On the evening of Wednesday June 20th, the Red Deer Branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society will be celebrating its 40th anniversary at the Pioneer Lodge on 47th Ave.
This active group is made up of enthusiasts for one of the Canada’s most popular hobbies and interests.
It is not hard to understand the growing popularity of genealogy.
Many people have a strong interest in family origins and history. Moreover, research can be continued almost indefinitely. There is always yet another relative to find or research.
Moreover, the massive amounts of information now available on the Internet can make that research much easier to tackle.
In 1973, the Alberta Genealogical Society, a non-profit organization, was created to foster the study of genealogy and to assist with genealogical research.
By the latter part of the 1970s, local genealogists began to consider the establishment of a Red Deer branch of the Society.
Hence, on June 13th, 1978, a group of roughly a dozen people gathered at the home of Iris and Bob MacDonald to organize a Red Deer branch.
Willie Hambley, president of the A.G.S., attended to explain the goals and activities of the provincial organization and how a local branch could be formed. Annual dues were set at $2. Soon, 14 people signed up to become founding members.
For awhile, meetings were held at Central Elementary School, but shortly thereafter, most meetings were held at Ella Pitman’s, one of the stalwart founding members.
In the fall of 1979, the local L.D.S. Church established a genealogical library which helped make genealogical resources more accessible.
In November 1979, a highly successful display of the Society was mounted at the Parkland Mall over a three-day period. This helped to publicize the fledgling organization in the community.
Later, RDTV (CKRD) helped with publicity by running short features about the Genealogical Society on the television station.
In 1980, a start was made on the Branch’s most successful projects – the creation of lists of burials in local cemeteries. The first local cemetery to be researched and recorded was Mount Pleasant, which is a rural cemetery a short distance southeast of Red Deer.
Meanwhile, Irma Cameron volunteered to collect all the obituaries as well as birth and marriage announcements from the Red Deer Advocate and Advisor newspapers.
These were then put into a booklet for the use of members and other interested parties. This tremendous project was continued by several dedicated volunteers for many, many years.
In 1981, the first issue of the Branch’s publication, The Tree Climber was produced. Meetings were now held in the Provincial Building. Because of the significant increase in Branch activities, membership fees were raised to $5 per year.
In 1982, the Red Deer and District Archives offered to provide space for the Branch’s meetings and its genealogical library. Eventually, the Provincial Society’s library was also housed for a few years at the Archives as well. The partnership between the Archives and the Red Deer A.G.S. proved to be highly successful and mutually beneficial.
In 1985, Red Deer hosted the provincial genealogical annual conference. The Red Deer Branch has been host on several occasions since.
In order to help members and others interested in genealogy, the Red Deer Branch of the A.G.S. has not only invested extensively in its library, but also in microfilm and computer resources.
A grant was secured to help with the purchase of a microfilm/reader printer which was then housed in the Archives.
Subscriptions were also purchased to many on-line genealogical resources, with the Branch’s computer in the Archives Reading Room available to help with access.
The Red Deer Branch of the A.G.S. remains a vibrant and active organization.
Meetings are now held on the third Thursdays of the month at the Bower L.D.S. Church on 30th St. (July, August and December excepted). The Branch’s library and research computer remain in the Red Deer Archives.
(Sincere thanks to Betty Barnhill, a founding member of the Red Deer Branch of the A.G.S., for her help with this article).