From a very young age I was curious. I wanted to know everything I could about everyone around me and who they are and just what their connection to me was. My family would have large reunions on both sides and I never could wrap my head around the fact that every person there was in some way connected to me.
It’s amazing to look back and realize just how close I was to my family tree and I hadn’t even realized it. When I was born, I had three grandparents living. Both of my mother’s parents, Elizabeth Betty Lovejoy and Henry Harold “Harry” Hyde, were alive and my father’s mother, Margaret Porter. Thinking about them now, I wish I was able to ask them questions, record their answers and be able to record them for my descendants.
Two years ago, I lost my mother to cancer and it wasn’t until I wasn’t able to ask more questions, that I found myself filled with them. Where were we from? How long had we been in Canada? Who were my great-grandparents? Just what made my grandparents who they were and are there any common traits that I have, that they had? You can imagine how emotional it is to wake up knowing that all the people you need to ask questions of aren’t here to answer them.
Two weeks after my mother’s funeral, my husband and I headed to Halifax, Nova Scotia for a wedding. Before we left, my father asked me to go to Pier 21 and look for his dad’s arrival to Canada back in 1908. His understanding was that Halifax was their landing point and he hoped to find the ships manifest. This was where the seed was born. I went online looking through all the ships that had landed in 1908. Or at least I tried. I ended up only getting through half of the letter B, which was probably 100 ships. It was overwhelming, and although I promised to get back to it, I never did.
Every year since 1950, the descendants of my great grandparents, Charles Hill and Ada Woolgar, gather in Rockwood, Ontario for a family reunion. Last summer I was sitting in the room with all of these relatives on my dad’s side and realized that I wanted to know, to really know, how we were all connected. I remembered my dad’s enthusiasm about finding what ship his dad had taken and it really turned a switch. I needed some help.
It all started with a 14 day free trial for ancestry.ca. That was when the curiosity became an addiction. They start off asking you to key in what you know. I keyed in my immediate family and my grandparents with as much information as I could remember. Before I knew it I was having shaking leaves all over the place.
It took some time, and overcoming a transcription error where my great-grandfather was listed as “Charles Hix”, but I finally found the manifest. My great grandfather Charles Hill was 28 years old and had $20 to his name. Born in Surrey, England and his destination is “Gault.”
They came on the Lake Manitoba and didn’t land in Halifax, but in St. John, New Brunswick. In all, there were 6 in the Hill family travelling from Liverpool on March 25, 1908 until their arrival April 8, 1908. Ada Hill, formerly Woolgar, was 28 years old and she appeared on a different page of the manifest from her husband. Listed with her are Kate, aged 7, Charlie aged 3, Lily aged 9 months and my grandfather Albert, aged 5. All were born in Surrey. Charles, Ada and Kate could read and write, but Charlie, Lily and Albert could not.
It is documents like these that keep my passion for my family history burning. It’s amazing to see what you can learn from the past and where you came from and I look forward to sharing more of them with you.