GSR Resources

Find Your History in the Making

A coloured postcard showing King Street West, Kitchener, in 1926. A trolley car heads is visible in the foreground, along with automobiles. Pedestrians are walking on the sidewalks.
P004007 King Street West, Kitchener, ca. 1926

While the pandemic has turned our lives upside down, the staff of the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History have been working on a special project that I would like to share with everyone. It’s been a labour of love and I hope that you will enjoy it too.

Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of our new digital local history platform, History in the Making, which can be found at Working in partnership with AndOrNot of Vancouver, we’ve created a website to showcase the rich history, stories, people and communities of Kitchener and Waterloo Region.

Some of the featured collections include:

  • Historic photograph images and postcards
  • Soldier Information Cards from World War 1
  • Soldier Information Cards from World War 2
  • Complete collection of Vernon city and county directories from 1864-2014
  • Growing collection of oral history tape recordings (stay tuned for more information about this collection!)
  • Digitized finding aids for our archival collections

History in the Making is easy to explore and much like our library catalogue, uses keyword searching and facets to narrow and expand searches. You will now be able to view photographs and images in a larger size to better see details.  Oral history tape recordings can be listened to online through the site, too. Please be aware that the directory files are quite large and may require some time to download or open. Content from the Kitchener Public Library and Waterloo Historical Society collections are included.

If you have a comment, suggestion or question, please contact us at or though the Feedback button in each record. We can also be reached at 519-743-0271, ext. 212.

New content will be uploaded daily – so check back often! Making history is what we do.

Cheers, Karen

Remembrance, Soldier Information Card Project

Remembering Private Stevens

Private Harold Stevens, May 1944. Courtesy of Mary Chester.

In the halcyon days before COVID-19 pandemic, I received an intriguing request – could I help locate the descendants of a local soldier? There was a special story and connection to share that would link Luciana Trerè of Italy with the family of Private Harold Stevens. Luciana’s friend, Silvana Toscano, was helping her with the Canadian research. How could I resist?

After digging through family trees, obituaries, directories, newspaper clippings, our Soldier Information Card Collection, internet searches and a few calculated hunches, I made contact with Mary Chester, Harold’s niece, and passed on Silvana’s contact information with the details of the story of Luciana’s story. In the intervening months, parties on both sides of the Atlantic have been working to honour Harold and his heroism in Italy.

Soldier Information Card – Private Harold Stevens, Kitchener Public Library Collection
Harold Stevens . Courtesy of Mary Chester

The story of Private Harold Wellington Stevens and Luciana Trerè has been written by Mirna Milandri in a book called Il soldato canadese e la Bimba di cinque giorni / The Canadian soldier and the five-day-old baby girl It’s an insightful look at hope, loss and gratitude, chronicling the chance meeting of an Italian family fleeing war and a Canadian soldier at a river.

Harold Stevens with puppy, ca. 1932;
Courtesy of Mary Chester

Harold Wellington Stevens was born on 20 October 1922 in Haysville, Ontario, the son of James and Madgalene (nee Lichty) Stevens. He had four brothers – George, Albert, Lorne and Donald, and one sister, Kathleen. After the family moved to Waterloo, Harold attended Alexandra School and played clarinet in the Waterloo Musical Society Band. He worked at Canada Barrels and Kegs Ltd and, at the time of his enlistment in 1943, worked at B.F. Goodrich Rubber Co. He was also a member of Stirling Mennonite Church in Kitchener. He lived with his parents at 29 Rudy Street, Waterloo.

Stevens Family. Front row, left to right: James, Kathleen, Magdalene. Back row, left to right: Donald, Harold, George, Albert, Lorne. Courtesy of Mary Chester.

Following his enlistment on 26 March 1943 in London, ON, Harold trained in Canada and England until February 1944, when he was transferred to Italy. Harold served with the “Westies,” Canada’s Westminster Motor Regiment, now known as the Royal Westminster Regiment, which bravely fought its way through several heavily-defended German defensive lines in Italy.

As war raged in Italy, Aurelio and Emma Trerè awaited the birth of their child in the village of Fusignano. On 13 November 1944, Emma gave birth to a beautiful and healthy girl, who was named, Luciana, in the local hospital. Two days later, the couple were told by partisans of an impending conflict and were advised to flee to areas already freed by the Allies, near Piangipane or Camerlona.

A wet, rainy fall has made travel treacherous. On 18 November 1944, after grabbing a few possessions, the family set out as the fighting approached their village. Baby Luciana was placed on a mattress, which was encased in a pillow case, and then wrapped in a wool blanket. Evacuees were handed over to a patrol of Canadian soldiers who were stationed near a river crossing. They were directed to cross the river at a fording place, but struggled with their possessions, fatigue, and the swollen, fast flowing river. As she began the crossing, Grandmother Teresa Ravaglia slipped and fell under water. She accidently let go of the mattress holding baby Luciana. Panicked family members cried out as the mattress quickly sailed down the river. Aurelio struggled to get out of the river and ran along the bank yelling for help as his daughter was carried away by the fast current.

As the mattress rounded a bend in the river, Private Harold Stevens, who was standing on the opposite bank heard the cries of Aurelio and family members and those of baby Luciana. Without regard for his personal safety, he quickly took off his rifle and jacket, descended the embankment and waded into the river. Holding onto the reeds, he was able to grab a hold of the mattress as it passed, rescuing baby Luciana.

Harold returned the baby to Emma and Grandmother Teresa who were distraught believing that Luciana had been lost to the raging river. After an exchange of smiles, nods and well-wishes, Harold returned to his unit and the family set off on their journey. It seemed like tragedy had been averted thanks to a plucky Canadian soldier from Waterloo. As the family walked away, a thunderous explosion made them fall to the ground in a protective huddle. Private Harold Wellington Stevens had stepped on a landmine left by German troops. He died on 19 November 1944 and was buried at the Villanova Canadian War Cemetery in the Commune of Bagnacavallo, Province of Ravenna, Italy.

Villanova Canadian War Cemetery – Mar 2020. Image courtesy of Roberto Toscano.
Gravestone of Private Harold Stevens, Villanova Canadian War Cemetery.

The impact of Harold’s death was devastating upon his mother, Magdalena. Harold had pleaded with his brother, George, to not to tell their mother that he was being shipped out to Italy so as to not worry her. In a strange premonition of Harold’s death on the day of his death, family tells of the story of Magdalena feeling suddenly ill and hearing Harold’s voice calling to her – a sign to her that something terrible had happened to him. The telegram notifying her of Harold’s death arrived on 27 November 1944, almost 10 days later.

Bob Berg, President of the Royal Canadian Legion – Waterloo Branch is hosting a ceremony to recognize the heroism, service and life of  Private Harold Stevens on 16 May 2021 at 1pm.

Author Mirna Milandri and Luciana Trere at book launch, 25 Sep 2020, Italy. Courtesy of Mirna Milandri.
Honouring Pte Stevens at the site of his grave on 11 Nov 2020 – front row, left to right – Mirna, Luciana; back row – Roberto Toscano (retired Brigadiere/Marshal) and friend. Courtesy of Silvana Toscano
Luciana Trere at grave of Pte. Stevens – 11 Nov 2020. Courtesy of Silvana Toscano.

We are grateful to Luciana Trerè for never forgetting Private Stevens’ sacrifice and her determination to connect with his family to share the gift of his kind spirit.

Private Harold Stevens, 1922-1944.

Lest we forget.


Buildings, GSR Resources

House History Headstarts

Former home of Jacob Y. Shantz, Kitchener, 1966

P000846 Former home of Jacob Y. Shantz, Kitchener, 1966 (Waterloo Historical Society Collection)

With the cancellation of Jane’s Walks this year due to COVID-19, why not take this opportunity to do a bit of your own house history research?

Granted, not all of our Grace Schmidt Room resources are available on line, but you can plan your search using our handy house research guide here.  Getting your information in order is a great first step.

If you are eager, you can take a look at our online collection of city directories. You can use the directories online or download them for your research. A word of caution – the county directories prior to 1900 often did not include a lot of detailed information on city dwellers – only a list a residents and a city/town name. After 1900, directory publishers included more detailed information on residents and location.

A great place to start in the city directories is the street directory section. This section lists the homes/occupants along each side of the street. You can jump to the street directory section by searching with the keywords “street directory“. Your first hits should be the main directory index – which will give you the start page numbers for either Kitchener (Berlin) or Waterloo street directory sections.

In the street directory sections, crossroads are noted, giving you the ability to narrow down your search to specific city blocks along a street. As the years progress, you will see that the number of houses along a street increase, sometimes change numbers, and occasionally, the street names change.

You can find our street index here. It does not list every street and name change occurrence, but you can sometimes see trends that may give you an idea about the age of your neighbourhood and its development.

Once you have the name of a resident, you can search for their name in the directory. Depending upon the year of publication, you may see their occupation/workplace and the names of spouses and other adults living in the house. Please be aware that the resident shown in the directory might be a tenant and not the owner of the house. Having the name of the resident is another avenue of research – you can check out Ancestry Library Edition (you’ll need your KPL Library card and PIN) or Waterloo Region Generations to see if their family history is there.

Another place to look is in our online photograph collection.  You can search by street or family name. This collection is a small portion of our complete photograph collection. There’s also paper index in the GSR which can be consulted when the Library re-opens.

Why not check out the resources, my Information Services colleague, Kathryn, has suggested to determine the architectural style of your home on the Library’s Where the Community Connects blog? She’s got lots of other great ideas too.

Enjoy the journey!

Cheers, Karen





New Year

Happy New Year Wishes

P009991_300dpiCan you believe that a new decade is upon us? It seems as if we turned the page on 2019 just a moment ago.  And now, we are awaiting for 2020 to be rung in.  To everyone – I would like to wish you and yours all the best for a happy and healthy New Year!

It has been a year of change and challenge in the Grace Schmidt Room – the physical room layout has changed, collections have moved, and we’re now offering more digital services to enable you to convert your family memories and treasures. We also have a new digital research computer (about which I will tell you about in a future blog post – I promise!). Despite the changes in our outward appearance, we  remain committed to telling the stories of our commmunity and people. There is so much to share and discover – thank you for joining us on this journey!

I  wanted to thank the Waterloo Historical Society for supporting the Grace Schmidt Room in so many ways – from helping us to purchase a new digital ViewScan microfilm scanner, participating in the Genealogy Fair, to championing the Susan J. Hoffman Local History Fund. The Society is an integral part of our history, present, and future.

Thank you to the Ontario Genealogical Society/Ontario Ancestors for your continued support and permitting us to share your genealogy book collection with the community.

I also wanted to thank my colleagues: Ingrid, Valerie, Curtis, Joseph, Cynthia, and Ellie for their dedication to bringing the collections of the Grace Schmidt Room to life through their creative book displays and exhibits, posters, inventories and ideas. Without you, the Grace Schmidt Room would not shine.

To our researchers, volunteers, family historians and local history enthusiasts – thank your for your continued support and interest in the GSR. We look forward to meeting and engaging our community and to share the great resources and collections that are housed in the Grace Schmidt Room.

All the best.

Cheers, Karen

Buildings, Christmas

Happy Holiday Wishes

Night time view of Kitchener City Hall, ca. 1950s

P9964 WHS – Night time view of Kitchener City Hall (1924-1973) decorated for the holidays, ca. 1950s

As the holidays begin, I wanted to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and peaceful time. The image above is one my favourites – Kitchener’s old city hall, built in 1924, decorated for the Christmas season. I love the simplicity of the light display set against the graceful presence of the building and its elements. This quiet view of city hall reminds me of the stillness that we all need at this time of the year – to listen, reflect, and cherish all that is good in our busy lives.

Whatever you celebrate this season – may you have peace, happiness, and health.

Cheers, Karen






KPL Genealogy Fair 2019

Finding Family, Friends & Fun at the 7th Kitchener Public Library Genealogy Fair


Tree – Image by Bessi from Pixabay

Time flies, they say, when you are having fun. I must have been having a ball as the 7th  Kitchener Public Library Genealogy Fair is almost upon us!

The full program for the fair  is now available on our webpage. It is being held at Central Library on Saturday 2 November 2019, from 9am to 3:30pm. The Central Library is located at 85 Queen Street North, Kitchener. Doors open at 9am and our keynote speaker, Melanie McLennan, takes the stage at 9:30am in the Theatre. She’ll be sharing how DNA enabled her to solve an emigration mystery of  her Irish ancestors.

It’s a fun program with lots of interesting sessions and presenters. There’s something for everyone!

We’ll also have terrific door prizes from our exhibitors, including DNA test kits and subscriptions from, and, to give away.

So join us on Saturday!

Cheers, Karen

KPL Genealogy Fair 2019

Save the Date for the 7th KPL Genealogy Fair!

SavetheDate_Genealogy Fair

Do you need some inspiration for your family history research? Have you hit a brick wall? Are you not sure where to start? Looking for some expert advice?

Well, then save the date of Saturday 2 November 2019 for the 7th Annual Kitchener Public Library Genealogy Fair!

Join us for a day of genealogy exploration, collaboration, discovery and fun at the Central Library from 9am to 4pm. We’ll have our vendor market place, exhibits, workshops, research centre in the Grace Schmidt Room and much more!

Our keynote speaker will be Melanie McLennan of Ancestral Tapestry. She’ll be kicking off the day with her insight into genetic and Irish genealogy. Learn how she used DNA to break down an Irish brick wall and how you can apply the same principles to your research.

There is no registration required for this free event.

Full program details and schedule will be posted on the Genealogy Fair webpage in early October.

If you are interested in being a workshop presenter at the fair, please email us at for an application.

See you on Saturday November 2nd!

Cheers, Karen

Stories That Move You

ION Allen: Suds

Labatt's Brewery, Waterloo, ON

SL000264 Labatt’s Brewery, King Street South, Waterloo, ON (KPL Collection)

As ION approaches the Allen station, you will pass by a quiet park and residence at the corner of King and William Streets in Waterloo. The calm and stately presence of the retirement home on the site now, however, gives little clue to its sudsy past.

Located at 155 King Street South in Waterloo, the Labatt brewery dated back to 1844, when David Kuntz, a cooper and brewer from Germany, began selling beer in the Town of Waterloo from a wheelbarrow. In the 1860s, he launched the Spring Brewery, using water from a spring on the King and William street property to brew his beer. Kuntz, a man of many talents and trades, was said to have also made the bricks for his brewery.

Over time, it eventually came to be called the Kuntz Brewery and David Kuntz was succeeded by his son Louis, in the 1870s, who renamed it L. Kuntz’s Park Brewery. In 1929, the brewery was acquired by entrepreneur, E.P. Taylor, under his Canadian Breweries group.  By 1936, it was known as the Carling-Kuntz Brewery. The name Kuntz was dropped during the Second World War – as it was seen as being too ‘German’.

The property also included a retail store which faced King Street, and a park with a fountain. A rail spur line also ran to the brewery. In 1977, Carling Breweries was purchased by Labatt Breweries of London. When Labatt announced the closure of the brewery in 1992, almost 200 jobs were lost.  The Waterloo plant was closed by mid-1993 and later demolished.

Cheers, Karen

This is post 8 of 19 in the Stories That Move You series.

Stories that Move You is a Kitchener Public Library project that celebrates the launch of ION service with curated collections of reads, music, audio, learning resources, and local history to help people make the most of an unique window of time during their public transit ride.

Stories That Move You

ION Grand River Hospital: Caring on King

Kitchener and Waterloo Hospital, 1929

P004006 Kitchener and Waterloo Hospital and Nurses’ Home, 1929 (KPL Collection)

When ION rolls up to the Grand River Hospital station, take a look at the hospital and then the image above. Does it still look recognizable?

The coloured postcard above shows the Kitchener and Waterloo Hospital (on the right) and nurses residence (on the left) as they appeared in 1929. The expansive lawn in the front gives a sense of grandeur, as do the (altered) turrets and decorative windows of the main hospital building. The nurses’ residence, now known as the Kaufman Building, opened in 1921.

Located at 835 King Street West, Kitchener, Grand River Hospital serves Waterloo Region and surrounding communities through its two sites, this one here and Freeport Hospital. The Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital was built in 1895 on land donated by Joseph E. Seagram. In 1898, an isolation hospital was built on the south side of the property and was later used as a nurses’ residence from 1908 to 1921.

A three-story pavilion, which included a pediatric floor, was built in 1936 to the north of the hospital building shown in the postcard. The Y-shaped building was built in 1951. In 1995, Freeport Hospital and the Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital, (also known as the K-W Health Centre), were merged to form the Grand River Hospital. The Grand River Regional Cancer Centre opened at this site in 2003.

And do you know where the helipad for the hospital is located? You can find it at the corner of Walter and Wellington Street South, a short distance a way.

Cheers, Karen

This is post 9 of 19 in the Stories That Move You series.

Stories that Move You is a Kitchener Public Library project that celebrates the launch of ION service with curated collections of reads, music, audio, learning resources, and local history to help people make the most of an unique window of time during their public transit ride.


Stories That Move You

ION Kitchener City Hall: Stitch by Stitch

Forsyth Shirt Co. Sewing Room

MC60 P1019 John Forsyth Shirt Co. Sewing Room (KPL Collection)

When ION pulls into the Kitchener City Hall station, can you hear the hum of the sewing machines?

This stop has history sewn into its location. The John Forsyth Shirt Company occupied the corner of Duke and Young Streets, across from the present location of Kitchener City Hall. Flooded with sunlight, the sewing room pictured above, likely in the mid 1940s, was claimed to be “Canada’s longest sewing room.” In 1937, an art deco addition to the factory was built facing Duke Street.

Founded in 1903 by John Derby Claude (J.D.C.) Forsyth, the John Forsyth Shirt Company took over the former Star White Wear factory building at 31 Young Street, Kitchener in 1917. Additional factories were located in Waterloo and St. Mary’s, Ontario. Under Forsyth’s management, branch offices were opened across Canada and in Manchester, England. By 1956, the Forsyth Co. had 600 and grew to 800 employees in the Waterloo Region by the mid-1960s.

Over the course of its life, the Forsyth company produced dress shirts, shirts with detachable collars, pyjamas, underwear, scarves and ties.

Beloved founder and owner, J.D.C. Forsyth, died on 23 June 1948.

In 1973, the company was sold to Dylex Ltd. of Toronto. After several ownership changes, the Kitchener plant was closed in 1992 and employees were moved to a Cambridge plant. After failed bids to find a buyer, the building fell into disrepair and was demolished in 2006.

Cheers, Karen

This is post 11 of 19 in the Stories That Move You series.

Stories that Move You is a Kitchener Public Library project that celebrates the launch of ION service with curated collections of reads, music, audio, learning resources, and local history to help people make the most of an unique window of time during their public transit ride.