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Family Bonds & Belonging -
The Hearth Stone

by Dan Conlin, Curator


I’m Dan Conlin, Curator. Welcome to Family Bonds & Belonging at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 presented by Scotiabank.

This exhibition was created by the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, British Columbia. It looks at different definitions of family and so many examples in this show are immigrant families.

This case is about heirlooms. Those kind of precious objects that we pass from one generation to another to remind us who we are and where we come from. There’s a classic family bible, this beautiful brass kettle that was brought to BC by a French family when they immigrated in the 1860’s. And this dark and mysterious Irish Hearth Stone.

It belonged to the McAdoo Family who were forced to leave their ancestral home in Donegal, Ireland in 1746. But before they left, they actually carved a chunk of the fireplace out of the cottage and then took it with them for generations. It came to Victoria, British Columbia in 1913 when a descendant Lindhurst McAdoo immigrated to Canada that year. He kept the stone and later gave it to a neighbor, the Tolmie family. The Tolmie’s gave it to the province of British Columbia in 1946.

There’s a lot we don’t know about this stone – Why the McAdoo family were forced to leave their home in Donegal in 1746 and where the stone travelled in those many journeys between 1746 and 1913 when it came to Canada. And the Royal BC Museum and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 would love to hear from anybody who might have some insights on the stone.

But beyond its specific, it tells us some very powerful things about family. The fact that this Irish Family lugged this heavy stone over multiple migrations for a hundred fifty years gives you a real riveting sense of the power of ancestry where we come from. And it also evokes the very idea of hearth. The fire around which a family gathers and that evokes such powerful association with comfort and security the family hearth which really gets to the heart of the definition of home and family for families all over the world.