The Foundations of My Quest

I grew up in the White Mountains of Western Maine, in a mill town where I knew nothing of the rich ancestry, heritage, nor history of my family and hometown. It’s hard to mourn what you never knew, and so I went to college knowing practically nothing of the place and people of where I was raised.

After college, my husband and I bought a small place in Central Maine. The date of the deed claimed that the house was built in 1920, but the saw marks on the wood in the basement led me to believe that the building was older. I put the idea of researching the house in the back of my mind – and life got busy. Kids, chickens, gardens, fox attacks, and all sorts of adventures kept me from finding the time to dig back into the history of our house.

It wasn’t until we went to expand one of the gardens that I thought about it again – the number of bricks that the tiller was kicking up had me scratching me head. I began tracing back the deed to the house. As the list of names and dates grew longer, I started thinking about the genealogy of place, the people who have called a building home and the history it has seen, and also began researching the names of the people who had lived here before us. It didn’t take long to piece together rough sketches of the stories of these people, but perhaps more importantly, it didn’t take long to realize that my intuition was right: the date on our deed was wrong. To make a long story short, our house was built for a spinster when her father died and sits in the middle of an old brickyard.

No wonder we harvest more bricks than potatoes.

The build date of the house, found through hours of deed, census, and tax map research, is around 1886. That’s a fair shade earlier than the 1920 written on our deed.

In retelling my adventures in hunting down my home’s history to others, a thought occurred to me: I knew more about my house’s genealogy than I did my own.

It was time to get to work tracing my own roots. I knew my paternal family was French. I knew my maternal grandfather’s family was from Nova Scotia. I knew my maternal grandmother – a Wing before marriage – was a descendant of a family that had their own nation-wide family reunions. What I didn’t know was….well….a lot. Who were the Vaughns in Nova Scotia? Where did my father’s side come from? Why did any of them end up where they did?

These were the normal questions that anyone searching for their family comes across. The answers have led to me dig deep into Acadia’s deportation, Loyalist land allotments, the history of the Rumford paper mill, Francophone harassment in Maine, heartbreaking stories of death, and inspiring tales of beating the odds. Each answer brought more questions.

Since then, I’ve worked to slowly piece through what stories are known to find the stories still buried. It’s been an arduous journey as not many in my family are willing to talk about the past. Those who might have been a bit more at ease to do such have passed to the other side of the veil. This being the case, I’ve set to finding out as much about my genealogy as I can, and in some way feel as though I’m rebuilding the foundations of my family brick by brick, regardless to how they were originally kicked aside.

This blog post is done in part for Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors challenge. To learn more, visit