Featured Mini Documentary Produced by Saint Gabriels Newsroom in 2015
For the past few months, I have been working on my family tree. In this I include my parents’ families as well as those of my husband.
I’m pretty new at this. I did start documenting things with my parents’ families when I was a teenager. Up to this point I have not been able to find the book in which I recorded the information. If anyone wishes to send up a prayer to St. Anthony on my behalf, it would be appreciated. When I was filling in my book, both of my grandmothers were still alive, so some of the information I recorded might not be found elsewhere. It’s been decades since that beginning.
I have learned some surprising things in this quest. My 3-great grandfather was Rev. William Sommerville. He was a Covenanter. In fact there exists a church in Grafton, Nova Scotia Canada, which he founded. He might be a bit distressed over what has happened to his descendants. The Covenanters did not like the Catholics. They didn’t like the Church of Scotland because of its link with the government. Not that Covenanters were against the monarchy, but they were among believers in separation of Church and state. Rev. S’s grand-daughter, my great-grandmother, married into a family of Freemasons. Rev. S didn’t like the Masons either, because they are a secret organization. And then my grandfather married a Catholic!
Going farther back, I found Puritans and Quakers. They had lovely names like Patience, Rest, and Peace. There is a baby girl given the surprising, given the times, name of Swan. I suspect grieving parents knew that she would not be long in the world.
My maternal grandmother told me once that she had been raised Catholic, but her father hauled them away from the Church after having a disagreement with the priest. To my knowledge, only one of my grandmother’s siblings carried on the Catholic faith. She left home at 14 to accomplish this. She did not have any children. My children and I are, as far as I know, the only Catholics left in my mother’s family.
My Catholic faith comes through my paternal grandmother. She came from a line of Catholics that fades into the past.
My family tree is testament to the persistent nature of the Catholic faith. Covenanters were eventually absorbed by the United Church of Canada and have ceased to exist. When did you last run into a Puritan or even a Quaker, although they do exist today? Jesus told us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church.
There are some other lessons I am learning. The lineage in a family will have its limits. Some societies were much better at keeping records than others. The Scots kept nice records, as did the French and the Catholics, but sometimes bad things happen. The insurrection-caused fire in the Irish Public Record building in 1922 wiped out a large of the records from the Republic of Ireland before that time. War and border changes, such as affect the Galician/Austrian/Polish/Ukrainian/German/Russian branch of my family make the search difficult.
I am learning patience, and the fact that some things will be known only to God. I am reminded that death comes to all at some point, and nothing you build up on earth can be taken with you. Whether you are from families who only rarely had to get their hands dirty, or from families who work the soil for a living, death is a great equalizer.
I live in hope that my family and those who preceded us will meet together someday in the New Jerusalem. I leave it to God to figure out the details.