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    Community History Project's Lessons for Family Historians

    I ran across an article on a book project underway in Pike Lake, Ontario, a summer vacation destination for fishermen and boaters, which I thought offers some good insights for a person undertaking a family history project.

    The Community Association of Pike Lake located a hundred miles west of Toronto was developing a management and stewardship plan for the lake. In the process the association discovered fascinating stories going back to the days of the original Algonquin residents. Members decided that the stories should be preserved in a book.

    It is the process of gathering those stories that is of interest to the family historian. The committee began by asking people to contribute their memories of life on the lake. But many community members needed a little prodding. The initial contributions in hand the committee began to employ the interview techniques of  an oral historian. "We're reaching out to people whose families were early settlers on the lake to get some of the stories," said Kay Rogers, chair of the book committee.

    Rogers was able to enlist the cooperation of a local woman with a widespread social network to whom residents were willing to talk because “people knew and respected her.” Rogers also discovered a man who she described as “a walking encyclopedia on the history of this area.”

    A family historian can benefit greatly from getting support for her project from a trusted senior member of the family who can encourage others to contribute. Even more important is to discover who the keeper of the family stories is and get them talking. Most families do have their own “walking encyclopedia” who know at the stories of distant grand parents or cousins.

    The Pike Lake project will be completed and published this summer as Voices of the Lake – A History of Pike Lake.

    To read more about the Pike Lake book project click here.

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