Growing up, every year for summer holiday my family would pile into the car and drive from my hometown of Riverview, NB to Ottawa. Sometimes we’d take a circuitous tour through parts of New England, while other times we would make more of a beeline across Canada.
While the main destination was always the home of my mother’s parents, we would invariably stop in Sherbrooke, QC along the way to drop in on my Dad’s folks.
I have a ton of memories about Ottawa – most likely because we spent the lion’s share of our summer days here. But despite our frequent stops in Sherbrooke, I honestly don’t remember much about the place.
Oh, I remember my grandparents. I remember the immediate neighbourhood where they lived, but I really don’t recall us spending any time touring around the city. Nothing about the downtown core or any nearby tourist attractions seem to stick in my mind. My memories are sketchy at best.
So back in August (I know, my blogging record has been terrible lately), when the opportunity presented itself to visit Sherbrooke WITH my dad (who was raised there), I jumped at the chance! Even better, my Uncle Pete (Dad’s twin brother) and Aunt Carol (from nearby Lennoxville) would also be there. It promised to be a family reunion AND a family history lesson all in one!
As we took a driving tour with Dad around Sherbrooke – to the house he grew up in, past the schools he attended and all his childhood haunts – I found myself asking more and more questions. I suddenly wanted to know about my grandparents, about their relationship with each other, about the family history. I was curious to know when their ancestors came to Canada – and all that family-tree stuff.
That was surprising to me because I’ve never really been into genealogy. In fact, dad has asked me on several occasions if I wanted to look after the family tree that he inherited years ago. I had never had any interest.
Still not sure I want to be the keeper – especially since I have no kids to inherit it – but I’d definitely like to take a look at it next time I visit Dad. In fact, that might be one of the only places left to get answers to some of the questions I was asking. Dad doesn’t seem to have a lot of knowledge beyond his immediate family. His knowledge about his parents’ parents is patchy at best.
Uncle Pete wasn’t much more help than Dad. Maybe I’ve left it a bit too late.
Thankfully, my Aunt Carol (Dad’s sister-in-law) seems to have made more of an effort to gather some of the Cross family history over the last few decades. She was a valuable resource and was quite helpful with her answers. She told me what she knew about my great grandparents, and about the relationship between my grandparents. Even so, she still didn’t know when the family came to Canada. Sadly, I think a lot of our family past is lost to history.
That’s too bad. It would be nice to have a chance to explore my roots a little more deeply. But so be it. At least on this trip I got to connect with Dad and find out more about his childhood and his story. Aunt Carol even provided me with some photographic artefacts – a few shots of Dad as a little boy and as a young man in University.
It’s a strange feeling to be able to expand your understanding of a person, especially when it’s someone that has been as present in your life as a parent. I’ve known my father all my life – and I like to think I know him well – and yet, here is this new information that I need to fit into my understanding of Dad. It’s an adjustment, but I suppose it makes him somehow more real. Is that the right word? I have a more complete understanding of how he became the person he is. That’s a good thing.
Maybe that’s what genealogy has to offer. Maybe I need to rethink the family-tree thing.
Thanks for the photos, Aunt Carol!