CORNER BROOK — Derek Biggin looks at the past history of his family as a massive game of hide and seek.
“It’s like, ‘we were here and left lots of signs, now find us,’” said Biggin, one of about two dozen people who attended the charter meeting of the Western Genealogical and Historical Association in Corner Brook on Saturday afternoon.
“That’s what makes it so intriguing.”
The Pasadena man was among those at the meeting who agreed to become part of the new organization’s inaugural executive. He will serve as one of the board’s seven directors working with president Ralph Loder, vice-president Sandy Payne and secretary Dave Wells.
Biggin has delved into the branches of his family tree, including the descendents of his wife Jocelyn (nee Payne). That research involved a trip to England the couple took back in 1978. Biggin’s brother has also done a lot of genealogical work on their family.
Now that he is retired, 70-year-old Biggin feels he has the time to give an association dedicated to finding out about and preserving local history.
The formation of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band has generated a lot of interest in genealogy recently, particularly in Corner Brook and western Newfoundland in general. This association goes beyond finding out if one’s ancestry has an aboriginal element.
It’s also not just about the past. It’s about educating future generations.
“If we can get together and keep a flow to it, there are people who might be interested after we start this initially who can continue on with it,” said Biggin.
The first job of the 10-person executive will be to draw up a draft constitution and set the parameters of the work the association will do.
“I think we have a really good group and I’m hoping we’re going to go forward in leaps and bounds,” said Loder, the group’s first president.
He already has been looking at draft constitutions from similar organizations and figures it will take another two or three months for the executive to figure out what its own will look like.
Wells went to the meeting as a person interested in learning more about his family’s roots, particularly those on his mother’s side. He had not planned to become an executive member, but left the meeting elected as the group’s first secretary.
Before the election, he told the group about how, in his role as president of Branch 13 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Corner Brook, that more and more history gets lost as time goes on.
“We’ve already noticed that at the legion with our Memorial Wall,” said Wells. “We put photographs of people who died in battles in various wars and conflicts around world. When we go back to the First and Second World Wars, even though names are quite common for the Corner Brook and Bay of Islands area, one of the big problems was we couldn’t find picturess or information on them. So, it is gone.”
The newly formed association already has an online presence with the Bay of Islands genealogical website — www.boigenealogy.com — where anyone interested in becoming involved can learn more information.
The inaugural executive of the Western Genealogical and Historical Association:
— Vice-president: Sandy Payne
— Secretary: Dave Wells
— Directors: Derek Biggin, Scott Gould, Brent Guinchard, Melvyn Smith, Pauline Tessier, Jim Warford, Lorna Warford
Source: Western Genealogical and Historical