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Genealogical Society helps others connect with their roots

Genealogical Society

BY AMY HOGUE

Photo: Lanark County Genealogical Society founding member, Walter Brown (left), joins society librarians Helen Benda (centre) and Shirley Somerville (right) for a photo in front of a portion of their extensive collection containing more than 3,000 documents. Brown recently donated half of his extensive document collection to the genealogical society.

Story:

It’s all about the past at the Lanark County Genealogical Society in Smiths Falls, where visitors from around the world come to trace the roots of their ancestors. Located in the basement of the Heritage House Museum, this is where genealogical society librarians, Shirley Somerville and Helen Benda, are in their element, amidst the thousands of records tracing the histories of many of the area’s great families.

“Smiths Falls and area is the cradle of North America,” Lanark County Genealogical Society founder and current member, Walter Brown, said.

Brown, who has recently donated half of his extensive document collection to the museum, explained that the settlers in the Lanark County area were primarily Irish or Scottish, but that because of poor farm land, they often didn’t stay long in the area.

“The land was so lacking here they went to the Midwest or the states or Western Canada,” Brown explained.

So much traffic through the area created a mix of family trees and genealogy, all of which is kept track of with little fanfare in the genealogical society’s unassuming Smiths Falls’ office. With more than 3,000 documents amassed since its founding in 1981, the genealogical society is a sought after source for genealogical information for people around the world.

“People come here from all over,” Somerville said, “We get emails from England, Ohio, Western B.C., all over.”

Although the two librarians explained they get a lot of emails from around the world for people inquiring about their relatives or family tree, they also get a great deal of people coming to research their family history on-site. Because the genealogical society is not a lending library, anyone interested in researching their family tree must do so in the museum, where the documents are stored.

“A lot of people are elderly and don’t know how to research on the computer and that’s why it’s nice to come here,” Benda explained, adding that they see more than 100 visitors each year for research. Each visitor must purchase a Research Pass from the museum for $5.00, which is valid for a period of one year.

Taking the time to research your genealogy can be time consuming. Somerville explained that often people come thinking they need only a few hours to do their research, but end up spending days delving through the multitude of historical records stores by the society.

The first step, Benda said, when trying to find someone in your family tree, is to find the name and the time period the individual is likely to have lived. She advises getting as much information as possible from living relatives before coming to the library to begin your research. When visitors hit a brick wall in their research, Benda or Somerville will always be willing to lend a helping hand.

Although genealogy is something often overlooked by younger generations, Somerville said your family history is important, especially considering that anyone who came through the area as a pioneer “must have done something right.”

“Pride in your family is important,” Benda added to Somerville’s point, “It’s interesting to find out how your great grandfather was a postmaster or worked on the canal, it’s just fascinating.”

The current collection of resource materials at the genealogical society contains newspapers, census, histories, scrapbooks and publications illustrating local history and community events. Despite the vastness of the collection, the society is always on the lookout for new materials. Somerville and Benda encourage anyone interested in preserving their family tree to donate their documents to the society.

Although the library is open during the museum’s opening hours, there may only be a librarian on-site two or three days a week, Benda said. Benda and Somerville both expressed their appreciation for the efforts of Heritage House Museum Curator, Carole Miller, and museum staff, who answer questions for visitors when there is no one available from the society.

Brown explained that he finds it fitting that the genealogical society is housed at the Heritage House Museum. “Smiths Falls started in this museum,” he said, “It’s fitting that the Lanark County Genealogical Society is here.”

For more information about the Lanark County Genealogical Society, please visit their website at http://www.globalgenealogy.com/LCGS/index.htm. The genealogy library is open for visitors Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

One Response to “Genealogical Society helps others connect with their roots”

  1. ann belanger says:

    Can someone please ask Shirley Somerville to contact me directly regarding the Troke family of Renfrew? I am not directly connected but have Troke married into my Vanexan family via the Church family of Renfrew and wanted to see what information Shirley might have before I recreate the wheel. Thanks

    Ann.Belanger@powergate.ca
    VANEXAN, PAUL, CORBETT, EAGLETON, FERGUSON, SHAW, ROGERSON and many more


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Genealogical Society helps others connect with their roots

Genealogical Society

BY AMY HOGUE

Photo: Lanark County Genealogical Society founding member, Walter Brown (left), joins society librarians Helen Benda (centre) and Shirley Somerville (right) for a photo in front of a portion of their extensive collection containing more than 3,000 documents. Brown recently donated half of his extensive document collection to the genealogical society.

Story:

It’s all about the past at the Lanark County Genealogical Society in Smiths Falls, where visitors from around the world come to trace the roots of their ancestors. Located in the basement of the Heritage House Museum, this is where genealogical society librarians, Shirley Somerville and Helen Benda, are in their element, amidst the thousands of records tracing the histories of many of the area’s great families.

“Smiths Falls and area is the cradle of North America,” Lanark County Genealogical Society founder and current member, Walter Brown, said.

Brown, who has recently donated half of his extensive document collection to the museum, explained that the settlers in the Lanark County area were primarily Irish or Scottish, but that because of poor farm land, they often didn’t stay long in the area.

“The land was so lacking here they went to the Midwest or the states or Western Canada,” Brown explained.

So much traffic through the area created a mix of family trees and genealogy, all of which is kept track of with little fanfare in the genealogical society’s unassuming Smiths Falls’ office. With more than 3,000 documents amassed since its founding in 1981, the genealogical society is a sought after source for genealogical information for people around the world.

“People come here from all over,” Somerville said, “We get emails from England, Ohio, Western B.C., all over.”

Although the two librarians explained they get a lot of emails from around the world for people inquiring about their relatives or family tree, they also get a great deal of people coming to research their family history on-site. Because the genealogical society is not a lending library, anyone interested in researching their family tree must do so in the museum, where the documents are stored.

“A lot of people are elderly and don’t know how to research on the computer and that’s why it’s nice to come here,” Benda explained, adding that they see more than 100 visitors each year for research. Each visitor must purchase a Research Pass from the museum for $5.00, which is valid for a period of one year.

Taking the time to research your genealogy can be time consuming. Somerville explained that often people come thinking they need only a few hours to do their research, but end up spending days delving through the multitude of historical records stores by the society.

The first step, Benda said, when trying to find someone in your family tree, is to find the name and the time period the individual is likely to have lived. She advises getting as much information as possible from living relatives before coming to the library to begin your research. When visitors hit a brick wall in their research, Benda or Somerville will always be willing to lend a helping hand.

Although genealogy is something often overlooked by younger generations, Somerville said your family history is important, especially considering that anyone who came through the area as a pioneer “must have done something right.”

“Pride in your family is important,” Benda added to Somerville’s point, “It’s interesting to find out how your great grandfather was a postmaster or worked on the canal, it’s just fascinating.”

The current collection of resource materials at the genealogical society contains newspapers, census, histories, scrapbooks and publications illustrating local history and community events. Despite the vastness of the collection, the society is always on the lookout for new materials. Somerville and Benda encourage anyone interested in preserving their family tree to donate their documents to the society.

Although the library is open during the museum’s opening hours, there may only be a librarian on-site two or three days a week, Benda said. Benda and Somerville both expressed their appreciation for the efforts of Heritage House Museum Curator, Carole Miller, and museum staff, who answer questions for visitors when there is no one available from the society.

Brown explained that he finds it fitting that the genealogical society is housed at the Heritage House Museum. “Smiths Falls started in this museum,” he said, “It’s fitting that the Lanark County Genealogical Society is here.”

For more information about the Lanark County Genealogical Society, please visit their website at http://www.globalgenealogy.com/LCGS/index.htm. The genealogy library is open for visitors Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

One Response to “Genealogical Society helps others connect with their roots”

  1. ann belanger says:

    Can someone please ask Shirley Somerville to contact me directly regarding the Troke family of Renfrew? I am not directly connected but have Troke married into my Vanexan family via the Church family of Renfrew and wanted to see what information Shirley might have before I recreate the wheel. Thanks

    Ann.Belanger@powergate.ca
    VANEXAN, PAUL, CORBETT, EAGLETON, FERGUSON, SHAW, ROGERSON and many more


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