Lasha Morningstar


September 22, 2014

September is a mystical time of year. It's a time of transformation. Flowers droop and die. Leaves trade their green for gold, scarlet, chestnut brown and flutter to the ground.

Insects disappear, save for an angry wasp or two. Most birds move house, some flying south, others north. Some stay with us the whole year round. So out come the feeders – both seed and suet.

Gutters are scrubbed clean, storm windows latched on and car winterized. The winter garb moves to the front of the closet and we mutter to each other, "What happened to summer?"

Farmers – both city and rural – take in their harvest and kitchens are pungent with spices as canning is done for another year.

But September can be used as a signal to one to open up doors to different aspects of life.

Winter predictions usually come around Dec. 1. But broadcasters twisted Canada's uber-weatherman Dave Phillips' arm for a forecast for our part of the world and it wasn't pretty.

Snow and miserable cold.

Poppy, my dog, loves it. A rescue dog with a lineage of a multitude of breeds, she leaps in snowbanks, rolls, snorts, kicks her feet in the air.

Other, possibly wiser, animals hibernate. Most humans would cheerfully do the same thing. Snuggle down with books you always meant to read. Knit. Quilt. Attack a blank canvass with a pallet knife. Or fly down a toboggan hill, snowshoe over the fluffy stuff.

Why not come on an adventure.

The quest? Find out who you are.

Genealogy can be a mystery easily solved or, depending on your family, pretty darn difficult.


First steps are usually easy. Ask your parents the names and information about their sisters, brothers and parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Contact them and ask the same questions and keep on taking steps backwards as far as you can go.

Sounds easy. In days gone by, all this information used to be kept in the family Bible.

But society is fractured, with so many families shattered and relatives knowing nothing of each other or even if they exist.

(My grandfather, I was told, fought with the parish priest and, in spite, had his sons haul logs from the bush, built an Anglican church and moved the clan there. Everyone is still Anglican, save me. God found me.)

Remember too the elders. These are the oft-forgotten relatives living alone perhaps in another town or city. Or maybe they've been put in an extended care home.

Grab a tape recorder, lots of tapes and make a date with them to come for a visit to talk about the relatives. Ask for photographs. Be prepared for hours of remembrances. Lots of pauses. And give thanks for the gift these elders are sharing.

Oral history is precious. Too many family stories were never written down.

Among the most cherished oral history is that of the indigenous people – the memories, incidents, spiritual practices, herbal medicines, explanations of how they are linked with the Great Spirit. If this is not captured for the young people, they lose their roots, their heritage.


Some of us are adopted, even come from other countries. These are different situations. Information can be imparted or not. It depends on the province or country.

Still drawing a blank? Don't give up. Real fun can be to make use of the National Geographic Ancient Project Kit.

This ancestor-related information will take you way, way back. A swab for the inside of your cheek can discover the migration paths your ancestors took thousands of years ago, what percentage of your genome (genetic material) is affiliated with specific regions of the world, or your percentage of Neanderthal or Denisovan ancestry.

Closer to home, one can link up with the Alberta Genealogical Society. This promises to be an intriguing group of ancestral investigators. It meets once a month and has special interest groups according to countries – England and Wales, Germany, Ireland, Canada and the United States, and others. They also meet to learn how to use computers in genealogy.


Discovering one's heritage can answer a lot of questions one has of oneself. An aunt, at the end of her life, sent me a large picture of my paternal grandmother. Dressed in a long skirt, sitting on a split rail fence, she was cradling an adult fox in her arms.

I feel at home only in the forest. Seeing Gramma with the fox was the first time I felt I belonged in that family.

(Lasha Morningstar