By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
PORT AUX BASQUES – On May 9, an article published in Wreckhouse Weekly told the story of Amanda Chaisson from Scotland, who found long-lost relatives in Codroy Valley, and another family from Scotland has just made their own trip to visit found family in Port Aux Basques.
Ross Blackwood and Thomas Seaward Blackwood said their journey here began with their grandparents, James Seaward and Elizabeth Wells.
“My grandfather was a Newfoundlander, and he joined the Newfoundland Regiment when it went to the first World War. And he was posted to Ayrshire – the town of Ayr in Ayrshire – and from there, from his posting, he went around Europe, various locations during his war bit. He met his wife there and when the war finished, they got married with the permission of the Newfoundland Regiment,” said Thomas. “After they got married, he brought her back here to Port Aux Basques, to show his new wife off to the family, meet the family, and we think she didn’t know that she was pregnant, and that is where my mother was born. She was born here in Port Aux Basques in December 1919.”
After their mother, Sarah Muirle Seaward, fondly referred to as Sadie, was born, Elizabeth realized she wanted to be back in Scotland.
“Sometime in 1920, Grandmother couldn’t settle. She wanted to be back home with her family. A young woman, new baby, she wanted to be back home. We don’t exactly know when in 1920, but she went back home and that’s where they stayed. They had another son in the middle and another daughter. There’s three children,” said Thomas.
The brothers were born in Scotland but Thomas said they always knew their mother was Canadian. They just didn’t know she was from Newfoundland.
“It’s only later on that we knew she was from Newfoundland. As kids, they didn’t really speak a lot about Newfoundland. They did between themselves, but not to the kids. It was only later on when we started to think we must have relations in Newfoundland.”
Thomas said he and his cousin had old photographs from when his grandmother and grandfather went to Newfoundland in 1957 to meet family, and these photographs were how they located their family on the Southwest coast.
“On the photographs we had the names on the back, like Willy, Donna Lee, and Eric. We didn’t know who these people were. So what we did is we put them on a full sheet, scanned it, and we sent it on the Port Aux Basques Open Forum and asked basically, ‘Does anyone know these people? We’re looking for our relatives.’”
They sent the photos to the forum in 2018 and were soon bombarded with information.
“’That’s me when I was a little girl,’ ‘That’s me. I’m Donna Lee. That’s my picture,’ and somebody would say, ‘Well that’s cousin Eric,’” said Seaward Blackwood, “When I was getting all that information, I decided I would form my family tree. Well now I’ve got 1,971 people in the family tree and I would say 1,900 of them are on the Seaward family side. It’s huge.”
Thomas said the relatives just keep on coming.
“One of the fabulous things about coming here, some of the older ones are left. Unfortunately, some of the older ones are gone and that’s where the memories are gone.”
Thomas said it was a long road to get here because of the pandemic.
“As soon as we got a hold of family, made contact, we had a family meeting at home and the three of us were going to come out. We arranged to come out in May 2019, and COVID hit, so it all got cancelled. We tried again in 2021, cancelled again, and third time lucky.”
The brothers came to Newfoundland for three days, and in that short amount of time they were able to uncover a couple of hundred relatives with more to come, and they both hope to be able to make it back.
“We would like to think we’ll be able to return. I’m 68 and my brother is 78. I’d like to bring my family over, my wife especially. The purpose of this meeting was for us to meet family, so my wife gave her blessing and said, ‘You go and meet your family. Do what you gotta do. We can go to Newfoundland anytime.’ So I would like to bring her back one day.”
Thomas said they had a cousin, Susan, who was originally going to come to Newfoundland with them, but she passed before she was able to make the trip.
“What I said to my cousins, if they could get something personal of Susan’s, they can leave it here and a little piece of her will always be in Port Aux Basques. We had a pair of shoes and a pair of sunglasses she always wore. The shoes were a bit much, so we didn’t bring the shoes, but we took the sunglasses and laid the sunglasses in Port Aux Basques so she will always be there, with her sunglasses on, watching what’s going on.”
Both men said there are a few things they will remember most about their visit.
“The hospitality and meeting all the cousins we’ve never met before and didn’t know has been very, very good. Plenty of hugs and kisses,” said Ross.
“My memory will be how close the communities are. Everything’s all close together and it’s not just people that live in the houses, it’s generations that have lived in the same house. That is a community, and everybody knows everybody,” said Thomas.
Sherry Farrell of Port Aux Basques is one of the many relatives Thomas and Ross were able to connect with when they arrived, and she said she was always told by her mother about her relative in Scotland.
“All my life, my mother said, ‘Sherry, I’ve got a cousin, Sadie Seaward, in Scotland. That’s pretty broad. I didn’t know where I would post anything in Scotland to try to find Sadie Seaward, but they knew Seawards, on their end, were in Port Aux Basques.”
Sherry said she saw the post made in Port Aux Basques Area Open Forum which contained her Mom’s picture and two of her uncles, and that’s where it all began.
“Within an hour, I think they had 110 relatives, very little over there. All they could do was cry because they couldn’t believe all that they were related to, and that was just the first hour. It has snowballed since then. They found us in October. My mom died in September. If my mom could only see this today.”