Happy Hallowe’en

Mouse batteries dead in my usual computer, and not a new battery in the house. But pets in costumes German Shepherd pixieluckily I have pets in costumes pics on my laptop. As if there aren’t always ‘stupid pet pics’ on any computer of mine! So in case you need some inspiration to dress up your dog, cat, kid or self on this eve of All Saints’ Day, here you go.

Three dogs and one cat, for your viewing pleasure, present:

Pets in Costumes

Cat with clown hat 

dogs dressed up on front porch    dog with bows in hair and around neck   Elvis costume and poodle in purple and leopard skin outfit    tricked out Shepherd pixie lying on floor

And at the end of the day you can only hope you get enough treats and not too many tricks.

For those feeling the full power of Hurricane Sandy and whatever else is happening with weather patterns right now, we are all thinking of you.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Oct. 28/12)

Doctors Cat and Zhivago

discussion dinner at Sally'sA cat talking stick and the hope that Lewis would burst through the café door as if he’d just crossed the Russian steppes. The show was book covers for me this week.

Sally explaining cat talking stickMonday saw Sally using skills as a facilitator that she must have learned from some self-help book. She did it very well, I thought, and seemed delighted to be putting theory into practice. Using the cat pepper grinder as a “talking stick” was brilliant, as were the cat salt and peppers themselves. Oh yes, I googled them, hoping they were available for sale but I couldn’t find them.

Ryan with catThe evening of speaking openly and freely hasn’t really improved anything for Michelle and Ryan but that’s not Sally’s fault. Things became remarkably worse quickly, with Tracy pregnant and with Tracy and Ryan both moving in with Steve and Michelle (and Amy – where’s she?). I don’t think I can bear watching hijinks in a ‘blended’ McDonald-Connor household and can only pray it ends quickly.

Russian Night

All kinds of stuff happened, including Lewis going walkabout from the train on which he and Audrey were returning to England.  Audrey decided to face the gossip and attend Emily’s birthday party. It was being held at the café during Mary’s Russian Night extravaganza. Gail decided to suck it up and give her mother moral support by going with her to the Bistro’s “competition”.Audrey and Gail leaving Russian Night

I knew Lewis would return to Audrey. And, as Lara’s Theme from Dr. Zhivago played and Norris (the Weatherfield branch of the KGB as Audrey telling Norris the truth about the mystery visitorNick put it) grilled Audrey, I waited for the door to blow open and Lewis, preferably wearing a big fur hat, to blow in. Alas, it didn’t happen. Instead, Audrey told Norris the truth, as she feared it might be, and she and Gail left. She groused about being a fool and her leopard not having changed his spots after all.

She didn’t notice the black car parked on the street by Gail’s house. And she didn’t notice the driver in it – Lewis, of course. Although the Lewis drives off streetwindows of the car appeared to be rolled up, he seemed to have heard what she said. And he drove off. And, like Lara, my heart broke.

Austin Anger, a story

My cousin Lynda Sykes wrote this story about our grandfather Austin Anger. She and Austin Anger - grandpa giving whisker rubher mother had dug out some old family pictures. Among them was the one here of Grandpa giving her a “whisker rub” that she describes in her story. The photo was taken July 13, 1963 on Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary.

All of us grandkids remember Grandpa as Lynda describes him here. His unique use of language, his sense of humour and his affection for us.  Fortunately, we also have Lynda and her ability to capture our memories in words.  So thanks, Lynda, for allowing me to reprint this here. Tap on her story to enlarge it, or see the text of it below.

Austin Anger story by Lynda Sykes
Click/tap to see larger view

Austin Anger

“Hearty man eat a toad! “I saw ya’ mugging’ that thar feller!” “Gamma, birdie go up!” Phrases that whirl in my memory, like warm, hearty alphabet soup that sticks to your ribs.

I sneak up behind the old, over-stuffed armchair and smack his shiny, bald cranium so hard it sounds like a beaver tail hitting the water, then retreat like a chipmunk at a safe distance. He pretends not to notice and busily rustles his paper. I creep up again, every muscle, tingling and tense, prepared to run. My little hand, quick as a garter snake’s tongue, darts out toward the cranium. A bolt of lightning streaks over his shoulder and latches onto my arm, pulling me over the back of the chair with the ease of a ripple. “Comere, ya’ long-eared Indian!” Laughing and screeching, I struggle, all arms and legs like writhing worms, against a grip like a vice; strong, tensile, tender pressure. He presses my cheek against his and rubs sandpaper against soft flesh until I am nearly raw. I try to bury my face in his neck, away from the sandy cheek, and my breathless laughter finds he even tastes like a Grandpa, all grit and salt. This; our little ritual.

He sits at the kitchen table playing solitaire. I slip my arms around his neck and nestle my head next to his. He always seems to be in need of a shave. What little bit of a ring of fuzz he has left for hair tickles my ears. He smells of tobacco and good, honest sweat. A big, rough, gruff, handsome man. There are no hugs or side-glance kisses; just me, draped loosely around his neck, like a favourite tie after church on Sunday. Not a word is spoken between us. He simply continues to play solitaire, and cheats like a bandit.

When the rest of the world looked at me, it saw a piece of gravel. When my grandfather looked at me, he saw a DIAMOND. And I never looked in that man’s eyes, but what I saw it there.

Lynda Sykes © 1990

Amazon link for Because We Are Canadians book
Lynda Sykes is the editor of a WWII battlefield memoir entitled Because We Are Canadians by the late Charles Kipp of Delmer, Ontario. It’s a really good read, and so is the forward which is written by Pierre Berton. (Click the image or highlighted title for a link to it on Amazon.)

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Oct. 21/12)

Xtreme Fag Hag*

An actor and character this week instead of a scene. Charlie Condou has been fabulous, in my opinion, portraying Marcus Confused.

Marcus with Maria at hospitalIt’s been clear for some time that Maria developed more feelings for Marcus than appropriate for a straight woman towards her gay male friend. But this week, in the highly wrought emotional environment of Maria’s cancer scare, Marcus tipped over the edge from support superman to a man who enjoyed a kiss from a woman. Indeed enjoyed it so much that he initiated another. Nothing wrong with that. Except that both are in relationships with other people, and the man is gay.

Some have not liked this storyline, saying that Marcus has always been gay and will always be gay. Ok, but what’s wrong with showing a bit of the complexity of human emotions and sexual responses?

Marcus Confused

Charlie Condou is showing us a man shaken to his very core by his actions. As Marcus Marcus and Maria kisssaid to Maria, he had never done this before – kiss a woman. In his distress about what this means and his guilt, he lashes out at his lover and goes on an all night bender. Next day he looks truly hung-over. He is uncomfortable around Maria, Jason, Aiden, Sean – even himself.

We knew that somehow Maria’s infatuation with Marcus was going to come out. I am glad that it’s being done this way instead of some ham-handed action on her part to convert him or convince him that he really is Marcus watches only Maria at Eileen's partystraight. As it played out, she was really as surprised by their kiss as Marcus was and as uncomfortable about the change in their relationship and the ramifications for everything. Post-kiss, he looks meaningfully at her as much as she at him. Both are equally uncomfortable with their men. Both just want to forget it ever happened, and neither can.

The actors are softly presenting themselves and their dilemma in a storyline that would be very easy to overact. Charlie Condou, in particular, has gone from strength to Marcus hung over talking to Mariastrength, I think. He started as Sean’s boyfriend, very nice but kind of bland without any edges written into him, to a strong character. He’s still very nice but his edges and layers now show. I don’t think that Marcus is going to decide he’s straight and run off with Maria – I hope not anyway. But I think it’s good that he is showing us the complicated depths of the human psyche.

Departing executive producer Phil Collinson has created some of the best Corrie storylines about sexuality and ‘alternative lifestyles’. I hope that the ground he has opened up continues to be explored.

* I googled fag hag to see if this term was still known and if I’d be offending anyone by using it. Yes to the first and probably not to the second, it seems. In the course of that, I found a 1980 book by John Malone that sounds interesting. Text link goes to Amazon.ca for Straight women/gay men: A special relationship.  Enjoy.

That Good Night

I have always loved Dylan Thomas’ exhortation to his dying father: Do not go gentle Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Nightinto that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas on cover of poetry bookYes, I thought, “old age should burn and rage at close of day.” But Dylan Thomas knew something I didn’t, I think, even when he wrote those words. He was still a young man, but he knew something that becomes apparent with age: sometimes it’s time to hang up your hat and say goodbye.

Evidently, he never showed the poem to his father. He wrote it for himself – the child pleading to, and for, the father. He knew, maybe, that what his dad wanted was to go peacefully and quietly.

My Mother

Mom holding dog Feb 2012Four weeks ago my mother, my remaining parent, died. I know in my sensible brain that it’s good that her death was quick and peaceful. But there’s another part of me that says no, you should have fought to stay, you can’t leave me. It doesn’t matter how old you are: when you lose your final parent, you feel orphaned.

What will you do without parents? Driving through our hometown, my brother tried to remember the name of people who used to live in a house near ours. “There’s nobody to ask now,” he realized, “I’m the one they’ll come to now for answers and I don’t know. Mom knew.”

You lose your family’s corporate memory when your parents die; all the little bits of information about whose house was whose, where the neighbours moved to, what their dog’s name was. Does it matter? Ruby-1939-Pine-StYes, in the history of a community or family. No, in the continued existence of that community or family. Other families become the old neighbours who moved away, the next generation become the family elders. But, like with photocopying, with each generation there’s a loss of the depth and colour of the original.

My mother had Alzheimer’s for the past few years. She still knew us but didn’t remember many other people. I hated the disease. I hated seeing her sharp mind shut down. Cried, after leaving her, when she asked “who’s X?” when X was a family member. Cried even more when she stopped asking, stopped trying to figure out who people were.

However, as she accepted her dementia and came to terms with it, so did I. Often I’d wonder about something and think I’ll ask Mom, then would remember she wouldn’t Ruby Grace Burwell Anger obit that good nightknow any longer. After her death, I caught myself taking pictures because “Mom will want to see this,” only to remember she was gone. But it wasn’t the huge shock to me that it would be if she’d had her mental faculties intact.

Maybe that’s a gift that Alzheimer’s gives survivors. You’ve had to come to terms with losing your loved one before she or he is actually gone from this life. It is a gradual process, thereby maybe gentler at the ultimate end. Maybe, as Dylan Thomas’ dad knew, that’s what we all wish for at the end, going gentle into that good night. My mother went gently, and for that I’m glad.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Oct. 14/12)

Roller Derby

Classic. Fifty-two years of Corrie ethos and culture illustrated Monday in a few brief Tracy and Michelle with rollers fighting in streetmoments by Michelle and Tracy – in rollers. Comedy, family history, strong women, intergenerational conflict, your life lived in the street as much as in your home, community relations as spectator sport. It was all there in their cat fight.

Dennis Tanner said it best, “It’s times like this I can’t help thinking about my mum.” Elsie Son Dennis hauling Elsie Tanner off Ena Sharples in streetTanner would have felt as if she’d never left the street.

Tracy followed Michelle into Audrey’s salon, then sat baiting her about Ryan and how wonderful he is, how generous etc. etc. Michelle getting so angry she was literally rising out of the chair but tried to stifle herself. Until she couldn’t take it any longer.


putting rollers in their hairDo hairdressers use rollers any more? I wondered when David was putting rollers in Tracy’s hair, then Maria did the same with Michelle’s. I still don’t know the answer, but I quickly saw the point of using them in this scene. Just for visuals of two angry women going at each other, each with great big, different coloured bobble heads.

The staff shocked but David pushing Tracy and Michelle toward salon dooramused.Two elderly clients waiting in the background and getting their money’s worth in entertainment. Then David pushing them through the door, “take it outside.”

So the whole neighbourhood got to watch and intervene, or not. Dennis Tanner included. How lovely. Michelle telling Ryan off while Dennis watchesRyan, seeing his mother and his purported girlfriend going at it in the street, left his customers at the counter of the kebab shop and ran over to see what was happening. And finally, Michelle told him what she should have said a long time ago: “My house, my rules. You don’t like it, get out.”

Ken with Tracy who stands aghast at MichelleThat scene made enduring the past weeks of the Tracy and Ryan gagfest worthwhile. And it wouldn’t have been the same without the rollers.

It was the rollers on this book cover that hooked me. A how-to for vintage hair styles, make-up and accessories.

Ancestry Search

Thirty-three years ago I started doing Newfoundland Mi’kmaq genealogies. Over the years, I’ve added and corrected information and marked changes in families. This Mi'kmaq Ancestry Tony John Glenwood Nfld 1997weekend, I sadly updated the database with the death date for Tony John of Glenwood.  

FNI President and Vice-President Tony John and Calvin White hired me to do family history research in central Newfoundland. Tony’s parents, Greg and Mary, became my “Glenwood parents.” Tony never needed help tracing his own Mi’kmaq roots; he knew his family ancestry through his father’s side and his mother’s, the Francis family of Clarke’s Head.

Tony was instrumental in establishing a political voice in the 1970s and in getting recognition and rights for all Newfoundland Mi’kmaq. Thank you, Tony, you will be missed.

Mi’kmaq Ancestry

For those of you searching for information and documents about your Newfoundland Mi’kmaq ancestry, it can be difficult and time-consuming but doable. Start with the internet if you don’t have family or neighbours to ask. (I have links for family trees that I found good, and also books that give Newfoundland family or community history.)

Google a name or a pair of names, husband and wife or parent and child. I add Newfoundland in my search phrase to weed out those of the same name(s) from elsewhere. Same thing with community names or regions: without adding Newfoundland, you also may get material from elsewhere. For example, “Bay of Islands” alone will give you New Zealand sources as well as Newfoundland.

To find a husband and wife, I try their first names and his surname. You’ll have better luck getting records for their children that may not have the mother’s maiden name on them. You might also luck into their marriage record that likely will have her birth name.

How to calculate ‘greats’ and ‘removes’. Click to enlarge.

You’ll find other people’s ancestry pages and discussion forums. With large genealogy sites, see if there is an index of names or use an internal search box. With genforums, people’s questions often can provide answers to your own questions. If someone says “X’s wife’s name might be Y,” search for X and Y together and see if you find more.

If they’re available, look at sources in online genealogies. They usually are numbered endnotes that say where the information came from. You need this information if you want to get the actual record itself.

Church Records and Archives

If you’re looking for church records, don’t just assume that if your family is of a particular religion now, that your ancestors were all married within that Church. Many people were married by whatever minister was handy. Sometimes you’ll find different marriage dates. This discrepancy may be explained by Church and unofficial marriage. If clergy were not available, people may be married “by the custom of the country”, by a layreader or someone who presumably said “time you two got married.”

For documents, the Provincial Archives is your best bet. There is a fee, of course, for their service. You can contact the Church itself for parish records. Some have their records and others have sent them to the Archives. Again there is a fee and, whether Church or Archives, the more information you provide, the faster will be their search.

Few records actually have anything indicating ethnic ancestry on them. Your best bet for that is some census years that included it. Newfoundland census information is online but ethnic identification was not included in the transcription. The Archives have the originals. Reliability of information varies between census district and year.

Name Variations

And spelling variations of surnames! There are some well-known ones, like LeBlanc/White and LeJeune/Young but others you might not think of. Swyers might be Swyer, Swoir(s) or even Squires. Sometimes the difference in spelling means they are from different families and sometimes it’s just different spellings for the same people. You have to judge each one as you encounter it. If you can’t find someone under one name, type in variations. In long lists like Church records, if I’m not sure, I just type the first few letters in my search box and see what comes up.

Names like Young, White and Bennett may have been anglicized but also might not have been. You might think, good, I’ve found a Young, must be the Acadien/Mi’kmaq ones, but not necessarily. They may be different and unrelated families.

First names also vary significantly. Samuel and Lemuel for instance – likely same person. Some Church records have the Latin forms of first names, so Jacobi was probably known as James; Joannes, and variations, as John. There are also a lot of people with the same name married to people with the same name in the same region. So the John White married to Mary Young you find may not be the ones you are looking for. Look for corroborating information – place of birth, baptism date, name of a parent, sibling or child to be sure you’ve got the right ones.

Record Keeping

Question marks and sources are your new BFFs. Note where you got a piece of information. You won’t remember later. And if you or your source is unsure of anything, note that too because you’ll forget that uncertainty later.

Amazon link for Family Tree Maker 2012
Click for Amazon link

I have switched to Family Tree Maker 2012 and am still learning how to use it. Quite different than my favourite 2006 version. You’ll see I am slowly going through your queries but please be patient. Learning a new system means it takes me even longer than usual to find anything relevant for you. If I don’t reply, it means I have nothing useful. While I would like to tell you that directly, I don’t want to clog up the comments with “sorry, got nothing.”

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Oct. 7/12)

Tick Tock

A quiet build up of scary tension in four parts Thursday. Kirsty, wound tighter than a Kirsty nervously holds Ruby - tick tock timeclock on a time bomb. Wait – that’s just what she is! The baby is crying and fussing, and Kirsty is tired. You don’t notice the signs of tiredness as much as the signs of tension at the breaking point. She’s calm on the surface and trying to show Tyrone she can handle it alone.

He goes back to work but he’s worried about the baby and Kirsty. Kev doesn’t want him to take off for 10 minutes to check. They’ve got work to do. So Fiz and Sally go, with Tyrone’s reluctant agreement. He knows what the sight of Fiz will do to Ms Nutbar and hopes Sally will alleviate Kirsty’s suspicions and animosity.

Kirsty telling Fizz and Sally she needs nothing from themDoesn’t quite work that way. The tension that started in the audience, at least in me, at the first sight of tight, controlled Kirsty, builds when Fiz and Sally come in. Fiz is wary and, given her druthers, would leave. But Sally blithely pushes her way in, oh we can help, we’ve been through it too, let’s put the kettle on.

“Get out!”

Kirsty stalking around the room, ready to kirsty takes baby from sallypounce on them if they disturb the baby. She’s absolutely aghast when Sally just picks little Ruby up and cuddles her. Whew, she doesn’t attack Sally with talons out, snatching the baby back. Well, not quite immediately. She soon does, saying the baby (who is quiet as a mouse) needs changing. When Sally says she can change her and doesn’t hand Ruby back, Kirsty does take her and tells her visitors to get out. They do.

Kirsty screams at baby - tick tock buildsNext look in, the baby is fussing and Kirsty loses it. She pushes everything off the kitchen table. She picks up the baby’s mobile from in front of her little cot and throws it. Finally, she screams at the baby – what is it you want from me. But she doesn’t touch her, this time.

Tyrone keeps baby awayWe come back to them as Kirsty is cleaning up the mess she made and Tyrone comes in. Thank heavens, I think. And he, despite his willingness to put up with Kirsty’s abuse of him, shows his fear of her behaviour and his absolute unwillingness to put his daughter at risk. He turns his back to Kirsty, with the baby in his arms, when she wants to take Ruby. Then he takes her to the medical clinic, just in case she is hurt. Good for you, Tyrone.

Kirsty beseeching Tyrone to stay with babyAnd good for you, Natalie Gumede. You created a wonderfully done portrait of violence and paranoia and danger. And building tension. Tick tock.