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Part Qallunaaq
Chapter 9. Winifred Talbert Peter


Winifred Talbert Peter! Here was my grandfather’s younger sister, my mother’s atsak (paternal aunt), and namesake. She was born on March 16th, 1907, and had died in 1989, at the age of 82, in Dundee. She had married Peter Anderson Johnston. Winifred Talbert Peter Johnston sealed the discovery of my Scottish family. Here was my mother’s name, fused with her aunt’s, in front of my face. I simply stared at this name, in silence, for a long, long time.

A tidal wave of emotion stirred in my chest, but could find no outlet. The Aberdeen Town Registry was no place for weeping. I felt terribly alone. The archivist sensed my emotional distress, and touched my hand in a comforting gesture. I became sharply aware of how far from home I was. This was one of the times that I needed a shoulder to cry on, but there was none.

I picked myself up as best as I could. Other important items of information surfaced from two more trips to the back room by the archivist. Among these was a record of my grandfather’s marriage in 1933. This made chronological sense. After being in Puvirnituq up to the end of 1928, this gave him time to return to Scotland, re-orient himself with his origins, and get married. This discovery brightened up my composure with hopes of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

The other record of my grandfather produced was his death certificate, dated December 23, 1972, at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. It has happened five days short of his 71st birthday, and its causes were listed as “renal failure” and “chronic bronchitis”. I had been 21 years and eight months old when my grandfather died. I was 38 years old when his sister Winifred had died. But, there was no space for regrets, because there had never been any way to trace them while they were still living. I had found them here, and this was just great!

My discovery of Winifred Talbert Peter Johnston was in many ways just as fulfilling as finding my grandfather. She had been the inspiration for my late mother’s name, and it was her name that clinched this discovery, making it whole beyond any doubt. Her brother…William Mackenzie Peter…must have had a warm place in his heart for his sister, Winifred.

Now, Winifred was just as special to me. I had a great urge to proclaim: “Anaanaak! Atsait Sauniit Takuvara!” (Mother! I have discovered your aunt, and namesake!) How marvelous!


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