When my mother died in 1999, I inherited a small red suitcase filled with old black and white photos, along with her family photo album. I knew who most of the people were by rote. They were my grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins etc. There was even a picture of “Sparky” the terrier dog. He didn’t really belong to my mom, but to a lodger. Sparky didn’t know, my mom was not his owner and he adopted her. As a child, sometimes I would drag out the photo album and my mom would tell me the stories behind the photos. Of course, there were far more pictures that were a mystery to me. I started to wonder how these people were related to me and wished I had asked more questions at the time.
In 2004, we were travelling in England to visit my husband’s family. Over a family lunch in a restaurant, his cousin told me she was researching her family. She started asking me questions about when I was born, who my parents were and so on. She said she would add me to her database and suggested I join Genes Reunited so she could share her information with me.
In the next month or so, I had lunch with my cousin, on my dad’s side of the family. We hadn’t seen each other for a while so we chatted endlessly. Out of the blue, she asked me if I knew our grandmother’s maiden name. Somewhere from my memory bank came the name Faulkner, but I couldn’t remember her first name. Elizabeth was my guess, but my cousin said her first name was Isabel. We discovered between the two of us we knew very little about our family. We knew our grandfather was George Meehan and now, we both knew our grandmother was Isabel Faulkner. I think George and Isabel separated before I was born and I don’t remember ever meeting my grandfather Meehan.
When I got home from our lunch, I suddenly remembered a family bible that my mother had insisted I take years before her death. It was in her basement and it was very musty. At the time, I didn’t really want the Bible; it’s very large and quite frankly it smelled. I aired it out and stuck in on my book shelf and promptly forgot about it. This was a Bible from the Meehan side of the family.
When I opened up the Bible, I was confused. The names in the Bible were Sarah Ann Newton and Ford Faulkner. Who are these people? I was looking for Meehan and Faulkner. Then it donned on me, this Bible was dated 1884. Could this be Isabel Faulkner’s parents? With beginner’s luck I had just gone back a generation. Further investigation showed me the Bible had been presented to Sarah Ann Newton and Ford Faulkner by her father R. Newton. Now I also knew Sarah Ann’s father was R. Newton.
In the next few weeks I happened to go to the North York Central Library (NYCL) in Toronto. The NYCL has a floor dedicated to Genealogy specializing in Ontario Genealogy. I wandered up to the 6th floor just to see what was there. A very friendly librarian asked if I needed some help. I explained that I was interested in researching my grandparents George Meehan and Isabel Faulkner. He introduced me to the Ancestry Library Genealogy Program and suggested I try the Census as a starting point.
I entered my information and was rewarded immediately with some information that I could verify through my own limited knowledge and some new information as well. Beginner’s luck once again, I now know.
From that point on, I was hooked. I joined Ancestry.ca and became a regular visitor to the NYCL. I have met many wonderful people on the internet who are also searching their families. More importantly, I have also been in touch with some of my cousins who I haven’t seen for years. We have also shared some of those family photos. In some cases, we have been able to put the faces and names together.