Well, Everyone, it finally happened: On
August 7th, 2001, in the middle of the longest heat wave in recent memory,
Coubroughs and Cowbroughs from around the world converged on Kingston for
the first ever International Coubrough/ Cowbrough Family Reunion.
Descendants of three of the four main branches so far identified spent
three days getting to know each other and figuring out how there could
possibly be so many other people with their name. Nearly all those present
had grown up admitting to some shadowy Scots ancestors in the vague, misty
past—but they were also sure that they and their close kin were the only
living bearers of their name. Astonishment was plain to be seen when they
saw how many of us there really are—and that we don’t all live in
The Coubrough forebearers were a
nomadic bunch. You have already heard how, in the 19th and 20th centuries,
they moved to Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, England, Canada, the United
States, and South Africa. But did you know that there is also evidence of
some Coubroughs having escaped to France in the mid-1700's, after Prince
Charles Edward Stuart (Bonny Prince Charlie) made his last attempt at
regaining the British throne? And that at least two were drowned at
sea when their ships were lost on mid-19th century voyages? We didn't
either until their descendants came to the reunion.
Overheard: After all the years
Coubrough's have spent escaping from each other, it’s amazing how well
everyone here is getting along!
Back at the reunion hall, there were
49 of us for supper the first night. On the menu were barbecued chicken
breasts and speeches. After an afternoon spent marvelling at meeting so
many people with our very own name—and whose existence we had never
suspected—we spent the evening taking formal group photographs and
telling each other about ourselves. Some of us were very young (under 10
years) and some of us had occupied our space for somewhat longer—as much
as 80 years for several of us. In the ancient tradition of
Coubroughs, quite a few of us are farmers. Others of us have somewhat more
modern means of supporting ourselves and our families. We are clerks,
nurses, veterinarians, teachers, lawyers, businessmen and women, pilots,
civil servants, personal-care givers, engineers, housewives, school
children, accountants, janitors, and soldiers.
We were from three of the four
"big branches": English and Canadian descendants of Helen
Stevenson & John Couburgh of Ellrig (married about 1682); New Zealand
and Canadian descendants of Jean Buchanan and Malcolm Coubrough (married
1796); and the largest group of all, American and Canadian descendants of
James Cowbrough and Jean Muir (married about 1784). As you might expect
from a party in Canada, thirty-one of us were Canadian, but there were
also nine from the US, six from New Zealand, and three from England. All
in all, a pretty mixed bunch but all "family" in a way few of us
had considered before.
Overheard later the first evening:
All these Coubrough’s have been together in the same room all day and
there is no blood—they are even still talking to each other!
To help keep everyone straight,
party-goers were issued name tags bearing coloured stripes. Anyone with a
stripe the same colour as yours was from the same branch and thus more
closely related. Family tree books, bearing covers whose colours matched
the name tag stripes, were available for study and seemed to be quite
popular. There were lots of old photos and we were even able to put names
to some of the folks in our mystery pictures. It seems safe to say that
everyone enjoyed themselves. Even several youngsters were seen poring over
their family trees and examining the pictures of their ancestors.
I would like very much to thank the
people who helped make the reunion a success, especially Judy, Lisa, Mary,
and Margaret. Without them keeping us all fed and cleaning up after us, it
would have been a lot less fun. Thank you also to everyone who sent or
brought pictures, contributed updates and/or corrections to the family
trees, and identified mystery people in the old pictures. I couldn’t
have done it without you.
If you were not able to join us,
fear not: Several people have already mentioned a re-run. Nothing has been
settled yet, of course, but proposed locations include England, Scotland,
and Saskatchewan, with time-frames of two, three and five years bandied
about. We’ll keep you posted.
If you would like to host a
Coubrough/Cowbrough Family Reunion—anywhere
in the world—just
click the e-mail link below and drop me a line. I would be delighted to
help spread the word.