John Alexander Moran, age 15

John Alexander Moran, 6 September 1934 — 14 March 2013

My father at age 15.

I believe this photo was taken in the Gatineaus. My grandfather worked for the Gatineau Power Company; and for at least a couple of years, when my dad was a teenager, the family lived in company housing in the Gatineau region. “But how did you get to school?” I once asked my father (I knew he had gone to school in Ottawa, at St. Patrick’s College [which was a high school, btw]).  ”Oh, I got there,” he replied. “But how?” I persisted. My dad claimed he used to hitchhike.

John Alexander Moran, age 15

John Alexander Moran, age 15

The romance of my father’s childhood: the strictness of the adults (parents, priests, and various other guardians and caretakers), combined with the freedom they accorded him (‘you hitchhiked to school?!’). As a child, I was fascinated by this apparently paradoxical mixture of repression and liberty (which was typical of a working-class Irish Catholic upbringing in the 1930s and 1940s, I’m pretty sure): the strictness sounded like something from another era, but so too did the freedom. And my father’s memories of his childhood, as recounted by him to me and my sisters, are now a part of the memories of my own childhood.

When it comes to family history research, I’m all about evidence-based standards of genealogy (exhaustive searches; careful assessment of sources; accurate citation; and so on and so forth). But it’s the romance of the family stories that led me to the research in the first place.