I traveled to Prince Edward Island for the first time in hopes of learning more about my newfound ancestors. Below is an excerpt from my travel diary, which I send to my family.
Day 4: PARO and plays in Charlottetown
I called the Morrell RC church today in hopes of finding out whether they might have St. Peter's Bay records and if they would allow me to search them, but I never heard back. I may have mentioned this yesterday, but there are so few church officials these days, that many priests share their time among three or four churches on the island. The day turned out alright, though. Wait 'til you see what I uncovered.
I awoke to pouring rain. I decided to drive to the records office, in hopes of staying dry, but it was no use. Luck was the only way to park in Charlottetown today and judging by the amount of water I could pour out of my shoes, I think luck was devoting its time elsewhere.
Thunder boomed through the records office. I raced through every McKinnon drawer, focusing on the names we knew. I found two standout items that required microfilm. I've always wondered how people were reading those old projected newspapers on Who Do You Think You Are. Now I know-- microfilm is the answer. In a series of filing cabinets are rolls of plastic-looking film, filed away in little boxes by the name of their publication, date, etc. I pulled up The Daily Patriot, December 26, 1901. Jackpot. It was an article on John D McKinnon's foray with the Eliza H Parkhurst. I took better pictures than these, but am trying to be concise.
The next pot of gold I found was in that Oakland magazine I mentioned the other day, The Maple Leaf. Inside was a note of Sarah McKinnon's passing. I believe she and Angus both spent their ailing years at the Sacred Heart Home.
After the records office closed, I headed down Queen St and Victoria Row to do some souvenir shopping. I stopped at The Guild, a theatre at 111 Queen St, which I believe used to be the site of The Royal Bank building, once housing Union Commercial College, where Angela got her degree. I would be willing to bet Hilda went there too.
I nabbed a coffee and donut from Tim Horton's on my walk. I have no idea why their coffee is special. Their donut was good enough, but nothing I would write home about. Although, technically, I just did :)
I took some pictures so you could see the downtown area. The brick buildings are particularly special because brick was not a natural resource to the island. These were probably very expensive to build.
I was waffling all day about whether I wanted to visit the archives center at UPEI. I had been in loose communication with the staff there, but wasn't clear about what a tour would entail or what use it might have in my research. At the last minute, I decided to give it a try. I wasn't sure anyone would even be there so late in the day, and I had very little time before Anne and Gilbert would start at The Guild.
After getting very turned around, I finally found my way to the back of the Robertson Library at UPEI, holding a little plastic baggy in my hands with a picture of Ralph inside from 1909, standing with his teammates at a St. Dunstan's College football (probably Rugby) match.
Simon Lloyd, who was one of the people I had corresponded with previously, was there at a series of desks supporting a large, incredibly high-tech scanner. He was pleased to see the photo and happily scanned it for St. Dunstan's archives, who are highly active online. I'm secretly hoping Ralph will now be featured on their site and maybe on their welcome TVs in the library that were running a series of historic yearbook photos. And before I forget, if anyone knows what year John Joseph McKinnon graduated, we could probably find his name in the online materials. Anywho... here comes the best part.
We got to chatting about family research and he asked me who I was looking for. In a matter of minutes, you would not believe what Simon was able to find for me. He was a magician, I swear.
Yes, you're looking at a BOOK with Angus in it. A book! Chasing A Dream by J. Clinton Morrison. We are a well-published family, if I do say so, McKinnons.
Part of me wishes I had hung around UPEI with my new favorite person, Simon, in case he pulled anything else out of a hat, but he offered to keep looking for me if I emailed him my family members in question.
That archives office was built on the old football field of St. Dunstan's College, where Ralph had stood for that 1909 photograph. Many of the buildings at UPEI were original to the old college. Perhaps there were some spirits on my side.
I raced back to Queen Street for the Anne and Gilbert musical at The Guild. The theatre was very small. I imagine it must have been a little awkward for the front row. There was no division between the stage and the actors, so some musical numbers seemed to force the actors to sing into the faces of people sitting up front. I found it entertaining from where I was placed, but I don't know where I would have looked if I had an actor singing into my forehead. Something tells me this building, new as it may have been, was not designed for plays.
I wasn't incredibly floored by Anne and Gilbert, if I'm being honest. The small theatre, amateur set pieces, and three-piece orchestra made the whole production seem kind of homemade for the price. I still enjoyed myself, though. At one point in the play, a new little boy joined Anne's class. His name was Paul from Boston. Again, I couldn't help but draw parallels to our Paul from Boston.
At the end of the play, they sang a song about Prince Edward Island. They had sung it to Paul once at the beginning to explain to him what PEI was like. At the end, it was sung to remind Anne of home. I found myself getting a little teary-eyed again, feeling like, in a way, this amazing place was saying goodbye to me.
The chorus said: You're Island, you're Island. You're from Prince Edward Island. You're Island. You're islander through and through.
Don't worry, I was able to hold it together and not look like the weirdo loner in the back with a contact problem. It's really hard to leave this place, though.
When I came outside, lightning was crackling through the skies from all directions. The rain had stopped but the clouds were igniting with light. I walked over to a pub called The Gahan House that had good reviews on Yelp. The seafood chowder lived up to its reviews, no doubt. It even came in a little pot. I also had Islander Nachos, which was potato chips, bacon, cheese, green onions, sour cream, and some kind of spicy cream sauce stuff.
I have to be up in about three hours for my flight. I would have tried to go to bed earlier, but I had to pack, and honestly I still don't feel tired. I haven't really adjusted to the time zone difference well at all.
My plan is to finagle a series of public transportation options to Kings Point, Long Island from La Guardia. There is a Merchant Marine Memorial Chapel there dedicated in 1961 and a Merchant Marine Museum. I have a gut feeling that SOMETHING about Ralph McKinnon is there and I won't rest until I find out.
Expect some postcards in the coming weeks.