Hopefully my ancestors will approve of what I've learned from them:
1. Just because there was poverty does not mean there was no joy. There was an amazing sense of community within some of the very poor neighbourhoods I have been studying. Certain members of my family have been credited as "willing to give you the shirt off their backs". People who had less than nothing, so to speak, still generously shared anything they did have, be it a cup of tea or a crust of bread. It humbles me and fills me with gratitude.
2. Marriage did not always precede children, and may or may not have followed them. This surprises and oddly delights me because it undoes the idea that my ancestors followed all the rules. One of my favourite sayings is: "If you play by the rules, you miss all the fun."
3. The sense of disconnection between family members runs deep and can be traced back many generations. Some people seem to disappear for no readily apparent reason.
4. Family members often lived within a couple of blocks of each other. This seemed particularly true within my Dad's family until it came to his generation.
5. Despite the fact that Canada has a reputation for being one of the friendliest countries in the world, Irish immigrants to Canada were not always welcomed with open arms.
6. The immigration process could be a debasing and demoralizing one.
7. Connections of the emotional variety run far deeper than I had imagined they would.
8. It's been enlightening to discover that things such as the will to political action and social justice can be passed on. I am definitely my grandmother Anne's girl in this case.
9. I've always loved Ireland, but by searching for my family I now feel a stronger connection to her, and an odd sort of longing when I'm away from her shores.
10. The most enlightening thing I've learned is that I now feel very protective of my ancestors. I want to recount their stories, but do it in a way that respects all aspects of who they were.
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