Calling all GRCI grads and staff!

GRCI crest from 1968 yearbook

Grand River Collegiate Institute crest from the 1968 yearbook

Grand River Collegiate Institute will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in week’s time and we are on the hunt for any photographs of the ground breaking ceremony, construction of the building or its opening day. If you have any photographs that you would be willing to share, please contact Susan Letkeman, Grand River -Stanley Park Branch Manager at 519-896-1736 or by email susan.letkeman@kpl.org

Thanks and cheers, Karen.


Rural Diaries – Help to “Write” History

Fountain pen on paper

Fountain pen on paper – Source: Pixabay.com

Recently, I learnt about a new heritage project that seeks to unlock the lives of rural Ontario diarists. They are seeking volunteers to help transcribe rural diaries held at the University of Guelph. Why not join them in the work of transcribing the diaries and learn more about rural life in Ontario?

Below is the information about the project:

Come and escape into the past! Delve into the lives of real people who lived between 1800 and 1960. Learn about stories of love and loss, joy and hardship, all in Southern Ontario. Have you ever wanted to peak into someone’s diary? Now you can!

The Rural Diary Archive lets you explore 130 diaries of the young and old, male and female. You may even find one of your ancestors or their neighbours in a diary. It is simple to filter through the diaries to find different religions, counties and occupations. The Rural Diary Archive honours the daily lives of rural people. Please consider transcribing these diaries; it’s easy to do, with clear instructions provided. All you need is a computer and internet access. Transcribing these diaries online will let you immerse yourself in true rural Ontario history, fill you with a sense of accomplishment, and provide a rich resource for future researchers.

For more information visit: Rural Diary Archive at the University of Guelph

Thanks to Janice H. for the information!

Cheers, Karen.

Clothing, Displays

Pondering the “Juvenile Collar Question”

Juvenile Collar Question

The Juvenile Collar Question booklet by Williams, Greene and Rome

With the late arrival of spring, we’ve been thinking about fashion in the GSR lately. When liberated from winter outerwear, boots and sweaters, we gravitate towards summer clothing – often neglecting to realize that spring mornings can be quite cool and wet.

As for me, I’ve been pondering the “Juvenile Collar Question” posed by Berlin’s Williams, Greene and Rome shirt makers. I came across this booklet in the collection and have been enchanted by the idea that children’s collars could actually be a pressing fashion issue. Popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, children’s collars served to dress up an outfit and allowed for expression of style or status. Williams, Green and Rome, a clothing factory in Berlin, produced this booklet to advertise its products.

Children's collar styles - Williams, Greene and Rome

Collar styles for children from the Williams, Greene and Rome Co. of Berlin, ON

I was also fascinated by the multitude of traditional collar styles available for boys in their catalogue.

Collar styles - Williams, Greene and Rome

Collar styles for boys from Williams, Greene and Rome, Berlin, ON

Be sure to stop by the GSR to see our “Spring into Fashion” display. Many thanks go to my colleague, Karen, for her creative interpretation of Kitchener style!

Cheers, Karen


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.


People and places

Happy Easter!

P009648 KPL Easter postcard

P009648 KPL Easter Greetings postcard, postmarked 26 March 1910, Berlin, Ontario

As spring finally makes (or rather, another) appearance, I thought that I would share this Easter postcard, which I found in the Kitchener Public Library collection in the Grace Schmidt Room. The simplicity and serenity of the images harkens back to a quieter day and age.

The reverse of the postcard also expresses simple wishes from Gertrude Totzke to Miss Enetta Stolz, who was living on Peter Street in Berlin in the spring of 1910. Enetta Stolz (or Stoltz) was likely Susannah Enetta Stoltz, born in 1 January 1882 in Wilmot. She was the daughter of Jacob F. Stoltz and Wilhelmine Gerbig. Following Jacob’s death in 1888, her mother married George Heimpel.  According to the 1911 Census of Canada, Annetta Stoltz was working as a servant in the home of Alvin and Elizabeth Cressman in Waterloo.

P009648 KPL - Reverse of postcard

P009648 KPL – Reverse of postcard

According to the Ontario Cemetery Project, Gertrude Totzke is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Kitchener. Her gravestone lists her life years as 1894-1911, making her almost 17 years old at the time of her death. Gertrude Elizabeth Totzke was born on 21 June 1894 in Berlin and died on 13 April 1911 at her parents’ home at 83 Church Street, of a blood disorder. Her parents were Carl Totzke and Louisa Frank.

However you celebrate this holiday weekend, we’d like to extend our best wishes for peace, health and happiness!

Cheers, Karen

KPL Genealogy Fair 2016

Drum Roll Please! Announcing the 5th KPL Genealogy Fair Keynote Speaker

Jen Baldwin, 2016 KPL Genealogy Fair Keynote Speaker

Jen Baldwin, 2016 KPL Genealogy Fair Keynote Speaker

I am very happy to announce that Jen Baldwin, genealogist, researcher and social media specialist, will be our 5th Kitchener Public Library Genealogy Fair keynote speaker! Jen has been involved in professional genealogy since 2010, specializing in Western United States, gold rush history, and fraternal societies. She is the host of the popular bi-weekly #genchat on Twitter, which brings genealogists from across several continents together for a fun-filled hour of genealogy topics, ideas and collaboration. Jen is currently the Data Licensing Manager, North America for Findmypast. She also lectures, writes, and consults on a variety of genealogy and social media related topics, and was part of the research team for Genealogy Roadshow, season two, on PBS. As a founding member and Outreach Coordinator of the NextGen Genealogy Network, Jen works to build connections and fosters engagement among young genealogists around the world.

Remember to mark your calendars for the KPL Genealogy Fair being held on Saturday 5 November 2016 at the Central Library, 85 Queen Street North, Kitchener!

Applications for speakers, exhibitors and vendor will be going out in early March. If you would like to receive an application, please email us at genealogyfair@kpl.org and we’ll get one to you!

Hope to see you there!

Cheers, Karen




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