Summer staff and volunteers at Genealogical Society find it an ideal environment for history buffs

Austin Doyle and Hunter Charest at the Historical and Genealogical Society in Donnelly.

Tom Henihan
Express Staff

The Smoky River Historical and Genealogical Society had seasonal employees and volunteers continuing to catalogue material and work on specific projects over the summer.

Full-time summer employee, Hunter Charest has been involved in a marketing project aimed at inspiring local residents to do their genealogy and research local history.

“It targets mostly people who are in schools, the junior high demographic,” he says. “I have been working on some things that can be brought into the classroom to try and get the students interested in coming to the Genealogy Society or to do their own independent research.”

Charest grew up in McLennan and studied at G.P. Vanier before attending the University of Alberta, first studying physics, then switching to classics.

What prompted his move from physics to classics was his interest in history when growing up, an interest Charest attributes in large part to his Dad who is also a history aficionado.

Through classics studies, he plans eventually to study archaeology.

Charest says he has enjoyed working at the Historical Society and despite being born and raised in McLennan he realized he didn’t know much of the local history until he began working at the society.

“I didn’t know much of the local history, where the names for all the towns here come from. It is interesting to learn that the founders of certain areas are the great-grandparents of people I went to school with. It is interesting to see and to put things in perspective.
“It is definitely interesting and worth learning about the history of where you live. And it is not like there is a whole lot of it, so in one afternoon at the Historic Society you can learn quite a bit.”

He says that with another summer employee, Chloé Maisonneuve, both traced their families genealogy while working during the summer.

“I think Chloé went back further than I did. I think she went back to the 1600s and I got back to Quebec in 1700s with my family. She found out where in France her family were from. “

Charest and Maisonneuve manged to trace their family’s genealogy back to the sixteen and seventeen hundreds exclusively using the resources available at the Smoky River Historical & Genealogical Society.

Austin Doyle volunteers at the historic society during the summer and also on the Tuesday during the winter. While Doyle was retained for a week’s paid project during the summer, he is a committed volunteer motivated by his love of history.

“I love history; I love looking back into family and local history. I have always been a big fan of history,” he says and adds that volunteering also provides his with valuable work experience.

Austin Doyle will continue to volunteer at the Historic and Genealogy Society after the summer. Chloé Maisonneuve leaves on August 22 and Hunter Charest leaves on August 30 returning to his third year of study at U of A.

The Société returns to its fall schedule the first week in September when it is open Tuesday only.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Historic Society can visit its location in Donnelly or stop by the society’s booth at the McLennan Trade and Recreation Fair at the H.W. Fish Arena in McLennan on Saturday, September 23.

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