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Labrador woman filling in the gaps on Lydia Campbell’s family tree

Patty Way has spent decades compiling this family tree of Lydia Campbell.
Patty Way has spent decades compiling this family tree of Lydia Campbell. - Evan Careen

Patty Way’s years of research filling in the gaps

HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L.

Patty Way has spent a good chunk of her life researching Lydia Campbell and her family tree. So when the 200th anniversary of Campbell’s birth came up on Sept. 19 she was the perfect person to speak about her at the Labrador Interpretation Centre in North West River.

“I was interested in her as a Labradorian,” Way said. “When I was a little kid I wanted to write a book and I thought I can’t write a book about me and my life when the old people had way more interesting lives. They had no doctors, no dentists, no anything, they were strong people.”

So she started researching Lydia Campbell and her family tree. She discovered it includes a lot of people in Lake Melville.

Way spoke to assembled members of the public about Campbell at the Labrador Interpretation Centre in North West River.
Way spoke to assembled members of the public about Campbell at the Labrador Interpretation Centre in North West River.

Way said there are only a few major families in Labrador and most people are descended from them, which became and clearer and clearer to her the more research she did.

Campbell was the author of Sketches of Labrador Life, an autobiography that was the first published writing by a person born and raised in Labrador.

Campbell has been the subject of much research over time, a fair bit of which was done by Way.

Way said the interest in genealogy started in childhood. Growing up in Goose Bay in the 1950’s she said her grandmother would always ask who she played with and would sometimes say “you’re related to them somehow” and Way would always wonder how.

“I just got more and more curious and one day I thought, ‘I’m going to know,’ there are too many questions and not enough answers. So I went looking for the answers.”

She said compiling the family tree for Lydia Campbell has taken her decades and has required numerous revisions.

 “I keep going back and adjusting it,” she said. “I used church records, gravestones, anything I could find. Labrador is a little bit different in that other people wrote about it. It was always an adventure, a curiosity.”

She said here and there, from writings of people from outside the area, she would find stuff about her people.

“It’s slowly being pieced together,” she said. “It’ll never end. It can’t be complete. I used to try to do the whole tree, now I don’t even bother, it’ll never be finished.”

Her work will be part of the exhibit at the Labrador Interpretation Centre, which Way said makes her work feel appreciated.

Although it’s not the thought of appreciation that keeps her going on this research.

“I’d still be doing it just to find out, I’d be doing it either way, whether people appreciated it or not.”

Evan.careen@thelabradorian.ca

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