Editorial – Appreciating the historical and genealogical resources available in the region

Mac Olsen

Last week, I attended the annual general meeting of La Societe Historique et Genealogique de Smoky River, as the Donnelly council representative.

They had a guest speaker, Jen Laderoute of Gift Lake Metis Settlement, who offered an oral portrait of her great-grandfather, Billy Whitford. Laderoute is the keeper of her family history and she offered some unique insights and wit about her great-grandfather.

Later, as the meeting continued, I looked around the room at the society’s extensive collection of books.

I came to appreciate how much time and effort that organization puts into obtaining all of its historial/genealogical information. There is no other organization within the region or the province that resource.

Moreover, the society’s members, – past and present are to be commended for their service. Without them, such invaluable information could be lost forever.

True, there are resources such as Ancestry.ca where people can search for their roots. But that’s all electronic and it is more compelling to have the hard copy in hand to search for your roots/ancentry.

As a reporter for the Smoky River Express, I have done a series of stories about residents who have lived here for much or all of their lives. On two occasions, I have received information from local or regional history books about those I’m interviewing. Check Page 16 of this week’s Express for Katie Anderson, whose original story was sourced from the history book about Watino. The full article is also published on the Internet, at http://historius.ca.

I really enjoy talking to people who’ve lived here 1930s or 1940s and what it was like to grow up in that era. I also like seeing photos of them when they were children and the activities they participated in. They certainly have seen a lot in their lives and it would be a shame to not have their stories published in hard copy format.

These aren’t the only sources of history I have come across about the region. Last fall, I was in Grande Prairie and I went to the museum housed in its chamber of commerce building. I was surprised to see the extensive First Nations exhibits and displays.

I also found a couple of videos about the Smoky River region at another location in Grande Prairie.

One video shows a fire that occurred in Girouxville in the early 1970’s that totally destroyed a building. Another video shows a gentleman selling his grain at one of the elevators in Donnelly, which must have originated in the 1950’s.

It’s all of these genealogial and historical records that we don’t want to lose. We must commend those who preserve them for posterity.

And if you can donate your time or family history to an organization like La Societe Historique et Genealogique de Smoky River, then please do so. You will be adding to the rich history of the region


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