Obituary Indexing Project, Programs

Undertakers Uncovered

Schreiter's Funeral Home, Kitchener, ON

Interior view of Schreiter’s Funeral Home in Kitchener, ON

Ever wonder about undertakers? Marion Roes does. Undertaking is in her blood – literally.  As the granddaughter of Elmira undertaker, Christian Dreisinger, Marion grew up in and around the family’s funeral business. She’s been “uncovering undertakers” and their businesses  which are “buried” in records like directories, obituaries, assessment records, and newspapers. She is “Sherlock Roes” – solving history mysteries about undertaking and the men and women who help guide us through the rituals, ceremonies and details of death.

Come join us on Wednesday 29 November 2017 at the Forest Heights Branch at 7pm for Marion’s talk on “Uncovering Waterloo County’s Undertakers”.  Marion will highlight the searches that she’s done in area archives and libraries, including the Grace Schmidt Room and Cambridge City Archives. She’ll also look at the undertakers and their different places or work/business throughout the Region.

Curious to know where was the only coffin factory in Waterloo County located?

Wonder if there were there really two different undertakers named Robert James Kerr?

Puzzled why would a barber have an undertakers’ licence for many years – and not have an undertaking business?

Dying to know? Well then, you will have to join us!

Marion’s talk, in support of the GSR’s Obituary Indexing Project, is free, but registration is required. Register online here or call InfoLink (519-743-7502) or the branch directly (519-743-0644), during library hours, and staff can sign you up.

The Forest Heights Library is located at 251 Fischer-Hallman Road, Kitchener. Parking is free.

See you there!

Cheers, Karen

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Obituary Indexing Project, Programs

Remembering Mary Johnston

Waterloo County Hall of Fame Induction for Kathryn Lamb, May 2001

Left to right: Susan Hoffman, Kathryn Lamb and Mary Johnston, at Kathryn’s May 2001 Waterloo County Hall of Fame Induction

On Sunday, I heard from my Waterloo Historical Society colleagues that Mary Johnston had passed away on Friday July 7th.  Mary was a legendary character – sharp witted, talented, professional and caring. She was an acclaimed educator and principal, who had a public school named after her in Waterloo, a past Waterloo Historical Society president and a familiar face at WHS and other heritage events. But most importantly to me, she was a friend.

While I had not known her for a long time, she was that kind and gentle soul that made you feel at ease. Being very much taller than me, Mary was someone I looked up to literally and figuratively. In the past couple of years, she would drop in or all to say hello or to ask a question about a historical fact or event. I will miss her kind words of encouragement and upbeat personality. She could put a smile on anyone.

My first memory of Mary was meeting her at Heritage Showcase many years ago and then being told that she wanted to take a picture. Mary traveled with her trusty film camera, well into the day and age of digital technology. At each heritage event, Mary requested a photo of everyone and set about grouping us together. She would take her photos and a month or two later, an envelope would arrive with a couple of images of yourself at a recent event. Mary made history herself and captured it for the rest of us. Those photos are even now more special to me now that she is gone.

Remembering and honouring the life of friends and family is something that writer, Valerie Hill, does with elegance and honesty. Valerie writes the popular Lifetimes column in the Waterloo Region Record. I admit to being a habitual obituary reader and the appearance of Valerie`s column, for me and many others, is a must read. Lifetimes allows me to learn about the real person – not just the facts of death, family and employment that one finds in an obituary.

Valerie will be speaking about the Fine Art of the Obituary at the Central Library on Monday July 17, 2017 at 7pm. We are pleased to have her as our first speaker associated with our Grace Schmidt Room Obituary Indexing Project.  Please join us to learn about the unique challenges in writing about life and death, memory and loved ones. You can register for the event here or call 519-743-7502, during Library hours, to reserve your seat for the talk.

Cheers, Karen

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Programs

The Long and Winding Road from Berlin to Kitchener

P000361 WHS

P000361 WHS Rescue of Kaiser’s Bust from Victoria Park Lake – August 1914

In the political, social and economic turmoil of the early years of World War One, our community changed. Bitter debates over loyalty and patriotism,  vandalism and theft of the Kaiser’s bust, unruly recruits from the 118th Battalion, and fears of economic loss over a “Made in Berlin” manufacturing identity, helped propel a name change few wanted, and for which only a handful voted. When the dust settled on September 1, 1916, we were no longer ‘Berlin’, but ‘Kitchener’. The city’s name change marked a defining moment in our history and identity – or did it? It has been said that “words have meaning and names have power” (author unknown). In this context, did the name change from Berlin to Kitchener hold historical significance or was it merely a casualty of wartime economics? Did we change as a community as a result of the name change or are we still Berlin at heart?

Join us at the Central Library on Thursday 15 September 2016 at 7pm in the Theatre to hear University of Waterloo professors, Geoff Hayes (History) and Mat Schulze (German Studies) and local historian, rych mills, discuss the nationalist divides, local stories, and how the bilingual nature of Berlin/Kitchener affected the controversy. Carl Zehr, former mayor of Kitchener, will be the moderator of this panel discussion entitled, Von Berlin to Kitchener, Connotations and Cultures. It’s a free event and no registration is required. Click here for more information on the event.

I’m looking forward to this discussion and I’m sure that you will too.

Cheers, Karen

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Programs

Joe’s Been Listening to the Past

Joe PaVIA

Joe Pavia

In the Grace Schmidt Room, we are very lucky to have a volunteer named Joe Pavia. He is helping to digitize our Oral History Tape collection. He’s been listening to our past. I know because he tells me about the fascinating people, interviews and lives captured on those old audio cassettes in the GSR.

Joe takes home a box of cassettes every month or two and returns digitized copies to us. Each time, he has a new story – about a person, place or event retold in the tape. Joe’s love of a good story has been honed over a fascinating career in radio and news reporting. His blog, Station to Station with Joe Pavia, is a fantastic view into his world, career, interests and observations. And, you get to listen to Joe tell his stories through his podcasts.

Our oral history collection consists of over 1000 audio cassettes, containing over 500 interviews. As the collection ages, it becomes ever more critical that these tapes be converted to digital format. We’ll be uploading Joe’s work over the summer so that it will be accessible via the KPL website.

Oral History Cassette Tape in the GSR

Oral History Cassette Tape in the GSR

In the meantime, please join Joe in the Grace Schmidt Room on Oral History Program with Joe Pavia to learn about his oral history tape project. If you love a good story and learning about Kitchener and Waterloo Region’s past, Joe can tell you about the characters, adventures and events captured in the oral history collection at KPL. This program is part of the Latitudes Storytelling Festival being held at the Central Library.

Cheers, Karen.

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Programs

History By Postcard

P009635 KPL Ahrens Street from Queen St., Berlin, Ontario

P009635 KPL View of Ahrens Street from Queen St., Berlin, Ontario

If you are like me, you love postcards – especially old ones. There’s something about the combination of a phototograph, sometimes coloured, and a personal message on the back that intrigues me. It’s a window into a time, relationship or event, that gives a hint to the larger public and personal events in the lives of our communities, ancestors and neighbours.

Reverse of P009635 KPL postcard

P009635 KPL (Reverse side) Postcard addressed to Miss Enetta Stoltz of Galt from Louis

So when did postcards come about? In 1871, pre-paid government issued postal cards were introduced in Canada. They were printed on plain card stock and included postage. The backs were exclusively reserved for addresses and the other side for message. In the days before the widespread use and availability of telephones, postal cards enabled people to communicate with quick, efficient, and low-cost exchange of short messages, without the need of fancy stationary, envelopes and postage stamps.  In large cities with multiple daily postal deliveries, recipients might receive and reply to a  card on the very day of its dispatch. For several decades, these cards were the most popular and easy way to arrange meetings, advertise products and services, place orders with merchants, and keep in touch with family and friends.

In the 1880’s, European publishing companies started including small illustrations on postcards, in conjunction with fairs and exhibitions. A new industry grew to fill the demand for these ‘private’ decorative postcards. In Canada, private postcards were accepted at a reduced postage rate of one penny starting in 1895.  As time went on, the inclusion of pictures and photographs started to dominate the production of postcards.

P009679 WHS postcard - View of Factory District, Berlin, Ontario

P009679 WHS postcard – View of Factory District, Berlin, Ontario

German companies were known for their high quality cards and illustrations and were a major player in the North American market until 1914. In Canada, companies such as James Valentine & Sons, Warwick Brothers & Rutter, W.G. MacFarlane of Toronto, Cloke and Son of Hamilton and International Stationery Co. of Picton were major publishers of postcards. Divided-back picture postcards, where the image is on the front and message and address sections on the back, were widely adopted in the early 1900s.

P009679 WHS postcard - Reverse

P009679 WHS postcard – Reverse

With the development of camera for the masses, people were able to create their own postcards using their homes, families and communities as subjects. These postcards served to document and share personal and community histories, tourism and events. The ‘golden age’ of the picture postcards was from 1900 to 1920.

P009639 KPL postcard of Picnic Grounds, Victoria Park, Berlin, Ontario

P009639 KPL postcard of Picnic Grounds, Victoria Park, Berlin, Ontario

So what do postcards say about the history of Kitchener? Local historian rych mills will tell us at his upcoming talk called “Postcards Then and Photographs Now”. Come join me on Thursday March 31st at 7pm at the Central Library as rych explores Kitchener history by postcards then and modern photographs taken by fellow history aficionado and Waterloo Historical Society member, John Glass. It’s a free talk, but registration is required. Details about the talk and registration link can be found here. You can also call InfoLink at 519-743-7502 to register during library hours. If you have Kitchener postcards, please feel free to bring them to the talk for rych to identify.

I hope to see you there!

Cheers, K.

 

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Programs

Celebrating Black History Month

P699 Home of Levi Carroll and family, Berlin, Ontario

P699 Home of Levi Caroll and family, Berlin, Ontario

All too often history overlooks certain groups of people in society when retelling our past. When we rely only the history that reflects on our own social, cultural, ethnic or racial group, we fail to learn about and appreciate the complex tapestry of lives, social conditions, movements and struggles that contributed to who we are as a society today.  Black History Month provides an opportunity to learn about the rich history of black people in Canada and in our own communities.

In Waterloo County, we have been fortunate to have had researchers like Linda Brown-Kubisch, a former KPL staff member, who have worked to highlight the neglected history of black residents. In her excellent article, “In Search of Freedom: Early Blacks in Waterloo County” in the 1992 Waterloo Historical Society annual volume (v.80, p.46-57), Brown-Kubisch introduces us to John and Eliza Little, early black settlers in the Queen’s Bush, who had escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad, businessman and political hopeful, Peter Edward Susand and wife, Elizabeth, educator, John Frederick Augustus Sykes Fayette, ex-slave, Levi Carroll, barrister, Robert Sutherland, and Sophia Burthen Pooley, a former slave of the family of Joseph Brant and Samuel Hatt. Linda’s seminal work,  The Queen’s Bush Settlement : Black Pioneers, 1839-1865, delved into the history of the black community located in Wellesley Township and neighbouring jurisdictions. Sadly, Linda passed away just as her book was being published.

Joanna Rickert-Hall is continuing Linda’s legacy with her ongoing research into the lives and social conditions of the black community in Waterloo County. As a researcher, blogger, educator and historian, Joanna will share some of the forgotten stories of early 19th century black settlement in Waterloo Region. Joanna’s passion for local and social history is infectious and inspiring. I’m always in awe of her appetite for details and facts and the subtle nuances of history.

Please join me on Thursday 25 February 2016 at 7pm for Joanna’s talk on the Black History of Waterloo County at the Country Hills Library, 1500 Block Line Road, Kitchener. No registration is required and parking is free. Country Hills Library is adjacent to St. Mary’s High School.

Cheers, Karen.

Waterloo County Black History Talk

 

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Programs

Morbid Curiosities

2014-054 WHS Casket

2014-054 WHS – Image of a man kneeling in front of a casket

Ok, I will admit it – I have a fascination with death. Perhaps, it is a hazard of being a genealogist and local history librarian, but I think that it comes from a deep and visceral level. We all die. It’s a fate that we cannot escape. The myriad of rituals and beliefs tied up with death and dying makes the obsession that much more intriguing.

I am a regular obituary reader. Daily, I’ll scan over the obituaries online to see if I recognize a name, a face or family. While I may not personally know the departed, I often recognize distant and former neighbours, co-workers, or casual acquaintances. As I grow older, the recognition of names, sadly, becomes more frequent.

Funerals are another curiosity of mine. The ceremony, rituals, beliefs and practices of death and its commemoration are fascinating – especially when seen over time. And I’ve always wondered about the special breed of people that choose or find themselves in this field of work.

Marion Roes knows much about funeral home history in Waterloo Region. Her family founded the Dreisinger Funeral Home in Elmira. Come join me on Monday November 16th @ 7pm at Country Hills Community Library, 1500 Block Line Road, Kitchener to hear Marion’s updated talk on funeral home history in Kitchener. She is sharing her vast knowledge and research on local funeral homes, particularly that of Schreiter-Sandrock, the oldest in our area. I’m told, that she has lots of new images to share, too.

The Country Hills branch is attached to St. Mary’s High School  (see map). The library is on the end of the complex closest to Homer Watson. There’s lots of free parking and no registration is required for the event.

Do you have a favourite Waterloo County funeral in your family history?

Cheers, Karen

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