What goes around, comes around

Russell Wangersky
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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 rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Geographic location: Block Island, Nova Scotia, Canada Ferryland Missouri Newfoundland North America England South East

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Recent comments

  • Edward Power
    July 17, 2012 - 22:43

    Lord help us, John Smith is now an authority on the eligibility criteria for Newfoundland and Labrador citizenship....... (Well said, Abdul, well said indeed.)

  • Maggy Carter
    July 17, 2012 - 17:48

    We know there are people out there who keep badly behaved pit bull terriers – often because the animals match their owner temperaments. These dogs can be nasty at the best of times but especially if they manage to get off their leash. The Muskrat debate is at a bit of a lull during these dog days of summer. Unable to growl and snap at government's critics, Smith grows more frustrated by the day. Not surprising then that he jumped the fence and is now attacking people who pose no threat to his masters. Never mind how long you’ve lived here, says Smith, if you weren’t born here you can’t claim to be a Newfoudlander. In one fell swoop, he's offended thousands of people who have chosen to live in this province, who have contributed to its vitality and growth for years, and who have been taking for granted that they were Newfoundlanders. Smith's handlers need to get him back on his leash right away. It is possible however, that Wangersky is being targeted - not because he was born elsewhere - but because he has been a constant critic of the Muskrat deal.

  • Cyril Rogers
    July 17, 2012 - 15:53

    Welcome home, Mr. Wangersky! I have always felt disgust at those who deride our CFA's, especially those like you, who have a passionate interest in the well-being of this province. Keep up the great writing and keep holding our leaders to account. Too many of us born and bred Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have let our politicians get away with corruption and largesse for far too long. I,for one, thank you for your invaluable contributions.

  • Pierre Neary
    July 17, 2012 - 14:42

    Welcome home Russell !! In all seriousness I considered you an NL'er anyway.

  • Eli
    July 17, 2012 - 13:47

    ABUL, you shoud know better than expose your pea-sized brain in public. Stund chauvinist!

    • Abdul saieed
      July 17, 2012 - 14:24

      Your cunning refute aside, my name is spelt Abdul.

    • David
      July 17, 2012 - 14:44

      A cunning refute? I thought it was Chevy Tahoe.

  • Abdul Saieed
    July 17, 2012 - 10:35

    Who are you to determine who is and who isn't a Newfoundlander? Stupid chauvinist.

  • John Smith
    July 17, 2012 - 09:25

    If you were not born here you will never be a newfoundlander...

    • Simon
      July 17, 2012 - 10:45

      Unless your ancestors murdered a Beothuck, you're not a real Newfoundlander. Ahhh, cultural purity.

    • Whining, entitled, work-ethically bankrupt worker
      July 17, 2012 - 11:47

      Please tell us, David, how we can be more like you. Can I take night classes at CONA on how to be a pompous, self-important blow-hard, or is that the sort of thing you're just born with? One other question, Your Wonderfulness, shouldn’t you be working right now rather than spending your time casting judgement on us lowly plebes? Not that I’m questioning your work ethic...

    • David
      July 17, 2012 - 14:52

      ...because of the thousands of small-minded, petty John Smiths who need desparately to cling to the lie that being a Newfoundlander is something uniquely wonderful, and who will hold it over you for life because it's all they got. I've met homeless people with more smarts, optimism and work ethic than far too many people here..

  • Ron Tizzard
    July 17, 2012 - 07:52

    As a writer, you'll never experience that feeling of being 'adrift' at times, with all the wharves you have to 'tie-up' to. Welcome aboard!

  • Ron Tizzard
    July 17, 2012 - 07:21

    And, I was always fearful for you, Russell, that you were beginning to think and sound like a Newfoundlander...poor fella! And, it was your inheritance all the time....Any treasure chests to be dug-up! A few taters! Are we related...I knows me letters backwards...like ya! Welcome home buddy.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    July 17, 2012 - 07:13

    Ah, ah. Newfoundland roots, Russell. Where else could you have gotten that writing talent?