Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An Interesting Book Leads To An Ontario Discovery

Years and years ago, I read a book (the name escapes me, but I think it was called "The Irish In Ontario") which dealt with several local elections in the Leeds-Landsdowne area of Ontario. The author wrote of how a young immigrant from Ireland named Ogle Gowan (that's his picture if you're wondering) and how he became elected to the Ontario legislature after several rambuncious and bloody campaigns against the "Old Guard" who had been pre-eminent in Ontario since well before the War of 1812. I loved reading about the young upstarts pushing their way into power. This guy, Gowan, came from Wexford, Ireland, and there seemed to be some connection with my Webster forebears who lived in the same area. I haven't found a marriage or other record to prove any connection other than the families being neighbours somewhat, but there was a large group of Websters who left Wexford for the Leeds, Ontario area. I haven't found any concrete connection between those Websters and my Websters who settled further west in Cavan and Mariposa townships but all seem to be from the same general area of Wexford. One of the Leeds Websters even had a son named Ogle Webster (likely after Gowan).

Any way, the book had a very exciting number of chapters about the elections and I could almost visualize my relatives cheering the newcomers on against the "entrenched old families". The funny thing is that years later, I found out that there was a family connection to those "old families" that I had delighted in seeing toppled from power. One relative (a great-uncle of my grandfather) had married into the Howard family which had deep connections to the area and this family had been the very "entrenched" group I had been happy to see removed from power. I re-read the book again and realized I had to see both sides. I was actually aligned with both sides, the newcomers and the old guard. History is a funny thing. When you find information breathing life into the actions and people alive at the times of your own families, you gain so much perspective. And when you find out it's your own family on one or the other sides of an old political struggle, it's even more so. Then you find out your families were on both sides of that struggle, you can't see the struggle in simple black and white anymore. I recommend the book. Some history books are sort of boring and dry, but on a personal level, I'd of liked a dozen more chapters on the events!

Read some history books about the times of your ancestors. Find out what they were voting on and debating back in the day. It will expand your own knowledge of the period as well as help to flesh out your great-great-granddad and his kinfolk.

I've Taken The Plunge With Family Tree Maker

I've got a copy of Family Tree Maker and I've started moving the massive amount of my personal research onto the program. So far, so good, but with the number of individuals I have catalogued in my own widely distributed family tree, this process will take time. I already have several different, more muted versions of my family tree on several platforms (RootsWeb for example) and I would like to get my more updated information out there to benefit all those currently unknown cousins connected to my work. I started tracing my ancestry 30-plus years ago and felt so intimidated to discuss my progress with the more experienced genealogists I ran across. Ah, foolish youth! I should have thought to dive right in, ask questions and garner the knowledge of those far more experienced than myself. But I didn't. I did the trial and error method. I made errors (and still do), but with experience hopefully comes more wisdom.

I will continue to update this blog on my progress in uploading all my forebears, great-aunts and great-uncles families and try to provide some advice to those just starting out in the family history game as well as continue to pick the brains of those with 40-plus, and 50-plus years of experience in this extremely intriguing hobby. My family tree has taken me all over the United States and Canada as well as to Ireland, Scotland and England. In some areas the records are sparse, but in others, so many records exist that it is difficult to wade through them to find that elusive ancestor. And then you find him or her, one farm over, or in the next parish or even across the sea. The chase is on. Let's see what we can find today.