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Unapologetically Canadian
Unapologetically Canadian

Episode 55 · 7 months ago

Writing up the ancestors with Janice Hamilton

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

It was a joy to speak with journalist and genealogist Janice Hamilton about her ancestors, her recent book "Reinventing Themselves," and surprises she's discovered while researching and writing her family history.

My name is Tracy Arial and I am an apologetically Canadian. Hello, Tra cerrial here, and it is Wednesday September twenty nine. This I record this and this week we are looking at history in three different ways actually. First of all, in the early part, I'm just going to talk a little bit about I am working on a blog post about the federal day of reconciliation tomorrow. There's going to be a little bit links to an interview I heard on on with Rosie on the CBC unreserved, and she didn't under with the person who actually ran the justice, who actually ran the the commission, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and I think that's an interview that everyone should hear. So I'm going to put a link to that. I'm going to put a link to the actual truth and really reconciliation reports that you can read it yourself, and I think that that that's something that every Canadian should read, at least the summary and if not the whole report, although its super listen belong, just so you can get an idea of what is actually going on here and how many tragedies were actually facing. I think that all of us learned a little bit more when Gordon Downey spoke about a runaway from a reservation school, but a residential school. But we've learned a lot more since then. We've been discovering grave sites on these residential schools. I think it's clear that there were some bad actors and the next step is really finding out who they were and bringing them to justice if we can, and at least telling the stories of the people that they that we should have had within Canadian society. When I look at the loss that Canada all suffered because of this program because of the decisions of these people, it's just horrific. I also on interview today. I have a really exciting interview with Dennis Hamilton. She is an extraordinary woman and she's been looking at some of her ancestors who lived between the two world wars and they were dealing as they were working with seances. I don't know if you've ever heard of that period of time when people were doing a lot of seances. I think when you consider we've only been through the covid whom, we have modern zoom and we have all sorts of ways of connecting with each other and making sure that we don't go through too much grief are. We have had deaths because of covid but they haven't been as excruciating as the deaths during World War One and during the Spanish flu. We are a lot more connected to each other and even given all that, after a year and a half it's really a bit wearing all of us, I think. So. Can you imagine if you went through four years of a world war are where many of the young people from aged from eighteen to twenty three in your family were sent over to war and either died or came back wounded? And then in two thousand and eighteen they had the Spanish flu and that lasted for three years so and in that case people actually in their communities saw the people die and and they actually had trouble burying them fast enough surfect month. They actually had to handle seeing people that they knew the dead bodies. And so we have had and of course they were in quarantine as well, so it's not like they could be buried and with funerals and remembered the way they should have. They also had to bury them as quickly as possible, if it could be happened, or or store them until they could be buried. Safely. So I can imagine what they the trauma that they went through.

And so Dennis has a great grandfather and a grandmother who as a in some ways as a response to all this grief, I think, because they had a son who died during that period, they created seances in order to bring back people who died and talk to them. And so what's interesting about this one is because they also this was the period of time when they were when photographer you as possible, and they were taking videos and photography, basically fast range photography, of what they were seeing. They were experimenting with it. They were experimenting with trying to create scientific regard, to try and to try and explain what they were to try and study and explain what they were learning to others. As jennis explains, they made a lot of mistakes. I think that there's the University of Winnipeg is put up the fabulous video of some of their research and some of the stock footage that they took at that time, and I think that people looking back at it are thinking that maybe they permitted fraud or because you can see that they're using gloves and all sorts of other things to free effects on the on the pictures. But I think what you have to remember to is this is a period of time of experimentation and they didn't know how to describe on film what they were experiencing in person and also what they were experiencing on perfect in person was really emotional response from from grief. So I think that the people who are criticizing all this period of time are are really missing the point of actually looking at what people were doing at this time. I think that it's a really good hint about how we can look at our ancestors and see what they were doing and try to take what they contributed to the lexicon and try and use it at the best way that we can. I think that it's clear we don't know why they were experimenting with these pictures. It's clear that they were, but and we don't know what happened in the seances, except that there's a really interesting letters in the in in the documents that from from very famous people who participated in these stances. So it's a fabulous collection to look at and I hope that you enjoy my interview with with Janis, who has been trying to take a modern scientific look at all of this and she explains in her stories that the scientific method that they were using would not be acceptable today because they, you know, they were trying to prove things that they already thought. They weren't actually testing experiments up to find out if what they thought was accurate. They were there were a ton of things. She doesn't know if somebody actually tried full the others in the room or if they was you know, there's a there's a lot of questions that this stuff brings up, but I think it's really worth listening and and Dennis is very, very good at pointing out all of her sources and I think you really love reading her stories. That also linked to the shorts for this episode. And so now enjoying my interview with Dennis. I'm we've been friends through Writers Association and then I joined her writing group, which has turned into genealogy on some and we have a common passion for writing and history and and it's been fascinating the kinds of discussions we've had over the years. So welcome to the PODCAST. Janis what led you to write? We're going to be talking about a your latest book, because you're an author, but can talk a little bit about your history as a writer and and and who you are basically. Well, I don't really regard myself...

...as a writer as much as a journalist, because I went to journalism school at Carlton Way Back when. And and then I went to the Yukon and one of the jobs that I had there was I edited a native newspaper which was it was at the time called the Yukon Indian News, which was their choice. Of course, all you know here the word Indian is not, not acceptable. But anyway, that's how long ago it was. It was in the S and you know, they were in the middle of Yukon native land claims and you know, I think there's still a middle of land claims that anyway, and then I worked for Canadian Press for some years and then when I got married and had kids, I started freelancing. So I've always done magazine work and various, you know, non fiction books. But basically, like I'm a my strength is in researching, I think, and, you know, putting it all together in a way that's readable and accessible. So that and then what happened was after the the kids were basically grown up and we had about a ten year period when we were traveling a lot and one of our very first trips was to Scotland, which was one of the places that I'd always really wanted to visit, and we were with a very small group tour and one of the other passengers was from Australia and she had been doing some genealogy and so we went to a few places where her ancestors were associated with and I said something about my McGregor ancestors and our tour guide says they were all cattle thieves and Ruffians and I didn't take that very well. Then I started to research my McGregor ancestor than I knew a little bit about and I just went on from there. And so she was on my mother's side actually, but then and then I've just gone back and forth between my mother's side and my father's side. And but I think all those research and writing skills that I developed as a journalist have stood me well as as emily story teller. So part part of what I do is as a genealogist, where you know you're you're trying to find out who was born to whom and when and when they died and and you know all those dates. But but the part that interests me, of course, is the people's lives and trying to not bring them back to life but I guess, just put some flesh on the bones and, you know, find out who they were and what they did and and sometimes we can identify with what they did and other times were horrified, but that's it's way, like many people, and when you have a like they say about small towns, to you know, sisters can be a group of smugglers and we're thieves, as you say. Or maybe they weren't and maybe they were very dedicated professional people who made a real impact on Canada. I should mention to listeners Janis has a blog called writing up to your ancestors, and see also the part, sorry, writing up the ancestors. Yes, yes, and she's also part of genealogy on Psalm, which is a group of us. There's nine women who rates short stories about our ancestors and we we take turns publishing them on a common blog and we have a writers group that's been going for many years now. I don't know how long it is, it's it's more than five years. Anyway. I've been meeting monthly for ten months of a year Yep, I think we...

...started, like I started my blog in two thousand and thirteen, the fall of two thousand and thirteen, and we had started the writing group before that. Because, yeah, because I'd already when I started the blog, I already had sort of a backlog of stories that already written and then we started genealogy on. So I'm probably couple of years later, but probably two thousand and sixteen anyway. I mean we've been going a long time. Yeah, yeah, because for a while there, for the first several years when I joined, we were just doing monthly meetings and it was almost a lesson type group in that many of the people who had who were part of the group, we're genealogists at heart, and they wanted to learn how to write their stories over time, those people who got into writing and enjoyed the process, which I mean both of us are journalists, so we both sat sort of take a journalism point of view about how to write the stories, which is that you try to it's a short story. We tend to write between five hundred and a thousand words and it tends to be have a point of view and it's a basically something happened in this person's life and then you describe who they were based on that something happening. And so I guess for this interview the something that's happened is your current book. That's right, and we're sort of balancing off the your current book which is about to be launched and we're really excited about it. And can you talk a little bit about your book? Actually one, and I I just realized I don't have a copy here. When I go get it and I can show it to you because I have the test copy. All right, I will pause the recording so we can show it. Wasn't that for a bird? Okay, God, I didn't know where and put it. Yeah, yeah, there. So it's reinventing themselves, right, reinventing themselves a history out of the Hamilton and forester families, right. So this gentleman here was Robert Hamilton, he dot, he was born in hundred seventeen eighty six and he and he died in one thousand eight, hundred and seventy five, and he was a weaver in Les Mihange, which is just south of Glasgow. A lot of Hamilton's live in that area and, leaving industry, got into trouble and he brought his family over to scarborough, Ontario, where a lot of people from Les Mahego had already settled in eighteen thirty. And the other family that I focused on is so he was my great, my great great grandfather. And then so then two generations later, my grandfather, Thomas Windy in Hamilton married Lily and forester. So then I also go back and I look at the forester family and they came from also from Scotland, and they settled in the Belleville area of Ontario and they started farming and and then both families eventually moved west and that's where Tag Hamilton and lily and forester met up. And and so those were my grandparents, my father's parents, right your father's parents, and then your father. How did he had? How did you end up in Montreal, because my mother's family was from Montreal. My parents met during the war in Ottawa and then my father got a job at University of Western Ontario because he was basically a scientist, and then he decided to get his medical degree because his everybody in his family kind of had been doctors. So anyway he decided to get his medical degree and and then he did his internship at the Montreal General Hospital and that kind of made my mother happy because she was back where she came from and, you know, had more family supports and so on.

So basically I grew up here for most of my life and came and went, you know, I left to go to university and left live in the Yukon. But basically Montreal's home, right and and the but your family, this is your father's family. So they you've always had ties in where in Ontario? Winnipeg, where all okay, so my father grew up in Winnipeg, but he really wasn't close to his family. So the only one I knew was was his sister, my aunt, because she used to come and visit Montreal because her her daughter lived near Montreal. So so my father used to sometimes go go west and visit his family. But really the to like my my parents, he wasn't that close to his family and my mother was, you know, she got along with them, but they weren't, you know, they it wasn't like a tight family unit. So exacstigation of this family then. Did you have a lot to go on when you started your book? Well, yes, because my aunt had done a lot of research and she had written an article that she called the story of the Canadian Hamilton's, as if they were the only Hamilton family in Canada. And of course she made the assumption that, oh, well, they must have been, you know, descended somehow in an illegitimate line from the Duke of Hamilton or something, and I go, I don't think so. So your first job in genealogy, back when you were first starting with to try and confirm some of this information and as you're taking it from a journalist side, you're questioning absolutely everything and try to exagger out whether or not and you found I remember, because we've known each other all through this time. We actually met when both of us were Writing Journalism magazine articles and we weren't doing that much family history at all. Thought of it. No, never had. I. You know, my mother used to talk about her family and I would roll my eyes. Yeah, which is let my kids do now. Yeah, yeah, so, so I say that, I say the book is for them, but I know that they really won't be interested for years. It's for the future them. It's a it's fascinating because so when you started looking into these this family, what did you because you found some mistakes right away in some of the documents. I mean, I've seems to me I remember. No, this wasn't about the Hamilton's in the foresters, but you were spending letters to the Canadian encyclopedia and all sorts of place it's to correct. Was it the Canadians? Likely, I don't know. That was another branch of the family. Yeah, that was correcting information from all of these places. Just I do, just to give listeners an idea. It was dictionary of Canadian biography and it was somebody on my mother's side and I had took like about two and a half years and four letters from me to get them to finally correct information. But I think that's partly just because they were understaffed and underbudgeted whatever, because, you know, they did eventually correct that. You know, it is rather annoying that that the you know, the source that is supposed you would expect what would be, you know, pretty accurate and in fact, I mean they they relied on somebody else's articles written back in the eighteen hundreds when people used to write whatever and they never checked sources. They would just, you know, like and to be fair, it was hard to check sources then because, yes, you know, you didn't have the Internet, you didn't have indexes to various files. A lot of files were kept with different branches of churches and you might actually have to travel all over the world in order to particularly fewer family where you're talking about...

Scotland, Ontario, Winnipeg. You're not going to be able to travel to every little tiny place that each one of these people came from. Yeah, and that's most would actually. Well, actually, I have been now to most of those places, but that was part of the fun of doing the research and all the other part part of the fun is I've met all these cousins that I never knew I had so about. I've got a much bigger family now than I had when I started. Can you talk a little bit about some of those trips, because I I've heard about stories about them as well. I mean, you've gone to send it you you you do like traveling to cemeteries. I know I sent I sent one of my friends these pictures of my my research rich and stuff and and he goes, but these are all cemetaries. Can you just talk a little bit about why a cemetery actually can be interesting to people who are interested in the lives of people who lived before now. Often there's in there's information on the gravestones that you wouldn't have found otherwise. And the other reason is that you know, like some of my ancestors are from the early eighteen hundreds or whatever. There's nothing tangible about them, but you find their grave and you know that, you know that they're there and and it's it's kind of like an opportunity to say hi. You know, I I know a little bit about you now and and I appreciate the sacrifices and the risks that you took and whatever you did in your life to to make because I'm you know, we're here because they were here and because of the decisions they they made. So it's just kind of like a little pilgrimage, I suppose to just to say hi and you're you're not forgotten. Can you talk a little bit about some of the surprising facts that you discovered about your family as you were doing some of your your research? Well, the biggest the biggest surprise was that I discovered that there was an illegitimate birth and and that happened basically for genealogical reasons because, you know, when you're doing gene theology, you're looking at you know who was the parent and what what the dates were and who were the siblings and you know when were they born and when did they die? Who did they marry? So so my great grandmother, Samantha Rickson, I knew nothing about, or I'd never heard my father mentioned her. And then after I started to research the Hamilton's and started to get in touch with various cousins, this one cousin who lived in Vancouver, she sent me some pictures and and this was a picture of Samantha and on the back we're written. It was written a little note that she was born and I think it was eighteen fifty something, and it said that her it didn't give any name for her mother. It just said her father was her father's name was Arthur Wellington Rixon and he died of typhoid when she was three years old. And later her mother went and moved to the states and married there to someone else and she lived with her grandparents and after that she went and lived with her aunt, Mrs Spennel, and that was it, you know. So that was like her story. That was all I knew about her. So, as a genealogist, you know, I started to look for the records of all the family and I found when her grandfather came from England and I find eventually we found out that her grandmother came from the United States. So, you know, I was building up the family and moving further and further back and her mother had okay,...

...so so. But the thing was that I wasn't finding any information about her father. So this was a this was like they were in rural Ontario, but and they were well documented, you know. You found them in the census, you found them in in various road construction reports. They were you know, they were they were not construction reports because when you lived in in there these rural towns, everybody had to do a little bit of work on the road and that was part of your and and so apparently her grandfather was listed there in a little town called Sapphiasburg, which is in Prince Edward County. And so I was finding all this information about them, but I couldn't find any information about her father, Arthur Willington Rexton, and so I you know, so eventually I hired a professional genealogist be because, I mean, some people want to do it all themselves, but when it's not by the time you pay to drive to a place for three days and you pay for your hotel and your meal and and you figure out where all the you know, the place is, the libraries that you might have to look and what you know, it's just it just seemed to me to be more economic to hire somebody who was very familiar with the local resources. So where was this person that you hired? She was in Coburg, Ontario. Okay, okay, see, you hired a researcher in Coburg to go the local, local person it was who knew, you know, where the different collections were, you know. So I didn't have to waste a lot of time. So anyway, so she came back and she said, well, usually when there's this little information about a person and as family that's this well documented, that there's something I miss. So my eventual conclusion was that my great grand mother and her brother were both born out of weblock and I came up with a possible father for her that I can't prove and I can't disprove, but you know, I think it might have been her cousin with her her mother's cousin, which would have explained why there was no marriage and why the family was so upset. And how do you know the family was accept set? Well, because most, I mean there were lots of births, like you know, UN want unexpected pregnancies, and usually the couple got married and that was the end of it. Right now, like no, didn't all wait until they were married, right? So, so it wasn't that it didn't happen, it's just that usually that everybody quietly said, okay, you know, you're getting married now and that's that's you know, you're stuck with each other, I guess. But it up. So you didn't find out that this potential father was already married or something else? That it so, I he didn't. He ended up marrying somebody else about ten years later and he ended up becoming a reverend in and going to a small town called Arthur in Wellington County Ontario. So and plus there's her marriage record, Mat Samantha Rickson, when she got married. You know, you're always asked when you look up the record, you're always asked who's your mother and WHO's your father? And she said that her mother was Martha Rickson and she said that her father was Thomas Rickson. So that you know. So, but the thing was her her grandfather was also Thomas Rickson. So that it's sort of that had set...

...me off because I thought, well, her father wasn't in her life. It's so maybe her grandfather was her her kind of you know, he was the person who played the father role in her life. So maybe she named her grandfather. But it turned out that there was another Thomas Rickson who was her mother's cousin. So anyway, that's my theory. I can't prove it, I can't disprove it, but it I think it's pretty good. And so you describe. The thing was that that in those days, you know, you have to you have to kind of think a little bit, like how did they think? Well, you know, a birth out of wedlock was shameful thing. So if her mother eventually went off to the United States and then they made up a story about about who the WHO the father was, then then they were trying to perhaps protect the mother's reputation because, you know, they were kind of an upwardly mobile family. They they you know, they were all religious and presbytery and and you know, this would have been quite shocking in those days, right, right, and so that was the most shocking thing, was the most what's the story you're most proud of in the in the in this book? I think that one. I think that's the same one, because that was the one that that took the most research. So you were really proud yourself on your research then. Yeah, yeah, I think, like I said, even as a journalist, I think that, you know, that was something that I've always done. Well, yeah, so and so and B and also because, as I say like this, this was a branch of the family that I I knew zero about. I've never even heard her name mentioned. I know you brought her to life and actually she's so she wrote a letter to my father, went Samantha did when when he was, I don't know, twelve years old or something, and she would I was living in California by that time, and she wrote in this nice little letter about how much she missed her grandchildren and Winnipeg and and and she talked about how she didn't she was getting old and she didn't sleep so well anymore and how sometimes she would get up in then in the early morning and she would go and and so things for little kitties who didn't have parents, loving parents of their own, and I thought, you know, this is a woman who's got empathy because she's been, you know, her own childhood would have been to hookled. So so to me that was really like part of what I felt was really bringing them to life and just you know, I don't want to be sort of reveal family secrets, but I just think that that was an important and part of her life and that and that would have impacted her because she, you know, she probably didn't have a very peaceful childhood. Yeah, Um, now what about you finish with the marriage of the Hamilton's in the foresters? Hmm, can you talk a little bit about how you why you focused on that particular couple? Well, because basically those are my grandparents. So I'm talking about the family kind of it's kind of like a funnel, I guess, you know, and I start with all all the ancestors who can't as far back as I could go, which in most cases was the seven settley at late seventeen hundreds or early eighteen hundreds. They were in Scotland and they came to Canada...

...and then and then, you know, I talked about some brant different branches of the family, but we're all kind of leading up to, you know, my grandparents. And then I talked a little bit about my aunt and my father and I got my cousin to write the chapter about her father. So my uncle, because somebody at the university manage all about this psychology professor and had interviewed him back in the s before he died. Now, like we all love our parents, but a lot of people don't bother to ask their parents questions about their lives until it's too late, right, or the parents maybe don't want to open up or whatever. So a lot of those stories get lost. But because of of the Hamilton families experiences with psychic research. So this particular professor who was psychology professor and he was interested in that research and he was going. My aunt was the one who was most involved and then she had died and my father had already died. So my uncle, who everybody thought wasn't interested at all, but anyway, he was the only one left. So he interviewed him and it turned out that he had been interested, but it was just that, you know, people used to tease him about it and you know, he just didn't so he didn't want to talk about it a lot, but in fact he was quite interested. But anyway, so this so like this another secret, but you didn't tell us what the secret is yet. Oh well, it's just that the fact that they did this, they did this research. But just let me finish about my uncle. So he so he had grown up, you know, during the nineteen s and s, and he then became a doctor and then he was in London during the war. So so he was in London during the bombing of London, and so I and then he came back and he practiced as a family physician and Winnipeg for many years. And so there was there was this wonderful interview with him opening up all about his war experiences and you know how he was interested in model railroads and you know, it was there was a lot of richness in that particular interview. That that my Coutin, my cousin. So she wrote, wrote the chapter about her father, which I think was and she turned out to do a beautiful job. And now she she'd worked as a nurse dollar life. She didn't really have writing experience, but it's interesting how many people just have that ability to write even though they they haven't tried it before, and that that happened with some of the people in Genealogy Asam they they had never been writers and they had absolutely just they were just born riders. They they know how to tell a story with warmth and humor and whatever. So anyway, yeah, no, it's true. But we were talking about the his concern because his parent, I guess it was his parents, who were the psychic researchers, right, and they actually have an entire archives about the well, the collection. There's the Hamilton family collection at the University of Man Jeba Archives which my aunt put together because also because what basically what happened was and and I guess we can all relate to this a little bit more now, because in the one thousand nine hundred and eighteen flew epidemic, which you know, we never really thought about it, but now we realized, Oh, I guess it was pretty tough. Oh, it is much tougher than what we're going through now. Because well, it was. This interview is happening during the COVID pandemic. Yeah, but ony, we're coming to it an end. But who knows,...

...hopefully on the way out of the COVID epidemic, but still in we still have confinement and we just finished last week or the week before, curfus and all sorts of things. Yes, and what a year and three months or something that's been sort of doing stay at home orders and all that kind of thing. But the Spanish flew that was started, we now know because of research done, in one thousand nine hundred and ninety eight. That was the military who spread it across Canada and at that time every little town had people dying and basically having to be stored and until you actually saw dead bodies during that flu epidemic, it was significantly more traumatic than what we're doing now and the pleasure was only just finishing. That's right. And plus a lot of people who died were young and healthy and they were the wage earners. So all of a sudden, you know, your you're the family bread winner, was gone, and it was it was I think it was pretty traumatic for a lot of people. So in what happened in my family, my my family, was that my father had a twin and he was the one in the family who died. He was three years old and so this, of course. So his mother was had trained as a nurse, his father was a family physician and they were just devastated that, you know, they were unable to save their son. So there was a lot of people at that time interested in in, you know, communicating with the dead, because so many people, either through the war or through the flu, had lost loved ones. So a lot of people were having science as my grandparents weren't the only one. But what was different about them was that they went into it in a really big way and they continue their seances for, you know, more than ten years, once a week at their house and they had a regular group of people and they would sit around and a darkened, you know, no light at all room, and they would hold hands and sing hymns and then they would have these appearances of what they would call Ectoplasm, which is sort of looks like, I don't know, cotton wool or something, and it would come out of the medium's face and orifices, and I mean it used to give me the theater, doesn't it so so any way, but because my father, my grandfather, was such a wellknown and very well respected physician and Winnipeg, you know, and he was just a very honest person. I think that he really did believe it, that it was real. I don't think that they would have wasted their time on it if it hadn't been something going on. But for whatever reason, I can you know, I'm a little I'm somewhat ambivalent that way people. Some people think, Oh, yes, I've heard about them, and other people just roll our eyes and their names, give their full names, because it's a Oh well, Thomas Glendenning Hamilton was my my grandfather and and and, and I mean his wife. Okay, so his wife was heavily involved in organizing everything. What was that name? But you won't Lillian Forester, but you won't find her name because he was like he was the one who, he talked to different groups. They traveled around the country, but he was the man. So as a woman, you know, that's why I like when, when, after my grandfather died and my grandmother put all this documentation and the photographs and everything together as a book, it was actually my father who added to the book because, you know, and it was his name on the book.

Her name is nowhere to be seen because she was a woman and I, and only man, had credibility, especially in the science and medical world at that time. Wow, that's that's depressing to learn to find out that she did so much of the work and didn't get any other credit. Well, I don't know, you know, that's that was the way I was. But you know, my theory is that she, you know, that she could have helped the mediums with their with their display there for yes, their performance. So I don't know. So it's you know, it's it's interesting. Good. People don't know that in Canada's history we had such a an appreciation for the occult, particularly between the two world worth. Yeah, yeah, so, anyway, that's part of my family history to yeah, and that was in Winnipeg. That was the every week for however long, you know, more than ten years, I forget, but also so. So, anyway, so my after my grandmother died, my she had put together all the notes and all the speeches, you know, because my grandfather went public with this and he started by talking to the Manitoba Medical Association about it and he went to London and he, you know, he went to New York and, you know, he be he became quite well known. And now, anyways, the paranormal but what did they call it then? Well, there's another name, which is spiritualism, but that's not what they were doing. Apparently it's more apparently it is more paranormal or, okay, psychics, psychical researchise what I've called it. So anyway. So a lot of their documents were given to the University of Manitoba Archives and I think when my I'm quite sure when my aunt gave it to them. You know, she thought that this is such a great example of the paranormal, but in fact it's used for other things. And then apparently that collection is the most popular and consulted collection at the University Manitoba Archives by all sorts of people. It's online. You could look at the pictures, you can. You know, there's a whole history of the Hamilton family there. All right, so, so, so there is just for people who are wondering about this. There's still all sorts of paranormal activity labs at various universities and colleges all over North America. I don't know if there is very much paranormal research in Canada now. I'm not familiar with it. Did you get in any sense of that when you know I haven't looked into that because that's like I've just I've talked to the archivists there and basically, you know, they've used the material to talk to people about grief and how people process grief and there's an artist who used some of the photographs to inspire a video that she made. That was she's from Ireland. It wasn't a Canadian arc artist, but it went to the Venice being a lie back in two thousand and nine, I think, and there's been plays inspired by it. So it's it's kind of been used for other other reasons than than a study of the paranormal. Right, right. So you know, and I think that's kind of interesting that it's it's got a life of its own. I just know because he is your I guess it's grandfather, a great grandfather, grandfather. Yeah, yeah, he's still quoted in all sorts of articles about paranormal research, you know,...

...because they were the apparently the American Society for Cyclical psychical research was which is based in New York. It was found in one thousand eight hundred and eighty five. And then basically the s with winnipegs doctor is the next thing that people mentioned. You know, and then it goes to the S and we go to Joseph Beggs, Ryan and Duke University. So basically, your your grandfather, is the Canadian background on this kind of research. You know. You know, I really haven't. I haven't researched it because, you know, my interest in it is limp is. I wouldn't have any interested it if it hadn't been my fault my family right now. It's not. I do know that. I remember and you were, you were. I remember when you were first looking at this story, you were questioning whether you wanted to write it or research it at all. Yeah, well, because you know it's it's just because I don't know what to make of it myself. So it's hard to write about. So so what? What did what do you make of it now that you have written about it? What did you learn by talk, by talking about your family, the well the family in general at the fen or this is a particular story, this particular story. Don't know. I mean I I don't know. So you still don't. You still have a it's pretty hard because when your family is in such a controversial field and has such a respected work in this field, you know it his work is still researched by various when, you know, whenever an organization sets up a study about the paranormal in any way, then they still they need to go back to this research and look at it again. And so the thing is, so he like he my grandfather because he was a doctor and, as I say, like I think that that he was totally respected as an honest person who, you know, he was brought up as a he didn't drink, he was a presbyterian elder in the church. He you know, he and he was just a very warm person who liked people, enjoyed his work took it very seriously. He was respected as a doctor and I think if he hadn't been so and also, you know, he was Oh, he was involved. He was on the School Board in Winnipeg for some years and then he was a member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly and he got bills, quite progressive bills past like he was involved in bills for not women's rights but but, you know, women and children were, you know, some of the issues and this was a s when things were really society was changing a lot. So he had very good credibility in the community and I think that he had been just Joel blow that that it wouldn't have been the same. So, but okay. So he invested his own reputations and he was very well aware that his reputation could be, you know, completely blown out of the water and he could kind of lose his job and he was worried about that. But then people he didn't sort of try and ram it down their throats that this was what he had seen and this was the way it was. I think he tried to be. He tried to be very what he caught thought of his scientific in the way he approached the research...

...and that's why he took all these photos and stuff. But Science and scientific method in the nine s and s was not what it is today. So by today's standards, no, it was not scientific. But but he really cared that there was no fraud involved, and that's what one of the things that makes me uncomfortable is, because I'm convinced that there was fraud involved and I think it was my grandmother who did it. So this makes it dificult. Well, because she cans continued seances after he died, didn't she? Yeah, but I think you know, if you do something like this and you do it so you're so invested in it for so long you know you're just not going to walk away from it. You know, she probably had herself convinced, even if she was manipulating things and feeding information to the mediums or I don't know what she did. I don't you know, I wasn't there. I just so now. Well, and we were talking about this, because so much of waiting, so much of just a regular gathering of friends like that, because all the people who participated in these seances we're friends, especially spending. You know, so some of it. I mean they may not have been fraud involved. It may have been perfectly known that that was part of the performance and part of the fun of making the evening and entertain both entertainment and science put together. It's possible. I don't think. I don't think that they thought of it as entertainment. Maybe, you know the people who went, they probably went because that, you know, their friends were there. But these were professional people. These weren't people who were just kind of going out, you know, because they had nothing better to do. I'm sure that they had other things to do. I'm not so ut it. The scientific part of it was entertainment, but I'm talking about the performance part. Could have been entertainment. You know, they could have been doing an investigated, playful investigation. You know, let's like that's make this a little fun to like a party. Yes, but I don't think, for for my for tg, I don't think that that was. No, it's clear from his records. I mean, you looked at them, you they were recorded in a very scientific with a very he attempted to make the observations. How can I mean? Because they're calling to people that they know that they wanted to hear from. So you can't say that it's unpissed. But he did try to make it, to set it up so that they could record what actually happened. But it's just the whatever anyway. Anyway, I think it's a really important thing about in Canada's history and it's just fun that someone who's so you know your family and you're also someone really, really uncomfortable with the whole thing and very much like your uncle, you know, who who had to do with this growing up to and also my father, because you know, when he was a medical doctor in Montreal, he there is no way that he wanted to talk to people about about this aspect of his family because he did not have the credibility in the Montreal medical establishment. He was just another GP and he probably would have lost his hospital accreditation and etc. Over that. You know, it's very possible will that could have destroyed his career. So nobody knew about that when he was practicing here. Yeah, well, and it's just fascinating by doing this book about a family history that's there are only one story in the book. Of How many stories are in there? A Lot, because I don't know it. I broke it down into a lot of chapters, but very short chapters, which is basically because it came out of the blog, which were all very short.

But but, but, yeah, it's only one chapter. It's a long chapter, but it's only one chapter at the end of the book, right. So, yeah, and it's funny because when I first started the book I thought this would be the highlight of the book and everything would kind of lead up to this. Then, as I did research about them, I realized I don't know these guys. You know, they were interesting and because, and I think one reason that these stories, or their stories are interesting is because in a sense they reflected Canadian history, just as your ancestors reflected other things going in Canadian history. So mine, you know, came to Upper Canada and then moved on West and then moved up, you know, and they they were able to obtain land and then they were able to save money and then they were able to get an education and then they were able to move into the professions and and move to other places. And that's, you know, that's kind of what's happened in, you know, in many family histories. So they were sort of typical, I think, of of that period of Canadian history where everybody came and everybody was either it was I mean the people who came to Montreal were in commercial fields, but people who came to Ontario and at the West they were all in agriculture. So those that where the title comes from, reinventing themselves. Is it a continual reinvention of yeah, like they they were tradespeople in Scotland. So I had carpenters and stonemasons and weavers and tailors and and, you know, people who were who were trades people and obviously they were intelligent people, but they had no real opportunity to go go up to the ladder at all and no opportunity to own their own property. So they came to Canada in order to make a better living for their families. And then, and then, opportunities opened up, you know, if they were willing to work hard and if they didn't have bad luck. Is One of them did. He got killed by a family fallen tree after being here for three weeks. Oh Dear, oh, but but yeah, so they found opportunity here and well, that leads to the final question in the podcast, which I you know, I ask everybody. Do you consider yourself a Canadian and what does that mean to you, and how is this work reflected in that? I think it's a very Canadian story in the you know. Well, O, obviously I'm a Canadian because my my family's been here since, you know, the early eighteen hundreds. So what else would I be? So and that you know, and that I think the latest eat on either side of my family that who came over here were in the S, so you know, and some of them came from the United States after being there for some generations. But basically I'm a Canadian and I think that this is a very Canadian story. So even the Scots who came over as as children as my my great grandfather, did you know? He? They grew up with, I think, Scottish culture and they, you know, probably talked with Scottish accents and had Scottish traditions. But yeah, there's stories were Canadian and and this family went out West and they were observers of the eighteen eighty five northwest rebellion, the real rebellion, and you know, so they were they were just sort of there at...

I guess, you know, turning points of are interesting periods of Canadian history and I think their stories reflect Canadian history to a great extent. We often talk about, when we're talking about our family history, how much more fun history class would have been if it could have been personalized the way exactly. You know, when you look at the history of Canada and in terms of people and what people specifically did, it's just a lot more interesting than this huge sort of waves of you know, colonialization and more and they basically you take an entire period and put and sum it up in a sentence and that's supposed to be history class. Well, for me it was history class was like, I remember, you know, a book this sick of and it was all about wars and Economics and and kings and you know, it's hard. It was. It was like it was totally boring and I didn't take any history classes and university, which is now I regret, but it was just really boring the way it was taught. Yeah, and yet I find, you know, when you when you look at individual histories, and you know especially, I suppose, when it's your own own family members, it becomes really interesting. Yeah, so you have to you have to sort of be able to relate to it on a on a personal level. And you know, and I think you know, fiction can be the same. You know, you learn a lot of your history by reading fiction, said and different historical periods, because it's through the eyes of somebody that you can relate to. Write. Well, you're not writing fiction, though. You're doing non face now and you're doing challenging nonfiction, because you were we were talking came before we started this interview, about how you were worried because the first early in the book, there's a little more genealogy than than in retrospect. You were thinking was going to be so worried people won't flip through some of the other parts, but because it's all short stories. You want to encourage people to just look for the part of the stories that appeal to them. Can you talk a little bit about, as a final word, of a couple of the stories you want to point out that are that are different than the ones we've spoken to that maybe will attract a little bit more of that readers type? You know, people are going to be on the beach. They're not going to be reading the protectors about genealogy, but there are some stories that are kind of entertaining and worth reading on the beach. Which one? Well, we talk about well one. Okay. So one of the ways, one of the ways I've done my research is that there were a couple of other books written about the foresters in particular. Or there there was one book and it was written by a member of the family and it was just basically his memories of growing up on the farm and you know, he describes his uncle's and his grandparents and their personalities and you know how there were big lightning storms that you know the lightning hit the house and not to picture off the wall and kill the Horse in the barn, and so so those are the kinds of stories that that you know, they're their anecdotes and he talks about the the parties that the family used to have and you know these Scottish ballads that is on't or his uncle used to saying, and those are the kinds of things that really give me a picture of what their lives were like. And he probably wrote those stories through Rosecot colored glasses and you know, who knows what what dark secrets were in that family, but you know it's it just it gives a picture of life growing up and it was near...

...they grew up that that particular family had their farm near Emerson Manitoba. Now, I had never heard of Emerson Manitoba until there were big floods in the Red River there a few years ago, and the other day they announced on the Radio Emerson hit a high of forty degrees celsie. Isn't it? What you know? Ten years ago I did. I didn't know where Emerson was right. So now I've been there and now you're not only have you been there, but you're watching the weather because you can relate to what's happening based on what's on the ground. Yeah, exactly, so it's those are the kinds of stories that that. I think that a bring a warmth to to the book. But I'm reliant on and having found those sources, and if nobody's taken notes and if nobody's, you know, told their own stories, then you're stuck in a lot of the book is just, you know, I'm going through and saying, well, if I found the family in the senses here in ten years later, they had moved there, because that's all I've got. So my last one, I my conclusion. In my conclusion is, you know, to write down your stories or interview your parents and write down the names of the people in the family, photographs and, you know, give give people, even if you're not going to write things down yourself, give people something to go on and, you know, something to bring sort of bring a reality to people's experiences. Yeah, so we can all relate to the people that were writing about. I think that's exactly lesson. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time. Okay, thank you interview. Thank you for listening to an apologetically Canadian. Please consider supporting our podcast Fort UN hundred and ninety nine a month. Join select listeners and get additional episodes every month.

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