November 11, 2007

Digging on some Family Roots...

As a kid, I often felt detached, as if I didn't have a strong sense of family to be associated with.

A good deal of this feeling must have come from my typical pre-teen angst and my constant impression that everyone else had gotten a better deal in life than me. But also, and very significantly, I think it evolved out of the fact that I really didn't have a very close extended family. My Dad seemed to only contact his brothers or his sister once a year (like a phone call on Christmas Day) or less often. By 1977, after we'd been in Vancouver for a few years, my Mum had also lost a lot of her family connections: her mother, Edna, had passed away in 1971, and her father Ernest, after whom I am named, had recently also passed on.

In my Dad's case, he tended to move us every few years for a new job or for some other reason. My Mother, as an only child, hadn't had very much direct family in the first place - a couple of cousins with whom she had been close as a young woman, before marrying my Dad.

It seemed like marriages, jobs, and life in general all tended to pull people apart as a family, but what was done to bring them back together?

My Dad told me stories about his upbringing in Price Rupert, his family, and my mother's family, and it's primarily because of his storytelling that I became curious about my roots and began to form some sense of who I was and who else was in my family.

As I have grown older (and hopefully wiser), it has become easier to cultivate a sense of family identity, heritage or common background. I discovered Genealogy in 1998, and began doing a little research on some family names and birthplaces using the Web. I realized that it was also far easier and more gratifying to write about my direct experiences and memories from my immediate family, than just to research dead relatives, and so my True Life web project was born, and launched in March of 1999.

The story section of my True Life site has progressed slowly but steadily over the years, but the genealogical side, the family tree aspect, had never really progressed very far until just recently, and I can thank Alex Haley for it, sort of.

My wife and I have been watching the mini-series "Roots" and "Roots: The Next Generations" on DVD. I never did see much more than a glimpse of Roots when it first aired back in the late 1970s, so I've always been curious about it, and have wanted to watch the whole series from beginning to end. When I finally did this year, it is a great experience - moving, inspirational, and eye-opening in many ways. Watching Roots motivated me to put more effort into getting my family tree online as part of my True Life web site.

I've always had a picture of my family tree - a graphic chart of it - since the time I hit my teens. My family tree is a yellowed mimeograph of a hand-drawn chart, originally produced sometime in the 1960s by a cousin of my father, a gent named Osborne Love. Cousin Os's family tree chart sat rolled up in a cardboard tube in my Dad's briefcase for years and years, tucked away, and mostly forgotten. Dad showed it to me and my sister once, and we did talk about it. It was interesting, but I didn't know what to do with the information beyond the fascinating first moments of presentation. So, we were descended from the MacDonald clan back in Scotland. Some relation to a woman who helped a guy called "Bonny Prince Charlie" (whom I did know was some kind of Scottish Royalty). Cool, but not connected to my current concerns very much, and so nothing much came from it after that. I now believe that Dad's Cousin Os did a great deal of research over the years, and appears to still be actively pursuing it. (A *huge* tip of my hat to you, Os, for all your hard work!)

Other members of my family have also taken an interest in the family history, researching Love family roots back in Prince Edward Island, citing books that mention old relatives, and giving me details of various people's births, deaths, and life details. Once I started my True Life project, the various documents, stories and records began to take on new significance. Using the paper family tree charts from Dad's briefcase as a starting point, I began building a family tree using a program called "Family Tree Maker", and have updated it that way on and off ever since.

After publishing an initial version of my family tree database to an online "World Family Tree" project, it was discovered by a distant relation named Audrey, with whom I shared a great-great grandmother. Her introduction, how she found me, and our shared relation was a major revelation to me, and I was delighted to receive her grandmother's photographs of my great-great-grandfather, Edward Bright Love, and his son, my great-grandfather, Albert Henry Love, and others. Combining Audrey's photos with cousin Os's documentation, anecdotes and dates gave me, for the first time, a picture of people I had never known about, and it was quite exciting.

Recently, relatives from my mother's side of the family discovered me and my web pages in a similar way, and have offered their comments, memories and inspiration for me to continue onward. Most recently, I finally published an interactive family tree on my True Life web site.

In my past, there is a good deal of English and Scottish culture on my Dad's side (the names being Clanranald, Love, Owens, McConnell, MacDonald), along with, I believe, some English and Jewish heritage on my Mother's side (the names there being Clarke, Gillman, Huntley, and Marks).

There's still so much more to learn, but I do now have a clearer picture of my lineage, going back seven generations and 250 years! Even though a lot of it is in the abstract historic realm, I do feel a sense of belonging - of being part of the history of a large, extended family.

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