Shedding Light on the Family Tree: We are Family

The 27th in a series on my family tree

Prompt: Extended Family

We are more than the sum of our parts. To me this certainly rings true when considering the extended family. We do ourselves a disservice when we dismiss the influence of the broader clan. There’s much to be learned about time and place and our forebears in general when we expand our view. No one is an island. Family dynamics are a reasonable barometer by which to measure how we might relate to the outer world as well as impact future generations.

Everything is connected. The loss or illness of a child, for instance, might affect how parents interact with their other children or even with each other. Siblings influence one another, for good or ill. Only-children experience an entirely different dynamic. No one is raised in a vacuum. As we grow to understand the family unit there’s the chance to experience a clearer picture of the function, or dysfunction, that traces through our lineage. This not only empowers us to make choices about how we want to be in the world, but gives us an opportunity to learn and practice compassion.

Insight and influence

Following are a few random extended family members from a variety of backgrounds and lineages. Some are notable; others too easily passed over for their lack of notoriety. Each contributes a slice of life to the larger family pie in their own small way, just as we all do. The sad thing is, of course, that not all ancestors can be accounted for nor can all stories be known or made complete. We hold them as part of our family collective, even if only in name.

Herewith, a few distant aunts and uncles that help to shed light on my family tree (so far) …

Susannah Sparling (1825-1852) ~ 3rd great grandaunt. Susannah was born in Newpark, Kilcooly, County Tipperary, Ireland in 1825 to Peter Sparling and Elizabeth Barry. She married Peter Cole in 1848, in Co. Tipperary. Their families were Protestant and tenant farmers. Susannah and Peter went to Africa as missionaries. She died in Kenya, Lubudi, Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1852, leaving her husband and two small children, Elizabeth (3) and Henry (1.) Her burial place is unknown. (Sourced through family archives and FamilySearch)

Joseph Henry McDonall (far right) with his brothers Earl (next) and Stanley (far left).
Henry Belton, their uncle, is with them, ca. 1954 …
Outside the McDonall log cabin, Larkspur, Alberta
Source: Family Archives

Joseph (Joe) Henry McDonall (1906-1967) ~ granduncle. Joe was the eldest of Steve and Mary Lewis (Belton) McDonall’s three sons. He was born December 28, 1906, in Bantry, North Dakota, where the family lived for several years while Steve worked with his Belton brothers-in-law on the construction of the Great Northern Railroad. Joe had an unfortunate start to life. Mary’s labour was long and difficult, provoking much interference from whomever was assisting. This resulted in a serious poke to Joe’s left eye which almost dislodged it. When he finally entered the world his body appeared lifeless. Presumed dead, his body was wrapped in a blanket and set aside while his mother received needed attention. It was his aunt Margaret (Belton) Musselman Cox who, when checking on him a little while later, noticed slight movement. She was able to revive him, however no one thought to correct the left eye. His eyes were out of alignment for the rest of his life. Joe was well-liked by family and friends; reliable, dependable and always willing to lend a helping hand. His brother, Stanley (my grandfather) considered him the most intelligent of the three boys. A self-taught mechanic, Joe fixed the farm machinery of family and neighbours. He never left home and never married. After his father died in 1949 he continued to live with his mother in their log cabin on the family farm north of Westlock, Alberta. In October 1966, Mary McDonall, 83, was killed while fighting an out-of-control brush fire (started by the neighbour across the road) that threatened to burn down the barn. Joe was in town at the time buying parts for a tractor and never forgave himself for not being at the farm to help his mother. He moved into town shortly thereafter and died of lung cancer January 27, 1967. He was 61. (Source: Family Archives)

Geertruy Gertrude Schuyler (1654-1723) ~ 9th great grandaunt through the Springer/Oliver line to New York state. Gertrude was one of this week’s discoveries …

“She was the first daughter and second child of New Netherland pioneers Philip Pieterse and Margarita Van Slichtenhorst Schuyler. Her family soon stood in the first rank in Albany business and landholding. In September 1671, she married Stephanus Van Cortlandt at the New York City Dutch church. She moved to New York to become the wife of one of the colony’s most successful merchants. Thus their marriage had united two of the colony’s foremost families. By 1698, fourteen of their children were baptized in Manhattan. Van Cortlandt held many public offices including that of mayor of New York City. He also acquired extensive acreage in Westchester County that became known as Van Cortlandt Manor. His family only visited there – living instead in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Stephanus Van Corltandt died in 1700 and Geertruy became executor of his vast estate. At some time after the summer of 1707, she was one of eight siblings named in the will filed by her mother. Geertruy Schuyler Van Cortlandt died in New York in 1723.” (Source: New York State Museum … Stephen Bielinski)

(Source: New York State Museum … Stephen Bielinski)

Thomas Bowles (1830-1913) ~ 1st cousin five times removed. Thomas (another find during this week’s research) was of Irish descent, the son of Charles Bowles and Ann Barry, sister of Elizabeth (Barry) Sparling (mentioned earlier). He was born in Peel Region, Ontario, and eventually moved north to Orangeville where he became an active public servant, including Sheriff of the town. He married Jane Lester in 1857, and they lived out their lives in Orangeville. (As it happens not far from where we live today.) Their daughter, Annie Sarah Bowles, married Edwin Arthur Pearson in Orangeville in 1892. They had three sons. The second, Lester Bowles Pearson (1897-1972), my 3rd cousin three times removed, was inspired by his grandfather to enter public service.

Lester Bowles Pearson
Source:Getty Images

Lester Bowles (“Mike”) Pearson, PC, OM, CC, OBE, prime minister 1963–68, statesman, politician, public servant, professor (born 23 April 1897 in Newtonbrook, ON; died 27 December 1972 in Ottawa, ON). Lester Pearson was Canada’s foremost diplomat of the 1950s and 1960s. He formulated the basics of the country’s postwar foreign policy; particularly its involvement in NATO and the United Nations, where he served as president of the General Assembly. In 1957, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomatic efforts in facilitating Britain and France’s departure from Egypt during the Suez Crisis. A skilled politician, he rebuilt the Liberal Party and as prime minister strove to maintain Canada’s national unity. Under his leadership, the government implemented a Canada Pension Plan; a universal medicare system; a unified Armed Forces; and a new national flag.

Article by Robert Bothwell Updated by Tabitha Marshall, Andrew McIntosh Published Online July 6, 2011 Last Edited May 4, 2021

Hezekiah Hatch (1798-1843) ~ husband to Aldura Sumner, my 1st cousin six times removed, was another find this past week as I ventured down the Sumner rabbit hole.

Hezekiah was born 2 December, 1798, in Charlotte, Vermont, to Jeremiah Hatch and Elizabeth Haight. Hezekiah was the sixth of nine children. He married Aldura Sumner (1803-1842), [daughter of John Austin Sumner and Abilgail Plumley,] 3 February, 1820, in Bristol, Vermont, when he was 21 and she was 16. Over the next 21 years, Hezekiah and Aldura had seven children: John Sumner, Jeremiah, Lorenzo Hill, Abram Chase, Adeline, Elizabeth, and Hezekiah Moroni. … Hezekiah earned his living as a farmer. Around 1840, when he was 41, missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in Lincoln and began preaching the Gospel. Fourteen-year-old Lorenzo was the first in the family to accept the message. He shared it with his mother, Aldura, and they both were baptized in February 1840. Through the instrumentation of Elder Pelatiah Brown, Hezekiah also accepted the message and was baptized in the fall of 1840 (about the time Hezekiah Moroni was born). … Hezekiah shared the Gospel with his parents and siblings, and they all joined the Church except Jeremiah Jr. Soon the Hatches made plans to join the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois; however, before Hezekiah could sell his farm and move with his family, Aldura died and Hezekiah’s oldest son, John, became seriously ill. Hezekiah left John in the care of friends in Lincoln and moved with his remaining children to Nauvoo in 1842. Before the Hatches arrived at their new home, John died as expected of dropsy of the bowels.

Hezekiah took his motherless children to his father’s home in Bristol where they finished their preparations for their journey west. About the middle of the summer they were prepared and in company with others they made it to Nauvoo. … Hezekiah bought a farm six miles from Nauvoo and also a lot near the Temple for a house. He built the house in February 1843 but died from bilious fever a few months later on June 25 at age 44. He made preparation to remarry but he died on his wedding day before being married. … Sixty-seven years later on his deathbed, Lorenzo Hill Hatch spoke about his father: “I will say to the credit of Hezekiah Hatch, my father, that he never slacked his endeavors after the death of my mother, who died in the town of Lincoln (Vermont) when we were children. He helped in building the Temple up to the time of his death. He bought a farm from the Prophet Joseph, and he got it fenced. He bought a city lot close to the Temple. He expected to live a long time in that vicinity, thinking that the Church would remain in that locality, but his life was cut short.”

By Daryl James … From “James Hatch/Hatch One Minute Histories.” Further information found ~ found at FamilySearch
Schedule of Death for Ann Elizabeth Belton

And lastly …

Ann Elizabeth Belton (1871-1876) ~ my great grandaunt. Ann, born 12 April, 1871 in Delaware, Middlesex, Ontario, was the eldest child of Henry Belton and Mary Jane (Crouse) Belton. She died tragically 13 January, 1876, at the age of four and just a few months before her second brother, George, was born. Cause of death was noted as burns from which she suffered for four days. Doesn’t take much to imagine that in the dead of winter there might have been an accident with a wood stove or fireplace. One can only imagine the horror of those few days while Henry and Mary came to terms with the certain loss of their eldest daughter, and the impact this might have had on their other children around the subject of fire.

The Final Word

For me knowing such stories helps to identify the character of the family. Whether they achieved greatness in the eyes of the world, or led quiet lives going about their day-to-day, they left an indelible imprint on the people within their immediate influence, and now on me. I won’t forget them, or any of the others I happen upon in the course of my climb up the tree, because now that I know of them they’re a part of my story too. We are family. ❦

2 thoughts on “Shedding Light on the Family Tree: We are Family

    1. Thank you. … It’s amazing what we come across when we can take a little extra time to go deeper. The chart is opening up again this week. More Irish coming to the fore. Fun getting to know this side of my family a little better. 🙏

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