Saturday, 28 March 2015

From Monumental to Mundane, It's All In Your Mindset

As I sit here writing on a sunny Saturday morning, the house is quiet, the dog is chewing a bone, I'm embracing my morning coffee and thinking all is right with the world.

There are problems around me, ISIS is still killing innocent people, politicians are making asinine decisions for "our own good", corporations are taking over any hint of freedom we have, people are killing, robbing and raping each other, and some guy with a mental illness decided it was a good idea to crash a plane and kill himself and 150 other people. Bank fees are going up again, taxes are going up in the next budget, food prices rise while product gets smaller, and the list goes on. But for once, that's all i've got to worry about. Weirdly enough, that feels good.

2014 sucked. Huge. It was the year from hell and the year I'd like stripped from the record. Financially, mentally, physically, it just sucked. I vowed that this year would be a change for the better. I've taken steps in that direction, but it's a long hard road upwards. It's a hell of a lot easier to fall into a hole than to climb out of it.

Most of what happened was due to my illness, my depression followed by ridiculous manic states found me curling up on the couch ignoring the world and hoping everything would just go away, to wanting to fix everything and do everything at once. I took to writing lists for myself just to keep my days straight. Mundane things that we take for granted had to be written down to remind me to do them, and if I missed looking at the list one day I ended up on the couch. Then I found that the lists themselves caused panic attacks. Once I wrote them I perused them, and cursed them. But in the end, it was the only way to compete with the inner demons. Systematically striking off the said demons one by one. Then adding more. I still write my lists, but today they've changed.

I am refocussing in here. Lately I've looked around this place and wondered why I've left things that should be done, like fixing the back fence, the back door, the junk in the basement. I've walked past these issues too many times lately, they weren't top of mind. Functioning was top of mind, things like taking a bath and combing my hair were chores. The house and the family suffered. I need to fix that now.

I don't do well on my own without some sort of goal. Without a firm grasp on what's got to be done as opposed to what I want to do, I will be content to sit on the computer all day searching for stupid things on Wikipedia or watching dumb YouTube videos. Useless endeavours to say the least. So on top of the list, I've taken to one other insightful philosophy. An old base Commander years ago, Colonel West, had a simple ideology he often passed on much to the annoyance of anyone in earshot; "Never Pass A Fault". A simple rule really, one which he pontificated to the point of your ears bleeding, but now years later I find that philosophy helpful. I walk through my house now everyday and simply pick things up, sweep this, wash that, move this to where it's supposed to be. I am no longer tied to the couch or the computer. Now I'm getting the shoe on the other foot - I'm constantly moving and tidying things. And by doing just that I'm becoming painfully aware of how much I've left off my lists. So yes, I wrote another list. This one dealing with the home repairs I've ignored for the past years.

Even the computer has changed it's purpose for me. Instead of whiling the time away uselessly I've taken to opening up old design software, learning to build websites, writing, positive things. Now YouTube is used for tutorials. I just had to refocus. I even spent one evening (three hours of it) re-writing the house budget. Something that surely would have tossed me into bed for days last year. It needed to be done and I finally just kicked myself in the ass. It ended up being a positive thing - an eye-opener, and something that kick-started my mood. I just had to start it. That was the hard part.

The obvious argument here is that I'm simply in a manic state again, and it won't be long until I crash. While that may be true, there's a huge difference. A person's actions while manic usually aren't focused and the person is doing things compulsively, without knowing or without caring. For example, I found myself packing a bag one day with the intention of hiking out of town for parts unknown. I also wanted to sell the house out from under the family and move to Scotland. Today, I am very aware of my actions, they're meticulously intentional. Manic has no part in this, the goal is to be etheric (stable mindset) and keep depression at bay. So I stick to my list.

I'm going to finish my coffee, read the news, play with the dog, then get something done around here. Things that "normal people" take for granted, but for me they're a monumental undertaking. This year I will strive to change that mindset and make this a good year. This year I will get off my depressed angry self-pittying ass and be normal. 

I'm going to start by getting rid of the business card on my desk that's been staring me in the face for days. It doesn't need to be there.

Cheers, enjoy your Saturday.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Spring List

Spring is finally here. A season of rebirth and renewal, of which I fully intend to take advantage of. No longer do I have any excuse to hibernate, it's time to get life moving again. I see that, but I also see the coffee pot and the computer.

This spring will bring new activities and options. I have things around the house I've been putting off for too long now, and I gave myself a deadline to get them taken care of. First off there's the hole in the library ceiling where we had to fix water pipes, then there's the back door. A few years ago we replaced the door, but I never got around to fixing the wall around it, so you can plainly see the plaster and lathe around the door. It's an eyesore that I've been meaning to fix, but just never got around to. I have it on my radar now. I also want a new floor in the kitchen, the old linoleum is pretty beat up and showing it's age. These are my priorities, and hopefully I will add more to the list. I need to replace the flower beds in the front and back, fix the back fence, clean the crap piled up beside the house, and several other little things.

All of this sounds easy and really is. Nothing here is groundbreaking. The problem is the illness I suffer from keeps me from attacking projects with any sense of urgency. I get very frustrated and depressed, and end up on the couch. Not good. It's a fight to accomplish anything meaningful on a daily basis, my inner demons keep pushing me to inactivity.

It's a commonly held belief that many people suffer from something called SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even though my Psych indicated that I'm grouped in with this lot, I don't really agree with it. I see it more as STWSOSIWDFA, or Shit The Weather Sucks Outside So I Will Do Fuck All. I'm no doctor, but I think that sums up what everyone is thinking more precisely. I've already been labelled with enough disorders that I don't need another one, thank you very much.

This winter sucked. We took a hit on several fronts, and now we're climbing up the ladder. Soon the car will be back on the road, even though I finally don't mind walking. I can't believe the freedom I lost when I parked her. Just the ability to go buy groceries without making a day of it will be welcomed. Simple things we take for granted are lost when you have no wheels. I know thousands of people in town don't have cars, and they survive quite well, but have one for years and suddenly loose it and it puts things into perspective. Transit Windsor really does suck. Now I see that clearly. However, there is something about not driving that appealed to me, that is, not driving. Being the only one in the house with a license all these years meant that anywhere someone wanted to go, it was me. I've enjoyed not being the chauffeur!

Other aspects of spring await. Next week we're surrendering the dog, which although sad to say, has to be done. He's very high maintenance, and I can only do so much around here with him. I won't go into the reasons we're surrendering him, but I can say that I look forward to not having to crate him just to go to the bathroom. Once I have a level of freedom back, I can start cleaning out the basement. Right now I can't go down there for any reason without him getting into everything and eating my couch. Next Friday will be a sad day, but it has to be done.

Spring also brings out neighbours. It's always funny that each spring people take tepid steps out of their houses and look around like the groundhog looking for his shadow. Each spring we open windows, dust off the porch chairs, clean up the crap the snow left behind, and actually converse with one another. It's a weird time. In my case, as I watch the snow slowly recede from my car, I see the two flat tires. Another spring project. I also see the mud piles on every front yard on this street. When the city replaced our water mains last fall they couldn't replace the grass, it had to wait til spring, so we all have mud pits. It's making the melt so much more fun! But like other issues, that will be fixed soon enough.

It's also time to start packing away the winter coats and trying to figure out where I hid the spring jackets. I went out yesterday without a hat, a small thing, but not shrouding myself in layers of protective gear felt good. As Canadians we're used to this weather, it's not uncommon on the coldest days to see someone wearing shorts around here. I don't partake in that kind of practise, but I have been known to wear my kilt out to events when it's minus holy crap out.

One of my favourite spring past times is simply sitting on the porch with a book, or a laptop, writing. But this season I have to change that tune a bit. I have to get busy around here. I have a deadline, family is coming from overseas to visit and I want the house looking nice for them. Without a deadline the illness will prevail, and I will find the couch, and the wife will be annoyed. There are more reasons to do things this year than not to do them, which is what I need. Now given that, does anyone know how to plaster? Please? Anyone?

Happy Spring.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Bennington Vermont, 1777

Timothy sprawled out on the grass staring up at the sky. It was a carefree day, the sun was shining
brightly, the birds sang in the giant elm tree next to him. Life was good. His father, John had given him free time today, a break from working on the farm. At eleven years old Timothy needed the time to be a kid and his father was kind enough to realize that. His mother Elizabeth, no so much. It was a point of contention. She wanted him to help out more around the farm, as the rest of the boys did. But every now and then John allowed the boys time to just live life. In the morning Timothy went to school in the town, about a forty-five minute walk. For two hours he learned about life, math, english and religion in the little one room school. He hated his teacher, too often he was getting the strap for things he didn't feel were warranted. But that was life. It wasn't easy. Some days going home to the farm and working was a relief from learning, other days it was the other way around.
Today was different, he had the rare chance to explore and play knowing full well that when he came home there would be more chores, there always were more chores. That afternoon he and his father were going to fix the holes in the walls of the cabin. With colder weather coming they needed to be shored up to keep the cold New England winter at bay. But now was his time.

He stared at the sky lost in thought. At his age things that mattered were simpler, he didn't care about politics or business. He didn't worry himself about food production or money, he just followed the lead of his brothers and sisters and parents and teacher. They were all older and wiser, or so they told him constantly. He was just a kid and had much to learn about the world around him. His father was a veteran of the French and Indian wars, so he was a hard man. Now a farmer in a quiet town, he still stayed away from other people instead preferring the company of family and church. At night, he would gather the children around the hearth and read the bible to them. During the day he would run the farm like a tyrant. With twelve brothers and sisters the work was spread out and he was more like a boss than a father, even strapping those who failed him. He was a tough man and he had to be. But then he would have moments of weakness where childhood memories compelled him to back off and let kids be kids.

Elizabeth was also tough. Having lived through the wars with John and coming from a similar home down south she was used to the life. The women typically kept to the house while the men worked outside. Elizabeth taught the five girls to sew, cook, make bread and butter, milk cows, make clothing, fix things inside and much more. Growing up she didn't need to do that much, as her father was a slave owner. He was a fairly wealthy man and she'd gotten off lucky for it. But now she had an immensely different life which she enjoyed – she had a good man for a husband and they really didn't want for much. Everything was provided by God and John.

“Hey!” came a shout from over the meadow. “Time to stop daydreaming and get home, Father's waiting for you and he's not happy. Come now”.

Timothy heeded the call of his older brother William, slowly getting up after taking one more long gaze at the blue sky. “Maybe tomorrow”, he murmured to himself. And he got up and followed his brother without a word. With the war going on all around them, days like these were indeed rare, and that made them so much more appreciated.

Chinking the walls was not the most difficult job on the farmstead and therefore one normally reserved for the youngest. John had shown him how to do it a couple of years ago, but was always there to help. The mixture of mud, clay, grass and moss was mixed for him, all he had to do was patch the holes. Easy enough, but boring. His father was there as always, to teach and ensure the job was done right. John took pride in reminding him that if it wasn't done right he'd freeze his butt off that coming winter. The cabin wasn't large, about 15 foot by 20 foot, but the addition on the backside required special care. Initially John built a cabin for a small family, with a loft for sleeping but as the McCombs clan grew he needed more space. Five years ago he built a 10 foot by 10 foot addition on the cabin, making it one of the larger homes in the area. The gaps between the main cabin and the addition were the problem as the logs used to build them were not joined together in the tongue and groove fashion used to build them vertically. Rather holes were bored out and logs fitted into them. This made for larger gaps that required more chinking. And of course, that's where the joints were weakest. It would be an all day job, if not into tomorrow.

While Timothy set to work his father headed off to check on the rest of the boys, working in the fields. It wouldn't be harvest time for another month but that didn't take away from the tasks of the fields. In the twenty-six years John McCombs owned the farm he had built it from a forest. When his grant of land came through after the last war he realized he'd been given trees. Millions of them. The farm evolved within that 500 acre patch of forest in the Vermont countryside to a farm, but the old tree stumps still littered the fields. The first years were not spent producing, but in cutting down the trees to open up the land, and the fields were planted around the old stumps. Over the years the stumps rotted and made them easier to remove. So the backbreaking job of taking them out carried on alongside the wheat and corn farming. Today, John and the boys would remove three, maybe four stumps and cut them up for firewood. One of John's neigbours, David Street, had built himself a massive stump pulling devise, and rented it out to those who could afford it, but of course, John couldn't. A few years back he did hire Street's devise, but the cost wasn't worth the reward. Now with seven boys to help him, he could do just as much without it.

The first 100 acres behind the barn had been cleared already. Now they were deep in the fields working in the unbearable August heat. Two of the girls, Margaret and Elizabeth, were tasked to bring water to the men working. All day they went back and forth carrying water in whatever they could find, buckets, jars, and leather canteens. All day the men worked on the stumps all the while careful not to destroy the precious wheat growing all around them. It was exhausting work, and Timothy was happy to have a slightly less strenuous task.

While Timothy worked he daydreamed. He stared across the at the road out front and wondered where it would take him someday. He often dreamed of just leaving and exploring his world, but today was not the day. As he glanced up at the road he noticed soldiers marching. That wasn't uncommon here, there were 1,500 men garrisoned in Bennington just ten miles away. So seeing men walking down the road at any point was not a surprise. Today was different. There were hundreds of men, in columns, marching past the cabin, an officer on horseback leading them, the flag of Vermont Republic waving in the breeze. Timothy went to the road to watch them, knowing of course that his father would rail on him for doing so. But he went. The men were marching west, out of town. Many were signing songs while they marched. He wondered if the officer on the horse was Washington, he'd never seen his portrait. Probably not, Washington was somewhere else commanding the Continental Army, not in a small backwater town. The men were a rag tag mix. Many in uniforms he recognized from days past when the army marched in, many others were in field clothes. All of them carried muskets and battle gear such of powder horns and charge boxes. Then the Massachusetts flag went by. Then the New Hampshire flag. This was big.

After the column passed Timothy went back to the cabin and resumed his work. He didn't think much more about it. He was concentrating more on the fact that father or mother hadn't caught him. He kept chinking the cabin.

At 3pm Timothy was startled by gunfire. A little at first, then came roaring explosions, quite close by. He dropped his tools and ran into the cabin yelling “Shooting Mother! In the next fields, there's a battle!” His mother stopped him cold, grabbed him and quickly ushered him to the loft, where she already had the girls hunkered down. Five minutes later the men came in, panicking and yelling to see if everyone was safe.

All fifteen members of the McCombs family was in the cabin now. John pulled his rifle down off the wall, and ordered Thomas to check the supply of shot stored in the chest against the far wall. Then he ordered William to go to the barn and retrieve as much powder as he could carry. The girls started to cry as Elizabeth calmed them as best she could.

After an hour or so John had his musket primed and ready, although he was short on powder. He set the boys to work making as many cartridges as they could. The women and Timothy huddled in the loft, scared but relatively safe. They waited. Probably for nothing, but it had already been proven that this war was as much hell on civilians as to the soldiers. Both sides had looted and burned villages and farms. Now a battle was happened only a mile away, and who knew what to expect.
A window shattered. Then another. John ordered the boys to the floor and Elizabeth pulled the girls and Timothy lower. Lead balls embedded themselves into the far wall of the cabin. Luckily hitting nobody.

On the road in front a skirmish had broken out between groups of men dislodged from the main battle. About fifty men on both sides fired at each other in close quarters. The men of the British side were Rangers and Indian allies, so they fought guerrilla style, hiding among the trees. The men of the American side were Green Mountain Boys. They fought a rolling battle down the road in front of the McCombs homestead moving east towards Old Bennington. Bodies of soldiers from both sides lay on the grass in front of the cabin. Eventually the skirmish moved on, and the rain began, ceasing the guns.

After an hour of uneasy quiet John stepped out with his musket and cautiously approached the road, hugging the trees. Seven men lay dead on his property, on was still alive, a British Ranger. He called out for help. William and Stephen quickly came to the aid of the fallen man, and under their father's orders carried him to the barn. John collected a few muskets and cartridges from the dead men, and while checking his guard, brought them back to the house. He distributed the arms to the older boys, checking first to make sure the rain hadn't damaged the precious powder. Then he ordered Elizabeth to care for the wounded soldier. It didn't matter if he was British, he was a man who would die without aid, and the Christian thing to do was help, even though he would easily be branded a Tory for doing so.

John didn't pick a side in this conflict. He'd been a loyal citizen of the King for almost fifty years, and he didn't plan on picking today to reflect on where his loyalty should lie. Both sides of the conflict had pros and cons, so he chose to just farm his land and raise his family. He was too old for politics anyway. He chose to help his fellow man, regardless of who's side he was on. He was playing a dangerous game. Last year a neighbour, John Walker, after being accused a Tory had his farm burned and his family driven off the land. The last anyone saw of the Walker family they were moving north towards Canada. Nobody knew of their fate. John hoped they made it to the border, and hopefully a new life. John also knew the same fate could await him if anyone found a British soldier in his barn being cared for by his family.

Later that evening the gunfire started again. Louder this time and much more intense. Cannon shot could be heard, so close the remaining windows of the cabin rattled and cooking implements were shaken off the table. The boys hunkered down with their muskets, four now loaded and ready. The girls huddled in the loft with Timothy, and Elizabeth and Alice cared the wounded soldier in the barn. It went on for three more hours, then silence.

By nightfall the Americans under General Stark had the field. They began the process of mopping up the field, looting British and German supplies, and processing the hundreds of prisoners. On the British side over 200 men lay dead, on the Continental side, 30 dead. That night a stream of British prisoners marched down the Bennington Road towards town past the McCombs home. John and the boys lay their rifles down and watched the solemn procession. He still had one though. And he had no idea what to do with him. He was gravely wounded, and the family did not expect him to recover. 

John made the difficult decision to approach the column and talk to a passing officer. He knew the consequences if his actions were taken the wrong way, but it was the right thing to do. He told the officer who he had in his care, hoping that his action would be seen as merely humane. Upon hearing this, the American officer dispatched two men to collect the wounded man from the barn, which they did quickly and efficiently. They joined the column of men and moved on. The officer stared intently at John for a few moments, then moved on. He was safe.

The next morning the McCombs family all took to the duty of the aftermath. Bodies were everywhere, and they had to be given Christian burials. American soldiers had removed the seven dead from the homestead and piled them up with the rest of the casualties on the fields a mile away. When the family arrived to assist, they were initially stopped, but John being the man he was, insisted. Preachers from town were already here, offering last rights to the dead and helping with digging the graves. Soldiers put down their weapons and picked up shovels. Families from around the area were there to help clean up the aftermath of the Battle of Bennington.

Timothy took all this in with horror. He'd never seen battle, he'd never seen death like this. His innocence was lost now. All he could smell was gunpowder and death. Everywhere he looked he saw the shattered remains of men and the cries of the wounded. Everywhere he looked he saw things that would affect him for the rest of his life. The horror of war.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Don't bother reading this, I'm just venting.

I have writer's block. I'm stuck. A couple of weeks ago I wrote over 7,000 words on my manuscript and since then I've only stared at a blank page. Crap.

There's probably a thousand reasons I can't get past this, of course here I am writing about the fact that I can't write. I have things going on now in my life that are taking priority in my head. First off we have made the decision to surrender the dog, Prometheus. He can easily walk over the back fence now, and the other day he attacked a young boy, who I should point out, was asking for it, but that is no excuse. I can't have a dog that attacks. There's other problems with him, he's destructive, he won't let anyone in the house, he's too rambunctious for us, overall, he's just too much to handle. It was suggested that we just chain him up outside and that will stop him from jumping the fence, but is that any way for a dog to live? He's a greyhound labrador mix, it's in his blood to run. And run he does. Right over the fence. So that's on our minds to the point that ironically enough, I'm the one talking people off a ledge.

I'm not used to being the one to talk people down. For the past four years or so I've been the one with debilitating mental illness that has this house on edge. I've been the one with the breakdowns so bad that my family has to work hard to bring me out of. Freaking out, panic attacks so bad I can't breathe, aggressive outbursts, manic states, and slumps of serious depression. It's fun! Now the shoe's on the other foot, someone in here is suffering similarly to me, and I have to talk him down. I haven't got a clue how. It's kinda like the patient diagnosing the doctor. I'm no doctor. So that aspect of recent life has increased my stress greatly. I haven't got the foggiest idea when an episode will occur, just like the family with my episodes. They're random and unpredictable. Yesterday I found myself talking on person off a ledge while at the same time consoling another about the dog. I'm not a very good multi-tasker and it showed. I'm not good at this therapy stuff unless I'm on the receiving end.

There's a host of other issues going on in my head, but I won't get into them here. Suffice it to say I've had no sleep lately. I lay awake at night wondering how to solve the problems, which in itself becomes a problem. Then I worry about how to solve the problem of not being able to get to sleep because I'm too concerned about other problems. See the problem? Someone please tell me a solution instead!

I have a story in my head that's been there for years. It's a good tale, full of mystery, intrigue and adventure. But for now it will stay in my head because life is getting in the way. Fiction is pushed aside for non-fiction, and that's kinda boring. So I write that aspect here, not so much to get readers as it is to get it out of my head. This blog is a release for me. It's a place I can log my thoughts and hopes and problems for future reference. I often go back and read the old posts just to see if I've changed, and low and behold, I have. I have written about the worst times of my illness and I've written about eureka moments, this is neither, it's a long drawn out status update. But I digress.

A couple of weeks ago I changed directions because of the writer's block. In the process of researching topics for the manuscript I saw something shiny and walked towards the light. In the distraction I found myself looking at old family records. We've been researching our family heritage for about 25 years, my mother started it as a hobby and we jumped in both feet. Since then it's been an ongoing fascination and relentless pursuit of our roots. We've been stuck at a certain individual for years now, and I decided I was going to break the code. Well that didn't quite work. We're still stuck and probably will always be. Damn dead people. Never left a forwarding email. So I changed cars again, back to the writing. Nope.

Problems in life are inevitable. Those who don't encounter stress and bad karma occasionally don't exist, they're myths only found in stupid fairy tales. We're human and we have to deal with the curve balls life throws at us, it's how we dodge them or hit them that matters. Lately I feel like I'm standing at the mound with no bat.

Writing is an escape. It's a process by which I can switch off the world and it's issues and focus on another life for a while. I can live vicariously through characters and lose myself in a make-believe world. I can walk away from the dog, the mental problems, the stress, the broken stuff that hasn't been fixed, and much to my wife's dismay, the chores. I can immerse myself and for a short time I'm okay. But that only happens when I can actually put something on a page. Which has not been the past few weeks. It will pass, of that I'm sure. In the meantime I will post here, take care of some chores, take the dog out on a leash 20 times a day, help people with their internal demons, and maybe eat something.

Maybe it's not so bad, the week I wrote 7,000 words I accomplished bugger-all. What's worse?


Sunday, 8 February 2015

A Big Fat Bucket of What If?

What if our ancestor was a traitor to the crown? What if he turned to the American side during the
War of 1812? What does it matter? It may make all the difference to years of research into an elusive character who single handedly stops everyone looking for the McCombs' family roots. 

My mom started researching our family history over 25 years ago as a hobby. Opening box upon box of old photos and letters she began putting the pieces together of our family history. We joined in and had a great time with it all. She eventually traced out lineage to France in the fifteen hundreds on one side, and back to 1765 New England on another. Eventually mom received her United Empire Loyalist certificate through her research, a designation you may receive if you have UEL ancestors, or  in English, those who left the colonies during the American Revolution to stay loyal to the crown.

John McCombs, my Fourth Great Uncle,
son of Timothy McCombs
Many of my ancestors on both families fought in the Revolution and in the war of 1812. The UEL members left the areas of New York, Vermont and Pennsylvania and came to Canada as refugees, most earning claims of land from the crown. These claims centred around the Niagara Peninsula. The Depew family, who were traced to France, were granted land at Stipes Inlet in what is now present day Hamilton. My ancestral land is currently home to a massive steel mill on the coast of Lake Ontario. I'd love to find documentation proving that so I can kick them out! The steel mill even moved the family graveyard when they took over the inlet, all burials of the Depew family moved to the Hamilton Cemetery. 

One Depew ancestor, Capt. John Depew, was a member of the Indian Department and fought with the infamous Butler's Rangers in the Niagara area, alongside other family members. The Rangers were famous for cross border raids fighting indian style, raiding American units deep inside US territory.

The McCombs' line equally moved here to settle. Land claims in Thorald and Pelham indicate they were here prior to the War of 1812. When war broke out again, they joined up. Michael, my fourth great-grandfather, and his brother John, joined the Lincoln Militia and fought against the invading Americans. There is even a rumour floating around that they helped carry the mortally wounded General Sir Isaac Brock off the battlefield after the battle of Queenston Heights. After the war the brothers were granted land by the crown in honour of their service. Thousands of other men also won this honour, which is how most of the area of the Peninsula was settled. Many of the families who started farms, mills and other businesses in the area were veterans. Today, their descendants still own large swaths of land granted to soldiers. Names like Ryerson, Ball, Johnson, Dennis, Lutz, Decew, Secord, Lundy and more. Names that still resonate in the area. 

The brothers McCombs father, Timothy, is the problem. Everything stops with him. He was born in 1876 in The US, residing in Bennington Vermont in 1792 with his wife Sarah (or Sally). He bore many children, most notably John, 1792-1865, Michael, 1802-1887 (my ancestor), and Hiram, 1813-1876. There were more, but these are confirmed. Michael was born in Elizethtown, Upper Canada, present day Brockville. So they moved from the states to Canada sometime between 1795 and 1802. From there they moved to the Niagara region prior to the war. Muster rolls from 1812 indicated that Timothy could not join because he was 47 years old and "infirm". From that we can deduce his birth year. He appears on the 1804 Elizethtown census with Sally, John, Samuel, Sylvester, Michael, Sarah, Stephen, and Cornelius. On the 1807 census, Sally, Sam, other Sally, Sarah, Stephen and Cornelius are missing. So we presume that he lost his wife by then, and a number of his children moved away.

That's all we have on Timothy and Sally. And it's been driving us nuts for years. There are many McCombs' family lines in the US and several here. Their genealogies are well documented and many have speculated over time that there is a common thread between the family lines. The problem is nobody has ever been able to link the families together. There are McCombs in dozens of US states, all the way to California. There are also many stories of heroic deeds and major accomplishments. McCombs in varying spellings (MaComb, McComb, McCoombs, MacComb, and other soundex variants) have been generals, politicians, doctors, and much more. We've had clergymen, landowners, spies, and the lot. 

Was Timothy a spy? It may be so. There is speculation about Timothy's activities and loyalties during the War of 1812. Based on a document called "The Bloody Insizes", Timothy is rumoured to have been an American spy and in 1813 crossed to the US side. He became a traitor in the eyes of the crown and a bounty placed on his head. This is where it gets fun, he may also have changed his name.  No wonder we can't find him! Logically a name change would not have been out of the question. Names at that time were changing all the time anyway for a few reasons. First off, people changed their names to fit in better with a certain social hierarchy, so Timothy is rumoured to have changed his name to better suit a "Scots-Irish" connection, actually adding the "Mc" to his name "Combs". If that's the case, then we've been looking for the wrong name all along. What if he was born Timothy Combs in 1765? Secondly, names were screwed up on census records because people were often illiterate and couldn't spell even their own names. Often times land grants were signed with a person's "mark", not name. Census takers of the time wrote down names based on what they heard, not read. Therefore names changed all the time. 

This makes research annoying as hell. 

So what if he changed his name? What if he was a spy? What if we've been barking up the wrong tree for years? We put down the research a few years ago because the sources had dried up and other professional researchers were at the same stumbling block. Everything just hit a wall. To this day not one researcher has connected the families together, but there is a common thread, a man named "BL_K MCCOMBS", Part of his name is illegible. (A Genealogical Register of the McComb Family in America, PHK McComb, Indianapolis, 1913) is said to be the progenitor of the family in America and Canada, immigrating to New York from Antrim Ireland prior to 1732. But that's just one theory. he many not have been the first. Whoever was the first spread the seeds across North America and finally down to our little part of heaven, Windsor.

So we're rekindling our curiosity. At least I am. I have dozens of research documents on the family collected from dozens of sources, as the history nut that I am I have no problem whiling away my days pouring through old notes, letters, land grants, probate records and bible pages. Maybe we'll crack the code? Maybe we'll drive ourselves insane? Who knows, but on we go, chasing ghosts of the past to find out who we really are.