HARRY MCGEE: AUTHOR, EDITOR, PUBLISHER
PUBLISHED IN 2000
When the descendants of William (b. 1786) and Margaret McGee were called to a Ceilidh, there was an immediate problem in that they were unlikely to recognize each other — or have any idea of how they related even if they wore name tags. Between Christmas 1999 and the reunion date of Sunday, 2 July 2000, a guide had to be put together so these people coming from Alberta and Florida and all over the Great Lakes region would be able to comprehend how they figured in the family that would assemble in the town park when the bagpipes began to welcome them at noon.
This slender book was the answer. It was given to each at a token price, along with a lapel badge which was coloured according to which son or daughter of the progenitor they were descended from. That got them sorted into branches. There were babies and nonagenarians. The piper was a handsome 18 year old in full regalia. The MC in charge of awards (for age or distance travelled) was a retired neurosurgeon. The keynote speaker was an American bank vice president. Cash prizes went to attendees who had the progenitor's full name included in his own. Likewise, prizes went to attendees whose maiden names included both names of the progenitor's wife. The host who reserved the park, supplied all the prizes, organized the marshals that sent out the invitations, was the author of the book!
"These pages celebrate a beginning" it starts. "Families begin every day. The biology is well known. The mystique is not. A family that holds together today is doing pretty well in the face of all the influences that would disrupt it. It takes something out of the ordinary to rear a family that coheres and carries a sense of kinship from one generation to the next. What kind of glue is it that holds a family together...?"
"It is hoped that the insights herein will not only make real the people in this family for their descendants, but by placing them in plausible context, provide a social documentary on the times which will be of interest to anyone."
Ellen Wright McGee was the granddaughter of Rebecca Van Renssalaer
whose antecedents settled the Hudson River valley in the17 century.
RVR lost large landholdings when forced to flee the Revolution.
The new republic never paid compensation promised by treaty.
The introduction begins with the Irish blessing: "May your pathway rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, And the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand."
And the book concludes with some of the most eloquent lines ever to flow from a Gaelic soul — the sonnet High Flight — written by Pilot Officer John Magee jr shortly before his death serving in a Royal Canadian Air Force squadron during 1940 - 41. You know; the one that ends "Put out my hand and touched the face of God."
For some time, I considered the book a personal document that was not appropriate for distribution beyond the family. But in the context of how the country got started, there are quite extraordinary glimpses of pioneer life. Here is how it was received by some museums or archives:
"I am absolutely in awe!...You have compiled the most interesting, complete and educational genealogy that has ever come across our desk." — Eleanor Warren, Administrator, Marsh Collection Society.
"Genealogies are rarely such a pleasurable read." — Valerie Buckie, Curator, Park House Museum.
A retired English professor wrote: "Something good will come of this."
The book was published by Rosecom. It is 8½ x11 inches, flex cover no spine, 41 pages, with 12 b&w rare old photos. It is identified as ISBN 0-9686988-1-6 and two copies are in The National Library in Ottawa. It is priced at CAD or USD $10.00. The price covers mailing. To order, please provide your return address and your cheque made out to Rosecom. Mail them to Rosecom, 41 Outer Drive, London, Ontario, Canada N6P 1E1.
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