My neighbour invited me spend a weekend at her cottage… what I found out next blew my mind!!!
I’ll start from the beginning. You know those types of people that when you meet them, you instantly feel like you’ve known them for years? The kind of person who you feel super comfortable around and you want to get to know better because it feels good just to be around them? Well, that’s how I felt when I met my neighbour Lynn. (I should mention that I met her when she invited a bunch of random strangers from the neighbourhood into her house for a wine night!)
Since we met under a year ago, we have become good friends and have shared some fun times together. So, when Lynn invited my family and I to her family’s cottage in Margaree, Cape Breton for a weekend, I was super excited.
What happened next completely transformed that weekend away for me. When I told my mom that Lynn had invited me to Margaree, she told me that my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandmother was buried there. Then jokingly she said “You should ask Lynn if she is related to Granny Ross.” I texted Lynn and asked her. Her response. “Yes I am.” I freaked out and immediately called her and told her we were related! When you were younger did you ever dream that your friend was actually your sister, or wished your families would combine somehow to make you related? (No? Just me? Might be an only child thing). Anyway, I felt like my childhood dream had just come true!
That night, we both dug out our family trees to figure out the connection. Turns out, Granny Ross had 4 children, only two survived, and Lynn and I each come from one of those children. Which means that Lynn and I have the same Great x 5 Grandmother! I think that makes us fifth cousins, but to be honest I’m not really sure how that all works.
That night I started researching and it turns out the woman known as Granny Ross was Henriette LeJeune, a historical female pioneer born in 1762. She was honoured as one of The Nova Scotia Nine, a portrait series of women (also including Viola Desmond) who lived extraordinary lives and made a difference in Nova Scotia. She was a midwife and a healer who helped save her community from a smallpox epidemic. She fought in the second siege of Louisburg, and also fended off two bears, one with a shovel!
I’ve never really felt super connected to my history before, but after reading about this incredible woman, I felt really drawn to her, almost as if I felt stronger, more powerful, just knowing I came from her.
The few days we spent in Margaree were so much fun. The cottage we stayed in was actually on the property once owned by Granny Ross (or GR as we like to call her). We took a walk across the street to the graveyard at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, and I found GR’s grave right away. This is what was inscribed:
It turns out that my side of the family used to own the property that the graveyard is now on, but they ended up moving to Newfoundland and gifting the land to the church. So my family at one time had owned the land across the street from Lynn’s family. I guess we were always destined to be neighbours! As we walked back from the graveyard, Lynn pointed out a tree behind the cottage and told me that is where our Great x 5 Grandfather is buried.
Lynn had to head back home for work on Monday, but her parents offered for us to stay an extra night, because, well, we are family now. After we put the kids to bed that night, we walked over the bridge to her parents cottage for a drink, and they told us more about the history of our family.
When we got back home, Carlos asked me what my favourite part of the trip was. I thought about the beautiful beaches we saw, and the hike we did on The Skyline Trail over looking the Cabot Trail, or Big Spruce Brewery where we had a pint and listened to live music. But the thing that made the trip for me, was without a doubt, learning about my kick-ass Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandmother, a family I didn’t even know existed, and connecting with the beautiful land of my ancestors called Margaree.