Tuesday, 28 June 2016


So, on to Surrey via highway, our fifth ferry and highway again: another very scenic trip. We were early enough to get on the ferry but it was very crowded, likely with people taking a Sunday day trip to the Vancouver area. There were many cars left behind when the ship left the dock but not us. By the time we had lunch in the on-board White Spot Restaurant we were almost at Deep Cove.

We took the Trans Canada Highway and on arrival in Burnaby, we called our second-cousin Patricia. We were happy to learn she had arranged a family get-together for dinner at her home. Since they lived only about five minutes from the motel, Gayle and I decided to have a look at touristy White Rock before joining them.

White Rock is on the south shore of British Columbia very near the Canadian/US border. It was very busy but interesting to drive through the town and see some of the residences built up on the hills overlooking the ocean as well as the pier and promenade area.

Monkey tree at Pat's
We stopped to get a couple of bottles of wine to take to Pat`s and when coming out of the shop ran into another cousin, Amie. It was the first time I had met her but unfortunately we didn`t have time to visit. She is the grand-daughter of my mother`s sister and lives in the White Rock area.

After a wonderful day of meeting new family members, good food and many many shared stories we left with plans to leave early the next morning for our old homesteads in Lynn Valley in North Vancouver. Tom and Pat would drive us and it would take about 45 minutes to get there.

House that Dad built

It was another wonderful day. First we visited the childhood homes of each of us and I was delighted to see that the house my mother and dad had built in 1947-1952 was still standing though enlarged and updated over time. I could tell because of the ancient chimneys on the roof and the location of the front door. Unfortunately the home next door built by my grandparents had been replaced by a very modern building some years ago. There were still very, very, tall evergreen trees everywhere as I remembered, although the hill in the road always seems smaller when you are no longer twelve years old. I also loved the smell of the cedar.

Our next stop was Lynn Valley Park and Canyon. The park consists of 617 acres of forest and most trees are 80-100 years old. We had all played there as children, walking from home, building bonfires, bouncing on the suspension bridge or even jumping into parts of the canyon. Happily we are all still here to tell the stories.

The first thing I had to do at the park was to walk across the suspension bridge and take some photos looking over the sides. The bridge is 60 metres above the creek. Gayle was the most adventurous of us when we were kids, running across and rocking it, to the dismay of her mother but we all loved it then. Since she did not want to go across today, we took a different path, down into the canyon.

Pat was keen to show where our Uncle Albert`s ashes were scattered in the creek. He had many times panned for gold in the creek in the old days although he was chased out a couple of times by the warden in later years. She also told us the story of how the water turned gold when his ashes were placed there.

Gayle & Pat
We took the steps, down to the south of the suspension bridge,which I had forgotten about. They were much sturdier than we remembered them but still were many hundreds of steps with only some flights having handrails. It was tough on the knees and hips. After the climb down to the Twin Falls Bridge we enjoyed the view of the twin falls and Pat took us up along the edge to show us the location where Albert is now resting. We did not climb down to the bottom of the canyon although many people do, as we still had to climb back up the hundreds of steps to get to the parking lot.

After lunch we headed for Highlands United Church in Capilano. This is where our grandmother’s ashes were scattered, in the Memory Garden behind the church. We were able to find her plaque inside the church which told of her being there and I was able to point out her spot in the garden as I had been there a couple of times before.

We paid our respects and then Tom and Pat suggested taking us to visit another one of their children and their grandchildren who lived near Lynn Valley Park. We were delighted to meet and visit with them and see their home and property. I was kindly given a book which included photos of Lynn Valley past and present, which I enjoyed sharing with my family.

Albert's painting
After dinner we had another great evening of sharing memories,
photos and family art. In the morning I went back to get a copy of our Uncle Albert`s painting that Pat had on her wall and a copy of a portrait she had drawn of her father. When Tom took Albert’s art of the frame to copy it for me, he discovered another of Albert’s paintings on the reverse side.

A little serendipity occurred when we found that a photo that I couldn’t identify for years was one of Pat and her foster sister.

When her family moved from Toronto to B.C. she had to say goodbye to her foster sister and she never had a photo of her. What a moment for both of us!

Pat, Tom & Gayle
After our last cup of tea Gayle drove me to the Airport for the flight home.During the flight I recollected all the wonderful people, sights, and art I had experienced during my 7 days trip.

While there were lots more photos, I had to limit the number that would fit into this blog and sadly there were also the ones I neglected to take. 

Thanks to all the cousins who welcomed us into their homes, entertained us, toured us around and shared their family memories with us.

I loved every minute of it!

My next cousin finding trip will be to England and Scotland to meet those whose families didn't emigrate to Canada.

Sunday, 22 May 2016


I found some on Facebook.  Some of them Googled their surname and found me through this family history blog. I found out more about them in my Grandmother's photos, diaries and poems. I knew some of them as children but we lost touch for decades.  I thought of them as my “lost cousins”.

Unfortunately my grandmother and her siblings sometimes held grudges and played their family members against each other.  These rifts rippled across the family, up and down the generations.

When I started connecting with my family members online, I had a strong desire to see them again and after a cousin from British Columbia visited me in Toronto, we started planning an old fashioned road trip to see our West Coast cousins.

I found so much more than I had lost, and am so happy that they agreed to meet me and share their stories, art and photos!

We were able to put aside the battles of our parents and grandparents – it felt like our family feuds could finally be put to rest.  I am sad for those who went before us but hopefully we will change the future of our families.

I have been fortunate and happy to have re-connected with my Canadian West Coast cousins.

It began with a visit to my Aunt Eileen with my mother and sister Betty about six years ago. During those few days we were able to spend time with her as well as her husband Ernie and two of her children, Gayle and Colin. We also had a brief visit with my mother`s cousin Patricia and some of her family. I had previously connected with my cousin Roger and his wife Mavis over the internet while working on a family history project.

While Gayle was visiting me in 2014, we had some time to talk about all the lost connections in our family stories. When I told her I was interested in visiting her and others, she suggested she would lead a road trip that would include visits to Salt Spring Island, Nanaimo, Powell River, Sechelt and Surrey. My sister Betty planned to join us and after contacting all the cousins we planned a very ambitious itinerary. We could not be away too long as our mother was 98 years of age and in declining health.

Unfortunately just two days before we were scheduled to leave for Victoria, our mother had a medical issue that would likely require a hospital stay. We could not be sure until after our scheduled flight because we could not get test results back in time being as it was a three day holiday weekend. Generously Betty decided to stay back and be with Mom while I went ahead with our plans.

Gayle met me at the Victoria BC airport then we drove to the first ferry to travel to Salt Spring Island. After we docked it was a lovely scenic drive to her home in Ganges with Gayle telling me about the size and culture of the Island.

On arriving at Gayle`s I was impressed with the amount of her needlework she had decorating her home. It is beautiful with very intricate and detailed designs. At first glance from the doorway I thought they were paintings. It was my first look at the large amount of family art I would see throughout my visit.

I soon noticed the large numbers of deer everywhere on the Island – from roadside to backyards. Also for the first time, I saw a family of Quail walking down the road in front of Gayle`s kitchen window as we had breakfast.

As we toured the Island I was surprised by the amount of mountainous terrain as well as the narrow and winding roads. Many of the homes were difficult to reach which I suppose is what their owners like about them. I was a somewhat disappointed by the lack of sea views due to the very tall tree growth as well as the tall fences and hedges, however we did get a close up view at the north end of the island.

In the evening we walked to town and had a lovely dinner outside the Treehouse. As shown in the photo it is quite small with a tree growing up through the middle. It was a warm night with a great meal of Pacific Salmon and live entertainment. We also enjoyed watching the people wandering through the town. It was so relaxing and I enjoyed seeing ``hippies`` of all ages.

On our return we found a telephone message from another cousin Jennifer who lived along our route up the coast to suggest that we meet her in Ladywood for a coffee on Friday morning. Jenny was not sure just how we were related to her but she had heard about our trip, from her brother Roger. 

After enjoying blueberry muffins kindly sent over by Gayle`s neighbour we were soon on the second ferry ride, leaving Salt Spring Island for Vancouver Island.

With Jennifer and Gayle in Ladywood
We had a very enjoyable coffee break in Ladywood sharing some family history and our regrets that we hadn`t known each other before. We took a couple of photos and traded phone numbers and the family blog site information before driving on to Nanaimo where we had lunch with a childhood friend of mine. 

Later in the day we took our third ferry -  to Powell River and found the beautiful resort where we spent two nights.

The next day we were warmly greeted by Roger & Mavis at their beautiful glass and wood home in the forest. They explained they had built it themselves over the preceding five years reminding me that our grandparents and my parents did the same in the 1940s. The house is surrounded by many trees which Roger uses in his building and wood carvings. 

Mavis is also a wood carver and both paint. I knew Roger`s mother painted but did not know that his father had as well. There is a long list of artists in our families past and present. We were excited to see some of Roger and Mavis`s work. As well as the work displayed in their home, Mavis showed us her large beautiful carved boxes and Roger took us down to his workshop to see a magnificent, very large door he has carved. It is wonderful work.

We enjoyed a delightful lunch in their garden. They explained the fence surrounding the living area of their property was to keep out the bears, deer and cougars that had previously destroyed their plants and trees.

We shared our family history research and talked about the numerous artists in our families. Roger had not seen many of the photos in my Grandmother’s album and I agreed to send him a scanned version along with the details of a couple of books written about our artist ancestor, Walter Langley. We shared warm goodbye hugs and agreed to keep in touch. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and hope to see them again.

After a very comfortable sleep and a good breakfast we set off down the Sunshine Coast to our fourth ferry. This one would take us to Sechelt and the next cousin, Gayle`s brother Colin and his family.

After lunch in town we visited Colin`s home, yet another house high up above the water. It was down a steep driveway to the house and the house overlooked a very deep-down backyard and a great water view. I was happy to meet Colin`s wife Melanie, their son Sebastian and daughter Amelie.

Exciting ride with Colin and Gayle
In the afternoon Colin and Melanie took us on a cruise along the shore and many inlets of their neighbourhood. We were able to see their house and some others high up and almost hidden by the high trees.  We also saw an abandoned oyster farm and cabin built by a friend of theirs. We stopped there for a cold drink, a tour of the cabin and great conversation.

On the way back we stopped to check Colin`s lobster trap and later we had a great meal of lobster claws, lobster cakes, all the trimmings and dessert, which we enjoyed along with the kids.

We spent some time looking at all our old photos, sharing stories and promising to share copies. I had made a small family history book for Colin`s family which I left for them. They live a very interesting, close to nature, lifestyle and it suits them. After dark we sat out on the deck talking and star gazing. I was delighted to see the Milky Way as well as many other stars. In the absence of city light, they seemed almost within reach.

We enjoyed breakfast together before Melanie left for work. We talked a little more with Colin while he showed us some of his photos of camping with his children on one of their many adventures. Another artist in the family, Colin is a professional photographer. He then advised us what time to leave in order to catch our fifth ferry suggesting we allow enough time to visit a small park on the way to see the salmon run. Sometimes the bears come to feed as well. We had a wonderful visit.

Salmon fishing 
We did stop at the park and as we started down the trail we met a man returning with his small child who was crying because he was afraid of the bear. Well, I could not resist going on, so very slowly, quietly and carefully I walked down the winding trail watching around each curve. I was rewarded with a close encounter with a bear eating salmon, albeit a small bear. It was exciting as I snapped my photo and returned quietly to Gayle who was beginning to worry about where I was. 

That photo topped off my list of wildlife I had seen on the trip, deer, quail, rabbits, seals, salmon spawning, and a glimpse of a whale from a ferry then finally a bear.

To be continued.................