Ryan Taylor Busy times in northern Ontario
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By Ryan Taylor

Things are hopping in northern Ontario. A genealogical workshop in Sudbury recently included representatives from Temiskaming, Nipissing, Muskoka, Sudbury and Manitoulin.

Nipissing District branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society finished a five-year project transcribing the gravestones in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in North Bay. The index lists 12,000 names, including those of 10,000 burials. The branch was able to inform the St. Mary's cemetery staff about burials even they did not know had happened!

The book includes material from church records and newspapers as well as full transcriptions of the stones themelves. Ann Staines and Helen Vaillancourt, both of North Bay, led the team copying the stones.

OGS volunteers across the province are involved in cemetery transcribing. The society's high standards require exact letter-for-letter copies of the gravestone's text. Researchers can then rely on the printed version instead of having to visit the cemetery themselves. In addition, older stones, which are subject to erosion and other damage, are safely recorded.

Audrey Kunkel of North Bay, who is not even a genealogist but is adept with her computer, put the St. Mary's book together for the Nipissing branch. Her innovative idea of publishing a plan of each part of the cemetery will help family members who do visit the cemetery to locate their relatives' stones easily.

Staines says that all the Catholics who lived in North Bay will have connections to St. Mary's, so if that includes you, copies of the book cost $60 from the branch at Box 93, North Bay ON P1B 8G8. More information about their other publications can be found at their website.

Sudbury District branch's new publication was a reprint of Florence Howey's Pioneering on the C.P.R. Howey was the wife of Sudbury's first doctor. Her memoirs were published in 1938, but the OGS reprint includes an index and photographs. Her homey tone is inviting and the work is regarded as a classic of northern Ontario history. More information about their publications, which include cemetery transcriptions from Sudbury District, can be found at their website.

The new Manitoulin genealogical society may be small, but they are enthusiastic. Historical information about Manitoulin is harder to find than many other areas, but newly-active museums and historical societies may change that. To find out more about the Manitoulin genealogical society, contact the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah (on Highway 6 at Sheguiandah on Manitoulin Island) at 705 368 2367 or via e-mail at shegmus@vianet.ca.

The Sheguiandah museum and others in northern Ontario can be found by searching a very useful website, www.visitamuseum.com. At first, I thought it included the whole province, but it is just for northeastern Ontario, where I understand the mosquitoes have been known to pick up a pickerel and carry it into a tree for future reference.

One advantage for me in attending these OGS workshops is seeing many old friends. One of them whispered in my ear during the lunch break, but I didn't notice who it was. He told me that OGSPI (the Ontario Genealogical Society Provincial Index) has recently been updated and now contains almost 1.5 million names.

OGSPI is a general genealogical index including references to cemeteries, other OGS publications and historical materials of all kinds. The hope is that researchers who are having trouble finding a lost relative will be able to use this huge index to find them, and then use the relevant OGS publications to further their knowledge. It is an enormous undertaking accomplished entirely by volunteer labour.

If you'd like to use OGSPI, it can be found at the OGS website. Good hunting!

Posted May 8, 2003
Column copyright © 2003 Ryan Taylor

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