When I moved here 26 years ago, I knew it was a unique and beautiful place. I also knew that, to me, there was a lot about it that was foreign. A different regional history than the one I grew up with in Nova Scotia, different views about Canada. For anyone from away, a long learning curve. And I knew I wasn’t from here.
But that’s not the only learning curve a person can run into.
Trace your family tree back far enough and anything can happen.
Doing any kind of genealogical work can be a bit like researching past lives; you tend to look at the high points. If you’re bent on reincarnation, you’d probably rather believe you were once a prince rather than a stableboy.
That same kind of high ground exists in genealogy. On my mother’s side of the family, for example, you can trip over everything from inventors — one forebear was the inventor of the first machine for the manufacture of horseshoe nails, while another built the first American sewing machine — to politicians.
One of my mother’s ancestors was a governor of Missouri, while another was an astronomer and poet, and still another was a portrait painter.
There were soldiers and shipbuilders, preachers, sheriffs, distillers and explorers.
Chances are, there are a fair number of rogues — how could there not be?
Any family tree is just a collection of rafts of different people.
No different for me. Nobody’s going to boast about the pickpockets.
Except for one thing. One of my ancestors — as far back as you can go in North America, the very first ancestor on my mother’s side of the family — was Tristram Dodge.
And because of him, it turns out, I’m from here after all — or at least, some small genetic part of me is.
Because I’m a direct descendant of Tristram Dodge, and he, as it turned out, came from England to Ferryland in 1647.
According to the Dodge family and their records, he lived in the colony for years, popping up on a variety of documents, either as a witness to bills of sale or on bills of sale themselves, mostly dealing with salt fish.
Does the geographic location of someone nine or 10 generations ago really change anything?
But it’s kind of funny for me to realize I can legitimately say I can trace my ancestory in Newfoundland back to 1647.
Dodge lived in Ferryland for 13 years, before leaving for Block Island, Rhode Island.
And why did Tristam Dodge leave Ferryland?
Some things never change.
He left for work.
Here’s what they said about him when he came to Block Island: “Know Ye, I, Simon Ray of Block Island, being eighty-one years of age and now upon oath doth testify and declare that on ye first erecting and settleing of s’d Block Island there was some undivided land reserved by ye first purchasers for to accommodate fishermen for promoting of a fishing trade, and Tristram Dodge Sr. a fisherman came from Newfoundland and ye freeholders willing for to settle him on s’d Island, gave unto him said Tristram Dodge three acres of land unto him and his heirs forever which land ordered by freeholders for to be measured unto him said Dodge situated and being on ye South East of ye Harbor that now is joining to the land of John Rathbon. And unto ye truth of this testimony I set to my hand, Simon Ray, Warden. Block Island, Feb. 28, 1718-19.”
Maybe it’s a little tongue in cheek to say I didn’t come from away.
But just maybe, I came home.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.