Canada woman’s search for Kirkcaldy link to her ancestors

Kara with her husband Dave Van Dam and children Clara, Emily, Josie and Rilla.
Kara with her husband Dave Van Dam and children Clara, Emily, Josie and Rilla.

A Canadian woman always knew her ancestors had Scottish roots so she was delighted to find out recently that her great-great-great-grandfather was born thousands of miles away in Kirkcaldy!

But even more poignant was the discovery of a book of poems and musings written by him between 1840 and 1873 which offer a unique insight into Alexander Graham’s life and his childhood home in the Lang Toun.

Alexander Graham wrote poems/musings about his home in Kirkcaldy.

Alexander Graham wrote poems/musings about his home in Kirkcaldy.

Now Kara Van Dam, who lives with her husband and four daughters in Winnipeg, is looking to see if anyone in Kirkcaldy has information about Alexander and the Graham family to learn more about the town where he was born.

A read through Alexander’s 273-page book has given Kara some detail to work on.

He was born in 1812 in Kirkcaldy and his family was possibly buried in Abbotshall.

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He left behind at least one sister that Kara knows of and perhaps more siblings as he refers to “brothers and sisters” after emigrating in 1842 to Canada, settling in Ontario.

Canada census documents show he worked as a farmer.

Kara said family history had always interested her.

“I’ve been a casual researcher for several years and have interviewed older family members and written down family trees on paper,” she said.

“Two years ago I signed on with Ancestry, and over the past six months since going on maternity leave, I’ve been enjoying the process so much I’m hooked.

“All my life I’ve known I have Scottish roots. Our family has been in Canada for several generations so it always seemed distant to me. I knew we were from Scotland, but didn’t know where.”

Kara continued: “One Sunday afternoon I was exploring online when I came across a poem by Alexander Graham on another member’s tree.

“I tried to stay calm while I searched but I almost fell to the floor when I found an entire book written by my three times great grandfather. I was more than thrilled.

“Alexander’s poems suggest his family had been buried at Abbotshall for generations.

“I naively expected to find headstones that would fill in my family tree, but a contact from the Auld Fife Facebook page kindly explained that many did not have headstones.”

Kara has also discovered more about Alexander’s own family.

“I found possible parents,” she said. “There are two birth records for an Alexander Graham. It’s likely his parents were Alexander Graham and Isabel Henderson, since he would name his eldest son Alexander Henderson and his only daughter Isabel.

“I have also looked into his sister, a Mrs Haig. It seems his sister was Mary, married to George Haig – I did find a George Haig on the asylum register of lunatics but he stayed only one day, but there is more to discover there!”

Kara said she would like to know more about what life was like in the Lang Toun when her three times great grandfather lived there.

“I’d love to understand what life was like at that time, and to learn more about Kirkcaldy,” she said.

“I have so many questions about what everyday life would have been like, and also how difficult it was to send letters to Canada at that time.

“He writes of fond childhood memories and mentions several people and places. He wrote when he left he hoped to see his family and homeland again, but that never happened, and, to the end, he longed for Scotland and the people he left behind.”

Ten years ago, Kara and and her husband travelled to Edinburgh and spent ten days in the capital. Had she known then about her family’s roots in Kirkcaldy, she would have driven to the Lang Toun in a heartbeat.

She added: “Although 1842 was a very long time ago, I would love to discover who his family was and to learn more about the place he was born and which called to him throughout his life. I would love to hear if anyone has information about the Graham family from Kirkcaldy or Abbotshall.”

Anyone with information can contact Kara by emailing: VanDam6Pack@gmail.com