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Treasured Ontario Rural Histories to be Formatted for Online Access

Guelph ON: November 19, 2009
Joy Trimble, President of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario and Don Hinchley, President of the Ontario Genealogical Society, today signed an agreement to digitize and place on line the rural histories known as the Tweedsmuir Histories.

Since 1920 the Ontario Branches of the Women’s Institute have been gathering local history and preserving it in book form. Because the WI is largely a rural organization, these are histories of small communities. There are about a thousand of them, comprising an estimated half million pages of local Ontario history. They are one-of-a-kind and only a few have been photocopied or digitized. Many are in delicate condition and so are at-risk documents. The project will take at least three years. As they are prepared, the digitized Histories will be placed in the OGS e-Library where anyone can borrow and read them. There will be a small borrowing fee; the money will go to the maintenance of the original Histories and to the operation of the lending system. The project will identify, conserve, preserve, and digitize all available Ontario Tweedsmuir Histories.

Tweedsmuir Histories

The Women's Institute has been interested in local history since 1920. In the late 1940s, Lady Tweedsmuir (wife of a former Governor-General of Canada and an active participant in the WI) encouraged the creation of local histories by each WI Branch. Of the then 1 500 WI Branches, 989 are known to have created a local history of their area. The books include a history of the local settlers in the area, the agricultural practices and industries that formed the basis of the local economy, the social institutions such as churches, schools and community centres, and local personalities. For many tiny communities, the Tweedsmuir History is the only history created. Copyright to the Tweedsmuir Histories is owned by the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario.

Women’s Institute

The first Women's Institute was established in Stoney Creek, Ontario in 1897 and has grown to be an international organization. The provincial body for the WI Branches is the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario (FWIO), a not-for-profit charitable organization with affiliations around the world, working with and for women in rural and small-town Ontario. Through the network of Branches, they offer educational programming and community support; advocate for social, environmental and economic change; and work towards the personal growth of all women, for home and country. Originally set up to provide training and education to women and to address concerns in rural communities, the WI now offers women a mutual support structure as well as an opportunity to advocate on important issues close to its members' hearts. The WI has become a fundamental part of many women's lives throughout the world. It is committed to developing women's talents and today has links with over 8 million women in some 60 countries. The FWIO has about 6 000 Members in Ontario.

Ontario Genealogical Society

The Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) is a registered charity, founded in 1961 with the mandate “To encourage, assist and bring together all those interested in the pursuit of family history”. It has slightly less than 5 000 Members, most living in Ontario although a significant number live elsewhere. The OGS has 30 Branches in all parts of Ontario and two Special Interest Groups.

The OGS operates a scanning project named “Keeping and Valuing Ontario’s Heritage” which enables it, in partnership with Ontario's heritage organizations such as archives, museums and libraries, to digitize and place on the OGS website considerable quantities of material of genealogical value. The project has been underway for six months and is still in the datagathering stage. The Tweedsmuir Histories will be a significant component of this project. The project has received core funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Cultural Strategic Investment Fund of the Ontario Ministry of Culture, and the Jackman Foundation.

Additional funding is being sought for the conservation and preservation of the Tweedsmuir Histories and to fund the salaries of interns to help train future professionals in the conservation, preservation, and digitization of paper documents.

Student Paper Competitions

September 16, 2009
The Ontario Genealogical Society has established two essay competitions for students. Both require a paper to be written on a topic within family history. Both carry a prize of $500 and publication in Families.

The Dr Don Brearley Genealogical Essay Prize is open to secondary school students in grades 11 and 12. For this, the first year, it is open to Toronto District School Board students only. In future years it will be available to students in other Ontario school boards.

The Mike Brede Genealogical Essay Prize is open to any full-time student in a university or community college who is either a resident of Ontario or attending an Ontario university or community college.

See the Essay Competitions web page. for more information.

OGS Receives Grant

April 3, 2009
The Ontario Ministry of Culture has given OGS a $40 000 Cultural Strategic Investment Fund (CSIF) grant in support of the OGS scanning project Keeping and Valuing Ontario's Heritage. The grant will enable OGS to hire a Library Technician to assist in placing databases online. The Library Technician will also be able to provide advice on the management of OGS libraries and other data interests.

The project Keeping and Valuing Ontario's Heritage has also received funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Jackman Foundation.  OGS President Don Hinchley declared "This grant will assist OGS to move further into the age of technology by making more genealogical resources available to our membership online"  OGS Executive Director Dr Fraser Dunford pointed out that "this grant is further proof that OGS is moving in the right direction.  Clearly we are doing something that granting agencies respect and support."

The Ontario Genealogical Society Appoints a New Honourary Patron

February 4, 2009
About two years ago our current Patron, Senator Lorna Milne, announced she was approaching the end of her Senate term and suggested the OGS seek another Patron. A search team consisting of Bob Crawford (Past President), Dave Mackenzie (a Past President) and Senator Milne was formed to search for a new Patron. The search committee held a number of discussions and reviewed the qualifications of several potential candidates. The committee made a recommendation which was approved by the Executive and the OGS Board.

It is my pleasure to announce Senator Vivienne Poy has graciously accepted the position as our new Honourary Patron effective at Conference 2009. Senator Poy will be attending the Opening Ceremonies of Conference Friday May 29th.

Senator Poy is an entrepreneur, fashion designer, community activist and Chancellor Emeritus. She graduated from the Fashion Arts course at Seneca College and ran a flourishing fashion business for fourteen years. In 2003 Senator Poy completed her Ph.D. in History at the University of Toronto.

Her interests in history lead the Senator to begin researching her family's history. In 1995, "A River Named Lee" was published, in which she traced her family history in China. Three years later she published "Building Bridges: The Life and Times of Richard Charles Lee, Hong Kong, 1905-1983." Her third book was published in 2002.

On the personal side the Senator loves to read, write and design from clothing to jewelry, light fixtures, and furniture. She is an avid gardener and when she has time likes to bake and cook for her family. Her family includes her husband, children and grandchildren.

As OGS President I extend my welcome on behalf of the Society to our new Honourary Patron, Senator Vivienne Poy.

On behalf of the OGS I would like to extend the Society's thanks to Senator Lorna Milne, Dave Mackenzie and Bob Crawford for their efforts in securing our new Patron.

Don Hinchley, President
Ontario Genealogical Society

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