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Decade anniversary celebrated by Lanark County Genealogical Society

Posted Oct 11, 2012
By Marilyn Snedden


EMC Events – It is hard to believe 10 years have passed since a group of volunteers from the Lanark County Genealogical Society opened the doors of the former Drummond Township Office at 1920 Concession 7, Drummond. However it’s true and celebrations will be held on Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Ferguson Falls Community Hall from 1-4 p.m. when everyone is invited to share some of the achievements since 2002.

Archives Lanark was founded to provide a home for the Ontario Land Records that were about to be destroyed as a cost saving measure by the Ontario Government of the time-(1990’s). Provincially based historical groups protested, asking for time to find a place in each county where their records could be stored but also made available to the public for research. As the only county wide group, the Lanark County Genealogical Society was given this task and began the search for a building that would be suitable and affordable. Since Drummond and North Elmsley had amalgamated, the Society was able to rent the former Drummond offices for a reasonable fee. The collection has grown so much that a humidity controlled storage unit is also rented. The dream continues to be a climate-controlled facility, accessible to all, with a full time paid archivist- maybe in the next 10 years!

The Archives recently became an independent, not-for-profit, charitable organization with its own identity, Archives Lanark, and Board of Directors. Corporate status in the Province of Ontario was granted in 2011.The Lanark County Genealogical Society continues its close affiliation with a majority representation on the Board of the Archives.

As many of the volunteers and visitors spring from a background of family research, there is a huge collection of family histories-many donated by people grateful for the help they received there. One such person from Seattle donated a 600 page book on the Shane, Bayne Ellis families since he found their early roots in the White Lake area when looking at our land records. However the next year, he also donated 20 large binders containing all the original copies of birth certificates, census listings, etc. that he had scanned here, in North Dakota and back in Germany. He feared his children weren’t interested but realized other family historians would be.

Since we are in a rural area, the preservation of Women’s Institute Tweedsmuir Histories, 4-H and Junior Farmer records as well as local service clubs is a main focus. So many WI branches have disbanded lately that there is a danger of these wonderful books that have original photos and farm histories being sold at a sale or thrown out. Many of the Tweedsmuir Books have been useful to visitors to the archives.

Clyde Bell, formerly from Perth and editor of the newspaper in Tweed, left several scrapbooks of his time in Junior Farmers and his work with the early Perth Museum. These have proved valuable lately when Allan Donaldson is using them to document the history of the Wilson mineral collection. Other collections donated by local historians and scrapbookers offer our visitors a wealth of information on most areas of the County.

The most valuable resource remains our volunteers who assist visitors to find what they’re looking for. It is quite common to have someone on duty who has a connection to the family of the visitor so progress is much faster than when one goes to a facility where you have to do all your own searching.

We hear comments such as “I found out so much more here than at the Ontario or the National Archives” but we think many don’t realize we rely on donations. Apart from Lanark County, which provides limited funding, government grants are rare in these times of fiscal restraint.

The other noticeable change in the past 10 years is the number of people using ancestry.com who think they can get all their family info from there. They find out that the local facility has many more church and cemetery records plus there are many mistakes online where generations have been mixed up and mistakes seldom get corrected (only repeated).

Less than 10 volunteers keep the facility open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. -3 p.m. until Thanksgiving and alternate days in the winter. Not only do they keep the facility open, but they put in many hours behind the scenes arranging and cataloguing. Check the website for more details-www.globalgenealogy.com/archiveslanark.

The Oct. 20 event will feature displays, music by “Memory Lane”, refreshments and a continuous slide show of the past 10 years. A special feature will be a presentation by Doug Bell from the Perth area of a treasured 1820 artifact and related original documents.

Writers of recently published books on Lanark County will have their books for sale in the Author’s Corner and both the Archives and the Genealogical Society will have their recent releases for sale.

Orders will be taken for the next Rural School books to be published – Drummond, Ramsay Pakenham Townships as well as for a reprint of the very popular Beckwith book. Stories and photos are still being accepted for the upcoming schoolbooks.

It has been a busy-sometimes hectic span of time-yet always rewarding for all who have contributed to the achievements and the services to an appreciative clientele over the past 10 years.

Submitted by Marilyn Snedden.

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