Nebraska sisters strengthen family tree in Burnt Point
After 48 years three women from Nebraska were excited to finally return to their father’s hometown last week and explore their family roots.
Richard Delaney was born and grew up in Burnt Point on the North Shore of the Bay de Verde Peninsula.
After finishing school, Richard moved to Port au Port where he met and married Isabella LaCosta. The couple had five daughters: Deb ( Harders), Janie (Wieck), Shirley (Delaney), Carolyn ( McKeon) and Sheila (Horak).
On a sunny morning last week a shivery breeze was blowing the salty smell of the ocean over the deck at their cousin Gen Shortt’s house — where three of the sisters (Deb, Janie and Sheila) were having coffee and enjoying the view.
“Dad went to school here in Burnt Point,” Deb says, “and in the summer of 1961 we came back here for a visit.
The five little girls enjoyed that summer, unaware their lives were about to change forever.
The following year on Nov. 27, their father was killed in an automobile accident on the way from Port au Port to Corner Brook.
“Mom and Carolyn were hurt but they were okay. Our lives changed completely,” Deb says, remembering the tragedy and the follow-up visits with doctors and lawyers.
Several years later Isabella met John Vogel of Grand Island, Nebraska. She married the Air Force man in March 1965 and the family left Port au Port in May.
From Newfoundland they travelled to Del Rio, Texas spending a year there, another year in Belgrade, Nebraska and then on to Cheyenne, Wyoming for two more years.
When their stepfather got out of the service the family settled in Dannebrog, Nebraska.
“We all live within 30 minutes of each other, including mom and dad.”
Between them, the sisters have 15 kids and 23 grandkids. A close knit family, the girls often wondered about their father’s roots in Burnt Point, but never seemed to get around to planning a trip.
“My husband Ken is into family history and in the winter of 2007, he put an ad in The Telegram to see if there was any family related to Richard Delaney,” says Deb.
“ Betty McCann, a second cousin in St. John’s ( since deceased) read the ad and phoned her brother Bill ( McCann - Richard’s fist cousin) in Burnt Point. She told him she thought they were Richard’s family.”
Bill McCann and Gen Shortt, another cousin, both emailed Deb and Ken.
That was the boost the sisters needed.
“That’s how we got connected and we’ve been connecting ever since,” Deb says. “We had been planning to come back for a long time.”
Three of the sisters (Deb, Janie and Sheila) began arranging the trip and arrived in Burnt Point last Wednesday, June 17. Prior to that, they had been visiting relatives on their mother’s side of the family on the Port au Port Peninsula.
“We went there for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday - our mother has a big family there.”
The sisters apparently had no problem tracking them down.
“We were shopping in Port au Port and just happened to meet another family member at the store,” Deb smiles.
After the women took a couple of wrong side roads on their way from St. John’s airport to Burnt Point, Gen’s brother, Luke Shortt rescued them in Bay Roberts.
The Atlantic Ocean is not easily forgotten, even after nearly half a century.
“We were excited,” says Janie, of the visit to Newfoundland. “The whole place is full of water. The beauty of the countryside — Nebraska is flat — the docks and the fishing boats, the smell of crab and lobster — we got to the ocean and could smell the seaweed, it put water in my eyes.”
After waiting years to meet cousin Bill McCann, the women discovered it needn’t have taken so long. He’d been in the U.S. a number of times.
“ He drove down through Nebraska and went through Deb’s town without knowing it,” Sheila says.
The women haven’t had a lot of time to do any touring since arriving in Conception Bay North, they’ve been too busy visiting family members.
“There’s a meal at someone’s house every day!” Sheila says, getting smiles of agreement from her sisters.
The sisters were scheduled to return to Nebraska Sunday, June 21. All three want to revisit Burnt Point in the future and plan to take more time to sightsee.
“Carolyn and Shirley will have to make the next trip with us,” they agree.
REUNION - It’s been a long time since three sisters who live in Nebraska have been in Burnt Point. But last week the daughters of Richard Delaney visited the North Shore community for a Delaney family reunion. Front row from left are: Luke Delaney, Janie (Delaney) Wieck, Eugene Delaney. Back row: Sheila (Delaney) Horak, Jerry Delaney, Gen (Delaney) Shortt, Debbie (Delaney) Harders, Brian Delaney CLOSE FAMILY - From left: Jane Wieck, Sheila Horak and Debbie (Deb) Harders chat over coffee at their cousin Gen Shortt’s house in Burnt Point. For the first time in 48 years the sisters, who live in Nebraska, are visiting and meeting family members in the community where their father, Richard Delaney, grew up.