History of the 

Lethbridge & District Branch 

of the 

Alberta Genealogical Society

1977 to December 1997

by Phyllis Burnett

October 1997

New Horizons Grants

At the 17 January 1985 meeting Cecil Gordon our Vice-President outlined the New Horizons Program and how it might apply to us. This program was sponsored by the Federal Government as an Outreach program for Senior Citizens to assist non-profit organizations. This grant would help our organization to promote genealogy and preserve the history of our area.

Much of the leg work was done by Cecil Gordon. The organizational meeting was held 18 April 1985 with the New Horizons Representative Don Mayne. The grant for 18 months would cover rent, equipment and furniture. Everyone was very excited when we received the grant 2 May 1995. Now we could have a permanent location for our branch library, a place for meetings and a workplace. Our New Horizons Group called themselves SWAGS (South West Alberta Genealogical Scribes) with 15 seniors serving on the original committee. Projects suggested by SWAGS included:

1.Publish a newsletter

2.Publish a book on available resources

3.Compile a master index which would include:


·Names being searched 

·Cemeteries in Lethbridge

·Names from letters of inquiry

  ·Church registers

By August 1985 it was determined that the Branch would produce a newsletter ‘Yesterday’s Footprints’ and a source book of resources available in Southwestern Alberta. The SWAGS Committee was officially disbanded the 19 November 1987.

Our Branch Library

Our Southwestern Genealogical Library started to formulate in the fall of 1984 because the Lethbridge Branch had no suitable location to house the genealogical materials. Material was originally held in a private home, and then taken to the monthly meetings. After much searching and negotiating a location was found. The new library would be housed in leased space from the Provincial Government. The location of our library and office would be in the Administration Building in Room 1:28, 909 - 3rd Ave. North. A major boost was given to the library by a donation of books from the Edmonton Branch library. 

The Southwestern Alberta Genealogical Library was officially opened on Thursday, March 20, 1986 at 1:30 p.m. by Roberta Stevens of the Alberta Department of Culture who cut the ribbon and Mr. Rob Harrison who represented Mr. Blaine Thacker our local M. P. The open house that followed saw 55 people tour the library facilities from 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. Displays of Canada, Japan, the Ninastako Cultural Center, and military memorabilia were featured. In the evening Albert Hing talked about the use of military decorations in genealogical research.

The library was set up for four reasons:

·To provide a permanent home for the Lethbridge Branch collections

·To build a comprehensive collection of genealogical material of residents past, present and future in Southwestern Alberta

·To build a library for the needs of the branch members

·To make the facility available for public use

The library is a reference library, completely staffed by volunteers. It is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. The library has been designed to serve the area north to High River, south to the United States border, east to Taber and west to the British Columbia border.

Newsletter “Yesterday’s Footprints”

In 1985 members were asked to submit names for the newsletter. Frances Siemens suggested “Yesterday’s Footprints”. This was approved 21 February 1985. The Lethbridge Branch started putting out a newsletter in September 1983. Mary Bole edited the first one and Laurie Stewart the second one. Others have come out regularly under the direction of Dolores Christie, Dave Elford, Harold & Amy Woodruff and Norma Bosman.

From 1986 on the editors included Hanae Iwassa-Robbs, Lila Spencer, Frances Siemens, Colleen Wright and the present editor Phyllis Burnett. The newsletter is produced three times a year January, April and September.

Resource Book ‘Lethbridge Genealogical Resources’

In the spring of 1986 the discussion and organization of the book began with Norma Bosman as chairperson. A budget was put together along with a form to be used for recording the information from the Lethbridge Public Library, University of Lethbridge Library, Galt Museum & Archives, LCC and LDS library. This information would then be entered into the computer. Phyllis Burnett and Norma Bosman met with Kathy Shigimi in the fall of 1987 to start the book in motion and begin inputting the information into the computer.

12 Jan 1988 Lila Spencer made a motion that we name our book ‘Lethbridge Genealogical Resources’. It was approved. The book was hot off the press, just in time for Conference ‘88. 

The resource book is a bibliography of the major holdings of Genealogical Content in:

·Lethbridge Public Library

·University of Lethbridge

·Lethbridge Community College

·Alexander Galt Museum & Archives

·Family History Center

·Southwestern Genealogical Library

It contains:

·Geographical list by title of books

·Alphabetical list by title of over 1,000 books

·Addresses for Canadian Genealogical Societies, Historical Societies and Archives

·Lists facilities in Lethbridge where information on family history research can be found

·List of Henderson Directories & newspapers on microforms

In December 1992 our senior members chaired by Cecil Gordon formed another New Horizons Committee. This time it was formed to obtain funding for a computer and software. Suggestions included using the computer to:

·Index the library holdings

·Input cemetery records

·Index funeral home records

·Input family histories

·Run the handwriting analysis program

·List our members’ personal library collections


An ad hoc committee with Anne Baines, Phyllis Burnett, Marion Fleming and Colleen Wright was formed to receive bids on this purchase. 

The New Horizons Grant was approved in 1993 and our branch purchased a 486 computer with CD-ROM drive, laser printer and software including PAF, Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect, Handwriting Analysis Program, Family Tree Maker, and US & Canada Phone CD-ROMS.

The Lethbridge & District Branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society initiated the Dr. Alex Johnston Family History Essay project in 1990 as a memorial to Al

The Dr. Alex Johnston Family History Essay Project

ex Johnston local historian who died 12 April 1989. This was a very successful project. Students were invited to write an essay on their family history. Mrs. Maureen Swanson and her grade nine class from St. Francis Junior High took up the challenge. 35 students completed essays, which were turned over to our Branch. Over the summer the essays were made available to the Whoop Up Society for display. Essays ranged from a few to many pages, often complete with pedigree charts, pictures and other documented evidence. One project traced family roots to 1052 AD, others to early Canadian settlement. Roots were traced to countries all over the globe including Viet Nam, Eastern Europe and South America. These essays are now part of our Library and are excellent reading.

Library Flood

On December 26, 1990 a pipe burst in our library. While it could have been worse, our collection did suffer some damage. Various books, pamphlets and brochures were damaged or destroyed as well as the carpet. Many hours were spent putting the library back in order. Everything had to be inventoried. This was a chance to reorganize the whole library. Fortunately our insurance coverage was sufficient to take care of the damage. By February 1991 we were back in business thanks to all the volunteers.

Conferences, Seminars & Speakers

Over the years our Branch as hosted several conferences, seminars and speakers.

In 1988 we hosted the AGS Annual Conference, Conference ‘88 “Bridging the Oceans”, April 15-17, 1988 at the Sandman Inn. The chairperson was Dolores Christie. Keynote Speakers included: Arlene Denney, President, Genealogical Research Services and Gerald Haslam, Ph.D., of the Family History and Genealogical Research Centre, Brigham Young University.

Our Branch hosted another AGS Annual Conference, Conference ‘92 “Roots Around the World”, April 10-12, 1992 at the El Rancho Hotel. 

This conference featured a variety of speakers and topics. The keynote speaker was Joy Moulton, President of the International Society of British Genealogy and Family History. We had registrants from as far away as Vancouver, British Columbia and Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Scottish Seminar

October 6, 1992 the Lethbridge & District Branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society hosted a Scottish Seminar featuring Bill Lawson, Founder/Director of Co Leis Thu?, Genealogy Research for the Western Isles of Scotland. Mr. Lawson spoke on Scottish Genealogy and Scottish Emigration. 

Fall Seminars

Our 1st Fall Seminar was held September 1985 with chairperson: Dr. Kenneth May. The main speakers were: Wilf Allen. Jo Nuthack, Greg Ellis, Alex Johnston, Rena Derricott & Lauralynn Holladay. Topics included: 

  • New England
  • Germany
  • Archives of Canada
  • Computers
  • Ancestor Index
  • Scottish Research
  • LDS Records
  • Britain

On September 20, 1986 we held our 2nd Seminar: “Entwining Cultures”. Topics included:
  • Beginning Genealogical Research
  • Researching in Montana and other United States Records
  • Civil Registration & Census Records in the United Kingdom
  • An Introduction to Successful Scandinavian Research
  • Genealogical Resources in Lethbridge
  • Migration Patterns to Southwestern Alberta
  • The Genealogical Quest - A Japanese Perspective
  • Researching Eastern Canada Land Records
  • Things to Know about Beginning European Research

Major Speakers over the Years

25 August 1980 Mrs. Elizabeth Simpson from England came to Lethbridge and spoke to the Branch at the Lethbridge Public Library. Her topic was “Tracing English Ancestors With Emphasis on Those Ancestors on the Lower Income Scale”.
18 September 1984Mr. Colin Chapman Vice-President of the Federation of Family History Societies in England. His topic was “How to Research in England”.
30 October 1984Colette Arnal, Citizenship Officer from the Calgary Citizenship & Naturalization Office. Her topic was “How to Use the Canadian Citizenship and Naturalization Records to Trace Your Family Tree”.
2 May 1986Angus Baxter “In Search of Your Roots”.
25 September 1987Don Steel Vice-President of the Federation of Family History Societies and specialist on research in the British Isles. His topic was “Resources and Sources in the British Isles”; hosted by Lethbridge Public Library, LDS Family History Centers & Lethbridge Br. AGS
4 May 1994 Lady Teviot spoke on “Research in England”.
24 March 1997Irene Jedzjowsky from the Provincial Archives spoke about the “Freedom of Information and Privacy Act” at the Lethbridge Public library, sponsored by the Lethbridge Public Library and Lethbridge & District Branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society.

Major Activities of our Branch Members

Many of our members have been very involved with our Branch and the Lethbridge Community as a whole. 

    ·Summer 1984 Lynne Davis completed an Index of Names Appearing in “The Bend - A History of West Lethbridge”.

    ·Lynne Davis indexed the genealogical information in the local history book “Our Treasured Heritage: A History of Coalhurst & District”.

    ·August 1985: 4 members attended the 5th Annual National Genealogical Society Conference at Salt Lake City

    ·1985: Ruby Gordon was involved with a group of concerned citizens to compile a list of persons buried in the Nemiscam Cemetery. A memorial plaque with 103 names was unveiled in 1987.

    ·1986: Several members collected and compiled information for the Lethbridge Genealogical Sources Book

    ·1986: Phyllis Burnett started indexing all library acquisitions to Summer 1989.

    ·1987: Harold Woodruff began compiling scrapbooks of alphabetized death notices appearing in the Salt Lake City newspapers from the years 1973-1977.

    ·October 1988: Alex Johnston received a life commitment award from the Alberta Museum Association “to honor an individual, family or institution who, for a period of not less than 20 years, has made a significant contribution to Alberta museums”.

    ·November 1988: Ruby Gordon received a life membership pin (the highest award offered by the Girl Guides of Canada) at the Chinook Area Girl Guides 30th anniversary. Ruby has been a guide leader since 1952.

    1988-89: Typing of baptisms from St. Augustine’s Anglican Church by Marguerite Knapp.

    ·1988: Alex Johnston finished the indexing of the Assiniboia Census records for 1881 and 1891 with copies to our library.

    ·1988: Anne Baines compiled information on Judge Turcotte and his family. 

    ·1988: France Siemens & Phyllis Burnett collected and indexed the Memorials and Obituaries from the Lethbridge Herald for 1987 to October 1988, continued on by Ethel Korth followed by Muriel and Ray Jolliffe.

    ·1988: Frances Siemens started indexing the articles and records, which appeared in the Macleod Gazette dating back to the turn of the century and forward.

    ·Ethel Korth also started a scrapbook of activities of our members both within the branch and in the community; “Genealogical Clippings of Lethbridge and Area”, indexed 1988 to 1990.

    ·Obituaries from Macleod Gazette: 1978-1988 compiled by Frances Siemens and Iris Stewart. This index contained 2210 entries.

    ·June 1989: Tom Pratt received a 55-year service pin from Scouts Canada. Tom has been in scouting since 1934.

    ·Summer-Fall 1990: Alex Johnston Memorial - Family History Essay Project

    ·1990: Dolores Christie President of Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History and Societies until 1992.

    ·1992: Marion Fleming designed the logo for a genealogical sweatshirt “Genealogists Climb Trees”, which her son Barry then produced. We sold it as a fund-raiser.

    ·1992: Mr. Cecil Gordon received the Commemorative Medal for the 125th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. This medal was conferred on our member by Governor General Ray Hnatyshen and presented to Mr. Gordon by Senator Joyce Fairbairn. 

    ·August 1993: Bev Burchak-Hosack of Heirloom Photography Restorations won first place in the photographic restoration category at the 46th annual Professional Photographers of Canada print competition held in Quebec City.

    ·1995: Kay Greer was selected by the YWCA to receive a ‘Woman of Distinction’ award for 1995. “A Woman of Distinction is someone who tirelessly devotes her time and energy to make our community a better place to live.” An article appeared in Lethbridge Living, October-November 1995.

    ·1997: George Kush hand painted the AGS Crest on canvas for our branch.

    ·Indexing of the Christenson-Salmon Funeral Home Records 1932 - 1988 both alphabetically and by death date compiled by Rea & Marion Fleming

    ·Indexing of the obituaries from the Christenson-Salmon Funeral Home 1932-37.

    ·It was our own Illa Skeith who came up with a motto for the commissioned coat of arms for the Alberta Genealogical Society “Seek, Research, Record”.

Fund Raisers over the Years

In September 1984 members made and sold ready to freeze fruit pies in order to make money to pay for Mr. Colin Chapman’s visit to Lethbridge We continued preparing frozen pies until 1989. We also tried our hand at used book sales in local malls, which continued to the end of fall 1995. 

At our fall seminars we sold “Lethbridge: A Centennial History”, Federation of Family History Society books, our own Lethbridge Genealogical Resources, and “Who’s Who in Southern Alberta”.

Meeting Places

Over the years we have met at various places. The organization meeting took place 10 May 1977 at the residence of Mary Bole.  The next few meetings were held at the Lethbridge Public Library, Bowman Arts Center, and the LDS Genealogical Library. In the fall of 1978 we met at the Com-Serve Office. From 1981 to 1982 we were back in private residences. From 1983 to 1985 we met in the Gas Company Auditorium at 410 Stafford Dr. North. From 1986 on we have been meeting at our present location Room 1:28, 909 - 3rd Ave. North.

Cemeteries Recorded Over the Years

The Branch has recorded several cemeteries in the area. 





Coaldale Mennonite 




Hebrew Section of Mountain View


Iron Spring



Livingstone Cemetery north of Cowley


Mountain View

Nemiscam, Forty Mile & St. Joseph’s Cemetery, all near Foremost.


Old Monarch

Pincher Creek

St. Patrick’s

St. Stephen (Harrisville) 


Taber Memorial


Temple Hill, Raymond



White Lake


We also extracted church records. Some St. Augustine’s Church records extractions for births, marriage & deaths date back to 1891. In addition there were records from St. Cyprian’s Anglican Church which dated back 10 1910. 

Topics of Concern

·1976 AGS members were encouraged to write to our MP’s regarding the release of the 1881 & 1891 Canadian Census. (Bill C422: 1881 records became available 1 Mar 1979).

·1980 AGS members signed a petition against the separation of part of the Public Archives from a single location (the building housing the Archives and the National Library was overflowing).

·1981 when would the 1891 census be released? AGS sent requests to the Public Archives and Statistics Canada.

·AGS members were encouraged to write to the Public Archives of Canada regarding the release of the 1901 Canadian Census.

·1992 there was the possibility of user fees at the National Archives of Canada

·1993 AGS presented a letter to the Provincial Archives pertaining to a Bill to limit access to Archive Files.

·We were concerned about Bill C-32 Canadian Copyright Law.

·APOLROD was formed in response to the fall 1996 plan to dispose or disperse all 1868-1955 Ontario land records. Ontario Land records represent one of the largest, most diverse and unknown collections of heritage documents in the province. Many of our members do research in Ontario.

·March 1997 Alberta Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, so we arranged for Irene Jedzjowsky from the Provincial Archives to discuss the topic.

·Fall 1997 Budget cuts to the Galt Museum, we as members sent a letter and signed a petition 16 October 1997.

Computer Use in our Branch

The idea of a computer first came up at the January 15, 1987 meeting when Norma Bosman asked if there were any projects for AGS or our branch for which we could use a computer. Norma was a member of the newly formed AGS committee on computers.

With the purchase of our computer in 1993 we have been able to:

·start cataloging the library material

·index church records

·index obituaries from the Lethbridge Herald

·enter member genealogy and family history into the computer

Surfing the ‘Web’

In 1995 the first articles about the Internet appeared in our newsletter and others. Our first visits on the ‘Net’ included hands-on Internet Sessions at the University of Lethbridge in May 1995. The ‘Net' has been a boon to family historians and genealogists. A search of articles dealing with genealogy gave us about 700 in 1995. In 1997 a similar search gives us almost 19,000 relevant results.


The Lethbridge Branch has grown steadily from the ten members who originally formed the Branch. It has had its ups and downs, as all organizations do, but we still continue to look forward to exciting times ahead. 1992 was a trying time for us. We had difficulty filling our executive positions of President, Vice-President and Secretary. A motion was even brought forward to dissolve the branch. Our resources were stretched pretty thin, especially since we still had to organize Conference ‘92. As the members of this branch have always done, we pulled together and got ourselves back on track.

Over the years many volunteer hours have gone into making our Branch work, whether it be organizing and setting up the Library and manning it, or preparing for and taking part in AGS Annual Conferences as well as our own local seminars and workshops. The hours continue to add up as we index our library, continue the indexing of vital statistics from the Lethbridge Herald, add to our collection and do more cemetery recordings. We may be a small group but we have always been a Branch of dedicated workers.

Beginning in November 1997 we will again hold Beginners’ Classes from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the evening of the regular meetings. Anne Baines will conduct these classes.

Looking forward to 1998, our Branch has been asked to act as the repository for information regarding the descendants of the original NWMP in 1873/74 in order to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the NWMP Trek West. 

As a member of the Lethbridge Branch, Alberta Genealogical Society you will:

·Meet others interested in family history

·Share the knowledge and experience of others 

·See how to organize and present one’s research

·Learn effective methods of research

·Keep informed about sources available

·Receive the publication RELATIVELY SPEAKING

·Receive the publication YESTERDAY’S FOOTPRINTS

·Have the use of the AGS Lending Library

“Remember, when one carries the load alone, 

the job is unbearable; but when each one of us does a little, 

the job becomes fun”.

- President Frances Siemens 1988-1989 -

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