Today, one quarter of me celebrates Canada Day.
In 1783, the First American Civil War ended in the defeat of the Loyalist forces. Many chose to move north, uprooting their families long-established in New York, Pennsylvania, and New England. Among them were about one quarter of my ancestors — Jacob Segee (an officer in the Loyal American Regiment), Peter Snyder (born in Philadelphia to German immigrants), and many others.
My Loyalist ancestors founded Fredericton, New Brunswick. As with nearly everywhere on the continent, though, people had been living in that part of the world for decades, centuries, and millennia. French and Scottish fur trappers had also been settling there, marrying Algonquian-speaking First Nations women. One man named MacPherson married an Indian woman some time before the middle of the 19th Century, creating a Métis family. On the 1851 Census of Canada, Samuel Duncan MacPherson — my great-grandmother’s great-great-grandfather — and his family are listed as “Native” (even though his wife Eliza is actually a Segee descended from New Yorkers).
Fast forward to the early 20th Century, and my great grandparents William Clark and Velma MacPherson have arrived in Maine. I’m fortunate to have known six of my eight great-grandparents. I visited Great Grampy and Grammie at their home in Massachusetts in the 70’s, and several times after they’d continued their southward journey even farther, ultimately settling in Florida. According to the 1940 US Census, Grampy worked as a telegraph operator for a railroad company in Bangor, Maine. All I remember today is that Grampy liked Cadillacs and all-you-can-eat buffets and that Grammie carefully covered their living room furniture in plastic.
But today, I know so much more about these Canadian transplants and their families. I now know that I’m descended from both sides of the American Revolution, as well as both peoples who settled North America (the more recent within the last several hundred years, the other millennia earlier).
Knowing that, I can embrace my Canadian and First Nations heritage alongside the American heritage I’ll be celebrating in three days.