Travel and Emigration: Warwickshire, to Scotland, to Canada

James and Amy Cusack (nee Brown - born in Stretton on Dunsmore) and daughter Elizabeth (Eileen Ansell's Aunt), c. 1924.
Image courtesy of Eileen Ansell

Previously, I gave a brief background to my family’s Warwickshire ties. In this section, I would like to talk about feeling a connection to Scotland, England and Warwickshire, even though I live in Canada.

My parents immigrated to Canada with us six kids when I was a baby – they thought that they would have opportunities that they might not have had by remaining in Scotland. They moved at a time when immigration from Britain to Canada was high. My father was an engineer and carpenter by trade, and indeed there were good opportunities for them.

Although I was raised in Canada, we followed so many Scottish traditions and many of my parent’s friends were from Scotland. In fact, I grew up with many Scottish people and families living in our household as my parents offered room and boarding for newly arrived immigrants. With all the Scottish boarders, neighbours, and family (four of my siblings were 10 to 15 years older than me and had lived longer in Scotland), I grew up familiar with traditions, bakeries, food and the Scottish brogue! My parents belonged to “The Sons of Scotland” organization and even some of my teachers were Scottish. To this day I can understand the thickest Scottish accent. I ended up marrying an Englishman so my children were exposed to both backgrounds and we have actually been to England several times. I have a strong love for Scotland and England.

Feeling a local connection

My parents did talk about Scotland a great deal, and since they passed I have been lucky to have my older siblings to share memories. We often wonder what our life paths would have been like had we remained in Scotland. Unfortunately, I did not know about the Warwickshire connection back then. We went back once for a vacation, and surprisingly this had a big impact on me. I was still a child, but I felt a connection that I can’t even explain. It just “felt right” if that makes any sense. I was already familiar with the accent and food, and to this day the smell of freshly baked buns instantly brings me back to lining up on the street corner early in the morning with my dad to get fresh buns from the bun seller when we visited.

Another thing that I found strange was was the connection I felt to England when my husband and I went there even though at the time I knew nothing of my ancestry. We mainly stayed in London and visited surrounding villages and Windsor. Even though at the time I knew only of my husband’s family there, I felt a very strong pull and connection. A cousin of mine who lives in Scotland felt this same feeling when he visited Leamington Spa even when he hadn’t known the connection. Some of my siblings had been to Stratford and walked the streets our ancestors walked.

Warwickshire links

After my parents passed when I was age 13 and 16 I had a strong yearning to find out more about my family background. It isn’t something you think about as a child and part of my desire was fueled by learning about my parents backgrounds to keep my connection to them after I lost them. My research has definitely made me feel closer to my parents (although they didn’t grow up in Warwickshire, it would be interesting to know if my grandmother ever visited. My gr-grandmother’s siblings and family all remained there). What started out as curiosity became so much more. The connection to Warwickshire has been enlightening. My great grandmother, raised in Southam was from a line of agricultural labourers, malsters, and servants and they had a vastly different life from my great grandfather’s line with respect to social status. It has been fascinating to learn. I find that when I watch non-fiction or fictional movies and documentaries, and read books, I automatically try to connect the characters of the time period to people in my ancestry of the same time period and social status. I feel like I “think” in English and Scottish terms.

Had I not researched my Warwickshire ancestors I would never have known about my great grandfather moving to Canada or connected to two cousins from Western Canada!

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