August 3, 2008

Another Not-So-Famous Ancestor of Sorts

I'm still thinking about connections in History and Genealogy. About 6 degrees of separation.... Sometimes we have more details on an ancestor's life and can do more than play the "I wonder if..." game.

For example, my step-father (an Ancestor of sorts?) was first married to a woman who was one of Sir Frederick Banting's lab assistants.

Frederick Banting was a Canadian medical scientist, doctor and Nobel laureate, also the discoverer of insulin. Banting also painted with A. Y. Jackson of the famous Group of Seven artists who revolutionized Canadian art. Banting and Jackson took several painting trips together out west and up to the Artic.

In 1921 Banting began his research at University of Toronto which would lead to the discovery of insulin which was later used in the treatment of diabetes. In 1923 Banting received the Nobel Prize for Medicine. In 1934 Banting was knighted by the King for his work in the field of medicine.

Greta, my step-father's first wife, worked with Banting at his University of Toronto Lab. When Greta married my step-father (as his first wife) Banting attended the wedding and gave the young couple a painting he had done on a painting trip with A. Y. Jackson to Alberta in 1924.

After Banting's death in 1943 in a plane crash, the Wedding Gift painting was one of several displayed at an art exhibit of Banting's known works of art in Hart House, University of Toronto. For many years the Wedding Gift painting hung on the wall of my step-father's home in Ontario and then British Columbia. It bounced along in the back of a van driven by my mother across the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia back to Ontario in the 1980s, after my step-father's death.

The painting came full circle and was placed in storage until a decision was made about its future. What stories it could tell!

And so, in a convoluted way, I have an ancestor-of-sorts who is not-so-famous but was connected by his wife (also not-so-famous) to a rather famous and important person who himself was connected to a very famous-and-important person in the art world. And what fun to think about possible times they may have spent together.

This is the kind of connection to history story that I believe belongs in a personal genealogy journal. Perhaps one day, a hundred years from now, a descendant will read the story and feel connected to his or her past in a way that is not possible to achieve from simply reading a name on a census record.

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