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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (Mc)
Net Helps Man Find Long-Lost MacDonald Family
By Donald MacDonald

Life began on the plains of Saskatchewan, in the then-tiny town of Shaunavon in the year 1932.

Until I reached the age of five and a half , there was very little to distinguish our family of five from others in the area. I was the youngest of three children, all of whom were born in December, but each eight years apart.

On June 25th of the year 1938, our mother died of pneumonia, which she contracted after an even then, simple goiter operation. It was at this point that our family unit began to disintegrate, due in part, I am sure, to my father's occupation with Canadian National Railways.

My sister Inez, though 21, was married by this time and starting a family of her own. My brother Raymond went to live with his father in Wolf Point, Montana. (It wasn't until years later in 1951, that I discovered they were my half brother and sister; mother had been married twice.)

(R to L) My father Angus Gillis MacDonald, me at one year, my mother Rose Anna and my sister Inez
(circa 1933)

For the next two years, I lived with friends of my father's, then placed in foster care of the Saskatchewan welfare department. This took place in the summer of 1941.For the next seven years I was shuttled between foster homes and the orphanage in Regina Saskatchewan, Canada. During this time period, I had heard of my father just one time in 1944, when he had tried to get me released to his care. This was according to Mr. and Mrs. Hodgins , who were caring for me at the time. I never heard from him again. To this day, I have no idea what happened to him, nor does my family, whom I found through the internet on February 15, 1999.

Now one may ask: Why wasn't I adopted? It seems I was adamant about retaining the MacDonald name, as believed if my name changed, I would never locate my family!

In 1941, I was living with the Hodgins family, when one night I had a premonition about my sister Inez, and ran into their bedroom, yelling that my sister lived in Los Angeles and had two children a girl and a boy.

The Hodgins couple calmed me down, saying it was just a dream. But I never forgot about this incident. In 1950, I contacted the Salvation Army in Regina and asked them to check for an Inez Van Slate, who worked for Safeway Stores in Los Angeles.

My uncle Archie and my cousins Jeannette, Alex and Jack, with our grandfather Sheman Angus MacDonald
(circa 1940)

I took this path after I had contacted the Sheriff's Department and numerous other entities of Los Angeles County. About a year later in 1951, the Salvation Army contacted me saying that luckily, my sister Inez accidentally overheard the Salvation Army worker asking about an Inez Van Slate.

This was the second time the Salvation Army had checked at this store. It seems that Inez had remarried and her last name was now Rubly. And she did indeed have two children, a boy and girl, born in 1946 and 1947, respectively. She had also moved to Los Angeles in 1947.

Neither she nor my brother knew anything of my father.

In 1951 I married, but continued the search for my father by writing to census bureaus in the United States and Canada, and vital statistics organizations in every Canadian province and most U.S. states as well.

I wrote to hundreds of MacDonalds to no avail, hired private investigators in Nova Scotia or wherever I heard or read about an Angus Gillis MacDonald, my father. There is an old Cape Breton proverb that reads, "If mistakes were haystacks, we'd all have a cow!" Well I'd made plenty, but I kept searching!

Five years ago I purchased my first computer and started an internet search. I believe I left queries at every genealogy site I found, and even contacted LDS sites and libraries.

Then on the February 14 of this year, I was checking Family web pages at Cape Breton Genealogies when I decided to research one that I initially passed by. This one was called the Thorpe Family (a long way from MacDonald) but there were MacDonalds listed.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained I mused, so I typed a short note to William Thorpe asking if he knew of an Angus Gillis MacDonald. The following day I received a reply: "Hey cousin, I have found your family!"

It seems the Thorpes were researching this ClanRanald branch of the Creignish MacDonalds for years. Bill then put me in touch with my cousins, Kay and Alex, who live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. From that moment, I began to realize just how large a family I had been privileged to be a part of.

My father was the second eldest of 24 children. His father Shemin Angus (my grandfather) had been married three times, and my grandmother's name was Mary Ann Gillis, thus my father's name of Angus Gillis MacDonald.

We gathered at Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. (L to R) Uncle John Macdonald, Aunt Mary (his wife), Aunt Eleanor, Uncle Tom and his wife Shirley; I am standing.

I'll never forget a story one of my cousins told me. When she was a little girl, she asked her mother, Mama why doesn't Grandpa smile?" Her mother replied: "He must have smiled a few times, you have 23 aunts and uncles!"

Imagine me going from the so called titular head of my family of six, to one of over 1,500 ancestors and relatives. My delight never ceases. Our ancestors came from Eileen Shona in Scotland to Prince Edward Island (PEI) first in the late 1700's, and then moved to Cape Breton.

In August of this year, 1999, I flew to Halifax to meet with relatives for the first time. It is with deep regret that in March I lost an uncle who was 87 and a cousin who died of cancer in April; she was only in her thirties. In May, we lost the eldest sibling of my father, Flora, who was born in 1902, the same year as my father.

Meeting with my uncle Dougald for the first time was an experience I'll never forget. He was waiting for us outside his residence in Port Hawkesbury, resemblance was startling. Dougald is the one remaining sibling of my Grandfather's first marriage. Needless to say, our meeting for the first time was one of tearful joy.

I was greeted Halifax Aiport by some 30 cousins, including Janice; Alex and his wife Jessie; and Jeanette with husband Gordon

Dougald Passed away on 11 10 2002, All of the first Family are now deceased. Dougald would have been 93 in January of 2003.

On the August 21, 1999, I met with many more aunts, uncles and first cousins, of which there are 52 at last count. All welcomed me with open arms and love. As there are many more to relatives to meet, and hopefully I will meet most of them.

After almost six decades of searching, I can only reiterate how astounding it feels to know one's roots. But more than this is the realization that one is accepted as a family member without any reservation. I must also mention that Cape Bretoners as a whole are a wonderfully warm people.

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