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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Obituary Indexing Project

Obituary Obsessions

Obituaries in the newspaper

Obituaries in the newspaper

Do you, like me, find yourself regularly turning to the obituaries in the newspaper? No matter what world, national or local events might have my attention that particular day in the newspaper, I always find myself checking the obituaries. Scanning the names and photos, I look for people I’ve known, might have met or heard about. Inevitably, I end up reading most of them – regardless whether or not I had any connection to them. I find fascinating the stories, memories, personal histories and linkages with family and community.  The heartbreaking stories of loss, celebrations of lives lived and how we memorialize and remember our loved ones has always intrigued me.

Over the last while, staff in the Grace Schmidt Room have been thinking about how obituaries connect and fascinate us all.  For genealogists, obituaries unlock family relationships, histories and personal stories and open new avenues of research and discovery. To the local historian, an obituary provides personal signposts to a community story or chapter of history.  The lack of indexing for historical obituaries has frustrated staff and researchers alike.

To that  end, I am happy to announce that we are launching a new volunteer project to undertake the creation of a searchable online index to obituaries in our local newspapers. We’re  looking for volunteers who would like to scan obituaries from our newspaper microfilm collection, index the obituaries, and check the obituary indexing submitted by fellow volunteers.  With the exception of the scanning work, volunteers will be able to work from home – we’ll send you digital files needed, including a data entry form. Completed indexing files will then be sent to a fact checker and returned to us for upload.  If you are a regular obituary reader and are interested in indexing current editions of  newspaper, please let us know when you apply. Information about the Obituary Indexing Project can be found here. If you are interested in applying, you can find the application form here.

Our project will also include obituary related programs and events in the fall. Stay tuned to the blog for more details!

Cheers, Karen

 

 

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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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