I also hope everyone reading this entry is keeping well during this unprecedented time of our lives.
My Granny, Beula North Lohr, used to talk about the frightening so-called “Spanish Flu”—the pandemic that was brought to Canada by soldiers returning home from World War I. In 1918, my Granny was attending Normal School in Camrose, Alberta, training to be a teacher. My Grandfather, Lester Lohr, was one of the few people in the area who owned a car, so my Great-Grandparents North asked him if he would bring Beula home—which he did. Although she never returned to complete Normal School, she was given a teaching certificate. That trip also started the romance between my grandparents.
Granny told me many times about the pandemic and how neighbors would leave supplies at the end of farm lanes for families who were ill. No one wanted to go near the contaminated houses. Entire families were wiped out. My Granny’s family members were fortunate in that none of them became seriously ill. She always maintained it was because their relatives in the Anaheim area of California had an orchard and sent them oranges on a regular basis. Beula maintained it was the oranges they ate that kept her family healthy. She believed in oranges!
My Grandfather Lester was not as fortunate. He was homesteading at the time and ‘batching’ as he used to call it. When he started to feel very ill, he began to walk to his parents’ home, a distance of around a mile. He made it although it must have been a shock when Lester staggered in, barely able to walk by that point. Fortunately, no one else in his family became seriously ill. He recovered, but he also talked about the severity of the “Spanish Flu.”
Now, just over a hundred years later, we’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Once again, people are isolating and neighbours or extended family members are leaving groceries at the end of the lane or on the porch. I don’t know if eating oranges will help as my Granny maintained they helped her family; however, I do know that this too shall pass and we’ll be telling our grandchildren and great-grandchildren about COVID-19 for years to come. The biggest difference is that we are fortunate to have access to a very good healthcare system that our ancestors didn’t have.
The time in isolation has meant that I can finally get back to my family history work. I’ve started working again on the Collins/Collings side of my maternal grandfather, Moses Herman Collins. One of the two remaining cousins on that branch has sent me all his information and newspaper clippings—a real treasure trove. As well, in 1992, he completed and distributed an extensive family history document that has been invaluable. I’m now working to get that information on Ancestry and am delighted that several extended family members are also working on fleshing out that branch of our family tree. Once you’ve done your DNA spit test through Ancestry, you too will have cousins—my extended cousin count as of today is 860—yes, you read that right!
We have several challenges in our pursuit of adding to this family tree: Firstly, the surname appears to have been changed from Collings to Collins and/or used interchangeably. Secondly, some of the information is online, but some isn’t, so someone needs to get into the Larkin County archives located just west of Ottawa to try and trace the Collings/Collins back to England. We know that our Great-Grandfather Henry Collings came from England as a young boy and was probably born in London or area, but much more needs to be developed. If anyone reading this can help, please send me a message on this website. Thanks.
If there is anyone out there who needs a project during this pandemic, do family history as you are never done—contacting 860 cousins takes a long time! Best wishes to all for health.