Editorial note: The following is a submitted letter to the editor. The views and opinions shared do not necessarily reflect those of Kingstonist, nor has Kingstonist independently verified any of the content.
On Sunday, October 15, 2023, the Kingston Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) will mark a milestone.
The branch is celebrating 50 years of working together to help its members and others find their roots. It will mark its 50th anniversary with an Open House at the Central Branch of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library (KFPL) on Sunday, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. All members present and past — and anyone interested in learning more about researching family history — are welcome.
The branch’s current members live both in the local area and scattered across the globe. Distant members join the Kingston Branch because they are interested in genealogy and often their ancestors lived in Frontenac County or Lennox & Addington County in the past. They may want to learn more about what life may have been like in Tamworth in 1883, or which churches may have served Pittsburgh Township in the 1840s.
When the branch began in 1973, there was no internet or DNA testing to help in family research. The Ontario Genealogical Society had been founded in 1961 by a few people in the Waterloo area. As interest in roots grew across the province, local groups requested creation of branches to serve their area, to offer local meetings, and to network with genealogists.
Over the winter of 1972-73, Barrie Robinson, librarian of the Lake Ontario Regional Library System, taught a 10-week course on genealogy at St. Lawrence College. He then called interested parties to a meeting on March 14, 1973, at St. Lawrence College. Fifteen people present at the meeting, including 10 who were already members of OGS, lent their names to an official application to OGS to become a branch.
The first executive of Kingston Branch was elected, and was given the responsibility of preserving and making available records within their area which could assist with family research, such as cemetery transcriptions (the inscriptions on grave markers), census records, church registers, early assessment rolls, etc. The branch, it was suggested, “would serve the counties of Prince Edward, Hastings, Lennox & Addington, Frontenac, and Leeds & Grenville in Ontario, plus St. Lawrence in New York State.” This lofty ambition soon reduced to Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Counties, as other OGS branches came into existence.
Over the years, members have located and transcribed all known cemeteries in the two counties, from those containing two gravestones in the back of a farm, right up to Cataraqui Cemetery in Kingston with over 40,000 stones. With cooperation from several religious denominations, our members have made early church registers accessible for searchers. Our library holdings have grown through our publications, as well as by donation and purchase; we now have about 1,200 volumes in our collection, which is housed on the second floor of the Central Branch of KFPL. It’s a ‘Reference-Only’ collection which anyone may consult and contains numerous family histories, ‘how-to’ books on doing genealogy research in the USA or UK, and collections of obituaries, to name but a few types.
The Kingston Branch has met usually eight times a year for 50 years… that represents a lot of knowledge passed on to members by speakers or shared with fellow members. Members receive a newsletter, Kingston Relations, five times a year, now delivered to their Inboxes, as well as the Families journal published by the provincial society. There is also a weekly e-newsletter from OGS. For the last three years, we have met by Zoom, keeping members safe and still informed.
We hope to see you at our Open House on October 15, 2023. If you can’t attend that day but want help getting started on your own family history, we hold periodic drop-in sessions at KFPL where volunteer members help beginners get started. Visit our website for details.
Kingston defines itself as a city “where history and innovation thrive.” The Kingston Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society has certainly thrived for 50 years on facilitating family history, and is willing to help you trace yours, as we continue into our next half century.
Newsletter Editor and longtime member of the Kingston Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society
The Central Branch of the KFPL is located at 130 Johnson Street in downtown Kingston, and the Kingston Branch of the OGS will host their 50th anniversary Open House on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, from 2 to 4:30 p.m.
For a look back at the 10th anniversary of the Kingston Branch of the OGS, peruse the Branch’s 10th anniversary booklet from 1983 below.
Share your views! Submit a Letter to the Editor or an Op/Ed article to Kingstonist’s Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].