Posted by: downtothesea | February 12, 2009

Happy dance amidst initial disappointment, wind, rain, and graveyard mud.

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.

County Clare.

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!




  1. What a great story!! It’s amazing to me how often our ancestors help us out along the way 🙂

    And just as an aside, I thought only things here in Illinois were closed on Lincoln’s birthday…but this is the 200th so extra celebrations abound.

    • Hi Diana,
      It’s true: I really am beginning to believe they are helping their hapless amateur genealogist progeny!

      Ohhhh…his 200th birthday. That probably explains it!

  2. That’s a great story! Congrats on your find…isn’t it nice that they led you there?

    • I’m so grateful they did ‘take my hand’, as it were, especially since the day was really beginning to feel like a massive, wet failure!

  3. I could’ve cried when you said that you threw your arms around the headstone and cried with your family. Great story! Great find! An afternoon filled with great things! Thanks for sharing it.

    • Oh Cindy, I’m such a romantic and when it comes to family I weep at the drop of a hat! I’m glad it was a rainy day and there were no pedestrians around to witness our teary “family reunion”! 🙂

  4. I’m so happy for you!

    • Thanks, Miriam! It was an unexpectedly wonderful day!

  5. Well, I can only chime in on what everyone else has said – great story, and hooray that you found them!

    • Thanks, Greta! I’ve been thrilled all day 🙂

  6. Hi, I’ve awarded you a Kreativ Blogger Award – you can pick it up at

    • Wow! Thanks, Greta! I’m so flattered!!

  7. I just loved your thought: “My family is great. Even the ones I never knew.”

    I think that’s why genealogy is such a joy – it is fascinating to wonder just which individuals in our tree passed each of our personal traits down to us.

    Thanks for sharing your “day-of-disappointment, stuck in the mud, surprise-ending story”. It was a joy to read. I’m so glad you gave that cemetery trip a try. I’m sure you’ll always remember the day you visited and discovered your ancestral home county in Ireland!

    Hope you’ll join us for the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture sometime soon.

    100 Years in America
    Small-leaved Shamrock
    A light that shines again
    Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture

    • Hi Lisa,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! You’re absolutely right–I will always remember the moment I read “Co. Clare”!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: