Today I thought I’d make the not-so-long drive (2 hours, plus border crossing) down to Niagara Falls, NY and hit the City Hall for some records and the Public Library to search for some Gavin family obits. It’s been a trying week for me, as I’ve made some pretty big life decisions in the past few days and I’m feeling a bit wobbly coming to terms with them. And genealogy always cheers me up, so off I went.
Disappointment #1: the Public Library was closed because of (according to the sign on the door) Lincoln’s birthday. Now, maybe I’ve lived in Canada too long, but are public buildings usually shut for Lincoln’s birthday? I can’t remember. Anyway, feeling a sense of dread, I headed off to Niagara Falls City Hall…which leads to:
Disappointment #2: City Hall was also closed, presumably for the same reason the library was closed. Rats.
It was raining and blowing a gale by this point, but like a trooper I thought I’d head over to the place I’d heard the old Roman Catholic cemetery for the St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart parishes was and have a drive through to see if I could spot any Gavins or McCabes. I knew it was kind of a pointless exercise, what with the rain lashing down and the sky darkening, coupled with the fact that I had no idea whether any of my ancestors were there at all. I knew they attended St. Mary’s, but I hadn’t yet figured out where they were buried.
I literally wasn’t in there ten minutes when I’d spotted a dark granite tombstone that read “Gavin.”
I hopped out of the car and sloshed through a sea of mud up to the stone, fully expecting to read unfamiliar names carved there. But no, there they were: my great-great-great grandfather Michael, his wife Elizabeth, and three of their eight children. In the middle of the rain, the wind, and the mud, I flung my arms around the headstone and had a nice long cry with my family.
When I regained a modicum of sense, I pulled out my “on the road” genealogy notebook to record the inscriptions on the stone and was shocked to discover, carved there before my eyes, the very piece of information I had been hoping to find at the City Hall and the Public Library: the Gavins’ native county in Ireland.
I am so, so beyond happy about this. I am particularly excited because when I lived in Ireland a million years ago, my very favorite place I visited the whole time I lived there was a little town by the sea called Doolin…in Co. Clare.
So, I missed out on the library, I missed out on the City Hall, but the Gavins themselves showed me exactly what I had been searching for.
My family is great. Even the ones I never knew.
There were a few tense moments getting out of the graveyard, as my car had sunk into the mud of the old carriage tracks and I had to rock the vehicle back and forth for a good twenty minutes before I could shoulder my way out. My clutch hates me now, but at least I’m not waiting for a tow truck in Niagara Falls instead of sitting at my desk warm and dry in Toronto.
What a nice afternoon spent with the family!