People have asked us: “why did you write a book about the Flemings of Derby Township?” Why did Ruth, a Fleming descendant with a trunk full of family records, and I, a friend who loves history, spend years compiling a four-inch thick book of stories, photographs and charts? One person remarked that family histories are mere vanity projects, suggesting, I submit, a poverty of outlook. There is much to be learned from past generations, as TV viewers of the PBS program Finding Your Roots know very well. Knowing the stories can be inspirational and motivational.
Some people have a memory store of recollections about their forebears – at least their grandparents and sometimes great-grandparents. Sadly, most do not and may barely know the stories of their parents’ lives. Deprived of stories about their families, children must make their lives without the grounding of knowing who they are — a loss of wisdom and understanding.
Indigenous peoples seem more attuned to ancestral knowledge — learning from the stories and traditions passed from generation to generation, how earlier generations survived their journeys and their times of deprivation, how they found spiritual connection and celebrated life.
The Seventh Generation Principle from an ancient Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) philosophy holds that to be a good ancestor, people should look forward seven generations to make decisions that will benefit their descendants. Looking back seven generations, we can ponder the legacy brought about by the actions of our ancestors. [https://www.ictinc.ca/blog/seventh-generation-principle ]
The answers for the Flemings are evident in the family history. In 1843, Alexander and Jean left their ancestral home in Perthshire for the wilderness of Upper Canada. After seven years of preparation, they were ready for the voyage. The first years were hard: they were in their early forties, trans-Atlantic crossings were perilous, and pioneer life was harsh. But with vision and resoluteness, they and their nine children succeeded, bequeathing customs, values and opportunities to their descendants.
We wrote the book to tell this story through four generations — as a legacy of knowledge and learning. Distribution to family members who had pre-ordered (about 150) took place in December 2022.
The book is also available at Ginger Press in Owen Sound at $85 CDN plus tax. Use the Contact Page at Ginger Press to inquire about ordering or contact me by leaving a comment to this blog post.Continue reading