Each year as November 11th approaches, I can’t help but think of my great-great grandmother – Ann Jane Lockhart.
Ann was born in the early 1860s, in Innisfil on the shores of Lake Simcoe. She was the second of eight children born to Joseph and Lydia Lockhart, Irish immigrants from County Tyrone. In 1883 in Gravenhurst, she married my great-great grandfather Henry John Cook, a logger and farmer. Henry had been born around 1861 in Tirschtiegel, in what was then Prussia but is now part of Poland. Henry had arrived with his parents, August Koch and Henrietta Simsch in Canada in 1864 when he was only 2 years of age.
Ann and Henry lived first in a houseboat on Kahshe Lake and then in a house at Housey’s Rapids, near Gravenhurst. Together they raised 13 children – five daughters and eight sons. And it’s unlikely that either Ann or Henry would’ve guessed that three of their sons would return to the continent that Ann’s parents and Henry himself had left.
Their eldest son, William John Cook, was born in 1884 and as a young man, William became a carpenter. But on the 22nd of September 1914, when he was 30 years of age, William enlisted in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force (less than 2 months after the start of WWI) at Valcartier in the Province of Quebec. He indicated on his Attestation Paper that although he had never served in a military force, he did belong to an Active Militia. His "Description on Enlistment" states that he was 5'9" tall, with a fresh complexion, blue eyes, and light hair.
His unit sailed on October 3, 1914, bound for England. He's first found on the Muster Roll in France on July 31, 1915. In August he was appointed Lance Corporal and was to be a Sergeant "whilst on sanitary duty". The records become more complicated after that but it appears due to illness and injury he was moved back to England in November 1916 and again in early 1917, returning to France once recovered.
And, as a mother, I can’t imagine the worry Ann must have felt. But as it turns out, her worries would soon multiply…by three.
Ann’s son Harry Cook, born in 1894, (making him about 10 years younger than William) was the next to enlist, at the age of 21. Trained as a blacksmith he joined the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force at Orillia on the 14th of March, 1916. According to his Description of Enlistment, Harry stood at 5’11” and had a dark complexion with blue eyes and black hair. His unit sailed for England on the 17th of October, 1916 arriving on the 28th of October. Before arriving in France in June of 2017, Harry, probably as a result of his logging background, became part of the Canadian Forestry Corps working his way from Private to Corporal to Sergeant.
It’s hard to say what spurred William and Harry’s younger brother, Stanley to also enlist. And it’s even harder to say what Ann’s reaction might have been to the news.
Stanley Cook, born in 1897, enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Toronto on the 13th of May, 1918. He was a farmer, 21 years of age and stood 5’3” tall with a fair complexion, blue eyes, and dark hair. He served first in Canada, then set sail from Montreal for England, arriving in London on the 8th of August, 1918.
With three sons overseas, I can only imagine the relief my great-great grandmother must have felt when on the 11th of November, 1918 the war was declared to be over. Because, perhaps against the odds, all three of Ann’s sons were still alive. She must have imagined that sweet moment when they all would return. She certainly couldn’t have imagined that something even deadlier than the war would put her sons – and people around the world – at risk.
Stanley, the youngest of her sons overseas, was the first to fall ill with influenza – or, as it was more commonly known – the Spanish flu. He was hospitalized in England in January of 1919 with complications from influenza. And it wasn’t until three and a half months later that he was finally well enough to be discharged. After surviving the war and the Spanish influenza, on the 7th of July, 1919 he set sail from England to Canada and was discharged from His Majesty’s Service on the 15th of July, 1919. Stanley made the best of his third chance at life - marrying Clara Marie Crigger in 1925 when he was 28 years old. They went on to have 10 children together – six boys and four girls. After a full life he died on the 8th of February, 1979 in Matheson, Ontario - just shy of his 82nd birthday.
Harry, Ann’s 2nd son to enlist, survived the war and the outbreak of influenza relatively unscathed, with one notable exception. In January of 1917, Harry found himself in hospital in Aldershot, England for nearly a month with the mumps, but fortunately made a full recovery. After serving in France, he made it back to Canada a few months earlier than his brother Stanley – arriving on the 19th of March and was discharged from His Majesty’s Service on the 29th of March, 1919. Just over two months later on the 2nd of June, 1919 he married Elma May Allan in Orillia. He returned to the blacksmith profession, working in his shop in Washago (near Housey’s Rapids) for the next 63 years. Harry and Elma had four children together, three sons and a daughter. He died at the age of 89 years on the 23rd of July, 1983 in Gravenhurst.
William, the eldest brother and the first to enlist, survived his service in England and France until the war's end. But before he could make his voyage home, he was admitted to military hospital in England on the 4th of February 1919, listed as "dangerously ill". Sadly, William died at the age of 34 years on the 8th of February 1919 of "influenza pneumonia". He is buried in Seaford Cemetery, Seaford, Lewes District, East Sussex, England.
It breaks my heart to think of Ann receiving the news of William’s death. She experienced the joy of having two sons return safely home but endured the sorrow of the one who never made it back. I’m sure she never forgot. And neither will I.
Stanley Perry Cook
Harry Ray Cook
William John Cook
Lest we forget.
I’ve stood in Ireland exactly where my great-great-great-great (4x) grandmother stood. I’ve touched the baptismal font where her daughter, my great-great-great (3x) grandmother, was baptised. And I’ve walked amongst the unmarked famine graves of her parish church that, were it not for the tenacity and courage of my ancestors, could very well have contained their bones.
Surprisingly, I’ve been able to do all of this because of a census enumerator in Upper Canada, named Will D. Pigott, who himself was a native of Ireland. He carried out the task of recording all of the souls living in Fitzroy Township in the County of Carleton in the year 1852 (the year the 1851 census was actually taken). I doubt he realized at the time the incredible wealth of information he had captured – but I fully appreciate the gift he has given me.
One of the most challenging aspects of tracing our ancestors back to Ireland is determining which county they came from. Without this information, it is extremely difficult to find out more about our Irish ancestors. Unfortunately, the County in Ireland from where our ancestors originated isn’t always captured in Canadian records. Which is what makes Will D. Pigott, enumerator of the 1851 census in Fitzroy Township, a unique and pivotal character in my family history.
One of the columns on the 1851 census was “Place of Birth.” In most census records I’ve found, the country of birth is captured here. UC (for Upper Canada – what is now Ontario) was a common response as were the countries of Scotland, England, and Ireland. Perhaps it was Will’s love of his native Ireland or simply the fact that nearly everyone in Fitzroy Township at that time was born in Ireland; but for whatever reason, Mr. Pigott went above and beyond the call of duty. For each person born in Ireland and living in Fitzroy township in 1852 he recorded the county in Ireland where they were born. And because of his efforts, I’ve found my roots.
For my 4x great grandmother, Mary Riley, Mr. Pigott dutifully recorded County Roscommon, Ireland as her place of birth.
Prior to this, I had no idea where in Ireland this branch of my family tree originated or that we had any connection to Roscommon. But fortunately, knowing from the census her name, age and place of birth, I was able to find a transcription of her marriage record, as well as a transcription of her daughter’s baptism (my great-great-great grandmother) on RootsIreland.ie. And now I had so much more than just the county she was born in.
My 4x great grandparents were married in Ardcarne Parish Church of Ireland on the 17th of July 1844. Her address at the time of the marriage was Ardcarne, the townland surrounding the church. On the 22nd of November 1845, their first child, a daughter, was born. She was baptised on December 11, 1845 in Ardcarne Parish Church. And 171 years later, in December 2016, I stepped onto the grounds of that very church.
It was a bitterly cold day, and not long after we arrived, poured rain. The atmosphere was very different from the first time I had visited a parish church of my ancestors from a different line of my family tree in County Cavan (an overwhelmingly joyous occasion). But, as it turns out, the sombre mood and bitter cold was exactly fitting to the occasion. One of the first things I encountered on the grounds of Ardcarne church was a memorial to the victims of the famine from that parish who had lost their lives. One would have to be made of the very stone of the monument not to be moved by its inscription:
This sculpture was erected in memory of victims of famine. We remember in particular the people of Ardcarne Parish who perished during the Great Famine. In the first 50 days of 1847 alone one hundred and ten victims were buried in this cemetery.
Below the plaque with the inscription is a quote from Irish poet Seamus Heaney:
Heads bow, trunks bend, hands fumble towards the black Mother.
It was an incredibly moving moment and despite my frozen toes and soaking clothes, I was reluctant to leave.
It was only when back at my mother-in-law’s house and going through my family tree, that I realized how poignant that memorial truly was to me and my family. Going by the dates of birth of the other children of my 4x great grandmother (who were all born in Canada), the most likely year that my 4x great grandparents left Ardcarne, Co. Roscommon was 1847, the year memorialized in the Ardcarne church yard. And they would have done so with my 3x great grandmother in their arms.
Since that time, I’ve been lucky enough to return. But this time, my brother – on his very first trip to Ireland – was there to see it too. And we were fortunate enough to actually stay on the grounds of the Old Rectory for Ardcarne Parish Church. In fact, as I stood on the threshold of the Old Rectory to meet the owner, he reminded me that that was exactly where my 4x great grandmother would have stood when they came to meet the parish minister to make the arrangements for their marriage.
Our host was also kind enough to arrange for me and my brother to see the inside of the church – something I wasn’t able to do on my first visit. There had once been a fire in the church and everything wood had been lost. But the marble baptismal font was one of the original pieces of the church – the same baptismal font that would have been used for my 3x great grandmother’s baptism.
After seeing the church, we walked through the beautiful, serene grounds of the church cemetery and came across an area of rough, unmarked graves. The famine graves.
I don’t yet know exactly how my ancestors escaped such a fate and instead ended up living in a shanty in Fitzroy Township in 1852. But I do intend to find out.
I’ve been fortunate to find out this much using records in Canada and online, but the next step to finish their story is a visit to the National Library of Ireland and the National Archives of Ireland…where I suspect I may find records proving that my ancestors were given passage to Canada by a benevolent landlord to allow them to escape the famine. I owe my life to my ancestors who survived famine and what was most likely a perilous journey to Canada. The least I can do is to tell their story.
As a footnote, after Fitzroy Township, my 4x great-grandmother, her husband and four children (including my 3x great-grandmother) made their way to McKillop Township in Huron County, not far from where I grew up and where most of my family still lives. She died in 1888 at age 75 and is buried with her husband in Maitlandbank Cemetery in Seaforth.
As for my favourite census enumerator, Will D. Pigott, he lived to the age of 91, dying in 1882 in Renfrew, Ontario.
My great-grandfather, Edward McCallum, was born in McKillop Township in Ontario (now part of the Municipality of Huron East) in 1886. His father’s family, not surprisingly given their name, were originally from Scotland (and are how we are linked to Ronald Reagan – but that, as they say, is another story) and made their way to McKillop by way of Quebec. Edward’s mother, Martha Hart was also born in McKillop Township to an Irish mother and English father.
After a few false starts, I was able to trace my great-grandfather’s ancestors back to their original countries – Argyll in Scotland, Suffolk in England, and Co. Roscommon in Ireland. And although that should probably have been the most difficult part of the search, it was actually his mother’s siblings that gave me the hardest time. Who were Edward McCallum’s maternal aunts and uncles? And what happened to them?
Edward McCallum’s mother, Martha Hart was the eldest of five children, born in 1861 to Edward Hart and Mary Ann Henderson. After Martha there was William, Mary Ann, James, and Margaret. Unfortunately, Hart turned out to be a pretty common name in the McKillop area – just one of the complicating factors when tracing this family.
Eventually however, I was able to find bits and pieces of information to start to put their story together. An interesting tidbit I uncovered about Martha’s brother William and their mother Mary Ann comes from the 1901 census. By this time, Mary Ann was a widow (and in fact had been for 25 years; Edward Hart died in 1876). William, unmarried at age 32 lived with her. Usually in this situation, the son would be listed as the head of the household, and the mother recognized as “mother” in the “relation to the head” column. Whether it was the enumerator or Mary Ann herself who insisted on this, but in their case Mary Ann is the head, and her son William is her “partner”. Well played great-great-great grandma! A strong Irish woman indeed. William married Charlotte Robinson at the age of 43 and they had one child, a son, William James Edward Hart born in 1910. William died of a stroke in 1918 at the age of 54. He is buried with his wife Charlotte in Maitlandbank Cemetery in Seaforth – where most of the Henderson/Hart family can be found.
Martha’s next sibling, her sister Mary Ann, took some digging as well. But I eventually found that she married John Arthus Hinchley in 1889 when she was 22 years of age. I eventually uncovered a professional portrait of Mary Ann and John in a treasure trove of family photos. He looked very distinguished (to suit his name) and there is no other word for her expression than fierce. Perhaps she took after her mother? They had no children and I suspect she may have been the eccentric aunt of the family (her outfits in some family photos are evidence of that!). She died in 1931 at the age of 64 and is buried with her husband John in Maitlandbank Cemetery.
Next in the family came Martha’s brother, James born in 1871. Unlike his siblings, James ventured a little further from home, eventually marrying Emily Fielding “up north” in Muskoka District in 1893 at the age of 22. (I often wonder if stories of his time in Muskoka influenced his nephew – my great-grandfather, Edward McCallum – who also made his way to Muskoka to work in logging, where he met and married my great-grandmother Maud Cook!). But James and Emily eventually made their way back to McKillop where their two sons were born, William in 1898 and James in 1900. Life had been good for James until the 1910s came along. Early in that decade his mother died. Then later in that same decade within about a year of each other his wife Emily and brother William died. After his wife’s death in 1917 it appears that James and his sons headed back to the north, this time to Parry Sound where he became the owner of a sawmill. James died there in 1920 from cancer of the bladder at the age of 49 but is buried with his wife Emily in Maitlandback Cemetery in Seaforth.
And now we’re at the youngest of Martha Hart’s siblings, Margaret Hart, my great-grandfather’s Aunt Maggie. I knew she existed from the census records of the family, but after the 1891 census when she was 16 years of age she just disappeared. I couldn’t find a marriage record, a death record, a birth record for any children…she was lost to me. Then one day when digging through very old family photo albums, I came across a postcard. On the front was a lovely farmhouse with what looked to be a family with two young girls standing in front. I was quite taken with the house so flipped the card over to find out more. My eyes immediately landed on the signature: “Your Aunt Maggie”. And I knew. This was it. This was my key to finding her. The postcard was written to my great-grandfather, Edward McCallum while he was working in Muskoka. It read:
I hope you are well as this leaves us at present. We were back to Ethel last Sunday [where Edward’s mother and siblings lived]. All well except Marjory [Edward’s sister]. She is not very well. Be sure to come and see us when you come home at Xmas.
This is a photo of our home.
Your Aunt Maggie.
The card was postmarked: Seaforth, November 28, 1907.
I was once again determined to find out more about Aunt Maggie. From the card I knew that she had married and that she had at least two children, both girls. I scoured marriage records because I knew I needed her married name but still came up empty handed. Finally, I decided the house in the picture was my only hope. And I needed a little help…from my Facebook friends.
On Facebook, there is a group called “Ontario Genealogy”. In the group, people post questions, or share resources that might be helpful to others, and ask for help when they’ve hit that proverbial brick wall. On March 30th of this year I posted the following along with a picture of the front of the postcard:
Seaforth, Ontario area, c 1900. Does anyone recognize this house, likely in the Seaforth area? I'm pretty sure it belonged to a great-great-great aunt of mine. Her maiden name would've been Margaret (Maggie) Hart born c 1875. Her sister, Martha Hart (1861-1943) was my great-great grandmother. This picture is from a postcard she wrote to my great-grandfather - Edward McCallum. To find more information about her, I need her married name, but she only signed it "Aunt Maggie". I've searched for marriage records, but have come up empty-handed. I thought if maybe I could find the house, I could find who owned it and come up with her married name. Thanks in advance for your help!
I didn’t know if I’d have any luck but thought it was worthwhile trying.
Clearly, I underestimated the power of Facebook and those obsessed with family history.
And this, in fact, is my post from just 24 hours later:
Okay - just to sum it all up: In 24 hours [and 24 comments from those who helped] I have found out not only where the house is, but who Margaret (Aunt Maggie) married (George Harn) and on what date. Not to mention the names of her children, her and her husband's death date, place of burial, and a picture of their headstone. And I have a number of newspaper articles that mention them as well.
That’s right. The whole time I was searching for Margaret Hart’s married name, it was only one letter different; Margaret Hart, when she married, became Margaret Harn. Not to mention, that despite being lost to me, she had spent her whole life in the same area as the rest of her family!
AND, I had made a dead-wrong assumption when searching for information on her. I assumed I couldn’t find her headstone and burial information using her maiden name, so didn’t look. But good old Aunt Maggie – channeling the feisty spirit of her Irish mother – has her maiden name on her headstone. I could have found her without the postcard!
But I would have missed out on a fantastic experience using Facebook to find ancestors.
To finish Aunt Maggie’s story, she married George Harn in 1891 when she was only 16 years old. She had two daughters, Lorna Mae in 1895 and Ethel Irene in 1898. Their farm, featured on the postcard to my great-grandfather, is two and half miles north of Seaforth. She died in 1951 at the age 76 and is buried with her husband George (who predeceased her by 25 years) in Maitlandbank Cemetery in Seaforth. She is pictured below with her husband and two daughters (a picture I've since found).
The mystery of missing Aunt Maggie is solved. Now…who’s next? :)
Look around you. Who do you see? You may see people you work with, or other shoppers at the grocery store, or parents and their kids at the park. Now – have you ever considered whether you could be related to one of them – the people you encounter in your day-to-day life?
When I fell into genealogy, I was following in my mother’s footsteps and it was very much for me and my family. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I started to consider whether I could help others discover their family tree. But I hesitated. Was it the right path for me? Despite not being entirely certain I believed in signs, I was really looking for one to help me decide.
As tends to happen in life, an opportunity to research someone else’s family tree soon presented itself. A friend and colleague at work had been told by her father of an ancestor supposedly born in Ireland but she knew nothing more about him. I offered to see if I could find out more. And it didn’t’ take long to realize that family history research was what I loved to do – whether it was my family or not. But even more importantly, I got my sign.
My colleague and I, although both from rural Ontario, grew up at least 200km apart. And where we live and work now is nowhere near where either of us were born and raised. Prior to working together, we’d never met. There was no reason to believe that there would be any connection between our families. In fact, I would’ve bet there wasn’t. Fortunately, I’m not a betting woman.
As I researched her family tree, each generation back brought her closer to my area of Ontario, until finally I found a burial record of one her ancestors in the graveyard just down the street from where my parents live. I was astounded. I pulled the local history book off my shelf and sure enough I found her ancestors in it – living NEXT DOOR to my ancestors. Her great-great grandparents lived on the neighbouring farm to my great-grandparents' farm.
I took this as my sign. I officially started LilacTree Genealogy and very shortly after I was hired by my first client. A happy ending to a great story.
Except it was far from the end.
My first client found LilacTree Genealogy through Facebook. We had never met and had no friends or acquaintances in common. She grew up in a rural area outside of Ottawa – over 600kms from where I was born. Her family hailed from Quebec, mine was mostly from Ontario. I had a protestant background, hers was Catholic.
She hired me to find her Irish roots. And there’s nothing I enjoy more than digging out long buried Irish roots. The thing about digging though, is you tend to find more than you bargained for. Although most of her ancestors were from Quebec and almost all were Catholic, there was one line that had me puzzled. Their unique first names, I was almost certain, were those of a group of families of United Empire Loyalists from an area south of Ottawa. And these families were most certainly protestant. But how I recognized the names was even more intriguing – they were on my family tree. But surely that couldn’t be…
All it took was tracing that line back two more generations to prove it. My first client and I are cousins – 5th cousins, once removed to be precise. And just in case I doubted the research, AncestryDNA results made it certain. She and my Mom are DNA matches (I’m one generation too far out to show up as a match). We had actually joked about finding a protestant in her family; we never dreamed the protestant in the family would be me!
That ought to about do it for signs now, don’t you think?
My story is just a small one helping to illustrate that we really are all connected. But in case you still have doubts you may want to watch this video: The DNA Journey.
And if you’re ready to find your connections, I’m ready to help.
I’ll admit it, I wanted to prove that I was Irish. Or at least that a good part of me was Irish (maybe even the best part?). I felt Irish. I believed deep down that I was Irish. My family tree research was turning up more Irish ancestors each time I looked. But proving that I was Irish in my very DNA, well that was an opportunity too tempting to miss.
So I ordered my AncestryDNA kit. I spat in the tube. I sealed it all up and sent it off – of all places – to Ireland to be tested. And then I waited. Little did I realize that I was about to get a whole lot more information from that little vial of spit than I had ever bargained for.
A few weeks later, the email arrived to say my results were in. I logged into my AncestryDNA account and dove in – heading straight for my Ethnicity Estimate. And…Irish was my highest percentage – at 40%. (Okay, it was 39% but rounding up is totally acceptable). Maybe it was my DNA then that explained my fascination with Ireland and Irish history. And that I thought was the happy end to my wee DNA story.
But once the new wore off my Ethnicity Estimates my attention became focused on my DNA matches (arguably the more scientifically sound portion of the DNA results). DNA matches are people with whom you share a certain amount of DNA. I had quite a few matches – more than I had every anticipated.
My three highest matches – all listed as probable third cousins – had me intrigued. Two of them were relatively easy to explain without a lot of effort. One by their surname (I already knew how our family trees were connected) and the second by examining their attached family tree. But the other match was a mystery.
The mystery cousin had an extensive family tree, yet I could find nothing in common with my family tree. Or, I should say, I could find no people in common. Where our ancestors lived was completely overlapping. And where our ancestors lived – a very rural part of Ontario – turned out to be the key.
My father never knew who his paternal grandfather was. His paternal grandmother had my grandfather (and another child – a daughter) before she was married. My grandfather was raised by his biological grandparents – with the story being that he was their child (and a brother to the woman who was actually his mother), a common story for the time.
Grandpa apparently knew who his father was but never shared the information with my father or any of my dad’s siblings. When my grandfather died, we assumed the name of his biological father died with him. I’d often wondered about my great-grandfather and the story of how my grandfather came to be. I had even spent some sleepless nights trying to come up with some way to figure it all out – but had only recently accepted that it just wasn’t going to happen.
It’s funny what can happen when you’ve given up all hope.
It took me a while to believe it, but the more I examined my match’s family tree, the more convinced I was that I was on the trail of my missing great-grandfather. Circumstantial as it was, the evidence showed that one particular line of her family tree was in the right place at the right time – in the exact right place at the exact right time. In fact, it was one particular member of her family tree that made the most sense. And maybe it's my imagination running wild, but I think my great-grandmother left us some clues that helped convince me I was right.
The clincher came when I sent a picture I'd found of him to my brother. Choosing my brother wasn’t random – but I had to know if he saw what I saw. His reaction didn’t disappoint. He opened the picture and texted me back: “That’s me”. The eyes, the lopsided grin, the cooler than cool demeanor…they were all there. To top it off, he happened to leave the picture open on his computer. When his wife came home that night, she said: “Who’s that? He looks like you!”.
And my brother said: “That’s my great-grandfather”.
We still don’t know the whole story. But we have a name. And that’s a start.
I expected to feel a connection. I’d gone as far as to hope I might have a vision, ever-so-brief, from my ancestor’s time. I was standing in the ruins of the church where my great-great-great grandparents were married on the 180th anniversary of their marriage. I should’ve been feeling something. And in fairness, I was. I felt happy – content to finally be there, having made the trip across the ocean from Canada just the night before. Curious to explore the church ruins and the surrounding village. And lucky – to have such an incredible opportunity. But I wanted more than happy, more than curious, and more than lucky. I was going more for awestruck, blown-away, and in an odd sort of way, complete. Finally knowing that this particular branch of my family tree came from County Cavan, Ireland had been quite mind-blowing itself. Standing in the exact place where they had once stood – should’ve been even more so.
I took pictures, many pictures. I observed the ruins from every possible vantage point. I walked the streets of the small town. And I was still…happy. I stayed there in a small hotel with my husband and some of his family. There we ate, we drank, and finally we slept – all happily. I accepted that happy was good enough.
Little did I know that the next day had an entirely different experience in store. My great-great-great grandparents – according to their parish marriage record – had been married in her parish, not his. But the record had been kind enough to list his parish as an even more rural church only a few miles down the road. (I use the term road somewhat loosely as the road to his parish church was windy, narrow – even by Irish standards – and had a nice patch of grass growing down the middle). And according to the baptismal record of their eldest child, this was their parish after their marriage. So it only made sense to see it as well.
I knew the way. I accept this makes no sense and I welcome your skepticism, but despite not having a reliable map of the area, I simply knew the way. My instinct, combined with some entertaining if not particularly helpful directions from a few locals, eventually led us there. The church truly was in the middle of nowhere – and I mean that in the best possible way. Upon exiting the car, we heard not a sound. The sun, as if awaiting its cue, broke through the clouds. I felt something. A whole lot of something. An overwhelming something.
My connection, my sense of coming home, had apparently been patiently awaiting my arrival. I wandered the churchyard, awestruck at the beauty of this place. The churchyard meandered on for a considerable distance and I eventually found myself overlooking a lake, three high crosses standing watch over the water below. A horse somewhere in the distance neighed its greeting. I could not have been further from where I grew up, but there I was, finally home – where I was from.
It was only with considerable effort that I eventually left. But I left a different person. I left as a person that belonged somewhere, that came from somewhere, that connected with somewhere. And I knew, even then, that I’d be back.
A year from now I plan on taking my big brother there. I want him to see it, and if we’re lucky, to feel the same connection. I want him to know where we’re from. I cannot wait.