Friday, 16 September 2016

Our People

The phrase "Our People" reminds me of my Aunt Dodie and Great Aunt Nannie. It is an expression I remember them using when they talked about anyone connected to the Widow Henry's connections. I don't suppose they were the type of people to intend to exclude others but it reminds me of another description of theirs for the Henry's - we come from "Good Stock".   It was 35 years ago this past summer when a Henry Reunion (program below) was held in Oak River which included over 250 descendants of Mary Tait Henry.

It is amazing to think that 3 generations back, all but 2 of Mary's 10 surviving children lived in Blanshard Manitoba within a few short miles of her.  Daughter Ellen Turriff lived at Rapid City,  some 30 kilometres away with her family and Mary Wilson was further afield at Gilbert Plains.  Her sons Ned, Charles, ThomasWilliam and Jack homesteaded adjacent quarters and daughters Elizabeth and Janet and Joanna married neighbouring farmers and raised their families close to home. Keeping up on the lives of "Our People" was important to them with many hours spent visiting and no doubt writing letters back and forth.

My recent connection with one of "Our People" makes me realize how far the Henry descendants are spread across the world today.  At his home in Nagasaki, Japan while searching his mother's name, Brian Burke-Gaffney came across my blog page here about his maternal grandparents.  Their young tragic deaths is one of the saddest stories I've uncovered in my family history research.  The post included a photo of Hubert and Janet Sparling's gravestone at White Bank Lea Cemetery, just across the road from the original home of his 2nd great grandmother Mary Henry, also the resting place of his McKenzie great grandparents. After his comment on the blog, my sister Donna remarked how small the Internet has made the world today and I must agree. 

Brian was kind enough to send along the picture below of his mother Elizabeth Jane (Beth) and her older sister Leila Sparling, orphan daughters of Janet and Hubert Sparling.  Beth was raised by her Mother's sister Elizabeth Ismay McKenzie - known as "Bessie" and her husband Frank McDonald.  Frank and Bessie married in 1925 and farmed just south of Oak River on 22-13-22.  They had one daughter of their own, Thelma. After leaving Oak River in the late 30's, Beth went to business college in Winnipeg and began working for the CBC.  She met John Burke-Gaffney and had three sons before succumbing to cancer in 1981 at the age of 58.

Beth and John's middle son Brian had never been to Oak River before taking a detour into town in 2002.  With the help of a friendly storekeeper and relatives including his mother's cousin Gerry, Brian was shown around his grandparents' former neck of the woods.  I hope he left with the feeling that he is one of Our People and always will be.

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