Saturday, July 7, 2018

Two steps forward, six steps back

The Johnston House, built by Gen. -3 and miraculously still
standing, although admittedly on its last legs
Dear Joe III, Nicholas, Clara, Caleb, Grace and Jewel:

One of the things Cousin Betty (Imlay, from Halifax) and I do is work together to piece out the family tree. We don’t do this with deadly seriousness. It’s more like a casual hobby we have played with the past couple of decades, a practice that actually began when I was young and spending the summers in Manchester, outside of Boylston, in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia. Betty was living there with her aunt, my great aunt Carrie, and Uncle Charlie Simpson. In those days my father’s many uncles were still alive and we went from one household to another visiting them all in turn on a regular basis. There wasn’t much to do in those days. Households commonly lacked indoor plumbing. Telephones were a rarity. They themselves had grown up with horses and buggies.

Visiting meant sitting around and talking. A couple uncles were great story tellers. And everybody knew everybody else. The women, especially Aunt Carrie, would keep track of all the aunts, uncles and cousins and could rattle them off as if they were listing the names of their own children. One of the things I would do if I could go back in time with paper and pencil would be to capture this information. At the time it didn’t strike me as relevant to my life. I think most young people care little or nothing about the folks who came before. It’s in the nature of things. If a curiosity develops at all, it is likely to come only with the passing of time.

In 2012, I came across this online program called Family Echo, a program for making family trees. That got me started and curious about filling in the missing pieces. Over the years, I have made 295 entries onto my personal family tree, spreading back from my mother and father to their mothers and fathers, and siblings. I could make a lot more entries, because each entry could build an entire tree of its own. But I’ve stuck to people I have known or who have had a direct blood relationship to those people, including myself.

I believe I’ve reached the end of what I can accomplish short of going to archives and doing this in a more thorough way. There’s more to do on the Johnston line, but I thought I’d pause and send this to you just for the fun of it.

If we were chronicling the ancestry of some European nobility, we’d simply move through the male line from son to father, to his father, to his father, etc.

But we are not nobility, and we can only go back four generations from Generation Zero (I get to call it Generation Zero since I’m the one doing the data collection – there is no meaning to zero other than as a marker of an arbitrary starting place.) And I see no reason to slight the role of females in keeping track of who made life possible for us all. Mostly, in any case, I have what information I have managed to piece together that others have made available to me.

Someday, I might go to the Mormon archives in Salt Lake City and do a more thorough search. Not likely, since I am not as comfortable traveling as I once was. More likely, but still not all that likely, is the possibility of getting to the Nova Scotia archives in Halifax – or persuade one of you Nova Scotians to do that search for me.

In any case, here are the pieces of the ancestry puzzle I have been able to assemble. They are just a handful of the 295 names I have managed to put on my family tree. If you’d like to see all the names and family connections, let me know and I’ll send you the link.

What I am presenting to you here is information selected for its direct line relevance to you. It takes you back through several family lines: Onion-McCornick-Johnston-Nickerson to Charles Nickerson, who was born in the late 1700s.

Because I don’t have the birthdays of the people in Generations -5 and -6, I’m arbitrarily using 26 as the age of parenting. I arrived at that number by looking at the age of parenting in the succeeding generations (the number in parentheses after their birthyears.) Not a reliable figure, but “good enough for government work.”

That would mean we can trace your bloodline back to the time of the American Revolution.

I have no expectation that you will do anything with this. I just thought I’d share with you one of the things I do when I get tired of watching the news, streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime, and reading.

I enjoyed meeting Joe III and Nicky and Clara when Taku and I were able to get to Winsted for a quick visit last May. Hope to see you all – perhaps especially Caleb since you were just a baby when I last saw you, and Grace and Jewel whom I’ve never met at all!

All good wishes to you of the Plus-2 generation.




Great great great great great great grandparent
Charles Nickerson
1783? (26 est.)
Great great great great great grandparent
John and Eunice Nickerson
1809? (26 est.)
Great great great great grandparent
Sophia and James Nickerson; Margaret and Robert Johnston
1835 (32)
Great great great grandparent
Mary Nickerson and Thomas Johnston
1867 (25)
Great great grandparent
Mabel Johnston
1892 (24)
Great grandparent
John McCornick
1916 (29)
Karen Onion
1945 (17)
Joseph Onion Jr., Julie Halfpenny
Joe III and Nicholas Onion; Clara, Caleb, Grace, Jewel Halfpenny

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