Welcome to the site of Stephen Heeney, author of Scratchings.
“SCRATCHINGS is a fascinating account of one Canadian’s discovery of his Aboriginal ancestry. The author’s nineteenth century documentary research is impressive. One can follow the central character Squire Davis as he passes from Iroquois to British Canadian worlds, and then back again. A wonderful read for anyone interested in the interface between the First Nations and non-Aboriginal Canadians in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”
- Don Smith
Professor Emeritus of History, University of Calgary
“Great story. Very compelling and poignant. The list of resources at the end is very comprehensive and will be valuable to anyone exploring the relations between the Six Nations and immigrant communities. …Basically, I became so engrossed in the book I simply could not put it down.”
- Dr. David K. Faux
Author of Understanding Ontario First Nations Genealogical Records: Sources and Case Studies.
“I think what makes this exquisitely researched memoir so extraordinary is the deep affection the author evidently feels for his subjects. All of them, including his remembered grandparents (who hid his true heritage) as well as his Six Nations ancestors, come alive in a memorable way because of the warmth with which they are drawn and the respect with which the old stories are told. Heeney has also treated his own life with kindness as he lets light shine on old secrets and ends the history of denial.”
- Isabel Huggan
Author of the memoir Belonging, winner of the Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction
“… In his well-researched and attractively presented book, Heeney (retired Foreign Service Officer and Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines) combines the historical, the genealogical and the very personal. He starts with childhood memories of visits to his grandparents at Brooklea, on the Grand River. At this time, his aboriginal ancestry was not openly spoken of. Through careful research, Heeney has traced his Mohawk roots through his great-grandmother back to Peter the Runner and the Mohawk Settlement at the Grand River. A fascinating and inspiring journey.”
- “From the Bookshelf”
OHS Bulletin, Summer 2012
Published by the Ontario Historical Society
“When author Stephen Heeney set out to learn more about his mother’s family history, he unwittingly embarked upon a journey of self-discovery. The family bible held proof that someone had tampered with basic genealogical data contained therein; hence, the inspiration for the title of this book. Due to these “scratchings”, believed to be made by his grandmother who was resourceful enough to manoeuvre successfully in two cultures: the “white, English-speaking, and conservative” culture and the Aboriginal culture on [sic] the Onondaga village, along the Grand River south of Brantford.
Heeney does not candy-coat his family’s history. He is fascinated, not only by his Aboriginal ancestry, but also by the actions of his grandmother to suppress that knowledge. Essentially, the ancestors that he researched became white when it suited them, and also claimed Aboriginal status when it suited them. In fact, newspaper and court reports describe Squire Davis, the author’s great great grandfather, as being adept at “knotty matters of the law.”
The first chapter of the book is Heeney’s memories of time spent at his grandparents’ home “Brooklea” near Brantford, where the rest of the family story unfolds a century earlier. Although his vivid and rich memories of Brooklea set the scene for some of his colourful ancestors, this reviewer did not like how long it took to get into the genealogy of his family. While Heeney did a lot of research into the attitudes, perceptions and stereotypes of the day, sometimes his asssumptions and conclusions about his ancestors seem a bit unlikely.
However, this reviewer could not help but get caught up in his enthusiasm and fascination for his new-found heritage. Amid the genealogical research findings, he adds a touch of whimsy to this book, defiantly declaring “this is my memoir and I can fantasize if I want.” Heeney is a wonderful writer and a thorough researcher. There are no footnotes. However, the appendices include a family tree, a glossary of names that appear prominently, some specific government document references, institutions and a selected bibliography.”
- Amanda Morehouse
The Ontario Genealogical Society, Families. Vol. 52. No.1. February 2013, p34.
Across Cultures: A memoir of denial and discovery
By Stephen Heeney
Copyright © Stephen Heeney, 2011
Published by the author, Vancouver, BC