Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Chris Judd

Pass it on

When I was a kid going to school, history was not my best subject. At 10 years old I had a hard time getting excited about what happened thousands of years ago. I couldn’t understand why we spent many of our school years learning about ancient history when we were taught nothing about the history of our own local past. First Nations elders passed on their history by telling stories about their past. We are very fortunate to have local historical societies and archives that cared enough about our past to preserve both things that our ancestors used and things that happened and why and when. I was not even excited about my ancestors’ past until a cousin of mine gave me a slip of paper with the names and dates of our ancestral family back to 1632.
Then, about 20 years ago, I received an awakening when I wasn’t sure after a stroke whether I would even be able to talk again. During the next few days while I lay in ICU, I began thinking about what was really important, and what was not. My family and what I had taught them and what I had not taken the time to, became a priority and most other things quickly became much less a priority. I had still not learned about much of our local history and some of our family still didn’t know the names of their grandparents. Because the stroke had left my left side not as functional as it once was, there were many things like milking, which is kind of important to a dairy farmer, doing repair work, which usually takes both hands and perfect balance. I couldn’t even climb onto many of the machines that I used to jump on and off a dozen times every day. I began to research my family’s past because I could sit in front of a computer and type with one finger. Luckily, one of our ancestors had started the most used website (ancestry.com) and that let me research a lot about my ancestors. I also had many friends that gave me books about both ancestors and our country’s local history. I soon became addicted to researching both family history and the history of our region. This is something that I never thought I had time for before and our family is now as busy as I once was. We all think “some day I’ll do that” but, too often, that day never comes.
When you begin researching both family and local history, you find some very interesting facts. Once, while relaxing in a restaurant-bar one evening between a two-day meeting of the milk federation, one of my French friends looked at and said, “is your family from Ireland?” I replied in my broken French, “yes, and Scotland, and England, and Germany, and from France in 1066.” Some of our grandchildren’s ancestors came to North America on The Mayflower. One of our cousins helped Abe Lincoln get elected as president of the US. Some of our Judd family became famous singers. Their non-singing sister helped Barack Obama get elected president. My great-great-great-great grandfather led a group of farmer-militia to defeat the US army at Lundy’s Lane in the war of 1812. A cousin was head of the treasury board of Canada, the last time Canada had a balanced budget. He also became the sixth director of CSIS. My grandma’s first cousin, Godfrey Armitage, was the tallest man in the British army (Canada) in WW1. All his clothes, boots, etc. had to be tailor made. Dad’s first cousin was a head cartoonist for Walt Disney.
The original spelling of Gatineau is Gatno. Gatineau was an in-between fur buyer that went broke after the First Nation people found out how much the Hudson’s Bay Co. was paying for furs. The first square timber raft on the Ottawa was built by Philamon Wright, London Oxford, the first free black person in our valley, my great-great-great grandfather, Martin Ebert, and Philamon’s son, on the bank of the Gatno where it meets the Ottawa River. Those same men sailed it to Quebec city to be dismantled and shipped to England. This was the beginning of the square timber trade with England.
Some of our history is being erased by those who want to rewrite it to suit their desires. Some of the names of streets, towns, rivers, and even large areas have already been changed, historical names cannot be legally changed. Let’s keep our history true for our descendants.
I’m sure that your ancestors and history can be just as interesting as ours if you dig it up. Only you can pass that great history on to your descendants, it can start with just a scrap of paper.

Chris Judd is a farmer in Clarendon on land that has been in his family for generations.

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