Tag Archives: ancestors

When your ancestors might not be so great…

Back from vacation and back to the heat of Philadelphia. New England was quite cool and a bit wet this summer. We still had many good experiences nonetheless.

While at my parents I read two things at the same time: a 2 volume set of the Shaw genealogy (my maternal grandfather’s heritage) and a book by Colin Woodward: Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier. Below are my thoughts from reading both documents.

I like learning about my ancestors. In past visits to my parents I’ve read my paternal grandfather’s daily diaries (more like logs of activities). This time I read about my maternal grandfather’s ancestors (family name: Shaw) back to the first immigrants to Boston in the 1630s. After a couple short generations, some of the Shaws emigrated through Maine to the Maritime provinces. Someone in the family compiled quite a history and so I learned about the hardworking, Scotch/English/Irish families. Some were Anglican, others became primitive Baptist and still others were “Orserites.” I find it fascinating to see how families lived through diseases, lost many children in their youth, and made a life out of nothing. It is also clear that back then cousins married each other. Interesting… The most peculiar thing was a story of how a young white boy was “bought” from an Indian tribe and brought into the Shaw clan.

The Scotch-Irish families in Maine and the Maritimes may not have had the greatest integrity. I didn’t learn this from the family genealogy but from “Lobster Coast” noted above. This book detailed the settling of Maine and the subsequent mis-use of the natural resources in the Gulf of Maine. I learned greater details about the use of “Scotch-Irish” to settle the Maine coast. This ethnic group was considered a ruthless and independent people and so perfect for settling Main and dealing with the native tribes. Apparently the first white Mainers lacked integrity as they would make treaties with the local Indian tribes only to welch on the treaty whenever expedient. I didn’t know that in the mid 1700s most of white inhabitants were pushed out of the land after riling the Indians for the umpteenth time. When the Mainers fled to Massachusetts for saftey, they weren’t that welcome there as they were seen to be a rather foul-mouthed, drunken crowd. I didn’t get that information in the Shaw genealogy. While I’d like to believe my family was the upright exception, it makes one wonder…

I can see my nearly genetic connection to the Mass/Maine/New Brunswick area. Whenever I return, it feels like home, even when I didn’t live in eastern Mass.

Its easy to forget that our ancestors, though strong Christians, were likely involved in stealing land from the native Americans.I suspect those who know their ancestors enslaved African Americans (or at least benefited from slavery) feel this same sick feeling in the pit of their stomachs.


Filed under ethics, Historical events