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In this archive Sep~Oct~Nov~Dec 2005
Volume 22 Number 3 of 3

Genealogical Society Celebrates Centennial with a Tree Planting
Written in Stone
Letters from the Past
Forensic Genelogy

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Genealogical Society Celebrates Centennial with a Tree Planting

The Prince Albert Branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society (PASGS) celebrated the Saskatchewan Centennial on Saturday June 4 by planting a tree. The tree's chosen location is ideally situated between the Tourism Center and the South Hill Cemetery.

On June 4, 2005, the Prince Albert Branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society
planted the evergreen tree shown at center to honour Saskatchewan's Centennial.
PASG President Annette Krayetski, Deputy Mayor Arnie Lindberg,
and Tourism Center Officer Teena Logodin spoke at the ceremony and are shown here with participants.
The tree is ideally located between the Tourism Center and the South Hill Cemetery.

Annette Krayetski, president of the PASGS, in her thoughtful speech, explained that the group wanted not only to honour the Saskatchewan Centennial but also its own 25th anniversary. She said of the tree, "May its roots nurture it as it grows up and be a reminder to us that we all have come from roots. Genealogy is a study of our roots. Where did our families come from, where have they stretched to and why did they grow in one direction over another? It is a study of history and geography. It is frustrating, challenging, and rewarding all at the same time."

Krayetski introduced Deputy Mayor Arnie Lindberg who brought greetings from the City of Prince Albert. Krayetski then thanked the Chamber of Commerce, the City, the media, PASGS members, and the Tourism Center for all their work.

Teena Logodin, of the Tourism Center, in her speech, expressed her pleasure at kicking off the summer season of Centennial Celebrations with this particular event, "It is appropriate that we commemorate 100 years of growth in Saskatchewan with a tree planting. Just as a tree grows with each passing year, so does our community. I would like to think this tree is a symbol of our Saskatchewan people. Each branch represents our diversity, our passion, our spirit, and our strength. Even when things are not easy, we, like a tree, adapt and endure, making us stronger. I hope that at Saskatchewan's Bicentennial many would come to this spot to see our tree and be proud of how we have grown as a people and what we have grown as a community."

Cake donated by Sobey's.

TourismÕs Teena Logodin, Deputy Mayor Arnie Lindberg, Founding Member Audrey Boyko
and President Annette Krayetski cut cake at Saskatchewan Centennial Celebration.

After a photo session with the tree, Krayetski invited everyone to the basement of the Tourism Center to view the displays of member's work and some of the groups' resources. One particularly worthwhile resource is the Genealogical Research Directory (GRD). It is the world's largest listing of surname queries published annually in book form. PASGS members contribute to and benefit from this directory. Also, Krayetski encouraged everyone to enjoy the cake donated by Sobeys of Cornerstone. This edible piece of art was appropriately inscribed with "You have to have 'roots' to grow."

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Written in Stone

Ron Johnson of Remco Memorials Ltd. graciously accepted our invitation to present a program on gravestones.

Remco Memorials was founded in 1924, by Thomas L. Reeson. Now in the third generation of business, the Reeson family continues to work hard to follow and preserve the reputation for excellence he established. Their buyers purchase only the highest quality granite from China, Africa, Sweden, Norway, United States and Canada as their company has a no time limit guarantee. They promise to replace or repair one of their monuments from weathering-- whether it is the stone itself, the lettering or the design.

Each branch office has its own design studio for customization. The customization is included in the cost of the monument. Many people are now arranging for their own headstones "before need". A member mentioned that she has done this and will be placing a family tree on the back of her stone. Another member knows her in-laws have chosen to list the full names of their children on the back.

When asked about fixing gravestones, Johnson reminded us that we have no right to correct non-family headstones. To clean a granite headstone their web page http://remco-memorials.ca/tips/ suggests a soft bristle brush and automatic dish water soap with thorough rinsing. Members asked about a paint they could use to restore lettering. Johnson did not know if the highlighting paint used by his company was commercially available.

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Letters from the Past
By Patricia (Ferguson) Meek
Reprinted with permission.

"If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You’re a leaf that doesn’t know its part of the tree." Michael Crichton

History, often unappreciated by the young, gains an increasing importance from the perspective of maturity. Our history is important and the study of the past is fascinating and fun.

The tradition of letter writing, of families communicating back and forth with one another over the years, has left us with a rich source of history. In these letters we find vivid images of life in an earlier time.

These images inform us, they help us to understand who we are as individuals, families, communities, and nations. They are informative of the social, economic, political, and religious issues, and lifestyles of the past.

Recently I have become aware of several collections of family letters. By sharing these I hope to illustrate how history is preserved in personal correspondence.

One collection belongs to the family of my Uncle Arthur Arnst. The letters were prompted by Peter Arnst’s (Art’s father) decision to move from the harsh conditions of 1914 Russia to make a better life in Canada. He choose Rosthern as his first home and then moved to the Moose Range district east of Nipawin. The letters from the family who choose not to leave Russia have been translated into English and are poignant with images of struggle and starvation, illness, and political exploitation, with affection for and pride in family. Hopefully these letters will be shared fully with others one day, perhaps on these pages.

Another collection pertains to my maternal great grandfather William McKibbin’s family, originally from County Cavan in Southern Ireland. They settled in the Ottawa valley in 1822. Years later William’s son, also William and my grandfather, homesteaded in the Cherry Ridge district. William and my grandmother Nellie (Petronella) lived there from 1923 to 1944 and then moved to the town of Nipawin.
The letters from the Canadian McKibbin household were to my grandfather’s uncles Adam and John who had chosen to leave Canada to seek their fortune in the goldfields of Australia in 1854. Most of the letters were written by their mother Catherine McKibbin and by their sister Sarah McKibbin Halpenny from their home in Packenham, Ontario.

The early letters (1855 to 1862) have an Irish-Canadian flavour. The grammar and spelling remains unedited.

They were filled with:

  1. family and neighbourhood news
    .."John Steen was going to make marry..he is this day spliced to Miss Murdah".
    .."Intend getting a buggy this year and Sam Shanks mare".
    .."Lame Jonny Wilson is gone and sold his farm, 50 acres for 4.5 pounds to young Jimmy Wilson".
  2. affection for family
    .."Feel lonesome you don’t intend to return". John and Adam had promised their parents they would return to Canada in three years. Instead they lived out their lives in Australia.
    ..Letter signed, "The prayers of your Mother’s heart amen".
    ..Letter signed, "Warmest love to my dear brothers Adam and John, Sarah McKibbin".
  3. religious conflict
    ..."Great enmity in the minds of the papists since the chapple at the shaur was burnt. ______ burnt the new Orange Hall last July at Maginlies. We had a great deal of excitement here this year about the Fenians..they are a set of papists that has gathered in the States..they are going to take Canada and Ireland and kill all the prodestans and to divide the country among themselves when they get it".
  4. lost love
    .."Dear John, I did not deliver the inclosure you sent. I did not deliver it yet on account of hearing that the person it was directed to is going to be married. Dear John I hope you will not take it two much to heart if she dus leave you. Perhaps it is not true and if it is I suppose it is one of the decrees and you must submit".
  5. the impact of political events
    .."The war between North and South America is the cause of all the stagnation in business of all kinds. If the Americans would settle their quarrel everything would improve. All their harbers is blockaded and no commerce is consequence. Great prospect of war in Canada..the Yankies is boasting they’ll take possession of the frontier. Jimmy is making up a rifle company to have them drilled in case of immergency and the militia and yeomen are volintiering".
  6. commerce, in later letters
    .."Good crops, wheat one dollar a bushel, oats 50 cents, potatoes 80 cents a bag, butter 28 cents, and eggs 26 cents a dozen.
  7. death in 1907
    .."dear Brother..I will say good-by, we are all getting old..we’ll soon have passed away and may we all meet where we will part no more". Catherine (mother) died in 1878 and Sarah (sister) in 1907. John suffered an untimely death in Australia in 1900 when he was gored by a bull. He never married. Adam married an Australian woman at age 45 and they had nine children.

They live on in their letters and continue to inform us of our past. My family corresponds with Mabel Body, grandchild of Adam. This winter we visited her at her home at Cowes on Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia. It was the first time she had met any of her Canadian family.

The last collection of correspondence is small but nevertheless, meaningful. It pertains to my paternal Grandmother’s family originally of Lucan, Ontario (near London). My grandmother, Fanny (Flynn) Ferguson and her husband Jack travelled from Lucan to settle in Kennedy Saskatchewan and after a few years to the Cherry Ridge district (1921-1945). In later years Granny, then a widow, settled in Nipawin (1954-1975).

Like other rural families of the time, that of my grandmother was large. Her parents, Julia and Robert Flynn, gave birth to six boys and two girls. They were a proud Irish-Canadian family. A picture, taken about 1900, shows a family who is ‘dressed up’. Their clothes are not fancy but everyone has shoes. The boys all have a jacket to wear and have found various ways to fashion a necktie. The youngest family member, Ed, is wearing a dress. Other photos of young boys in these times show that this practice was not uncommon.

Each family member had certain tasks to perform to maintain the family. They also were assigned certain roles that kept the family intact and provided for everyone’s needs.

It was always expected that one child would be available to care for the ageing parents. George, who didn’t marry and have a family of his own, performed this role. He seemed well suited given the kind and compassionate tone of his correspondence.

Following is his letter. It is his task to tell his sister (my grandmother) about the death of their father.

Lucan Jan.11/21.
Dear Sister, Bro. & all.
Well we just got both your letters yesterday. The one you wrote on 23 Nov. and the one you wrote on the 2nd of January.
It is pretty lonesome here since poor Father died but we knew he could not get better. The Drs. Could not get his lungs to heal and his kidneys were so bad it seemed they could find nothing to help him. He had no pain till the last three days. Then the pain he had to bear was something awful. We had to keep him sitting up in bed for it seemed he could get no comfort any other way. It was just one hour before he died that the pain left him. He seemed to have a nice sleep and you would think he was a lot better when he woke and asked to get up to the chamber and when they got him up he lay his head on Mother’s shoulder and said "sit me down" and died peacefull. If you were here Fannie you would have been pleased to see his suffering ended. He could not take any nourishment the last three days, all the nurse could do was give him a little water of a spoon and he would nearly strangle before he could swallow.
Chas. And Lena came down. Lena stayed all week and we tried to send you a message but they could not find the place.
Mary said she told you about the funeral when she wrote. Hope you have got the letter by now.
Father settled his business, he left all to Mother. She had the will read to them all the day after the funeral.
This is all for now and will write soon. XXX XXX
Hope the children are better by now.
Ever your Bro
Geo. F. Flynn

In conclusion, there are themes that are common to these three historical collections even though they have an international span encompassing Europe, Australia, and Canada. They are: love of family, a strong desire to thrive and prosper economically, willingness to risk and grow, independence of spirit, and an uncomplaining acceptance of hardship, illness and death.

Our history will continue to intrigue us. I fear that present communication technology such as e-mail and the internet will not preserve our history as well as when it stayed alive by being embedded in personal letters.

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Forensic Genealogy

The October 2005 Family Chronicle had an intriguing article on forensic genealogy. The author, Colleen Fitzpatrick, demonstrated how much can be learned from a photograph. Addressing the issues of where, who, when, and why. Of particular interest was her calculation of the time of day and the day of the year from a square fence post in the background.

Fitzpatrick is author of Forensic Genealogy, a book that gives examples of how intense analysis of a place, event or photograph can yield up rich treasure. The book is published by Rice Book Press, Fountain Valley, CA.

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created Jan 2001 modified Jan 2005