Happy Thanksgiving!

Ah, Thanksgiving.  That glorious time of the year when families get together, visit, commiserate and stuff their faces full of yummy food.  Yes, Thanksgiving is a North American holiday – in the States it falls sometime in November but here in the Great White North, lovely and beautiful Canada, it falls on the second Monday of October.  If you’re reading this from outside of North America, you either have no idea what I’m talking about or you do and are perhaps a bit curious.  That’s good because I will break it down for you, explain Thanksgiving the way I know it.

I know it’s a little early but I will be heading up North tomorrow morning to spend Thanksgiving with my parents and I won’t be here to write/post this weekend so…here it is.

First let me start by saying this – Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday – everyone can enjoy it, no one is excluded, everyone can be happy.  The only requisite is that you live in this great, wonderful country of ours.  No one can cry foul this weekend!  There is nothing attached to this holiday other than family, friends, lots of food and the chance to be grateful and say thanks.  Thinking about it, I think Thanksgiving is probably one of the very few holidays NOT taken over by marketing gurus around the country.  Sure, the turkey has been exploited to some extent (his unfortunate little mug is flashed around everywhere you look), but that’s about it.  There is no jolly little man handing out gifts, no bunny rabbit handing out gifts and candy and no ghosts and ghouls scaring the bejesus out of people and handing out candy.  The holiday stands on its own with nothing more than, like I think I’ve already mentioned a couple of times, food and family and friends.  It’s wonderful!  Can you tell I’m excited?

As you’ve probably figured out by now, food plays a big role in our family’s Thanksgiving weekend.  With us, the turkey is king.  Few things smell as great as a turkey roasting in the oven.  Unless, of course, you smell my mom’s stuffing!   Now, we are quite the fussy little family and only her stuffing will do.  One year, she, for reasons only she knows, tried a different recipe out on her picky brood but it didn’t wash – there were too many things in it, too many ingredients like celery and apples.   Her recipe, which incidentally she got from my father’s mother, is super simple – nothing but cubed bread, onions, lots of butter and salt and pepper.  Absolute perfection!  We’re not huge on desserts, at least not like at Christmas, but word on the street is that my mom is making a pecan pie.  And I just finished baking pumpkin chocolate chip brownies which I topped with little multi-coloured maple leaf sprinkles (I love sprinkles!!).  I have to say they are super yummy – yes, of course I tried one already!  Unlike in the States where the sweet potato pie seems to reign supreme, Canada remains sweet potato pie free.  I have never met a single person in this country who has eaten a piece of sweet potato pie let alone made one.  I have nothing against sweet potatoes, in fact I love them but to make them into a pie with sugar and marshmallows?  No thanks.  Of course, this is coming from a person who loathes pumpkin pie but still, it sounds awful.  (No offense meant to any Americans reading this, really!)

Okay, enough about food.

There is something so peaceful and heartwarming about this weekend.  It’s a great opportunity to take stock of all of the blessings in your life and to appreciate everything and everyone around you.  For me, going home always feels right.  As soon as I enter into my hometown I start to feel the stress literally melt.  I always say that I feel as though I can actually exhale when I go home.  And when there’s a holiday to go along with it, so much the better.  I’m incredibly lucky to be very close to my parents and I not only love them, I like them, I like spending time with them.  Sure we butt heads occasionally, especially when we spend a lot of time together, but we always know that the visit will come to an end too quickly and it will be months before we see each other again so we hug and make up as soon as our stubborn pride allows.  And really, holidays like Thanksgiving are no time for arguing.  The older I get, the more I appreciate being able to spend this time with my family; I know there are people who would give anything to spend one more holiday with a loved one.  Treasure these times.

Okay, I’m getting all emotional now, so I’ll sign off!

To all my lovely fellow Canadians, my heartfelt wish that you have a fun, happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving.  Eats lots, be thankful, travel safe and love the ones you spend this wonderful holiday with.

~Trisha~

The Many Branches of an Old Family Tree

The Mighty Oak!

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with my parents when the subject of our family history came up.  My father said he didn’t want to sound morbid or anything, but that documenting our family’s history before there is no one left to tell it would be a good idea.  Since my parents are fascinated with my ability to pull up information at the drop of a hat via Google (I am a master Googler), I opened up my laptop and thought I would delight them with my skills, and started searching for information and/or records of our family on an ancestry website.

Well, sadly, my skills fell flat because I wasn’t a paying customer and would need to register. I cut that exercise short and instead, started playing 20 Questions.  You see the thing about my family is that in its current state, it’s quite small.  Obviously, there are many, many family members from the past, but sadly I never met most of them.  Something as simple as my grandparents’ full names was not common knowledge in my head, I needed information.  A few names, birth dates and birth places turned out to be a good start.

Later that day, I registered on the family tree website, started my tree and began digging around.  It didn’t take very long before I got a couple of hits.  To say I was excited is an understatement.  The first document I found was the baptism registry for my maternal grandmother; the second document was the 1911 Census for my paternal grandfather (he was 2 ½ months old!).  I was so surprised and happy that I called my parents to tell them what I’d found.  I have to say, I think I was more excited than they were, but then again, these were their parents; they knew them and grew up with them, whereas I never knew them.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have come up with all sorts of information and documents such as my great-great-grandparents’ names which doesn’t sound like much, but I had no idea what they were until a week ago.  I even got to see the passenger registry from when my great-great-grandfather came over to Canada from Finland by way of England.  It was very surreal.

I never met most of these people that I’m researching and searching out.  I can’t put faces to the names, and I don’t have many, or any, stories to go with them, yet.  These names that are popping up on my computer screen are names of my family, family I never got the chance to meet.  They are my history.  I know that I’ve only just begun this project, but I’m happy with my progress so far and I don’t intend to stop.

My next step will be to start getting that history, the stories, from my parents and anyone else who is willing to share their memories with me.  It seems like the older I get, the more I want to know where and how our family began.  It’s a lot of work sifting through all the hints and documents, but it’s definitely worth it.

If you’re interested in starting your own family tree, I have few hints and tips that I’ve picked up from my, so-far, short stint as an amateur detective.

  1. First, write down all of the information that you already know such as your grandparents’ names, maiden names, dates of birth, etc.  It’ll give you an idea of what is missing and if you’re like me, you’ll see that a lot more information is still needed.
  2. Next, start asking questions, and write down everything that you’re told.  It might not seem important, but trust me on this, you will probably need it.  You’ll find when you’re searching through documents, that it’s the small details you’ve been told that will help you to determine whether the information you’ve found is about your family member or not.
  3. If you’re using a site dedicated to documenting your family history, put ALL the information that you have in the search engine because that’s how you get hints from them.  That’s not to say that all the hints or hits you get will be relevant.  In fact, 90 percent of the ones that I’ve received so far are duds, but following this tip helps to narrow the results from hundreds of results to maybe a page of results.
  4. Be patient.  Most of what you’re going to find, like I said in number 3, will not be relevant to your family.  Keep looking.  Patience will also be required when you do get hits on documents.  You see, by law most documents cannot be made public for a certain amount of time.  For instance, Censuses can’t be made public for 100 years.  Well, 100 years ago most everything was handwritten, and I’m telling you, it’s not easy to read!  Take your time, read and re-read the documents, and chances are, you’ll see what you’re hoping to see.
  5. My last tip is to go outside of the site to look for information.  I did just that and found out tons of details that were missing for a lot of the people on my tree so far, specifically dates of birth and dates of death.  After Googling a number of different things, namely obituaries, I came up with a great site listing all of the registered deaths of Finlanders in my hometown.  Bear in mind, I found this site on something like the fourth or fifth page – remember, Google always comes up with more than one page on a search!  So dig, dig, dig.

More than anything have fun with it, enjoy the process.  This isn’t going to be done in a day or a week or a month, this is going to take time.

What started out as a quick search has turned into a bit of a project for me, and I’m happy to do it.  I’m finding out about my family, my history, the story of how our family came to be our family.

~Trisha~

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