Because of her dream and vision, I discovered I had roots deeper than I dreamed and they were connected to people I never knew existed. My inspiration every day in my genealogical journey is my Gramma. Gramma.. spelled the way I said it when I called for her attention and admiration and a name I wish I could call on again just to see her face and hug her once more.
When the Grandmother’s speak, the Earth will be healed. — Hopi Proverb
My Grampa Bill and Gramma Marie on their farm near Hillside, Alberta, Canada
Marie Frances Moonen was born in 1920 not far from the current town of Millet, Alberta, Canada.
Raised with 2 sisters and 3 brothers on a handworked farm with a large garden, beautiful trees and all the sustainable needs that Mother Earth could provide, this was a family that was given by God what they needed to survive.
Not much more, nothing less but still, very blessed.
Built on a solid foundation of hard work, dedication, survival skills and a deep love for her family it was no surprise to see her spending hours in the kitchen preserving food or preparing it to feed the men in the field.
Two of my fondest memories were of planting potatoes in their giant garden and helping her and my mom to take supper out to my Grampa and my Uncle who were working the hay fields at harvest time.
Oh that smell.
My Grandparents with myself (left) and my sister (right) in about 1978
I am reminded of these blessings every time I drive by a field and smell the fresh cut hay floating in the breeze that was stirred up during harvest by a combine or when I dig my hands and toes in fresh garden dirt.
She was a nurturer, always making sure we had what we needed to keep our bellies full and our spirits light.
In 1987 she traveled by car through Canada to the U.S.A to Minnesota to the present day land where our Ancestors homesteaded after immigrating from Nieuwstadt, Limburg, the Netherlands in the early 1860s.
She gathered stories, dates, and cousins along the way with the intention of creating a history book to share with the family.
People wrote her letters and sent postcards aiding her quest.
My mom Nora and Aunty Linda helped, working for hours organizing all the information she gathered then typing it up on an old-school typewriter and finally, when they decided it was ready, they made copies on a Gestetner for all the heads of family and their children who wanted a book.
Our legacy had been created and shared.
I packed my book around for years and years.
I loved to flip through the pages, smelling that old paper and ink smell, reading through the names of people I’d never met but knew I would call family.
I wondered what their stories were.
When my sons were small I wanted to give myself a ‘hobby’ so I decided that I would translate her typed up book to a digital version, reprint and share with whoever wanted it.
After typing in Word and losing it 3 times to tragic computer crashes, I learned about backups and did a little software research which lead me to the Family tree Maker program. I was thrilled! This program enabled me to print reports and pages of the information I entered making it simpler to create my vision.
Not long after that, I discovered Ancestry.ca
That day changed my life forever.
I was hooked.
When I saw that if I entered the information my Gramma collected into Ancestry’s database it would ‘hint’ clues to more information I just couldn’t stop.
There was always a clue that led to a clue and before I knew it I had added over a thousand more people to our family tree complete with documents, records, headstones and even some pictures contributed by other Ancestry members.
Some days I sat back in almost disbelief but with so much gratitude for what the internet technology and countless volunteers have provided my research to build on the legacy that my Gramma started and I would cry.
I still like to open her book now and then to breathe in the history and imagine her driving across the country visiting with family who were strangers to her but that she reached out to with intention of bringing them closer together.
Thank you, Gramma.
It is because of you that our family legacy continues and because of you that I learned where I came from.