Digging Up Roots and Gathering Life Stories

“Times were hard in Scotland, and Grandfather Wilson saw little prospect of any better for his children. So after learning all he could about the new land, he decided to come to Canada…..”

Thus begins Anne Isobel Wilson’s account of her family’s immigration from Scotland to Canada in 1843. The author of the document is a daughter of James, a son George and Margaret Wilson who was just three years old when his parents packed up five children and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to begin a new life in Canada.

“Grandfather and grandmother built a log house with an earthen floor, in which they were still living with a family of eight when, a few years later on a fine June day, 21 Hills, relatives of grandmother Wilson, arrived from Scotland. They were warmly welcomed and after a visit, they moved on to Hibbert township, where descendants are still living.”

Anne Wilson’s story is my story. Her grandparents, George and Margaret Wilson, are my great-great-grandparents. Their decision to leave Scotland is the reason I hail from North America, not Scotland. The American branch of Wilsons first staked a claim on American soil when my grandfather, Charles Lorne Wilson, fell in love with a girl from Indiana. They married and had four sons, including my father.

The Indiana Wilson clan gathered on a beautiful early autumn Saturday recently to renew family ties and to welcome a distant Canadian cousin to the party. Of the four sons born to Charles Lorne Wilson and his wife, Ruby, just one — my father — is still living. It was Dad’s desire to see his nieces and nephews, and to invite the Canadian Wilsons, that made our reunion a reality.

One hundred years ago, Canadian Wilsons held a similar gathering at the George and Margaret Wilson homestead.

The Indiana Wilsons have roots, they have a heritage and are a living legacy to the hardiness of a clan of Scots men and women who settled and flourished in Ontario, Canada.

So the story continues. We Wilsons, looking a little less somber and a little more casual, arranged ourselves under the trees in a county park to carry on the family tradition of gathering to share life. It was a good day.

The Indiana Wilsons gathered recently to celebrate their heritage and to renew family connections. In the group were a Canadian cousin and his wife, who made the trek from Ontario to northeast Indiana . And so the story continues.

The Indiana Wilsons know of their ancestors’ lives, their trials and their adventures, because those ancestors recorded them, and because others preserved those records and handed them down. Six generations later, I’m able to share with my own children the lineage that ties them to homesteaders who entered North America through Quebec and the Saint Lawrence River. Because others valued story and legacy enough to gather the threads of our heritage, we have roots.

Author and theologian Frederick Buechner said this about stories:

“To lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.”

Today, the Indiana Wilson clan feels rich. Rich indeed.

 

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Life stories knit us together, whether to family or to others who just need to know they are not alone. In these 31 days of October, I’ll be exploring the importance of STORY. You can read all 31 days by following the links under “31 Days of Story”. Thank you for joining me!

Tomorrow: My “come to Jesus moment”. Do you have one, too?

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