Shedding Light on the Family Tree: Keep On Keeping On


The 51st in a Series

Prompt: Perseverance

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Perseverance: to continue, carry on, go on, keep on, keep going, not give up, struggle on, hammer away, be persistent, be determined, see/follow something through, keep at it, show determination, press on/ahead, stay with something, not take no for an answer, be tenacious, be pertinacious, be patient, stand one’s ground, stand fast/firm, hold on, hold out, go the distance, stay the course, plod on, plough on, grind away, stop at nothing, leave no stone unturned; informal soldier on, hang on, plug away, peg away, stick to one’s guns, stick at it, stick it out, hang in there, bash on. ANTONYMS give up, stop, quit.

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my ancestors it’s been their capacity to persevere. In the face of danger, uncertainty, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles they were able to rise to the occasion and, in today’s vernacular, keep on keeping on.

Maybe it was genetic. Or maybe the ability to go the distance was founded in deep faith and a connection to the land, for many of my forbears were farmers who by the very nature of their calling were routinely required to tend their animals and land or risk losing everything. Or maybe their dreams of better things to come kept them focused and driven. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these. Who knows? Whatever it was, learning some of their stories and understanding the times in which they lived has helped me to gain a more thorough appreciation of their dreams, sacrifices, resourcefulness, determination, patience, etc., and to recognize these qualities in myself. The apple doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree, and I’m glad for I love my family tree.

Persevering Pioneers

Over the past year many references have been made in this blog series to the family’s pioneers. Here’s a brief recap:

Great granddad Gordon, a pioneer in his 50s, and his son, Archie.
Source: Family Archives

In 1927, my great grandparents, William Alexander Gordon and Jane (Robson) Gordon, along with their seven living children ranging in age from five to 21, left the relative comfort of an urban lifestyle in Motherwell, Scotland, to pioneer in the middle-of-nowhere northern Alberta. They went from indoor plumbing to outhouses; from grocery shopping at the local High Street to growing their own garden; from a temperate climate to one of extremes. They arrived to their harsh new reality at Pibroch, a hamlet some 100 miles north of Edmonton, in April and endured a year of trials that tested their mettle on every level. The mental, emotional and physical toil was so gruelling that had they had the money they would have returned to Scotland the following Spring. Still, the military-tough William and his wife, Jane, every bit his equal in mental and emotional strength, persevered and endeavoured to instil in their children a pioneer spirit that would help them to rise above the challenging environment and have courage when building lives of their own.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of those times my grandmother, Alice (Gordon) McDonall, spoke fondly of them, and would always make time for a drive out to the old homestead when I went to visit. She loved to retell the stories of life on the farm and revisit the landmarks of her youth. My one regret is that I was too young and self-absorbed at the time to appreciate the importance of her memories. Fortunately, there is recorded history by way of her memoir and many history books of the local area to help fill in the blanks. For further reading, check out my previous post about some aspects of their pioneer experience … The Heart of Community

Following the military phase of the American Revolution (1775-1783) my United Empire Loyalist ancestors (including Sumner, Fairchild, Springer, and Crouse families … those are the ones we know of so far) fled their comfortable lives as farmers, magistrates, and productive citizens, and arrived as refugees in Upper Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Like the Gordons they abandoned creature comforts in favour of opportunity in a vast, untamed wilderness, but unlike the Gordons they were also fleeing persecution for their support of the British Crown. Their desire to pursue the dream of living according to the dictates of their own consciences was the fuel that fed the fire of perseverance and enabled them to overcome the many challenges they faced while forging an uncertain future. While their personal stories for the most part no longer survive my exploration of the times in which they lived has informed my understanding and appreciation for the types of challenges they overcame and the strength, endurance and perseverance it would have taken to do so. Reading historical accounts concerning early Southern Ontario settlements helps me to understand what my ancestors were up against and appreciate the strength and perseverance required to meet the challenges of those tumultuous times.

These are just two examples of many, and I’m still learning.

The Final Word

The perseverance and countless sacrifices of my forbears are doubtless under appreciated by their many descendants simply because there is just no way of measuring the extent of their influence. These people who demonstrated strength, tenacity, dignity, courage, and a never-say-die attitude have set a worthy example and one I am free to accept or reject. Frankly, I accept, for when the storms of life come barrelling through I want to be able to stand my ground and draw on the strength of my ancestors so that I too can keep on keeping on. ❦

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


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