Author Archives: Marian Bulford
Sometimes, being confined to just 500 words for our Genealogy Ensemble blog is hard to do. I love to talk and so, when writing a story I do tend to write as I talk. Fast, detailed and expressive. Well, at least I like to think that is the way I write!
For instance, in a story about my family immigration to Canada I wanted to included my very first driving lesson ever, with as much detail as I could. A little too much detail…..
The weather the ice the roads, my fear. I used them all in that story. I was then 32, and it was my first time behind a wheel, scared and nervous not knowing how to work the windshield wipers, sweat running down my back with my youngest child in the back seat as I could not get a baby sitter – I did not know anyone yet – and the absolute fear of being in control of a car. I still had not included all the stress of that day, such as waiting for the instructor to arrive, he was very late, due to the severe weather conditions and also angry with me, because I had called the school, to ask where he was. A great start to a first lesson.
I was advised that my story whilst interesting, could be edited a lot more. I never thought of doing that! I fear I will lose so much of interest in a story but I was gently reminded that this driving experience within the immigration story, was another story in itself. Well, yes, it was rather long I had to admit, so out it went for another day and another story. Lesson learned.
My Oxford Thesaurus comes in handy. I use it more frequently now, to try and write subtly using maybe one word for descriptions instead of two or three and also try to eliminate redundant words such as “the reason is because” and use instead “because” Now, I find myself listening to young people using ‘like’ before and after every sentence and thinking ‘that could be eliminated from your speech!’
It is hard to remove words, I love all the “details” but if we all have to abide by the 500 words rule for our blog then I too, have to find a way. (I just deleted ‘to do it’ at the end of that sentence, so maybe I am learning).
I have to ask myself, can I cut out all the ‘details’ use fewer words and still be interesting? I am going to try and my new motto will be, ‘If in doubt cut it out, or use fewer words’
PS: I managed to confine this story to 452 words!
The Air Canada plane starts its descent and I look down out of the window. It is a dark November afternoon and I can see nothing except a few pinpricks of light on the ground. After regularly flying around densely populated Europe, this is a shock. Where are the towns? The people? What have we come to?
It is November 17, 1978 and here we are with our two boys, seven and five, landing at Mirabel Airport near Montréal, Quebec, where my husband, John, will start a new job.
We stand in a long line and wait. First there is an interview with a customs official who tells us that we can collect our boxes of “chattels and household effects” in a few days. Then on to the Immigration Officer who asks us about Geneva, where we had been living, and England, where we were born, and then examines our papers. We then talk to a pleasant lady who gives us information on schools and local businesses, and a telephone number to apply for our SIN cards (our what?). Finally, we can collect our luggage and leave. We have been admitted to Canada!
John sets off to find our car hire and when he returns driving a huge Plymouth Volare, the kids are thrilled. Cars of this size are not often seen in Europe. As we start to drive, it seems very dark; there are few lights on the motorway – or highway – as we soon learn to call it.
Our youngest child, Owen, awake since we left Geneva, finally falls asleep in the back seat as we head downtown to our temporary home, an efficiency apartment in a downtown hotel.
The next morning when we switch on the TV, we are confronted with the horrifying story of the Jonestown Massacre¹ a religious cult leader has killed all his followers with poisoned punch. The story is revealed in great detail, and we find the television coverage quite different from the French, Italian and German media we were used to (and could hardly understand) in Switzerland. We feel quite naive.
Finally, we venture outside for breakfast, choosing Ben’s, right across the street from the hotel. The boys are thrilled to see two policeman at the counter, their backs to us, wearing guns.
In that high, carrying voice of the very young, Owen pipes up, ‘Are they real guns Mummy?’ He has never seen a policeman with a gun before. The policemen smile and wave at the children, but we feel nervous after the shocking TV news, and now policemen wearing guns?
Breakfast was, how shall I say it? Different. Bacon with pancakes and maple syrup? We give it a try. It’s not bad, but it’s a strange taste for us. Coffee is served without asking if we want it; we prefer tea. And the food portions are enormous. We stagger out, well fed.
Soon it starts to snow and the children are delighted, but by late afternoon, when it is still snowing, we are staggered. When does it stop? (FYI, in late April the following year.) We tell the hotel concierge we are going to take a walk. He eyes us and says, ‘You will need boots and winter coats. Try Eaton’s, just a block down there.’ We venture out and cannot believe how deep the snow is. I tiptoe down the street in my high heels, feet freezing.
In England, we have just one heavy coat, shoes and one pair of boots for all the seasons. In Switzerland, we only use boots for skiing, so all this new clothing is strange. We buy hats, scarves and warm gloves too, and we soon appreciate how important it is to be warmly dressed in winter!
Eventually, we move into our house and the time comes to register the boys for school. We decide to send them to a French school since they studied in French in Geneva. The elementary school principal is amazed, as we are obviously English, but in our fractured French, we insist.
Owen, who will be six years old in February of the coming year, is outraged that he is deemed ‘too young’ to start school full time. He can only attend half a day until the following September. He has been in school since he was three!
I had never learned to drive, and now I had to learn quickly if I wanted to go anywhere. So, in February, 1979, I took my first driving lesson on the frozen streets of the West Island. Slipping and sliding down the streets I go, with the sweat running down my back! I am very, very nervous. I do not even know how to work the wipers, plus, my youngest son is in the back seat – no safety belts then – since I don’t know anyone who could babysit while I have my lesson. Stress after stress for the first few years. Typical of most immigrants, I should think.
The politics too were a bit of a surprise, as it seemed everyone was fleeing down the 401 to Toronto. A few days of reading the newspapers told us why. Apparently a law called “Bill 101”² had been passed the previous August and the ‘Anglos,’ as we soon learned to call ourselves, were leaving Quebec. It appeared we had arrived in a province in turmoil.
The noises in our house were also unfamiliar. At first when we heard the furnace starting up in the basement, we were all startled, but we quickly got used to it. Another puzzler was having to buy a brush for the car and a shovel for the driveway. Why? We soon found out that if we did not copy our neighbours and clean the car of snow and shovel the drive, we simply couldn’t get out!
One night, we heard the city snow blower and trucks clearing the snow very late at night, and we all leapt out of bed to check what the noise was. It was scary; all small things, but so different from living in England and Europe.
We experienced many ups and downs as we got used to life here. Perhaps the hardest thing was to adapt to the extreme cold winter weather, and then to the hot, humid summers (yet again, we needed to buy more appropriate clothing), but despite all that, we like it here. Almost 40 years later, our sons are fully bilingual and attended college and university. I have to say that Quebec has been very good to our family as we continue to build our own little dynasty, in this place we now call ‘home.’
² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_of_the_French_LanguageThe Charter of the French Language (French: La charte de la langue française), also known as Bill 101 (Law 101 or French: Loi 101), is a law in the province of Quebec in Canada defining French, the language of the majority of the population, as the official language of Quebec.
Panting with the effort the young man hurried through the night. Under one arm he carried his bundle of belongings and in his other arm, his three year old son Thomas. Samuel OBray had left Bootle, Liverpool in great haste and was headed to the Liverpool Docks with his precious bundles to board the Ellen Maria (1) sailing soon for New Orleans USA for a new life in America.
Samuel was a shipwright. He joined the Church of Latter Day Saints (or Mormons) on the 6th February, 1846, before his first marriage to Margret Harris in November 1846 in Pembroke Dock, Wales. Samuel and Margret had two sons, Thomas and John. Margret had never agreed with his religious beliefs so unbeknownst to her, Samuel had booked passage for himself and his eldest son, Thomas to New Orleans Louisiana later, to join the rest of the ‘Mormon Saints’ in Utah or Zion as they called it. Samuel left behind him, his wife Margret and their youngest son John.
The ship was due to leave port on 29th January 1851 but had been anchored in the River Mersey for two days due to storms until it was deemed safe enough to set sail. Whilst on board, Samuel had befriended other Mormon Saints on the ship, particularly a family named Bainbridge. They were a family of six. Three sons and three daughters. Eleanor was the second daughter and she and Samuel struck up a friendship.
According to the ‘Biography of Samuel William OBray and Eleanor Bainbridge OBray’ (2) there are two versions of what happened when Margret realised what Samuel had done.
In the first family legend, she reported it to the authorities who headed to the Docks and searched the ship but could not discover Thomas. During the search of the ship Samuel had persuaded the Bainbridge family to claim Thomas as their own. Whilst the authorities were looking for a small boy Thomas had been dressed as a little girl and integrated into the Bainbridge family.
In the second version Samuel was able to steal the oldest boy from his mother and took him on board the ship Ellen Maria just prior to its departure. The boy had red hair and Samuel was able to place him with a family of red-headed children so that when the police came aboard they could not find him. The boys name was Thomas William, age three.
Poor Margret never did find her son. Was she on the dock when the ship sailed from Liverpool on the 2nd February 1851? If so, how must she have felt as she watched the ship sail away? It can only be imagined.
Upon arrival in New Orleans, The OBray and Bainbridge families were not able financially to continue their journey to Utah so they stayed and worked until they were able to continue. Whilst in New Orleans Samuel and Eleanor married and their first child, Ellen Jane was born. (3) They went on to have eight more children and Samuel took a third plural wife, but there were no children from this union. However, according to his obituary (4) as it appeared in “The Journal” 11 June 1910:
“His descendants number about 176, as follows: 10 children 87 grandchildren 75 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren”
Samuel William OBray was my second great grand uncle.
Samuel OBray and Eleanor Bainbridge OBray
3 ‘The New World having Become Attractive To Thomas Sharratt, he came to America and Settled” Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia Vol. 3 p 514