A tree of Moss

Brandon Anstey
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Author from Eastport pens book of family history

If a tree with many branches could talk, there would be no shortage of stories to tell. The Moss family tree is full of branches.

LONG HISTORY– MacMoss of Gander was able to trace the history of his family in the province back to the 18th century. The book is full of not only the family tree, but also its history.

 

Mac Moss has long had an interest in his family’s history, and now he’s authored a book that portrays just that. It was with the passing of a family member that he ran with the historic torch to finish the piece of literature.

“The book is all about the Moss family history in Newfoundland,” said Moss. “My father started this project 30 years ago, and he died in 1997. I did have some interest in it, but one person doing the history was enough.”

His father had most of his information stored on an earlier model computer, so when he picked it up nearly a decade later, the differences in technology would prove to the first bump the project would hit.

“I picked up my father’s hard drive about eight or nine years after he passed. I tried to collect what I could, but he had used an earlier program. So, finally I got so frustrated with trying to manipulate this program because it kept coming up as an error. Then I found a place that I could print it, and I printed about 600 pages, but some of them had only one or two lines.”

An advance in technology would help to smoothen things out.

“The advantage that I had that he didn’t have was the Internet,” said Moss. “When he died in 1997, the Internet was in its infancy then.”

While he never had any intentions on writing a book, getting his father’s work in print means a lot to him and the family.

“I never had any intention of writing a book,” said Moss. “I just wanted to get the information so that it wouldn’t be lost. Last fall, I had so much data collected and I’ve got some health issues, so I said ‘if I expire this data will be lost.’ It was just sitting on the computer with nothing in print format, so I started putting the book together. Like my brother said, our father is smiling down on us now because his work and my work is available in print to other people, and that’s what’s meaningful to me.”

The book, the Mosses of Bonavista Bay and Beyond, is a climb through the family tree, but that’s not all it’s about.

“A third of the book is history,” said its author. “It’s not necessarily our history, but some of it is the circumstances that caused them to come to Newfoundland, the kind of life they had when they arrived here, and there’s a few stories here and there about our family.”

Moss called the research side of the project “detective work,” saying he made hundreds of phone calls and met with dozens of people in order to put together all the information.

“What I’ve done is connected all the Mosses I could find to these two brothers who came to Keels in 1774,” he said. “I did that through church records, provincial archive records, MUN archives, Maritime History archives, and then personal interviews.”

The two brothers, William and John, came from Corfe Castle, England, and ended up as fishermen in Newfoundland and Labrador during a time when the fishing industry was the province’s financial lifeline.

“Corfe Castle is only three miles from Poole Harbour, so there were a lot of merchants operating out of Poole,” said Moss. “Every spring there would be thousands of men descending on the town looking for a berth to go to Newfoundland, either as crew on the ship, employed by the merchants, or on their own.”

While he had a grasp on where to find information, it wasn’t always easy, said the first-time author. The book is also a way for current members of the Moss family to track their origins.

“After you get to 1900, privacy laws kick in, especially doing work online. So, unless you find an obituary, a birth notice, or a marriage notice, you can’t get the information. That’s where the hardest part was. Any Moss can pick up the book, and if they know their father or grandfather, or if they are current they can find themselves in it. ”

The book is available online at blurb.ca in print and PDF format.

 

banstey@ganderbeacon.ca

Twitter:@beaconnl

 

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Corfe Castle, Poole Bonavista Bay Keels England

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