Canada finds new market for seal products in China. Look out, baby seals.
I’ve been too busy at work to really delve into my genealogy hobby, but a few new things have come to my attention and I’d like to share them. I’ve made small updates to the following pages:
I found a civil death register at Newfoundland Grand Banks that included the death of my great-great-grandfather John Clare in Harbour Grace in 1892. The register also gave his age which allowed me to figure his birth date as about 1836. Best of all, the register included his place of birth as ENGLAND. I don’t know where in England, but at least I have traced another Newfoundland ancestor back to Europe. I remember my grandmother telling me that her grandfather had come from England. Often family stories end up as just stories, so I was pleased to see that one work out.
Another researcher contacted me on Ancestry.com to insist that my great-grandmother Anastasia Gaule had a sister named Anne Gaule who also emigrated to Cambridge, MA. I had heard this rumor before, I think back in my days on AOL, but I had dismissed it because the names seemed too similar and I thought my father would have heard of a whole group of relatives living so close. However, this researcher had lots of matching info about Anastasia’s parents whom she claimed were also Anne’s parents. I managed to find a marriage record for Anne on AmericanAncestors.org that gave her parents’ names, which matched, so now I’m convinced. I added Anne into the Gaule family.
There was a family story that my great-grandfather John James Hegarty served in the British Army before emigrating to Massachusetts in 1890. He was supposed to have served in the Boer War with the Royal Munster Fusiliers, but the dates that the RMF were in South Africa didn’t work with John’s age and emigration dates. Recently, though, Ancestry.com turned up a record for a Private J. Heggarty serving with the Royal Malta Artillery in the Sudan, with dates that actually work. I am supposing this is him, since it’s a Royal M-word regiment and it’s in Africa. If I find better or different evidence going forward, I’ll revise. Meanwhile, here is a photo from Wikipedia of the campaign medals John would have received after the Suakin Expedition, though his medals would likely not have had a date.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Galore combines history and folktales with a bit of magical realism to tell the fantastic and cryptic stories of several generations in a fictionalized Newfoundland outport called Paradise Deep. I loved how this book created a sense of tradition all around the eruptions of the weird. The characters were great. The dialogue was perfect. The writing was beautiful.
I am working on a genealogical/family history project tracing Newfoundland ancestors, and I felt like the specific issues I see there show up here in this novel, so maybe that made it more plausible for me: all the religious rivalry, the disowning, the shunning, the interwoven families. The melodrama of personal feuds in a small isolated village is intense in reality, and intense in this book. Crummey grounds everything in a detailed historical sense of place, so that the beliefs and actions of the characters are seen in their context of extreme deprivation and poverty.
For all of that, there’s a lot of humor, even when it’s dark humor, but I think that’s cultural too.
I’ve been cleaning up some sloppy citations I made to the records of St. Finbar’s South Church in Cork, Ireland. St. Finbar’s South, dating back to 1766, claims to be the oldest Catholic church in Cork which is still in use. The church is famous for a marble sculpture by John Hogan of Dead Christ, which is installed under the altar.
This was Hogan’s most famous statue, and he made three versions of it. There was the one above in Cork, another one in Dublin, and the last one is in, of all places, St. John’s Basilica in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
I have records of both churches in my files, and I like that they’re also linked by this sculpture.
From my scant Wikipedia reading, it seems that these sculptures were highly valued during a 19th-century boom in church building following the upheaval of Catholic emancipation.
I spent a lot of time today browsing around the website and links of the Maritime History Archive at Memorial University. They have a great online exhibit called Coastal Women, about womens’s roles in fishing outports. I don’t know who owns the copyright to this photo, but I stole it for its weird cuteness:
No sooner do I post on pirates, than Canadian television has a relevant special segment: On the Hunt for Pirate Treasure (link to CTV video)
Just a quick entry of amusement. I was looking at the official town homepage for Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. Their short town history devotes several long paragraphs to the town’s historical pirates, giving them more prominence than Amelia Earhart. The seventeenth-century pirates who hung out in Harbour Grace were Peter Easton and Henry Mainwaring. Apparently piracy could be a lot more profitable than fishing. For more information, see this page on the early pirates of Newfoundland or this list of Canadian piracy resources.
Don’t know how these people would fit into my family tree, but I found this interesting nevertheless: a gloomy Newfoundland expression:
“On February 3, 1868, a vicious blizzard lashed the Avalon Peninsula killing more than 30 people. In Upper Island Cove a man named John Coombs and his two teenaged children, Mary and Richard, were frozen to death. John Coombs had gone into the woods to cut wood when he was overcome. In separate incidents the younger Coombs and two other residents of the town perished in the storm. Thereafter throughout the Avalon Peninsula the accepted expression for a bad storm was a “Coombs’ Day.” “Looks like we’re going to have a Coombs’ Day tomorrow” or “That was a real Coombs’ Day,” were commonly heard for generations after. The idiom lasted until the early 1920s.”
From Les Harding’s Exploring the Avalon. (Exploring Newfoundland Series. St. John’s: Breakwater Books, 1998. page 90.)
Over the past few days I’ve read an antique book online via Google Books: Philip Tocque’s Newfoundland: as it was and as it is in 1877. I started out skimming descriptions of particular settlements, hoping for contemporary details, but I got caught up in Tocque’s opinions about the social structure of 19th-century Newfoundland, which he calls a “fishocracy.” Despite his obvious patriotism, the portrait he paints of Newfoundland is grim: all corruption, abuse, ignorance, partisanship, and violence. The frame of his critique is that Newfoundland was always administered by the Crown only as a profitable fishery, with no concern for the well-being or human rights of the island’s residents and workers. Tocque was himself a merchant’s son from Carbonear, and had a comfortable upbringing, but seems to have been spiritually moved towards progressivism.
Perhaps most striking about Tocque’s work is his nascent environmentalism. He finds the seal fishery disgusting and exploitative of both animals and humans. As a young man, in 1831, he stowed away on a sealer and became convinced by what he saw that the seal hunt was immoral. Years later, he still writes powerfully about the sickening violence:
On the first of March, all is bustle and animation, preparing for the seal fishery. Persons are seen coming in from all parts of the country, some by land, with their bats, sealing-gun, and bundles of clothes over their shoulders; others come in skiffs, loaded with clothes, boxes, bags, guns, and gaffs. From the 1st to about the 10th of March, the streets of Harbour Grace, Carbonear, Bay Roberts, and Brigus, are crowded with groups of hardy seal-hunters. Some are employed bending sails and fixing the rigging of the vessel; some making oars and preparing the sealing-punts or skiffs; others collecting stones for ballast, filling the water casks and cleaving wood; while others are employed putting on board the provisions necessary for the voyage. The shouting, whistling, and clatter of tongues, presents almost a scene of Babel. In severe winters the harbors are frozen, when a channel through the ice has to be cut for the egress of vessels. Many men and vessels are lost in the prosecution of this voyage. Sometimes vessels are crushed between large masses of ice called ‘rollers,’ at other times they get in contact with islands of ice. The seal-fishery is a constant scene of bloodshed and slaughter. Here you behold a heap of seals which have only received a slight dart from the gaff, writhing, and crimsoning the ice with their blood, rolling from side to side in dying agony. There you see another lot, while the last spark of life is not yet extinguished, being stripped of their skins and fat, their startlings and heavings making the unpracticed hand shrink with horror to touch them. In the prosecution of the seal fishery the Sabbath is violated to a great extent. In pursuing this branch of commercial enterprise, some have been suddenly raised from comparative poverty to wealth and affluence. On the other hand, persons of means have embarked in the voyage, and have been as suddenly reduced to poverty. Several steamers are now sent to the seal fisheries from Harbour Grace. Fortune at best is but a fickle goddess, but she will always have devotees worshipping at her altars. (pp. 123-124)
He expands on that idea later and says that the seal fishery is nothing but a lottery in which the merchants risk capital for the chance at vast riches, while the fishermen risk their lives for short pay.
That was in 1877. My Newfoundland grandparents were born in the 1890s and had no trouble with the seal fishery. My grandmother had fond memories of eating seal meat. Since her day, the world economy has changed. It’s impossible to justify the brutal seal hunt in the 21st century. This year’s hunt has just ended, with kills far under quota for the second year. This drop reflects lower demand for the furs (now banned in the EU), and also fewer hunters. Seal hunting requires one to go out on foot on the spring ice, and with global warming the spring ice is more dangerous than ever, adding even more risk to a bloody job. Some activists are calling for a boycott of all Canadian seafood until the seal hunt stops. (Beware graphic images of dead seals at that last link!) The seals even have a celebrity spokesman in Bill Maher. We can hope that two centuries after Tocque’s troubled witnessing, the seal hunt will also be history.
I’m trying to get this genealogy project sorted out again. I’ve been trying to clean up and organize my materials, but I suppose it will never really be done. Today’s accomplishment is that I reconfigured the Clare page.
While figuring out that Upper Small Point is now called Kingston, I got a look at a Bing map, and snapped a screen shot. Here is Conception Bay where all my Newfoundland ancestors are from: