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.

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