Tag Archives: journey

Our Newfoundland Visit – Days 3 and 4

Days 3 and 4 of our Newfoundland trip were amazing!

As luck would have it my husband’s cousin and his wife offered to spend the day taking us to the places we wanted to see.

They saved us renting a car and we got to see so many things we wouldn’t have known of otherwise!

Our first stop after leaving St. John’s was Witless Bay. We stopped at a lovely spot called the Irish Loop Coffee House. It reminded me of my grandmother so much! While we were there we met a lady who pointed out a baby beluga whale. Apparently (and you can google it for the full story) the whale strayed from it’s mother and came into the harbour a few weeks ago. It adopted a Zodiac boat as a surrogate mother. When the boat left it’s mooring the baby left, when it returned so did the baby. We watched as it rubbed itself along the boat.  The Department of Fisheries was monitoring the situation and the baby was healthy and eating. It was a bit of an emotional scene to watch.

Our next stop was Ferryland. Settled in 1621 Ferryland was established as a fishing station in the late 16th century. It is home to the 17th century Colony of Avalon. Archeological digs have been happening at the site for years and we were fortunate enough to be able to talk to a few of the student archeologists!

From there we headed to Mistaken Point. This location is home to some of the oldest fossils on earth and is the only place where you can see 565 million year old sea floors that show the diversity of life during that period. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that you could only see the site by guided tour which had already left by the time we arrived. We did get to visit the Interpretive Centre which showed a DVD and a few exhibits. There were a few casts in the Centre which were incredible. I can only imagine how amazing the actual site is.

Next up was Cape Race.  If you know anything about Titanic, you know this is where her distress signal was received and information on her sinking was passed to the world.

Our last stop for the day was to cliffs overlooking Topsail Beach for sunset. So beautiful!

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After a long day we were all pretty wiped. When they dropped us off they offered again to pick us up the next day so we could see Cape Spear and Petty Habour. Boy am I glad we said yes!

First stop on our last day was Cape Spear, the eastern most point of North America.

Our last spot for this trip was the beautiful Petty Harbour, where the 1977 movie ‘Orca’ was filmed. Here we talked to fishermen who answered all our questions and just embodied what I see as true Newfoundlanders.

After leaving Petty Harbour we stopped for a wonderful lunch at Keith’s Diner and then off to the airport to say good bye.

We had an amazing trip and crammed as much as we could into 4 days. We easily could have added another 2 days. Big thank you to our buddy Dave and my husbands cousin Roger and his wife Michelle for helping us make this trip as great as it was. I can’t wait to return!

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Till we meet again Newfoundland!

Our Newfoundland Visit – Days 1 and 2

My husband and I like to plan a few trips over the summer months. Most are day or short one night trips but we always make sure to do one big trip. This year we decided to visit St. John’s, Newfoundland – a place neither of us had been before.

We talked to lots of folks while we were planning and the Murray Premises Hotel came highly recommended. As fate would have it, I found a Groupon for the hotel that saved us quite a bit of money.  We flew Porter with carry on only, as we did last year, and again it was fine. We upgraded our seats for the trip home, totally worth it.

Murray Premises was originally built in 1846 as a collection of mercantile buildings related to the fishing industry and sits right on the waterfront. In May of 2001 it became a hotel and has grown several times since then.

Being that we arrived in St. John’s at suppertime our first stop had to be the George St area!

The next day was all about site seeing.

Whale watching with Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours.

And finally Signal Hill and Quidi Vidi.

And of course we finished the night off on George St. listening to fabulous Newfoundland entertainment!

Next up, days 3 and 4. We fit in everything we could to this trip!

My DNA Journey – The Paternal Side

Before getting too into my mother’s story, it’s only right that I talk about my father’s a bit.  It too provided some interesting discoveries and honestly some of the information I found on the internet was heartbreaking.

Growing up I always knew we were of Acadian descent. The beauty of being Acadian is that your history is so well documented. My DNA results made it easy for me to build my family tree on that side. So far I have been able to trace my roots to a direct ancestor who was born in 1570 at Pouilly-en-Auxois, Cote-d’Or, Burgandy France.

For those who may not know who the Nova Scotia Acadians were, they were French settlers primarily from Aunis, Saintonge and Poitou in France.  They first arrived in Nova Scotia around 1603, with the first permanent settlement being established in 1632. My first ancestors arrived around 1644. Two of their children were baptized at Port Royal.

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The Acadian people got along well and lived quite harmoniously with the local Mi’kmaq populations. The Acadians were skilled farmers, fishermen, and dike builders. They lived in relative peace for the times until 1755 when what has become known as the ‘Expulsion of the Acadians’ started. In a nutshell for several years, the British by any and all means possible, forcibly and inhumanely removed the Acadian people from their families, lands and homes in Nova Scotia. If you ever have the opportunity to read testimony or archive stories from this event you should. It is utterly devastating to read what these people endured and should serve to remind us that we cannot allow those sort of atrocities on our watch.

The Acadians in many cases were separated from family and ended up scattered throughout other coastal areas of the US and Canada. Some were helped by the Mi’kmaq and were able to safely hide in Nova Scotia. In 1763 the war ended and the survivors began to return, reunite with family and start life over. My people went to Cape Breton where many of them still live today.

Acadians are a very proud people and driving across the Maritimes you will see their flag and symbols proudly displayed. This is my fathers paternal history.

His maternal history turned out to be quite a surprise. His mother’s people were generally from the Sheet Harbour, NS and Murray River, PEI areas. For some reason that I don’t know they had always assumed she was solely of German descent.  She was not, her family was as much Scottish as it was German. With names like William Wallace Spears and Robert Bruce Spears in the tree it was pretty obvious her father’s family were Scottish.  They arrived in Nova Scotia in the mid to late 1700’s. Her mother’s family were German and they too settled in Sheet Harbour as well as Lunenburg in the mid-late 1700’s. When I told my aunt this, she had no idea. Like the rest of us she only ever heard details for the Acadian side of our family story.

So as it turns out my brothers and I are a whole lot more Scottish than we ever could have guessed. With my mother’s both maternal and paternal ethnicity being Scottish and my father being at least 1/4 Scottish, there is a lot to work with.  Trust me, I plan to.

As I was going through my DNA matches I was able to actually identify relatives that my mother and father have in common. Thankfully they are several generations removed but none the less it is interesting and something I plan to look into more.

I read somewhere that if you go back six generations we will all find that we have a relative in common somewhere, so far that has been true. In a small province like Nova Scotia where immigration was so heavily encouraged by the powers that be of that time period I don’t think it would be much of a surprise to find that many of us have relatives in common. For those families, like mine, who have been here for hundreds of years it is not uncommon to also find Mi’kmaq ancestors. We are all connected in some way.

Nova Scotia is a wonderful melting pot of different cultures and I hope we continue to be for years and years to come.

Next up, I delve into the journey that is DNA testing and adoption.

 

 

My DNA Journey – The Beginning

There are all kinds of journey’s we take during our time on this earth. Some take us to new places, some come from the pages of a book or they joy of watching a well made visual production.  Each is a unique and wonderful experience.

Over the last year or so though, I found myself on a personal journey so fulfilling it caught me totally off guard.

I have mentioned in a few posts that I did a DNA test through MyHeritage in 2018, but I haven’t gone into too much detail. Lately I have been reading a lot of stories from people who are going through similar searches. I thought I would share my journey and maybe give someone else hope that even when it seems impossible you can find answers, but be prepared to accept that some of those answers may not be what you want them to be.

My father passed away in 2013. When he died I took all his personal papers to my home so I could go through them as I felt up to it. Some things I went through right away and others I set aside. In 2018 I decided to go through a folder he had on family history. Initially I didn’t see much that I didn’t already know but then on one page was a name that stopped me in my tracks. It was my mother’s birth mother. He had been doing research on finding information about her. I was shocked. I had no idea he was doing that, no one did.

I have always known that my mother was adopted, she was very open about it and of course as her children got older and into serious relationships she had done what checking she could to make sure there were no blood relations. You would think that would be easy to do but it’s not. In Nova Scotia adoptee’s are only provided with limited information and none of it can be identifying, unless the birth parent(s) ok’s it. It is very frustrating to say the least. Even trying to get detailed family medical history is impossible.

Anyway, after finding my father’s papers I decided I wanted to do a DNA test. I wanted to know who I am, what is my mother’s history and who were her people. The curiosity and need to know consumed me.

I researched the different companies and decided on MyHeritage. The results were surprising to be honest. I had no idea I was Scottish, and not just a little bit – on three sides. We grew up always focused on our Acadian heritage, but clearly we were so much more.

Initially I kept the fact that I did the test a secret, but then as people started messaging me wanting to know how we were related I thought maybe I should say something. So I told my mother and much to my surprise she wanted to do one as well.  I was all over that like a wet towel. I also had my adult children do one as well to improve the quality of the matches.

At that time she also gave me what information she had on her birth mother and then decided to call adoption services to see if there was anything knew. Much to her surprise, they told her they could now release everything to her. We had no idea why or what changed, but as it turns out once the birth parent(s) has died if you request it you can get it. I wish we had known that 10 years ago. The lady at adoption services told us it would be a few months to get everything together and they would be in touch.

While we waited for the DNA results I put my investigator hat on and went to work with the little bit I had. The internet is a wonderful tool for situations like this and sites like findagrave.com are so helpful. Nova Scotia Vital Statistics also has online genealogy search tools that were beyond helpful.

I found the graveyard where her birth mother, and several other family members, were buried. My husband and I took a drive up one day last summer to visit. It’s an odd thing, but it is the only way we can ever connect with her/them. It is the only way we will ever meet. I can’t really explain it, but I think other’s in this situation will understand.

After doing some research I was able to get a copy of her birth mother’s obituary.  From that I know who her husband was and her other children’s names. At the time my mother was born her birth mother already had a two year old daughter, this is something we’ve always known, and then after she married she had an additional five children. Her birth mother also had a brother (died in late 2018) and sister, who is still living. Through the wonders of social media I was able to find pictures of some of these folks which opened up a whole other bunch of questions, most importantly – who does my mother look like?

Imagine for a second that your whole life you have never known who you look like or take after? Imagine for a second that you never may. It’s something that seems so small but really is quite significant.

We haven’t contacted any of her birth mother’s family, we don’t intend to. I will share the reasons for that in a future post. However, if they contact us we certainly are open to it.

Adoption is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong. My mother was raised in a loving family. My grandparents were incredible people, I have so much more respect for them after going through all of this. They really were amazing. My aunt and uncle are clearly products of their parents. She was very lucky to have such a wonderful family. However, adoption does rob the adoptee of their identity and in a lot of cases leads to a lifetime of insecurity – why wasn’t I wanted? Those of us who were secure in a loving environment have never had to deal with that. We can truly never understand those emotions.

My mother never outwardly wanted to meet her birth mother, just didn’t want to risk it I guess, but that didn’t mean she didn’t want to know and maybe someday have the option. I think that adoptee’s rights really need to be considered during the adoption process. Who speaks for the future interests of the child? Someone needs to.

I’ve learned a lot through this process and will continue to share my story in my next few posts.

I will finish this post by saying, if you are adopted do the DNA test and don’t give up searching.  One small door opening may lead to a flood of others.  It most certainly did for us.