Back in the fall of 2014, my husband, Doug, and I took a life-changing trip to the Isle of Man. The Garrett family lore handed down through his family was that their ancestors were immigrants from the island. And since I had met him, Doug had talked of visiting one day.
(However, for him, I’m not sure if that desire stemmed more from his heritage or for the lure of the famous Isle of Man TT race. Either way, 2014 was finally the year.)
The night before we left, Doug’s mom found an old, typed, yellowed paper listing the children of Isabella Kissack and William John Garrett, the immigrant couple who first came to America. And, that was so helpful!
Right away, we learned that the family name was simply Garrett, not O’Garrett. The “O” turned out to be the middle initial Edward Osborn Garrett, the son that Doug’s line descends through. If you say “Edward O. Garrett” enough, it soon morphs into “Edward O’Garrett.”
So, with the paper in hand, we set off across the Pond, not knowing what we were looking for, nor where we would even begin to look. Not the best way to begin a research trip!
Once on the island, we had some tremendous help from the owners of the Devonian, the cozy B&B we stayed in.
We learned from them that the one and only museum and archive, the Manx Museum, was literally up the hill and around the corner, about a five-minute walk.
We set aside an afternoon to spend at the museum, armed with only the paper above, and soon found ourselves overwhelmed with the help of, and the information found by, the museum staff. We sat in amazement as they brought out papers and documents, one after the other, all with information about Doug’s family.
It was the first time I had ever researched in an archive, or even thought about it for that matter, having never done family history at this point. It was a transformational moment to realize that there are literally thousands of stories, just sitting on shelves or stored in a cupboard, waiting for someone to care enough to discover and tell them.
One of the museum staff soon brought out a book with tombstone inscriptions from the nearby graveyard of Kirk Braddan, where we had already learned that William John and Isabella had been married, having been shown their marriage record from 1852.
There at #792, buried in the same grave, are Doug’s 3x and 4x great-grandmothers (mother and daughter), William John Garrett’s mother and grandmother:
In memory of / Catherine CRAINE / who departed this life / November 27th 1814 / aged 62 years / also Catherine CRAINE / wife of Wm Garrett who / departed this life 26th August / 1832 aged 52 years.
The staff also quickly found a hand-drawn map of the churchyard when we commented that we’d like to visit.
A few days later, we hiked further uphill and inland to Kirk Braddan. A long way inland. A steep walk uphill. It was drizzling. There might have been grumbling.
Kirk Braddan is absolutely lovely. It’s a tiny, ancient, stone church surrounded by a churchyard chock-a-block full of jumbled tombstones, surrounded on three sides by thick stands of trees.
Figuring out the map took us a bit, but once we situated ourselves, we found the grave were were looking for.
And, there we were. Standing a few feet above two women without whom the man beside me wouldn’t exist. Two women who we had never even given a thought to until days earlier. It was a powerful moment for both of us, and it was what spurred me onto this family history journey.