”  Because their tears, their AHAs, their curiosity, and their sense of compassion and forgiveness is not only about their ancestors – it reaches across time and teaches them something about themselves – and even goes so far as to heal their own sense of self, history, story.

We all have a personal destiny, and we want to know that not only will we survive, but that our story will teach those who follow us – it will outlive us – extend us – “eternalize” us.

The truth is, we are already eternal.  But while we are sloshing around here on earth trying to make a living, learning lessons and putting up with the hardships and trials, heartbreaks and breakthroughs – it helps to know that someone will be staring back at us through time and saying, “Wow! I’m really glad so and so lived…  How brave he/she was, how honest, how strong, how compassionate… I want to be more like that.”

When we look back, we want to emulate the best we see, and forgive the worst.  Because when we can do that, we become the greater part of history, we become an extension of it, fulfilling its ultimate purpose – not only to tell a good story, but to teach how to live a good life.   And so we become the living proof of what it means to us, what it offers us, and to our kids and grandchildren.  We are its living, breathing, connections that link past present and future in one eternal loop.

And even as audience, witnessing someone else’s history, we see ourselves – beyond family blood barriers, beyond time itself.  We can identify meaning and purpose without any regard to dates and names.  Those provide the colour and fabric, the identity so to speak.  But the picture is worth more than its parts. One human family struggling to live – and learning to really LIVE – one lesson, one story, one life at a time.

Happy journeying.

 

Krista

 

 

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More on Maberly Moores

Since my last visit to Maberly, Ontario (near Perth), much has been brewing with local history buffs helping to put together information for the 200th Anniversary of South Sherbrooke (now Tay Valley Township) coming up in 2014.

PRESERVING LOCAL HISTORY OF MABERLY

We are currently investigating the original Wesleyan Methodist chapel that was built on Conc. 10 Lot 14 of S. Sherbrooke and a petition that was signed by local residents in 1852, including Thomas Moore Esq. (later magistrate/Justice of Peace/Reeve) and many of the early settlers of that area.  This chapel and old burying ground is no longer visible, but we are cooperating with local families to research and locate the original location of these sites and preserve what we can of local history.

More photos from our last trip.

List of Reeves, South Sherbrooke Town Hall, Maberly

Reeve’s walking stick; List of Reeves, South Sherbrooke Town Hall, Maberly including Thomas Moore and Ephraim Deacon

Bethel (Maberly) Women`s Institute, a picture of the Maberly Hotel

Bethel (Maberly) Women`s Institute, a picture of the Maberly Hotel. See pic below for the same tree beside the hotel, still standing.

Krista in front of oldest tree in Maberly, where Morrow Hotel once stood.

Krista in front of oldest tree in Maberly, where John Morrow’s Maberly Hotel stood.

We visited Town Hall where my forefathers, both Thomas Moore Esq., Reeve, and Ephraim Deacon, Reeve, served on council for many years, and many of their descendents.  Thomas Moore Esq. was also a local magistrate or Justice of the Peace to the King, and must have been sworn in at some point by the Lieutenant Governor General.  Magistrates were put in place in local towns in the new British colonies to settle local disputes outside of the larger courts.  He was not likely a lawyer, but a loyal servant who was passionate about politics, justice and local law.  He fought to preserve the original Weleyan Methodist Church and old burying ground, in a signed petition with his fellow settlers and trustees of the church.

Here we are on the land that William Moore worked with his father, originally owned by Thomas Hughes and later requested to be deeded to Robert Hughes.  It is where the Zealand Rd meets the now Trans Canada Highway, Highway 7, constructed in the late 1940s/50s.  The lines of the land have changed, so locating the original burying ground has been a challenge. The land is now occupied by a modern house with new owners.

New highways divide the land once inhabited by the Moores and Wesleyan Methodist church.

Karen and Steve discuss where the old landmarks may be on the 1860s map to modern day Tay Valley Township

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New highways divide the land once inhabited by the Moores and Wesleyan Methodist church

Here is a letter of petition the old inhabitants wrote to protect the Wesleyan Methodist church and old burying ground on this property:

Original petition to save Wesleyan Methodist church and old burying ground, Maberly, undersigned Thomas Moore et al

Original petition to save Wesleyan Methodist church and old burying ground, Maberly, undersigned Thomas Moore et al

“Petition 0526”, Township Papers, Township of SHERBROOKE SOUTH, Microfilm Series C-IV, Archives of Ontario, copy: June 2, 2010, transcribed by Krista Moore September 21, 2011.  (Describing petition of Church trustees for Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and burying ground on south South-East Lot 14 Conc. 10 S. Sherbrooke, Oct 14th 1856.)

Transcription:

[marks: 10.165 /slash 58]

To Anthony Leslie Esqr    Agent for the

Sale of Crown and Clergy Lands [v mark] at Perth in

The County of Lanark.

[Petition: 0526]

We the Undersigned respectfully state for your

consideration that on the south part of the South East

half of Lot No. 14 in the 10th Concession of South Sherbrooke

there is a plot of ground used as a burying ground

that on a part of this plot or contiguous to it there has

been a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel erected and in [our?]

[start?] occupancy and use for public worship for more

than twelve years. The undersigned Settlers in the nei

ghbourhood of said Chapel and burying ground re-

{ spectfully request that in the event of the said lot being

{ sold that at least two acres be preserved for the use of a

Wesleyan Methodist Church and burying ground

or not deeded  to any [purchaser ]  except to trustees du-

ly appointed whose names shall forthwith [was? Some or seem as] prac-

ticable be forwarded to you and through you to the land

granting department.

South Sherbrooke Oct 14th 1856

[signed by:]

Abrah Adams                                }    Malcom Morrow

Robert Lewis                                  }   John Chambers

John Buchanan                               }    William Armstrong

George Buchanan                          }    Charles Judge

Thomas Moore                               }    Da[vid or Daniel?] Conboy

George Buchanan                          }     John Armstrong

Wm Charlton                                 }     John Duffy

William Morrow

[along right margin:]

John Morrow

The now Maberly United Church:

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Krista beside the now Maberly United Church. Below an embroidered picture hanging in the local bar and grill on Highway 7.

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A Mirror Up to Nature

There is so much to contemplate lately, I hardly know where to begin!  It started, let’s say, with a visit to Picton last week. Harmless enough. I was going to a talk given by a professor, Dr. David Warrick, on one of my ancestors, Dr. Thomas Moore, who lived in Picton over 150 years ago – along with a young wannabe lawyer of 19, John A. MacDonald (before the “Sir”).

Dr. Warrick would be uncovering the history-making first trial of Sir John A. MacDonald in Picton in 1834, in this public lecture on April 20, 2011, followed by a paper he intends to publish by the University of Toronto press in 2012. The MacDonald project, of which he is the chair, intends to erect a bronze sculpture (created by the noted sculptress Ruth Abernethy) of Sir John A. MacDonald at the age of 19, in front of the very courthouse this historic event took place.

In a previous post I told you that my great grand-uncle, Dr. Thomas Moore of Picton, was accused of punching Sir John A. in the nose.  Well, the two men went to trial, and Dr. Moore, my noble ancestor, lost, at a cost of six shillings.  I thought it a charming story. No shame to me, certainly.  No shame to him, either. He continued to be a great doctor in town for 44 years, and, well, Sir John A. went on to be the first Prime Minister of Canada. No harm done.

So what does it all mean? I ask. Why do we eat it up like candy, the stories of our past? Why do we delve into history books (at least the people reading this blog who have an interest in such things, a passion, even)?  I am not a scholar of history. I studied literature.  But whether the particulars are true or untrue, isn’t there some form of resonance that catches us and stirs us to know more?  When we look beyond the facts, the fiction, do we not see ourselves?  As Shakespeare reminds in Hamlet, the job of a good story, or player is to “hold a mirror up to nature”.  And our job then, as audience or reader is to ask, who are we in this?

Why do I look at my ancestor’s past? Why do I reflect on my own past? Am I stuck? Can I not inhabit the present or future? Am I afraid?  No. I’m not afraid. Not anymore. I see more of myself in all of these things than I ever did. I see the hero and heroine, I see the scoundrel and the dummy, I see the nobleman, and the peasant trying to make a living. I see all of it in my own flesh, in my history. And yet, here I am now, breathing and living it all, remembering and dreaming of more.  Beginnings and endings, never-ending.

So, what did I learn from this? Well, I’m tantalized as always by a good story that I can relate to, personalize, live. And, I create the story by my living:  I can invent. I can forgive. I can change things around. I can create something new. I can go back and reconsider. I can ask new questions. I can pull things once lost together. I can do anything I want to!

“You can’t go back”, they say. Oh yes you can! Because time does not exist. And if you want to get your “puzzler” going, just think of Einstein. Or fractal geometry. The self-same patterns just keep going and going. Beautiful infinite and timeless, turning in on themselves and ever-expanding. Self-reflecting. Oh yes, how far can you go?!

I could go on forever considering these things. As I look backward and forward and at the very beginning of everything. I could go in leaps and bounds and never stop questioning. Never stop dreaming. Never stop launching into and including, sweeping up all the forgotten pieces into one great whole.

Oh yes, I could get quite philosophical on you. But I don’t want to scare you off.  So I’ll just say, there’s more to the story than what you see. So ask!  What does this have to do with me? How can I live more of this now? How can I make this even better than before? How can I look back as if into a mirror, and then create a great prism where everything is reflected more and more? You want to live forever? Just think about that.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it?  Life. Never-ending. Charming. Intelligent. Infinite. Life.


We thoroughly enjoyed the evening at Dr. Warrick’s lecture, and how generously Dr. Warrick portrayed my ancestor and Sir John A. as two very prominent and upstanding (though temperamental) citizens in the community of Picton.  I also enjoyed playing the “naughty Moore” for the evening, allowing myself to encompass a little piece of history in my genes and in my demeanor.  After being invited back to Dr. Warrick’s lovely home and having a toast to the ancestors and to those present, Dr. Warrick pointed out a special keepsake in the corner of the living room that they intended to auction off for the cause:  a simple wooden chair apparently owned and used by  Sir John A. MacDonald. Before I left, I couldn’t resist playing my part to the fullest, having the honour (and gumption) to place my saucy behind on Sir John A.’s chair.  Finally, a Moore and a MacDonald meet again! And that, as they say, is history!