In My Own Backyard

I was born, raised and live in Southwestern Ontario. You would think, with that much time spent in one area (over 40 years but under 42 years), I would be able to explain everything about it, right?.  And being Canadian, I could define the Canadian experience – right?  I’ll tell you, one can certainly have a Canadian foundation but really not know, nor understand, anything about what it is to a be a Canadian.  It wasn’t until I spent 4 months of my life living and travelling abroad, that I began to realize I needed to explore my roots and embrace my nationality.

View from the Glass Ceiling atop the CN Tower
View from the Glass Ceiling atop the CN Tower

During university, I spent 4 months living, studying and travelling abroad.  I was based in London, England, but being in such close proximity to so many other countries, I used my weekends, school breaks and summer, to travel the UK and a bit of Europe.  London didn’t feel much different from Toronto.  Big buildings, lot’s of traffic and resources; very cosmopolitan.  When I got to travel outside the city I was in awe.  Vast green forests and hills.  There were rocks and sheep and quaint little cobblestone roads.  I went up the Eiffel Tower in Paris  and couldn’t believe the beauty of all the twinkly lights and how far I could see.   Waiting for the elevator to go down, my best friend and I overheard the woman behind us, ask her companion how high the Eiffel Tower was.  It was certainly one of the highest structures she had ever been up.  My friend and I winked at each other because we knew the CN Tower in  Toronto, back home, was higher.  Then it occurred to me.  I hadn’t been up the CN Tower since I was 4.  I barely remembered being terrified riding the elevator to the top with my grandfather.  But that was it.  All of the sudden,  I felt like  a part in a movie when everything sped up and the picture became blurred.  The things I was admiring during this excursion, were things I didn’t even know if we had in Canada.  I never paid attention.  I took it for granted that things I saw everyday in my homeland were just always … there.  But were they??????

Lush forests in Ontario, Canada
Lush forests in Ontario, Canada

When I got home, I put on my national glasses and suddenly I saw … vast green forests and hills, rocks and sheep (and cows), not cobblestone roads but dirt roads with farms and livestock.  I took my (then) fiancee (and now both my sons) up to the top of the CN Tower and witnessed twinkley lights and saw for miles.  It brought tears to my eyes.  The things that  I thought were beautiful in a foreign land, were the very things that I couldn’t see in my own backyard.  It put things very dramatically into perspective.  I am so very GRATEFUL for all that I live amongst in this place we call Canada.

View for Miles
View for Miles

 

 

 

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Alice Stone – A Mystery

John and Elizabeth Dowding (nee Stone) with Richard and Mary
John and Elizabeth Dowding (nee Stone) with Richard and Mary

As you may have noticed from my tagline, I love genealogy.  It has morphed from a simple hobby to an all-out obsession.  Years of research, making connections, emailing, travelling and documenting has led to the creation of one magnificent family tree.  One where each branch has its own characters and stories that would entertain even the most unenthused individual.

Currently, I am stuck on one particular branch; my maternal grandmother’s.  My mother’s mother’s mother’s mother or, for a better understanding, my 2X great grandmother, came over from England in 1871 as an orphan. She was, what we now call, a British Home Child.  I’ve had many of chats over tea with my mother about how she remembers her grandmother talking about the tormenting life her mother had had.  When she came to Canada, she travelled with her sister.  They only had each other and when they arrived, they were separated.  My gg grandmother was sent to live with a family as a servant and her sister went somewhere else.  My gg grandmother never saw her sister again.  The stories tell of a life of beatings and hard work for my gg grandmother and she longed for the companionship of her sister.  When she was 18 and no longer had to endure the life she had come to hate, she left the family she was with and married.

I have been able to track my gg grandmother back to her arrival upon the ship Prussian from Liverpool to Quebec in 1871.  There she is on the passenger list, named as Elizabeth Stone and just above is a listing for Alice Stone.  Both indicated as 8 years old.  Twins perhaps?  I’ve made some connections to find Alice but nothing has been successful thus far.  So, I find myself exploring a great mystery; one that has survived in my family for over 140 years.  What happened to Alice Stone?  I welcome any leads should someone read this and have clues that might lead to solving this mystery.