Searching Out the Ancestors

I continue the journey of discovering my family tree.  Yesterday, Max and I headed out on a summertime drive to Drumheller, Alberta, in order to locate the final resting place of my great uncle, my great grandmother Mary Eleanor Haddow’s brother, John ‘Jack’ Haddow.  The afternoon yawned wide open with sunshine and miles of crops, golden and dancing in the easy wind.  It was divine.

Once in Drumheller, I collected my free tourist map from a small corner store.  Outside, a collection of teens had congregated, sharing smokes and slurpees and when I asked them for the directions to the Drumheller Municipal Cemetery, they were lovely and gave me specific directions and landmarks.  Then I was on my way.

I took Max for a nice walk around the perimeter of the property and scanned the map that was displayed at the front entrance.  I didn’t have any idea what had brought my relations to the west in the first place and wondered if I would have any luck in finding John.  Once Max was back in the van, I began the search and basically sorted out that there were blocks based on period of history and looked for the section from the 1920s.  Soon enough, I located John ‘Jack’ Haddow, and next to him, his daughter Edith M. Haddow who had passed away in 2009.  I sat down and spent a good long while…saying family prayers and just taking in the beauty of the location.

A large plaque is on display at this location because it marks the section that was set aside for victims of an epidemic of influenza that moved through the region between 1916 and 1923.

“During the roaring 20’s, all of the Drumheller Valley communities were coal towns. From gambling and bootlegging to strikes and racial tension, the valley was full of action and entertainment.”  This information and image collected here.

On my great uncle’s death certificate the cause of death is listed as typhoid, but these were the years of the Great Influenza Pandemic between 1916 and 1926.  John Haddow passed in 1921.  He was fortunate that it wasn’t necessary to bury him in one of the common graves.  He was a young man, only 38 years of age, with a wife, Mary Boyd and two children, John and Edith.

I have previously located Mary Boyd Haddow McLennan’s resting place in the Queen’s Park Cemetery in Calgary, along with her son, John ‘Jack’ Boyd Haddow.  It is a generous thing that someone provided a new headstone and saw that Edith could rest along side her father in Drumheller.  Now I am very interested in finding those individuals who loved Edith into her later years as we, also, are connected by our history.

When Max and I headed east to check out the little hamlet of East Coulee, I felt really blessed that I had located two of my relations.  I am enjoying learning about each character’s life as I go.  I’m going to assume that John found work as a coal miner as there were so many opportunities at the time, in this location.  (LOOKY HERE! Within an hour of this writing, a dear distant cousin on the Haddow-side, wrote to me and told me…”Jack was a rancher in Drumheller … he raised cattle and was a cowboy.”  Mystery solved!  Thank you, Anne! And now I shall have to delve into the ranching history of the area!  Looking forward to it.) I thought about all of this as I looked at the coulees, hills and hoodoos on both sides of the road, undulating and richly-coloured in mauves, taupes and rose layers.  Vegetation was sparse apart from the dash of bright yellow in the brown-eyed susans.

On the way back to the city of Drumheller, I stopped at a wee shop and bought myself a double scoop ice cream cone…maple walnut…my Dad’s favourite.  It had been an exceptional day.

5 thoughts on “Searching Out the Ancestors

  1. I am so impressed with your journey Kath. My sister Deanna is our genealogist so rely on her for distant family stories… but reading your stories makes me think that one day I too may search again. Love you. Rita

  2. I have been doing a lot of genealogical research this summer and have found out some fascinating things. It’s great that you are doing this; one day your children will be very grateful you did.

  3. I think I have mentioned before that I have been involved with tracking down my past through Ancestry.com although my subscription has now lapsed. It was absorbing and fascinating but I reached a point where it all became too complex and full of too many dead ends. Because I can no longer, like you, explore the original roots, due to their location in England, it all became too academic. I once stood in a graveyard in Cornwall and looked at the moss covered headstones of my dad’s ancestors. In a row, all five had my name inscribed in stone – I felt like a ghost…

    • John, what a powerful and mystical moment that must have been! I hope to one day go to several locations in England…Ireland and France to visit places that I have now researched and know are related to my early family. On the French side, I have some interesting tales to verify coming out of the Great Expulsion and family that ended up in Louisiana as a result. A resourceful family though, in that most went into hiding throughout the Atlantic provinces.

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