A Hedley woman looking into her family’s past recently confirmed she may be related to Canada’s first prime minister and certainly has a connection with Lawrence Welk.
“I had a few weeks vacation and I needed something to delve into that wasn’t work related, or another hobby. I wanted to do something different,” said Kim Ruttig English, who recently turned 50.
English took advantage of a free two-week offer from Ancestory.com, a website that allows users to trace their roots.
English grew up listening to family stories, but didn’t know how to weigh them.
“Both of my parents are deceased and I have one aunt who is living and she doesn’t have a great memory,” she said.
“Whether (the stories) are real or part of family folklore was unclear.
“On my father’s side there was a supposed link – that Lawrence Welk is a cousin of ours.
“I wasn’t sure if he was a cousin or if my parents just really liked Lawrence Welk and it was the only way for them to get us kids to watch his corny variety show on television.”
So far as Ancestory.com can show, English is indeed a cousin of Welk, a popular accordionist, bandleader and television star who hosted The Lawrence Welk Show from 1951 to 1982.
The connection to John A. MacDonald, on her mother’s side, is more tenuous, but is a tale she heard often as a child.
“I’ve just started to explore that rabbit hole. The challenge is there are a number of MacDonalds out there, a number of Alexanders and a number of Johns in both Canada and Scotland.”
The website, which is populated with billions of pieces of data from censuses in numerous countries, does suggest a link.
While she will continue with that line of research, English said it’s not a priority. “It would be notable, that’s all,” said English, adding MacDonald’s policies against Indigenous people is a shameful part of Canadian history.
The most satisfying part of exploring Ancestory.com, for English, has been learning about where her ancestors are from, and where they landed in Canada.
She had always believed her father’s family was from Germany, but now knows they mostly lived in Poland.
And she’s found cousins in Canada, of whom she was unaware, and seen family pictures that are new to her.
She has a DNA testing kit on order, in hopes of learning more.
As her family picture takes shape, English feels a kinship with those who came before her.
The Ruttig ancestors settled in small towns in the western provinces.
“When I look at their stories I’m reflective on just the resiliency of my ancestors,” she said.
“They decided they would have a better opportunity in Canada, at the time. Their descendants across Canada are thriving and I’ve kept true to my roots by getting to enjoy the small quiet there is, a quality of life, where I live in this valley.”
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