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Irish family tree prompts student project

On St. Patrick's Day, SAC's Dr. David Joiner shared his journey to discovering his Irish heritage with host Chris dela Torre of CBC Listen's Afternoon Drive.
 
The nearly nine-minute interview, which you can listen to here, had David talking about his interest in his family's ancestry and how he has traced his roots back to Ireland in the 1800s, and his family's need to flee Ireland during the Potato Famine.
 
"As a geography teacher, I find it amazing to be able to put places and dates to all of the things in our family's past," he told Chris.
 
Several years ago, David discovered a journal in a special collection at Western University that traces his ancestors' journey from Ireland to London, Ont.
 
He has been sharing the information he has collected with his family but annually meets with Grade 6 students in Mrs. Whitney Elliot's class during their unit on the Irish Potato Famine.
 
"Dr. Joiner's family's voyage inspired our class to write our own fictional journals in Grade 6 social studies," Whitney says. "His ancestors wrote about the difficult days in Ireland when the blighted potatoes forced them off their land, of the treacherous voyage across the North Atlantic on the coffin ships, and adjusting to life in Canada. George Laird's tales of robbers on the ship, choppy waters, whale sightings, time in quarantine, and dreams of a future in a new country had so much more meaning after reading the Laird Journal of the six-week voyage."
 
David mapped all the locations found in the Laird diary and shared those with the students, who were then asked to plot their fictional character's voyage using Google Earth.
 
"I've found it very rewarding to share what my ancestor's lives were like with these young children who are just starting their journey of learning. It has been very rewarding and a lot of fun."
 
Story by Nicolette Fleming
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