Guest post 11-14 – Matt Ledding on his amazing ancestors

The great thing about having established a ‘tradition’ of guest-blogging is that if someone tells me an interesting story, I can ask them to write it down and send it to me. I am so glad that my newest guest blogger, Matt Ledding, agreed to do this.

Matt Ledding

I met Matt at the Macmillan party at IATEFL Brighton. To the noisy accompaniment of the (very good) Elvis impersonator funking away in the background, Matt told me the story that you will read below. These days, if there’s music blaring in the background when I’m having a conversation, I often think I’ve heard something completely different from what was said. Having read the blog, I now know that all the astonishing details I thought I heard were correct.

I’m sure that Matt would have no problem with any ELT teachers using this in a third conditional lesson. I can’t believe I wrote that – but really, it’s what the story is crying out for. 🙂

The stuff we are made of

I had the pleasure to meet Ken Wilson (likeability in person) at IATEFL, and we got talking about Canada, and I hit him with my family history. Ken asked me to send the story as a guest blog post. So here it is.

I am a Canadian. Like many of my compatriots, I think of nationality as a pie chart: I am three-quarters Irish, one-eighth Norwegian, one-eighth Swedish, and may contain trace products of French and English. The last name is from Norway. I probably am more Irish – Scandinavians tend towards tall, blond and handsome, and I tend towards short, dark and a great personality.

In any case, that I am Canadian at all is mere chance.

The name Ledding was invented by American immigration officials. They misunderstood what my grandfather’s grandfather said. The name came from the family farm in Norway, where Albert, a young boy whose last name was suddenly Ledding, was born.

Growing up in the United States, Albert married a Swedish girl, Mary Mattson. She became very ill, and they farmed out the children they had to various families while she recovered. The Andersons, a family who took care of Charles, my grandfather’s father, could not have children. They decided they would keep baby Charles as their own son and ran away to Canada, to Saskatchewan. Nobody knew where they were.

Until he was seventeen years old, Charles thought he was an “Anderson”, but that year, a friend of the Leddings accidently met the Andersons… and Charles. This resulted in the Leddings coming to Canada to reclaim Charles.

Bringing him back to the US, they sent him to school for the first time in his life, with a group of six-year-olds. Remember – he was seventeen! After graduating from primary school, able to read somewhat, write somewhat and do some math, he moved back to Saskatchewan, where he managed a lumber mill.

His children were born from his first wife, and the children weren’t fond of his second wife. When Charles lost the use of his legs, his second wife pushed him around the house in a wheelbarrow, to avoid spending money on a wheelchair. My grandfather still isn’t sure it was an accident that she pushed him out the window on the second floor with that wheelbarrow.

So many “ifs” were necessary for me to exist. So many “bad things” too.

If he hadn’t been kidnapped, he never would have gone, or returned, to Saskatchewan.

If not for the potato famine, the Irish side of my family wouldn’t have come over to Canada.

If Mary Mattson’s great great great grandmother in Sweden hadn’t been convicted of witchcraft (another story) …. She received clemency because she was pregnant, and she was allowed to live until she gave birth to her child (that went to another family, while she went to her death.)… end of story.

If my great great grandfather had spoken better English, my name and this post wouldn’t exist… ad infinitum.

But somehow, through a million stories, a million problems, and a million ifs, we all got here, to share this now, and create new stories (and problems!) together.

All of us, (and the most boring and frustrating person we ever come across) are part of an anthology of stories. One that could make the angels and devils laugh and cry for eternity.

Don’t believe that people are 70% water, and a shopping list of various elements.

We are made of stories.

Matt finds one of the few people in Europe that he isn't related to...

Blogmeister PS

I love the immediacy of social networking. Last night, I saw this tweet from Brazilian blogger/tweeter (and previous guest-blogger here) Cecilia Lemos (@CeciELT) 

Later she tweeted a pic of the text on her whiteboard. A simple idea shared.

40 thoughts on “Guest post 11-14 – Matt Ledding on his amazing ancestors

  1. Ken, thanks for encouraging Matt to be a guest.

    Matt, what a fascinating story you have shared! I’ve been intrigued by geneology for several years. Ken, keep meaning to ask if you share a relative, Mr. William Wilson (1770-1825), Schoolmaster of Bolton-le-Moors.

    1. Well blow me down with a feather. I’d never even heard of Bolton-le-Moors, and now I discover it’s a parish in my home town! I presume you knew I was from Salford before you asked that. 🙂

      My family’s attempts at genealogy are stymied by illegitimacy on both sides three generations ago – but at least I know my great grandfather was the bastard issue of a bastard lord of the manor’s son.

      But I’m not bitter. 😛

  2. Matt,

    what a fantastic story… It made me curious to look into my own genealogy and see if I can find anything interesting (though I’m pretty sure nothing as interesting as yours!). I loved reading it! Thanks for sharing!

    Ken, thanks for having such wonderful guest bloggers! Always a treat!

  3. WOW! I was at the edge of my seat from start to finish. This post makes me want to go digging for some juicy great great great grandparent stories (e.g. my great grandfather survived a fall out of a 6th-floor window because a clothes line broke his fall). Great post, Matt!!

  4. Wowwww…What an interesting story….. I read every bit of it with a great interest and it reminded me of my geneology and the stories my grandma used to tell us of her husband and her family. I remember once I had visited the old house they used to live in, now divided into several little houses. I had felt so excited. Dear ken, this would not only be if clause, but also a very exciting story-telling-:))

  5. If my American immigrant, blond Latvian Jewish grandfather, Leopold, hadn’t been the black sheep of the family, with wanderlust enough to travel to India right before it partitioned into Pakistan, the British there wouldn’t have thought he was a blue-eyed spy, and thrown him into prison.

    If he hadn’t been thrown into prison, he wouldn’t have read the Koran and became Muslim.

    If my grandfather and his son (my dad) weren’t Muslim, they wouldn’t have met another father and son from Turkey (my maternal grandfather and uncle) in Mecca, amongst the throngs of pilgrims.

    If they hadn’t both been able to speak Urdu, out of the four more popular languages they knew, they would never have become good friends, and my mother would never have met my father.

    If my mother had obeyed her mother, she wouldn’t have run away with my father to America.

    If my mother and father were able to communicate ( neither spoke the other’s language) they would have realized that they had nothing in common, and wouldn’t have married, and I would never have been born.

    1. Aisha,

      that is the best comment I have ever read – funny, sad, poignant, and deeply rich in colour…

      I am so glad to be able to tell everyone that Aisha is one of my next guest bloggers. 😛

  6. This is one of my fave parts from the post:

    “I think of nationality as a pie chart: I am three-quarters Irish, one-eighth Norwegian, one-eighth Swedish, and may contain trace products of French and English.”

    Glad I’m not the only one; though I have to go far back to get my eighth of Irishness and even further for a sixteenth of Italian.

    Cheers for the great post, Matt, and thanks Ken for having him on your blog!

  7. Mike, I love the pie chart, too. As far as my Wilson ancestors are concerned, only English & Welsh so far. In the other branch, I’m sure I’ll discover the Irish one day! My sister & I are making sure our descendants have a more varied pie chart, already including Peruvian & Scottish and Greek & Albanian, respectively.

    Aisha, your ‘ifs’ are truly fascinating! What an introduction to you. Really looking forward to your blogpost!

    Ken, we must discuss at our next meeting. WW was my gggreatgrandfather. Seems to have been an educated individual. Now RWW, educated, versatile, resilient, but a touch of scandal surrounds……

    Great post,Matt!

  8. Wow from me… I really like the stories that are coming out with already.

    Cecilia: do IT! You will find out a lot of interesting stuff, and new things about yourself and your family.

    Bethany: is the story about the clothesline true?
    Gita, have you recorded the stories somewhere?
    And to both of you, yes, digging in students stories is very interesting and a great way of connecting with them as well.

    Mike, while piecharting yourself, with the Harrison name, does that follow the Nordic “son of Harry” rule?

    Julie: am excited to think that you and Ken might be long lost relatives brought together at last by a blog post. *Sniff*

    And, of course, Ken… laughed at the comment on the Blake pic. There are somehow a LOT of Leddings and other relatives out there…

    Aisha: am now really looking forward to your post, too.

  9. I don’t know ANYTHING about my roots, but I know that it leads back to the potato famine, like the rest of the people in Liverpool. Apart from my dad. No idea what his story is. Though nothing interesting.

    1. I’m with Matt on this one – everyone has a story.

      Sometimes just talking about one’s chequered (is that the right spelling?) past can be very therapeutic. I was really shocked when I discovered, age 35, that there is illegitimacy on both sides of my family at grandparent level. In both cases the child was the result of an upstairs-downstairs ‘relationship’ which led to the downstairs maid being thrown out of the big house.

      This is why I always look at the faces of the people in the House of Lords – am I the bastard half-brother of one of them? 😛

      1. Ken, seeing as people predate marriage, there is a bastard part of all of us. (Some display it more proudly than others.) The whole thing of having children with someone you love and/or choose is actually a fairly recent development.

      2. Matt,

        well, THERE’S a thought. Children the result of random coupling – as you say, a system in operation for the vast majority of the time of homo sapiens.

        I realise also I shouldn’t have said ‘shocked’. I discovered the bastard stuff on my paternal side at a family event – the 18th birthday party of my very patrician-looking twin nephew and niece. I had commented on how grand they both looked and my father’s only sister told me the news. I was rather excited.

        A couple of months later, I passed on the information to my mum’s youngest sister – and she told me the rest. To be honest, I think I laughed out loud at the coincidence.

        So, not shocked – excited, then amused.

      3. Ken,

        I am sure this passage must have crossed your mind at some point:

        Why bastard? Wherefore base?
        When my dimensions are as well compact,
        My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
        As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
        With base? With bastardy? Base, base?
        Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
        More composition and fierce quality
        Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
        Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
        Got ‘tween asleep and wake? Well, then,
        Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:
        Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
        As to the legitimate: fine word,–legitimate!
        Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
        And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
        Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
        Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

        -King Lear

        I mention it in case you were just a bit short of a teensy weensy bit of cheerleading to go out and topple the House of Lords.

      4. Great! I love the story and all your comments and family histories – especially Ken’s…
        My family tree seems rather boring on my grandfather’s side – farmers first, many kids and a few teachers in the latest generations. Granny’s side seems much more exciting, rich bussinessman with beautiful daughters, grand balls, dating the private tutor (he was very young – a high school student back then), a great scandal in the family, many cries and …
        a happy marrige in a few months time. The clever boy became an university professor, so the young lady was married to a respectable gentleman in the eyes of her wealthy parents (in the end)…

  10. Hi Crazykite,

    That would be me.
    I never miss a TESOL, next one’s in Bilbao, and should be great too.

    You would probably be surprised at some of the stuff you find out about your family if you dig.

    1. Matt,

      Your post gave me an idea for the first day of next year’s inservice training.

      Pre-session task: Have teachers write a narrative poem about themselves in the third conditional. (I will send them your post).

      During session: Present to the group.

      Lots of aims in this one.


      1. Sounds like fun. Good way for them to learn about each other, and to take away a class they can use with students…

    2. Hi Matt

      We met last March in Madrid! A big group of us followed you round Madrid trying to find food on the Saturday night. Do you remember? In the end we had tapas in some kind of store room in a bar? I don’t think we talked much, but we exchanged a few words. I was the baby of the group. I remember you told us about teaching your mum some interestingly colourful Spanish words to protect her from the big, bad Madrillians.

      I was gutted to have missed your workshop. I have a sleep addiction, and 9 o’clock was simply too early for me to get to the place.

      Nice to “meet” you again on Ken’s blog.


      1. Ay ay ay… the infamous “let’s find a table for 16 on a busy night in the party district of Madrid” skip around that, that without Sue Lyon Jones (whose real name is @esolcourses) we would still be looking for one.

        Yep, got my sweet ol’ ma dropping the most innocent f-bombs ever… but she commanded respect from the Spanish store clerks, and they didn’t mess with her. Whatever works, right?

  11. You’re full of surprises, Matt.

    And you’ve given me an idea for something to do when I’m back in Scotland in September. Trail round the registry offices in the Highlands.

    1. Alan!

      Isn’t it true that there is more interest in connecting with your roots when you have a child? You also find some neat genetic stuff with registers: in my family the men will probably either die of heart failure around 60, or kick around for 100 years.

      (Almost unrelated, but speaking of “root”, have you picked up a wiimote?)

      1. Matt,

        I think I empathise more with Jack in Importance of Being Earnest, when he has to confess to being an orphan found in a handbag in the cloakroom at Victoria Station.

        I just love the snootiness of the next exchange with Lady Brackbell:

        Lady Bracknell: Mr. Worthing, I confess I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to? As for the particular locality in which the hand-bag was found, a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social indiscretion – has probably, indeed, been used for that purpose before now – but it could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognised position in good society.

        Jack. May I ask you then what you would advise me to do? I need hardly say I would do anything in the world to ensure Gwendolen’s happiness.

        Lady Bracknell. I would strongly advise you, Mr. Worthing, to try and acquire some relations as soon as possible, and to make a definite effort to produce at any rate one parent, of either sex, before the season is quite over.

      2. Hihiihihi…

        who’s Bet Wilde by the way? Would love to meet her. 😛

  12. Matt – fantastic reading, I’m so pleased to have come over to see what Ken had on his blog recently!

    My favorite line was “we are made of stories” -and that’s one of the reasons I think dogme works so well in adult classrooms… every single one of us have glorious and inglorious experiences…

    like Aisha’s mish-mash of cultures, I’ll also add mine

    If an Italian priest hadn’t crossed an ocean and landed in Venezuela.. then fell in love with an ex-slave, renouncing his calling then my last name would not be Sylvester…

    If one of the last of the Kalinago’s hadn’t married a Scottish plantation owner then they wouldn’t have had a daughter who would fall in love with a priest’s son at a church’s charity tea.

    If my father hadn’t crossed an ocean to work for the British government then he might never have thought the nervous eye tick of a Prime-minister’s secretary was the English version of flirting and I would never have been born…


    1. Karen,

      Your story sounds like food for an 18th century epic romance novel:))

      Yours and mine are like a personal journeys, and the power (or lack of)communication; which, from my favorite Matt quote,”One that could make the angels and devils laugh and cry for eternity.”

      1. Aisha,

        did you notice that you made it onto the whiteboard in Ceci’s conditionals revision lesson?

    2. Who in this world HASN’T wanted to fall in love with a priest’s son at a church’s charity tea? I know I have. 😛

    3. Hello Karenne,

      Mind if I ramble?

      Great stories, and agree that it would make an epic romance.

      I was a guest at Expomanagement in Madrid today (normally 2000 euros 2 day convention for CEO’s). Aside from some high profile speakers, there were some business English stands that I looked at, and as I was dressed in a suit, I really enjoyed them working to pitch English classes at me.

      One of the things that both had was a pride in their “method” in which the teachers would be doing exactly the same thing, and could be replaced immediately. (One proudly talks, in a very pretty project binder, of their innovative ISO 9001 methodology as being New Headway, 3rd edition, with constant bubble tests to show the teacher is on task.) It saddened me to see the impersonalization, and the idea that teachers using students stories would be punished was worse.

      Why do I say this? I’d like to say that, today especially, I appreciate your generous ideas that you have scattered around the internet. Almost any of them would probably get you fired in two BE companies in Spain. (Conditional sentence for homework.)

      But I can’t finish on that sad note, so I’d also like to add that I love the way that “charity tea” (has I, i, and i: packed in tightly) sounds, and will be trying to use it regularly… (perhaps along with my all time favourite, “Portuguese sheep cheese”?)

  13. I think there will be a lot of focus on ‘conditionals’ for a while!

    Lovely to hear Karenne’s story. Epic Romance Rules!

    Ken, we made Matt ‘sniff’, sons & daughters of Will, wherever it began….

  14. I’m Edward Ledding, an American, and the son of Willard, Grandson of Edward, Great-grandson of Albert. Albert was born out of wedlock so he was denied a patrimonial name by his father and took something like the name of the farm. Albert’s wife was Ella Erickson, a Norwegian.
    Ella’s father died in the American civil war, not so many years after emigrating and her mother re married. My Canadian cousin Marvin Ledding, son of Charles, contacted me by phone some years back and he also visited my dad and I in California with his son David and daughter Lynda. I was only vaguely aware of having Canadian cousins.
    Marvin, who is just a bit younger than my dad, has spent some time researching and writing the family history. I didn’t hear about the wheelbarrow, and I’m a bit dubious. The deal was the Andersons took Charles while Anna was very ill, and Albert was not able to properly care for the infant with his other children needing care also. Anna recovered and the Anderson’s basically took the kid as I herd it from Charles. .. “farmed out” is the language through the story. I think they were promised the child if Anna died. She recoverd and the Andersons, a childless couple, fled to Saskatchewan, with baby Charles Ledding and represented Charles to be their own child. Same to Charles.. never heard of the Leddings until…
    My grandfather Edward never gave up on loosing his young brother and kept writing to Charles in Canada, but never heard back. So he sent a letter to the Canadian local postmaster and sent money for a special delivery letter to be hand delivered to Charles personally at the Anderson farm. He was 17.
    I asked Marvin if his father had introduced him to the Andersons and as I recall, he said he had never met them.
    Leddings I know seem to live a long time. Albert to 96 years and about 10 months. Marvin is in his late 80′s or 90 soon. Edward my grandfather to 88. And my father just passed at 97. Many are gifted to exceptional mental abilities.
    Edward’s wife Thora, my grandmother was from Iceland and her family emigrated to Foam Lake Sask. Not too far from the Anderson home and the Leddings of Biggars.
    Despite a scarcity of advantages, Marvin’s children have done very well. David and the”other” Edward Ledding his son’s and my cousins are both physicians.
    There’s more but I’m away from Marvin’s “paper” on the story. The Canadian Leddings held my grandfather in high esteem, and have treated my family with kindness and grace.

    I suppose the family narrative has elements of classical literature. Something was a bit “rotten in Denmark”. I think the Dane Kings ruled Norway at about that time, but I’ll leave that to another Ledding to confirm.. I like the allusion.

    With warm regards, Your “American” cousin.
    Edward F Ledding

  15. Hello Edward!

    Before anything else, I am sorry to hear about your father.

    Marvin talked well of the American relatives, and how we had some 90 year old hobbyist furniture makers in the south. The longevity is quite surprising… although looking at the death records, and far too close to home, there also appears to be some heart troubles: modern medicine is taking care of that problem quite well. I also love how my uncles and aunts could all talk about their childhood: there are many people who don’t remember childhood at all. Is that the same with your side of the family?

    I am nonetheless very pleased to hear more details from the American side of the family. I was completely unaware of the illegitimacy side of our family name! When I was told the story I would have been a bit young for some of the “minor points”, I guess. Do you have more stories or information about this? Please email me at matt ( at ) .

    Did your Grandfather always have the details of the Anderson´s whereabouts?

    Yes, Marvin’s kids did pretty well… he had 3 doctors, (Dave, my godfather, Dan, my dad, and Ted, the other Edward) one nurse, (Lois) and three teachers: Linda, Mary, and Nora. The Ledding clan in Canada has always been a tight knit group, and I miss them out here.
    Although I did the National Circus School in Montreal, (…I understand that we have several Leddings in the entertainment business…) I suppose I went the teacher route as well, although I like to dip my hands in several pots.

    Edward, I would love to meet up with you if you make it to Madrid at some point. (having filled up North America with Leddings, Spain seemed like an ideal place to start populating Europe, as it leaves options open to perhaps start future generations of Leddings branching out to South America later. We are going slowly, but am pleased to say that number two has arrived two months ago.)

    So, that being said… thank you Ken, for being a meeting point for more stories. (And as an excellent outing place for illegitimate ancestors, I suppose!)

  16. I would like to recommend to listen to the BBC radio-drama “Lost Property” Katie Hims.
    The trilogy won the 2011 BBC Audio Drama Award for Best Drama.
    There are three 45-minute parts. The first one is available.
    I cried while listening to the first part and the last one.

    It might make a good listening for upper-intermediate EFL, the vocabulary is quite advanced but the actors really do their work well and their pronunciation is clear…
    Hopefully, Macmillan or Penguin will make a graded reader on this topic…

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