Generations of mothers

Only one woman could give birth to me. Magee Birnie is a strong woman. Men have not always treated her well (that is an understatement), but she has found the love and grace to nurture and taught her children the value of gentleness (that is a larger understatement).

My mother with her granddaughter and her great grandson

My two grandmothers Grandma Birnie and Grandma Patterson also faced daunting circumstances — each without lasting co-parents, somehow finding the time, energy, and resources to raise five children each. These two women raised families just a block from each other, and I grew up just another mile away. Their children now have families of their own, and those families have grown, now counting over 100 relatives. Almost all live within a 50-mile radius! These two grandmothers raised children with love for their families.

I have sought to understand their roots over the past year. I found some records for all four of my great grandmothers, and six of my eight great-great grandmothers, and seven more generations earlier — 54 preceding mothers all together. There are so many stories to learn! Some things that strike me as I reflect on Mother’s Day:

  • Loss and life: My Grandma Birnie and her sisters Auntie Marie and Auntie Gen, when I was very young, showed me their childhood home on Browns Point. They spoke fondly of their mother, Mary Ursula Johnson, who asked her husband Louis Johnson to help find this new home away from Wisconsin after they lost child after child after child. What unendurable pain! But as I researched our history, I see that story over and over again.
  • Roots: These mothers of my family came from a handful of small working villages in Scotland, Belgium, and England, followed by Wisconsin and Ontario, and finally by Washington and British Columbia. In each of these seven communities, I can find hundreds and hundreds of relatives. My mothers and their children spent their lives close with their families.
  • Strength: Through loss, through famine, through war, these women remained the connections of their families.

I celebrate these mothers with my one mother. They make us who we are. While there is much more loss and life to come. The heritage my mothers pass on have strength and deep roots.


54 preceding mothers:

my mother Margaret Lucille Birnie
my grandmother Frances Helen Birnie (1913–1985)
my grandmother Joyce A Patterson (c.1916 — d.)
my great grandmother Evelynn Blanche Birnie (c.1888–1926)
my great grandmother Mary Ursula Johnson (Lannoye) (1874–1948)
my great grandmother Margaret Frohman
my great grandmother Dehlia Bridget Fisher (1888 — d.)
my second great grandmother Angeline Birnie (1852 — d.)
my second great grandmother <Private> MacCallum
my second great grandmother Antonette Johnson
my second great grandmother Mary Josephine Lannoye (1850–1927)
my second great grandmother Esther Stanley (1852–1933)
my second great grandmother Mary Ann McNally (c.1855 — d.)
my third great grandmother Marie-Therese Josephe Lannoye (1814–1902)
my third great grandmother Marie Thérese Josèphe Lemense (1820–1920)
my third great grandmother Elizabeth Fisher (1833–1903)
my third great grandmother Martha Simpson (1826 — d.)
my fourth great grandmother Marie Therese Denis (1778–1842)
my fourth great grandmother Marie Eilsabeth Ghislaine Lannoye (1778–1852)
my fourth great grandmother Marie Catherine Lemmens (1787–1872)
my fourth great grandmother Marie J. Robert
my fourth great grandmother Mary Fisher (1793–1877)
my fourth great grandmother Jane Harrison (c.1798 — d.)
my fifth great grandmother Marie Madeleine Denis (1756–1788)
my fifth great grandmother Marie Anne Gilson (1739–1794)
my fifth great grandmother Marie Therese Bar (1736–1792)
my fifth great grandmother Marie Josephe Lannoye (c.1750–1837)
my fifth great grandmother Marie-Catherine Marguarite DeCamp (1743–1863)
my fifth great grandmother Marie Catherine Thirion (c.1731–1806)
my fifth great grandmother Marie Thérèse Josèphe Fortemps
my fifth great grandmother Mary Fisher (1712 — d.)
my fifth great grandmother Rachel Watson
my 6th great grandmother Marie Thérèse Denis (1721–1774)
my 6th great grandmother Anne Catherine Flamend (1734–1759)
my 6th great grandmother Anne Marie Pierson (1705 — d.)
my 6th great grandmother Marie Anne Gilson (1705–1784)
my 6th great grandmother Anne Marie Genicot
my 6th great grandmother Elisabeth Bar (c.1715–1794)
my 6th great grandmother E Lannoye
my 6th great grandmother Anne Hontis (1743–1798)
my 6th great grandmother Marguerite Joseph Fortemps (b. — 1773)
my 6th great grandmother Elizabeth Fisher (1687 — d.)
my 7th great grandmother Anne Thomas (1680 — d.)
my 7th great grandmother Catherine Gilson (1675–1722)
my 7th great grandmother Marie Anne Bar (1686 — d.)
my 7th great grandmother Maria Vaes (b. — 1691)
my 7th great grandmother Anne Catherine Fortemps (1682–1769)
my 8th great grandmother Jeanne Pinchart (1648 — d.)
my 8th great grandmother Anne-Marie Gilson (b. — 1716)
my 8th great grandmother Elisabeth Elens
my 8th great grandmother Catherine Fortems (b. — 1684)
my 8th great grandmother Apollonie ou Pauline Henrioul (1642–1719)
my 9th great grandmother Jean Corvilain (b. — 1668)
my 9th great grandmother Marie Blancbonnet
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