By Jaymie L. White
Special to Wreckhouse Press
CODROY VALLEY – As the province gears up for Come Home Year, one family in Scotland is planning a trip of their own to finally meet their newfound family in Codroy Valley. Amanda Chaisson, whose family is from Nethy Bridge Inverness-Shire, Scotland in the Cairngorm National Park, said she started looking for her family at a young age.
“I got interested in it more when I was about 14, but nobody seemed to have much information and a lot of it died with my grandfather, so I only had a few names to go on,” said Amanda. “I was just a kid then, but I got interested again a few years later, tried to do searches on the computer. Didn’t come to anything, and I kept going with the name Patrick, which was wrong, because it was actually Michael who was my great-grandfather, so that put the search off but then I just took the plunge, found a site in Newfoundland, put a little ad in it asking if there were any Chaissons still in Searston or that area, and it all just took off from there.”
Amanda said she used to look at old photos in a shoebox her gran kept and wonder who the people were. She began her search on Google, but it’s when she moved her search to Facebook that she really made progress.
“I just couldn’t get past this Patrick that was stopping me because it was the wrong name. It turns out it was the brother, which also makes sense because Michael is my dad’s middle name, so Michael was his grandfather,” said Amanda. “My dad didn’t know much either, which was a shame. It was that kind of time when older generations didn’t really talk much about their past, so dad didn’t get many details about family in Newfoundland, which was a real shame. He didn’t have much to tell me.”
Amanda said she made a post on a Facebook group called ‘Newfoundlanders and Labradorians Around the World,’ and that’s where she finally made contact with the people who she soon found out were the family she was looking for.
“You can do a lot of research, try and find lists, go into churches, try to find names that way, marriages, deaths, things like that, and you can go round and round and get nowhere, but it was something as simple as putting a post on a Newfoundland page and there it was. Chaissons everywhere. It’s an unusual name here. It’s not a common name. I’ve never met another one in Scotland.”
Amanda said she got a private message from Dan Chaisson. He was the first person she spoke to before Richard Chaisson, and it was Richard who discovered who Amanda was related.
“While I was speaking to Dan – Dan is his cousin – he went and had a look at the post I put up saying ‘Merry Christmas from Campbeltown,’ and he left a comment on it asking my grandfather’s name, saying he just did his family tree. Then I knew I was speaking to the right family because Don had private messaged me to tell me about his cousin Richard who had just done his family tree and could probably help, not realizing that I might be related,” said Amanda. “The only names Dad could remember were Edward and Teresa, so luckily I mentioned them and that was the ones who sparked Richard into going ‘I know who you are now,’ which was fantastic. If I hadn’t have said Edward and Teresa, they were my grandfather’s brother and sister, he just wouldn’t have gotten it.”
Richard Chaisson said he was a bit leery at first when Dan contacted him about Amanda.
“The information that he had from her didn’t add up because I have an extensive family tree done up, and the people who she was saying are her relatives didn’t add up, so I said I wasn’t going to bother with it. A few days later my sister in St. John’s sent me the same post. I read it again and it was exactly the same as what Dan had sent,” said Richard. “The next morning there was a message request from Amanda, and Judy said I should go ahead and respond to it and see; if it’s a scam I can delete it. So I messaged her.”
Amanda told Richard that her great-grandfather was a man named Patrick Chaisson, and he told her it couldn’t be right.
“Then she mentioned the brother Edward and sister Teresa, and I said ‘Now I know who you are. You’re not Patrick Chaisson’s great-granddaughter; you’re Michael Chaisson’s great-granddaughter and that’s my grandfather’s brother. The rest of it just fell in place. I knew everything she wanted to know and she started sending me pictures from Scotland from when her grandfather, who was my dad’s first cousin, went to Scotland in 1940 with the forestry unit.”
Amanda said she was very surprised to learn that so many of the family still lived in the same area.
“That just blew me away. I couldn’t believe it, and when I started getting the hits coming in, saying ‘yeah, we’re in Searston,’ I thought ‘oh my God, could this be the same Chaissons?’ Every single Chaisson that got in touch was my family.”
In Amanda’s shoebox full of old photos a lot of people have been identified.
“It’s been pretty interesting I must say,” said Richard. “I sent her a lot of information that she liked. I sent her direct family line, right from her to the first of our recorded family history in France in 1600. I spent years at that, and we’ve gotten a whole family out of it. Her father and I are second cousins. Up until that phone call that morning, I never knew they existed.”
Amanda said she and her Newfoundland family talk all the time.
“We talk every day – video chat and things – so it’s great. I couldn’t be happier. When I go over, probably the first stop I’ll make will be to St. Andrew’s. There’s a graveyard there and my great-grandparents are all buried in there, so that would be a great starting point.”
Richard said finding out about Amanda, her sister Karen, and her dad Ian, has been unreal.
“It’s pretty surreal. To meet somebody you didn’t know even existed and to feel so connected so fast, it’s pretty amazing. It made my family tree research worth it.”
Amanda said next year she hopes to make the trip to Newfoundland to meet her family face to face.
“We’re thinking of going over next year; hopefully my dad is coming with me because he would like to meet his cousins, so that’d be great and we are thinking the summer. It would be wonderful to get over there and see everybody,” said Amanda. “Me and my partner were thinking about getting married this year, but we were half-thinking we would hold off because it would be fantastic to get married out in Codroy Valley, so we’re thinking of that. Richard’s wife, Judy, is getting all excited, wanting to plan everything. It could happen. It’s a possibility, but it’s not a given yet.”
Amanda said coming to Newfoundland would be the trip of a lifetime.
each other years ago, but that’s just the way it worked out. It would’ve been great if Richard’s father was still alive because he would’ve remembered my grandfather and would have a lot of things to say to my father about his father out there, but we’ve kind of lost that generation which is a shame. But there are others there, some of Dad’s first cousins are out there as well who are desperate to speak to him. That’s still to take place.”
Amanda said she is excited to be able to fill in the gaps that were missing in her family tree.
“I’ve always been able to tell people my last name is from Newfoundland, my grandfather was there, but that’s where my story used to stop because I didn’t know anything else, but now I’ve got so much more to tell.”