The first time I heard of my second great grandfather, Thomas Mowatt, was when I was going through my father’s personal files about 1992, ten years after his death. I had started researching our family, and was following the advice to start with what you know. As far as I knew, my father had no interest in genealogy or family history, but evidently his family DID and had sent him some letters, photos, and documents over the years. He never shared any of this with me when I was growing up, but somehow had the foresight to not throw away the few things that he had that were relevant to his family history.
Thomas Mowatt was my father’s great-grandfather and had died about ten years before my father was born. I was raised knowing I was Scottish on both sides of my family and had proudly worn a wool jumper sewn by my mother out of the Mowatt tartan when I was in fifth grade- but that’s all I knew about the Mowatts. So when I looked through my father’s files and found a typewritten document about this unknown ancestor, Thomas Mowatt, I was curious.
The document reads:
This certifies that Thomas Mowatt, a native of this neighborhood, of credible parentage, leaves this country for N. Brunswick, wishing to better his situation in that land. He is a member in full communion with this Presbyterian Congregation and has always acted as becometh the Christian.
He is of a mild inoffensive disposition, exceedingly peaceable, quiet and retiring, very highly esteemed as a servant, well acquainted with husbandry in all its modern improvements. He has had for several years the oversight of a corn mill, and is very capable of managing such a concern, so he is likely to prove an acquisition to any gentleman improving his estate.
He leaves us in comfortable circumstances, with his brother, James. But if a mysterious Providence should visit them with shipwreck or disaster, the British agent or Consul must afford them protection, and the humane may rest assured that they lend aid to the deserving.
Given in the name of the members, Trustees and Elders of this congregation, Thomas Hall, minister
Crookham, County of Northumberland May 21, 1837
It had been transcribed from the original by a grandson of Thomas Mowatt.
Flash forward a few years to 1996, and my husband, son, and I were driving through Northumberland, England to Ford, the birth place of Thomas and which he had left with his wife and brother James and friends and neighbors on the Cornelius, headed for New Brunswick, Canada. Ford is a small village, but has a castle, a church, some homes- and a mill!
It turned out that the mill, restored and fully operational, is the same one where my ancestor worked- and that there has been a mill on this site since the 1300’s! There was a tour going on, and when we were approached by the person in charge, I showed him the transcribed document. He was thrilled- and introduced us all around as the Canadians who were descended from the local Mowatt family! Our status increased immensely!
I was not a photographer back then, but of course took many photos, and this one of the mill is a favorite. I had scanned the photo with a little portable scanner a few years ago so decided to make a little art piece with it for my photo class this week. I think my father would have been pleased- more with the photography than the genealogy!
I’m on a mission to finish up my genealogy research and organize it in some meaningful way to pass on to future generations. There are so many aspects to this whole project that it seems overwhelming at times, and I get paralyzed with indecision over what to tackle next. I’ve researched the ancestors just about as far as I can go at this point, have a file cabinet, binders, and boxes filled with research, and have had my DNA done (twice), but I still have boxes and boxes of photos left to deal with.
I recently reorganized our front hallway dental cabinet so that the drawers are organized to make sense again. I use this chest to store and display family memorabilia from my husband and my childhoods and (mostly) from our parents’ and grandparents’ lives. I got the idea of putting this together from a newspaper article given to me by my friend, Kathryn, who spotted it and gave it to me, knowing my interest in genealogy and that I owned a similar cabinet. I’m sure I’ve mentioned more than once here that it belonged to my father who bought it used when he opened his dental practice in the late twenties. It was painted white when we acquired it, but we had it stripped to its natural mahogany. I think I should stop calling it a dental cabinet now- it’s our Family History Cabinet!
Here is a drawer with some items from my grandmother and great-grandmother. Both photos are of my grandmother, Marion Bean Badenoch, known to her grandchildren as Mimi.
My latest genealogy/photography project is to scan and restore some of my old family photos. I have hundreds, not counting those from my childhood and my children’s childhoods- so obviously, I am going to have to be very selective. I believe that the photo of Mimi in the oval frame was taken when she was sixteen (that’s what my mother told me, I think), but I’ve also considered that it could be her wedding portrait- it’s a pretty fancy dress! She went to finishing school in Boston, so it could have been taken around that time.
Here is the photo as scanned:
And here is the restored one:
Contrast alone makes a huge difference, and I attempted to eliminate most of the scratches and marks as well. I haven’t made a final decision about tone. The tutorials I’ve watched showed converting all the images to a plain black and white, but I think I prefer some brown in the tones to give a bit of a vintage look to them. Another decision to make!
I think my next photo restoration project will be the cute childhood image of Mimi sitting in the chair.