CORNER BROOK — Sandy Payne has spent over 30 years researching his family history.
He’s scoured archives, visited cemeteries and frequented churches seeking information about his roots.
Eventually this quest for knowledge became a much larger project, and now he has over 40 boxes of research — likely among the largest databases of historical information about western Newfoundland.
Now, the Rocky Harbour native wants a permanent home for his research and is hoping the formation of The Western Genealogical and Historical Association will allow this to happen.
“I needed to find a home for this before I pass. I hope that’s another 30 years or more,” Payne said with a chuckle, noting his children aren’t interested in genealogy. “I want to be able to share it and I didn’t want to put it in St. John’s because the people who want to see it won’t really have access to it.”
Payne has been in Alberta for the past five years where he is an accountant and president of the Alberta Genealogy Society, as well as the Newfoundland Gene Web for the Northern Peninsula.
He said the formation of the local group comes at a time when many in the area have recently traced their past in order to apply for membership to the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band.
Payne is counting on the new interest in genealogy creating some momentum for this group, paticularly since formal recorded history of the west coast is scarce.
“There’s the odd thesis done at the university on individual communities, but there’s very little recorded history in a repository,” he said.
Payne said while the group will include plenty of high-level historical discussion, anyone with an interest in their own family history or the region’s are free to join as well. While he won’t be at the meeting, Payne said he’s hoping a board of 10-12 members can be selected to start the society and begin the process of growing the group.
He expects the group will meet once a month and is confident there are enough qualified, dedicated people out there to ensure the organization doesn’t peter out like previous attempts at such societies.
Irishtown-Summerside’s Ralph Loder experienced the scarcity of information when he started tracing his own roots in 1995. While he found information about his ancestor John Loder, he hit a dead end when tracing the elder Loder’s wife, Mary Ann.
Through persistence on genealogy groups on Facebook, as well as constant research, the pieces finally fell in place.
“We found everything we wanted on John Loder, but we couldn’t find anything on his wife,” Loder said. “That led us into putting things together and I found out her other three sisters married into the Loder family. Of course that’s how I got involved with Sandy. He had two volumes of 700 pages on the Payne family alone.”
Loder will be at the meeting Saturday, and said the feeling of uncovering hidden or new information from the past is a thrill, something that makes the difficult research process worth it.
“When you find that moment, I just can’t describe it for you,” he said.
The meeting will take place Saturday 2 p.m. at Grenfell Campus, room 2016 of the new annex building.