You are most welcome to publish it any way you want. Gloria has given her full permission. We both just want to share the story so that people know to never give up hope and to realize how easy it is to make such a positive impact on someone else’s life with something as simple as a laptop !! After 75 years on her own with her two daughters and two granddaughters, Gloria is now living a new family life keeping up with all her siblings and their children and grandchildren. And she could not be happier—Chris Muller
Story below by Chris Muller
Please forgive my long delay in getting it to you, but I am hardly the wordsmith that you are. Besides, Sunday will be the one year anniversary of when this Great Adventure Started so it kinda worked out nicely. I hope in this age of COVID-19 it serves as a source of happiness and inspiration that each of us can still have so much impact on the lives of others even though we are all together but separate at the moment due to social distancing. I hope it also serves as a beacon of hope for those who have been searching for something for many years … and indeed perhaps decades … to never give up hope.
My cousin Iz, the Sage of my existence, considers any adventure in life to be a gift. You either experience something new or learn a valuable life’s lesson. Sometimes if you are lucky … very lucky … you get to do both on the same adventure at the same time. And so this adventure begins in a pool of deep pain exactly one year ago on 26 July. I was trying to recover from the loss of suicide that had happened at Easter that year and had decided to browse my DNA Matches on Ancestry.ca when a profile caught my eye. See, I have been gifted with more than my fair share of Great Adventures in life and so I tried to concentrate on that to strengthen me in my own battle with depression.
The one conclusion I came to in thinking of what all my Great Adventures had in common was that they had come about through the opening of my heart. Rather than look inward at this time of great pain I needed to find the strength to look outward. And not knowing where to go or where to look …. there is no Directory of Great Adventures !!! (🤣) … I just opened my laptop and opened my heart.
I wear a name tag at work every day that states that genealogy is my passion. And so I decided to start filling the hole in my life with something I love … studying the relationships of dead people. Come to think of it now that I typed it out loud ( 😁 ) perhaps not the best venue for spending time at when one is fighting a lethal depression … but my motto is ‘LIVE HARD’.
Ancestry has made many changes over the past couple of years that has made working in DNA much more exciting for us amateurs. I decided to spend more time in learning about how you can learn so much from shared DNA matches. I started going up and down my list looking at profiles that had a ‘proposed’ shared ancestor with me. Once I had seen most of those, I moved on to looking at profiles on my shared DNA list that had posted family trees. And that is how I first met Gloria.
The first time I saw Gloria’s profile and family tree I didn’t linger for long because there was not much there. But her small tree (much like Charlie Brown’s little Christmas Tree) burned its image into my memory in a momentary flash. I kept seeing it and passing by it … until one day in late July when I stopped and didn’t pass by. Something about that tree touched my heart: stirred my soul. There was something sad about having such a small tree that was not even completely formed. Perhaps my way out of profound sadness was to see if I could bring profound happiness to another … and so in a mix of excitement and complete arrogance and a good dose of naivety I decided to see if I could find anything using the clues from the couple of names on Gloria’s Family Tree … and I did !!
I sent her a message through Ancestry and she responded !! She confirmed for me that she did indeed know the names of her parents. Later I would learn it was from a birth certificate that was obtained when she applied for a passport for the first time. She also shared with me that that was about all she knew of her birth family. She was told nothing about her family from the people that raised her, and few if any had responded to the questions she had sent to people via Ancestry that might know something. No one was looking for her and seemingly no one from her birth family cared.
However, I refused to accept her statement the moment it appeared on my screen. Something deep inside me told me the truth and started to lead me on one of The Greatest Adventures of my life.
There is no reasonable or ‘logical’ explanation for what happened next. The bits and pieces of Gloria’s tree started coming to me fast and furious. Two weeks to the very day I first made contact with Gloria I was able to provide her with the telephone number to someone I thought might be her sister.
Now remember, Gloria lives in North Carolina and this person lives in Manitoba!! She bravely made the call and one month to the day I first made contact, those two women flew to Ottawa to meet face to face for the first time. Why Ottawa? Because that was the address that the family last lived at as a single unit. That was the family’s address until 27 December 1949 … the night of the tragic fire that would claim the lives of the parents of those five children in the house.
To all who saw those first pictures that were beamed around the world as they sat in the pub, there was no mistaking that these two women were somehow related. Gloria’s sister decided to take a DNA Test herself just to have science prove what everyone was saying … and there was an abundance of joy when the results came back stating that they were indeed half-sisters. Not being one myself …. I have been told that a sister is a sister is a sister no matter what the quantitative measurement is !! And so our work was not done.
Which parent was the 1/2 connected to Gloria ? Shared DNA matches proved it to be the mother and further analysis of Gloria’s DNA Matches and my owned shared DNA matches revealed that her birth father was somehow related to my own birth father !!! It took several stabs at it but we finally have the DNA proof of who her birth father was thanks to a half-sister on that side as well. Her father was Henry Paul Dolan.
In December, I flew to North Carolina to bring Gloria a stunning Family Christmas Tree with over 1600 decorations on it !!! That tree is mostly thanks to the ancestors that called me on another Great Adventure but it is also thanks to my adopted parents who led by example and taught me how to open my heart and it is also thanks to so many that helped us along the way.
But one thought remained in my consciousness and haunted me every day. Why me? There are so many more people that are so much better at this that life could have chosen. Why me? December 27th. December 27th 1949 there was a terrible house fire in Ottawa. There was a family of 7 in the house that night … the parents of which would perish as a result of the burns suffered in saving the lives of their 5 children. Those parents were the two people named on Gloria’s birth certificate as her parents. 75 years after her birth and 70 years after that devastating fire …. Gloria has found her way back to her birth family–and the truth.
Just as I had to answer the call of my ancestors and travel to the East Coast to learn the truth of who my birth father was … and in the process discover that I did not really lose the man that proved not to be my birth father but that he turned out to be a spiritual ‘step-father’ for over 50 years who loved me so much that he led me to the truth of who my birth father really was … so I had to go on another Great Adventure after being called on to it by Gloria’s spiritual ‘step-father’, Cpl Enos McEwan, who loves her so much that he wanted her to learn the information she had been searching for for all of her life … who her birth family was. Cpl Enos McEwan calling me to this task I have been able to heal some of the pain from my own journey of discovery.
None of us are alone. We are all connected. This life is not the end of our spirit. Our impact on the world does not end with our death. I would never have been able to help Gloria find her family if not for answering the call of my own ancestors to follow in their footsteps and find what they have left for me … as a wise First Nations Friend once told me long long ago. I would not have been able to help Gloria if not for Iz who encouraged me to take the DNA Test. I would not have been able to help Gloria if not for my friend who committed suicide and created a void that needed to be filled. I would not have been able to help Gloria if not for the incredible courage of Gloria herself who trusted something so sacred to her to a complete and utter stranger on the internet. And I would not have so many answers for Gloria if not for friends and family like Sharon and Melissa and Gloria’s wonderful nieces Jennifer and Lana. I certainly wouldn’t be as good as I am (whatever that is) without the love and trust of friends who allowed me to hone my skills over the years and work on their family trees for them. This is what I have learned … none of us are alone. We are all connected.
And what am I most proud of? I am most proud of the fact that so many people in the family tree are putting an end to what destroys families from the inside out. What I am most proud of is these people who are making the lives of their children better than their own. We are a family of warriors.
The families involved in this story have historically been Christian and so Gloria …. the Greatest Joy … the Greatest Gratitude … is the greatest name for a little girl born on D Day who would go on a journey through life that would take 75 years to come back to where she started and would happen 70 years after that devastating fire that would leave her siblings orphans.
Whatever one thinks of Gloria’s mother’s actions while her husband, John Max Enos McEwan, was at war … she freely gave of her life to save the lives of her children.
PS This picture of Gloria and myself was taken on the campus of Duke University in Durham, NC this past December when I flew there to meet Gloria and her husband Robert.– Chris Muller
Thanks Christopher for writing this.. the most important thing I believe in is we are not alone we are connected. Just be true to yourself. Listen to your heart. The rest will follow. Everyone has problems. You aren’t alone. This is why I encourage everyone to share their stories. Some where, somewhere else someone can relate. History and family are important and it is up to us to keep the memories alive.
God bless you!
Hello again Linda !!
Hope you had a great time at the Carleton Place 200th parade. So sorry to have missed it. I have a question for you concerning the McEwen Family of the Ottawa Valley. Shortly after the funeral of Clarke Gourlay I became part of another real-life adventure belonging to the McEwan Family of the Ottawa Valley The story that I have become immersed in is that of Cpl Enos McEwan and his wife Olive Matheson. On Dec 27th 1949 their Christmas Tree caught fire trapping them and their 5 children in their home near Billings Bridge. The parents would shortly die as a result of their severe burns received in saving the lives of all 5 children and the children would be divided among the relatives.
In addition to bringing life back to this remarkable story of parents’ ultimate sacrifice and love for their children’ I thought it might be interesting if you could spread the story in the hopes that maybe , just maybe, there might still be a young nurse or fireman or doctor that was present at that time that might be able to add so much to that side of the story and the fires impact on the community outside of the immediate family.