Finding Your Roots; Finding Yourself


Have I mentioned that Genealogy is one of my interests (read addiction) and hobbies? I began my search into family lines and lore back in 1980 when I was living and ministering in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I hadn't known before moving that I had a deep sense of ‘roots’ and of ‘place’ - of family and genealogy, until they/it were no longer immediately near and accessible. I began looking more widely and deeply for where I’d come from, maybe to discover a little more about who I was, who I am.

The picture is of Dinah (nee Short) and Jonathan Oakes. They lived in Cratfield, Suffolk and came to Canada in 1836, settling near Guelph, first in Puslinch Township and then in Eramosa Township. Their daughter, Harriet, married Robert Barber my direct ancestor who arrived on the same boat in that year. Robert and Harriet were married in Guelph in the Primitive Methodist Church.

On a visit home to Ontario, I asked my Dad the name of his great-grandfather. I already knew about his dad, Gordon - and Gordon’s dad, John Barber. But who was John’s father? ‘Albert, I think,’ said my Dad. ‘But let’s go and find out; I know where he’s buried.’ So we traveled from Burlington to Guelph, to Woodlawn Cemetery, where there are many Barbers buried - in the bury patch that stretches back many years. John Barber was once on the Board, and perhaps Chairman at one term or another, of Woodlawn.

We found Albert’s gravestone - except that it was ‘Robert’ - and his wife Harriet (Oakes). They were natives of Suffolk or so it was inscribed on the stone. So I had dates of birth and death and a locale, to start looking. And the rest, as you may say, is history. Literally so.

I subscribe at present to and my Tree Summary indicates the presence of 13,725 people - all relatives or connected either linearly or laterally in some way. At the time of this writing, there are 438 photos and 60 stories attached to the 12,847 records.

I have visited ancestral lands, homes and farms through the years. I have found cousins old and new, and most have been helpful and hospitable (I can’t really think of any who weren't).

There are the roots that I've discovered - in ‘the soil’ of: England, Ireland, the United States and Germany. As I research Jane’s family, I add Scotland to the mix. (Glasgow for a start.) In England, my ancestors lived in the following counties: Suffolk, Norfolk, Surrey, Middlesex, Yorkshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Devon and Somerset. In Ireland, ancestors were in counties: Wicklow, Wexford, Cork and Kerry.

In Germany - I don’t know and wish I did. Christian Almas (my mother was an Almas) was a Hessian soldier who fought with the British versus the Americans in the Revolutionary War. He was at Quebec City in 1776, was arrested after the Battle (defeat) of Saratoga, marched to Cambridge (yes that one / Boston), and while on a further prisoner-march to Virginia, escaped and spent the rest of the war hiding and working for a German farmer in New Jersey, whose daughter he married (Magdalena Backer). They came to  Fort Niagara after the war, arriving there in 1787 with others who would settle in and develop Ancaster, Ontario. At one point, Christian was a 1/16th share owner of the original Ancaster Mill. The third one, slightly down- (or up-?) stream is now a restaurant.

And yet, my roots are also deep in Ontario soil, not called Ontario earlier Upper Canada, etc. Barbers came to the Guelph area in 1836 (Robert helped hew it out of the bush . . .). So, I have many generations here (I'm the 5th generation Canadian in the Barber line and 8th generation in the Almas descent). Maybe that’s why something in me awakened to the fact and to what I was missing, when I was in Calgary. I loved that city and made so many friends in the West. But on days off, I missed 'home.' I didn't know I had such a sense of family and place until I was far away from them.

I’m an Ontario boy, a Canadian - and a mix of all these people and places I’ve now discovered. We all have our unique stories, times and places  . . .

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