Monday, May 19, 2008


Last autumn my Aunt Mary died, leaving behind a condo full of artifacts, through which my relatives have been sorting. My uncle spent a week putting many of the old family photos and papers on discs. I was pleased and surprised to discover that a page from the family Bible had been preserved, recording the names and dates of birth of all the children of Daniel and Brigit O'Connor. Daniel and Brigit were my great great great grandparents who came to Canada from Ireland in the early nineteenth century. I am in the middle of researching and writing a historical novel about them and so every scrap of evidence in invaluable. We always thought that they had nine children but the Bible reveals that they really had eleven children. Two daughters, the third and fourth born, died young.

Mary Ann died in 1844 at age eleven and Catherine Maria died in 1850 at age fifteen. For some reason, the girls who died are not mentioned in any of the extant letters, diaries, memoirs of Daniel's other children, and so they are not on any of the family trees that I have seen. Perhaps the sorrow over the girls' deaths was too poignant for the family, and maybe it was easier not to talk about them at all. Every family has its own ways of dealing with grief. Now I understand why old Brigit has such sadness in her eyes.

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