Family History Stories
Exploring the life histories of my Canadian ancestors.
How has history impacted your work? Has it slipped into your created worlds? Has it inspired the people who inhabit them? If we fall too deeply down this well of thought it becomes impossible to separate the influences of history… Continue reading
I always wondered if we had a writer hiding somewhere up in the family tree. My aunts write. I write. Now I have learned that a great(x5) aunt, Bamewawagezhikaquay, also known as Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, was a writer too: “the first Native American literary writer, the first known Indian woman writer, the first known Indian poet, the first known poet to write poems in a Native American language, and the first known American Indian to write out traditional Indian stories” (Robert Dale Parker).
Each time I read Parker’s description of Jane I am in awe. Whether I can prove Jane is my aunt or not, I am thrilled to meet her, to read her works. Continue reading
Some say write what you know. Others say write what you are interested in and go out and know it. Last week I visited Archives Canada to do some family history research (that also serves as the inspiration for my next big writing project about Leilah).
My approach to research is like my approach to writing: go to where the energy burns brightest. I did not have a plan. I had a thick file holding three years of research notes, an iPad, and some blank paper. Generally, I wanted to know more about the Metis, the Voyageurs, lighthouses, and my family.
When we arrived at Archives Canada we had to sign-up for a Library Card. This process was easy–some photo ID, a computerized form, and a signature. Once our cards were ready we signed in at the security desk and received a key for a locker. It is helpful to read all the information on the Archives Canada website, Preparing for a Visit. Continue reading
Since the Oscars in February the video about the Bechdel Test has been passed around on Facebook, Twitter, and via email. A couple days ago I told a friend of mine about the test. He teaches film but does not have Facebook. Since then the Bechdel Test has been on my mind.
To pass the Bechdel Test a story needs to have at least two female characters with names who talk to each other about something other than a man. Continue reading
From 1885 to 1946 Lamondins lived and worked at Gereaux Island Lighthouse on Georgian Bay, Ontario. One question that drives my family history research is why did my ancestors choose to live at the lighthouse?
I grew up in the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area. The idea of living on an island in a remote area of Georgian Bay scares me. No electricity. No neighbours. Just miles of water, windblown spruces, and mounds of granite. The beauty of the landscape champions the Canadian Rockies in my eyes, but it contrasts the potentially harsh and lonely living conditions. Continue reading
Stories have a way of finding us when we need them.
Fall, 2010. I sit in the board room at York Catholic District School Board. It is the first day of the Barrie Region Aboriginal Education Professional Learning Community (PLC). David Bouchard is our guest speaker.
Since I was a teenager I have felt a connection to First Nation and Metis culture. One summer in the early 1990s I bought a copy of Michael Robinson’s poetry at the French River Trading Post, The Freedom of Silence. The next summer I bought another, Touching the Serpent’s Tale. I read the books many times. Robinson’s words and pictures were treasures of my adolescence. Robinson’s poetry inspired me to feel connected to something greater than myself.
By the mid-nineties I was reading Tomson Highway’s plays The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing. Highway’s work is my greatest influence as a playwright. At Trent University I served on the Otonabee Council for a couple of years. One of my positions was Cultural Representative. The best perk of this position was that I was invited to amazing events. In about 1996 I attended a dinner (with 30 or so other people from the university) with Tomson Highway. I remember it was a magical evening. It was one of my first encounters with a real writer, one of my heroes. Continue reading
Born in Berlin. Child of the Enlightenment Era.
Ezekiel Solomon was born in Berlin, Germany in 1735. Solomon shares his birth year with John Adams (second American President) and Paul Revere (American Patriot). In 1735, Alexander Pope was writing poetry and George Frederic Handel composed operas. King George II was on the British throne.
In 1740 Frederick the Great came into power in Germany and would soon declare himself the leader of the Age of Enlightenment. Ezekiel Solomon was a child of the Enlightenment. He grew up during a time when ideas about science and faith and humanity were changing. Was Solomon an educated man? Continue reading
It’s the early 1950s, after school in a red house along the Britt road in Britt, Ontario.
Lucy is seven. She lies on her back, staring at the livingroom ceiling. Mr. McGarrity says, “Well, Maggie Muggins, I’d say you’ve had quite a day!”
Lucy smiles, kicks her legs in the air, and leaps to her feet. “Tra la la la lee!” she sings. Lucy wipes a piece of long, blonde hair from her face with one hand as she turns the knob on the radio to the ‘off’ position with the other.
Lucy feels the quiet of the house push up against her chest. The tic toc of the ship’s wheel clock on the radio cabinet whispers at first, then grows louder with the beating of her heart. Lucy hates to be home alone. Continue reading
Last weekend was truly decadent. My car rested in the driveway from Friday after work until Monday morning. For two days I played. I felt like a child wrapped up in some important project like digging a hole in the… Continue reading
I love sentimental Christmas presents. When I was in my twenties mom and dad gave me Grandpa’s ship wheel clock for Christmas. It works beautifully when I remember to wind it. It is an “Ingraham 8 Day Ships Wheel” mantel clock.
A few weeks ago I chatted with Erika Bailey. Her research at University of Toronto focused on experiential learning and a sense of place. Her work will be published in 2012 by Backalong Books. As I recall, to begin the stories with her research participants Erika asked them to bring an object that had meaning for them. The object became an entry point to a story about place, about learning.
Grandpa Lamondin’s ship wheel clock is one of my favourite things. I was a young child when he passed away, too young to remember him. But somehow having his clock in my living room helps me to feel close to him. It reminds me of the years he spent on the water living at the lighthouse as a child, then as a Georgian Bay tour guide for Toronto fishermen when he retired. I imagine he felt at home on the water.
The metaphor of time is powerful as I begin this journey into the past. Continue reading