Shedding Light on the Family Tree: Out with the Old; in with the New

The 49th in a series

Prompt: New Horizons


Every time we chase a dream or pursue new personal frontiers we make a choice to embrace a new way of being that challenges what we already know of ourselves. Many of our ancestors dreamed of something better for themselves, their children, and future generations, and met the challenges inherent to shedding the old while adopting the new. I can’t help but think what a debt of gratitude I owe my own forefathers and mothers for the brave and selfless choices, as well as sacrifices, they made while walking the perilous path to a new horizon. I am here because they were there. It’s that simple and yet so complex.

For instance, if my disparate Weslyan Methodist/Protestant Irish families hadn’t left the Emerald Isle in the mid 1800s to carve out a new life for themselves in Canada they wouldn’t have met and married descendants of the United Empire Loyalists of British, German, and Swedish descent who’d arrived in Upper Canada as refugees in the years immediately following the American Revolution. And then their children wouldn’t have moved on to mix and mingle with another Irish cohort who’d settled in the same area, also mid 1800s, and into which they then married before migrating to Michigan in the 1870s to farm a wilderness which had been opened up for taming. And then their children wouldn’t have climbed aboard the opportunity to help build the Great Northern Railroad in the early 1900s which ultimately landed them in Great Falls, Montana by 1912. From there my great grandfather, Steve McDonall, took a chance on farming opportunities in southern Alberta bringing the family back into Canada.

In the meantime, if my Scottish WWI veteran great grandfather, William Alexander Gordon, hadn’t taken advantage of the Canadian government’s Soldiers’ Land Settlement Scheme in 1927 and moved his large family from the thriving metropolis of Glasgow, Scotland, to the barren northern Alberta prairie, my grandmother, Alice Isabel Gordon wouldn’t have met the beleaguered young American, Stanley Lewis McDonall, who’s family had moved north around 1932 after their robust southern Alberta dream had died with the Great Depression and the disastrous Dust Bowl. Every generation exemplified the desire to follow a path to a new horizon ~ sometimes to chase an opportunity, other times as a mere act of survival. Either way, they endured with courage, faith, and inner strength the turmoil, challenges, uncertainty and fear inherent to walking an uncertain path to promise.

The Final Word

I have a profound respect for my ancestors ~ for all that they were and for the way in which their lives have informed mine. Still, when I think about pursuing new horizons my thoughts turn to the healing of ancestral trauma, not just for myself, but for them too. For however traumatic, difficult, and challenging their life circumstances might have become the intention was always to live a better life and offer future generations more opportunities to thrive. That is their legacy to me and I’m doing my best to honour it. ❦

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2022 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

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