For 45 years, the Red Deer branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society has been promoting the study of genealogy and genealogical research.
The local nonprofit club, which currently has 44 members, is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. Additionally, the Alberta-wide society is celebrating its 50th year.
“We do our best to teach people how to do genealogy accurately,” said Jessie Dial, president of the Red Deer branch.
“There are a lot of people who go online and fumble their way through ancestries, and things can get muddled. We try to teach people how to go to the archives or different sources out there where they can trace their relatives.”
On Friday, members of the local branch were working taking photos of the headstones at Alto Reste Cemetery in order to catalogue them on www.findagrave.com, which is an online database of grave sites.
“In this cemetery, there are over 3,000 memorials on Find A Grave and over 1,000 don’t have an image,” Dial explained.
“Some of those memorial pages might just say, ‘John Smith is buried in this spot,’ and that’s it. A headstone can give John’s wife’s information or maybe his children’s information. It could give the date of birth and a date of death.
“The headstone provides so much more and it’s really important for families who can’t go to that cemetery. People from England, for example, might have relatives here. We have an Islamic burial area here and their relatives might want to see where they were buried. That’s why we’re trying to get these images online.”
Dial, who has been with the club for five years, said she has been interested in genealogy since she was young. She added that she loves learning people’s stories.
“You have the date of birth and the date of death. I like to learn about what’s in between. Some people want to find out about lost family, some people want to see if they’re related to royalty somewhere – everyone has their own reason to do this. But mine is the stories,” she said.
Diane Lehr has been a member of the society’s Red Deer branch for 27 years.
“Genealogy is fascinating. It’s like a crossword puzzle – it’s something you need to solve one little step at a time and make sure you’ve got everything covered,” said Lehr.
“You have to make sure you’re not going down a rabbit hole. It’s pretty easy to get off track. Say there’s a John Smith in the family – you have to be careful you don’t follow the wrong John Smith.”
It’s rewarding to help others learn about their ancestry, Lehr added.
“Sometimes you can even find out if there are health concerns through old death records,” she said.
For more information on the society, visit www.abgenealogy.ca.