London Graveyard

Who Was David?

Hi Mom, I decided that maybe the best way to tell these stories I’m collecting is to tell them to you. It was for you I decided to start this research, so it seems apt that to you I should tell them to.  The whole deep dive into the past helped me to cope with the loss of you, and do you know how often I’ve said to myself, “damn it Mom, I wish you were here to ask.”

From Great Aunt Jen whose spirit has stood by and watched over us all, to the echoes of her brother Josephs steps as his hand ran down that bannister that last morning on his way to the barn. They have helped me more than you could know. With each step I took, with each door to my ancestors I unlocked, with each death notice, with each baptism record, I mended the hole your death had created.

About this time in 2012, a few weeks before Tim died, I had been deep into this project again; you know, finding dates, and struggling to push back just ONE more generation. Going on wild goose hunts, and invaluable leads from new cousins. These ancestors had once again provided me with a coping mechanism that sustained me. He was in constant pain, he was scared, and he was days away from the end. I was taking a break from all that though, sitting by his bed, watching out the sliding glass door to the world beyond. He turns to me and says, whether within delirium or second sight I will never know, but he says that he saw this stream of people going past the bed, and they were all wearing real old fashion clothes… the men in suits, the women long dresses, he said. And over to me I guess they strode, nodding as they went by. Acknowledging me, he said, and there was a good number of them, apparently.


You know I cared for him as I did you.

It reminded me actually of when you were dying, just before we took you home, and you told me that all the Doctors up there at the Old Vic had a ghost dog that stood by them. And you know what? I later learned that in fact they used to do some sort of research on animals there, years and years ago.  So perhaps you weren’t so delirious, and maybe neither was he.

Suppose you can’t actually reply directly, but maybe through hashing this out in this way you can speak to me somehow as I finally tell our tales.

Yet where should I start? And how? I’ve learned so much you know. So much that I never knew, and MOM, I think Grandma was wrong – they were not poor at all – they were rich in ways I’m just now beginning to unravel.

I used to think I knew so much, so many stories I was told, and things I thought I knew about these people. I have come to realize though that in our matriarchal ways, we have forgotten the tales of our fathers. I know so little of them, and who they were. I knew where they came from (or I thought I did), but not why, not how.  It’s taken years now to gather it all up.

First things first though, did you know there was another David? He was the older brother to our Great Great Grandpa John, and I don’t ever remember anyone mentioning him. Why?

John came over with him, with John’s reluctant wife Mary Jane, around the mid 1860’s, and they’re all listed in the 1870’s census just outside Lakeside, Ontario.

IMG_0005I lately find myself at long last warming up to this Mary Jane, if nothing else you have to admire her tenacity – when she became pregnant with their first child she insisted her and John go BACK to County Down, Northern Ireland. Aunt Helen told me that Mary Jane, well I guess she insisted her first-born would be born Irish, so back her and John trooped back to Northern Ireland around 1875. I wonder if she thought maybe once home she could convince him  to stay?

Remind you of anyone?

Well, if so then she failed, since in 1880 they all trooped back – John, Mary Jane, with 3-year-old David, and barely 1-year-old Judith (called Jen). And there they all are in that year’s census up near Lakeside, squeezed in with John’s older brother David and his new family. It’s not until a decade later in the 1890’s they’ve bought land in North Oxford just there in Banner.

But that’s not why I decided to write to you, I decided to write because this Great Uncle David has intrigued me these last years. That summer day, one maybe, what? Two years after you died? Anywho, that summer day when Lexi and I took that tour around on our hunt for ancestors. Cruising down those old dirt roads that I’m sure you knew so well. Of course, rather than crop touring with friends, we were hunting dead people and graveyards.

I had just discovered David the week previous, but I knew very little else about him, as he was almost 10 years older than our Great Grandpa John, and I suppose back then Lakeside would have been far away.

I knew approximately where the house would have been, but by that late August day there was nothing left at all for us to see. I suppose the house fell down years and years ago.

Disappointed, but none the less still thirsty for more tombstones, we ventured around to the little town of Lakeside. It was right at the outskirts that we came across the most quaint white clapboard Anglican Church, with a beautiful little treed cemetery surrounding it. So we stopped the car, and just with all the other graveyards we had come across, we wandered aimlessly amongst the stones. It was when we were coming around the back of that steepled little church that we found them.

I had gone ahead and saw off to the side this one lone stone, right at the fenceline – old and chipped, and covered in lichen. On it read – David William 11 years, 5 Months, and 7 days {sheesh, do you think these folks could come up with more original names? Confusing as all hell}. Well, and standing just beside that ancient stone, stood a large new marble family stone, and there they were – Great Uncle David ( who had found and wedded his own Mary Jane) and with them were buried the 7 of their children, two Margaret’s, and two Mary Janes, another little David and an Elizabeth, another Joseph and toddler Samuel.

It broke our hearts. David and Mary Jane lived both to ripe old age, but around them lay the remains of their little ones who had not made it out of innocence. In different years, at different seasons they had died. Eleven year old David was the oldest of them.

We’d been to Thamesford and saw the grave of David and Mary Jane’s youngest, Joseph in that little white-picket fenced cemetery right on the main street.

And both the girls that lived met and married local boys, and it is one of their grandchildren that has helped me to put together all these fragmented pieces of this puzzle. And, I also know that another two boys, another David William ( of course ) and a Daniel, married and moved out west to Saskatchewan.

We’ve acquired quite a few new cousins you know over the years, but if it were not for that one up in Yellowknife, this all would have been a far more arduous sleuthing, let me tell ya.

Ok, I should go and get ready now. Dad and MsB will be here at any time to pick me up. They’re up for a while. Mom, you would really like her. And man oh man, does she love Dad. Heck who am I kidding, you probably had something to do with them finding each other again, as you well know, he met her down there that January day that same year he met you up here in Canada.

I know you Mom, and I know you would only have wanted Dad’s happiness, and he is. We all are…finally. Even me.

With all that’s gone on though, all these years, the divorce and the deaths, I have carried around inside me these stories you and Grandma told me, and with them I have bended back the folds of time and discovered even more.

thank you


Love Paula

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