June 20th, 2024

Genealogy Society helping people discover their roots


By Troy Bannerman - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 8, 2023.

Herald photo by Troy Bannerman The Lethbridge Genealogy Society are available help people in the search for family history.

The Genealogy Society has been in the Administration Building for 30 years and has a large collection of books, registries and resources to help the citizens of Lethbridge find their ancestors.

Barry Simmons, vice president of the Genealogy Society, said Tuesday the organization is open three days a week – Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday afternoon and Friday afternoon – and people just have to walk in the door and they’ll get assistance at no charge.

The society offers several services, said board member Brian Dobing.

“If you’re interested in Warner, we have books on Warner and so on. … We also have material from other places in the world. But a lot of that is online,” he said.

“You can do it a lot online. So we try maybe to sort of help point people in that. We’re not a place for you to come in and say ‘give me everything you know about my grandfather’ … we don’t have that kind of time or resources. We can certainly point people in the right directions, and, and so on.”

The society also has access to software and computers. When people learn how to use the software, they can perhaps take a subscription and do it from home once they know what they’re doing, he said.

With many genealogy sites requiring a membership to access, coming to the Genealogy Society is an easy way to bypass those subscription fees.

Treasurer Kieran Biggins added “a lot of people, of course, buy their own subscription. And they don’t realize that they can come here and try it out for free. And then I get some pointers as to how to use those websites. And then a lot of people struggle at home trying to do their ancestry.ca.

“One common thing the society does is help individuals understand census data and other primary data as they map out their family heritage.”

Society membership costs $50 per year, or $45 for retirees.

In speaking to the society’s volume since the pandemic Simmons stated, “We did get more people coming in prior to that. And more of us would be meeting as well. So a typical meeting we would have a lot more people here.

“We’re an older group, as you probably guessed, and so probably a little more cases COVID than other demographic groups. I think that impacted” those who already knew about the society, he said.

“This is a small space when you have all our people in for a meeting. And so maybe a risky place during the COVID era. I think it has had that effect. And I don’t know if it’s over yet.”

With the closing of the Lethbridge Family History Library that was formally on 10 Avenue S., the Lethbridge Genealogy Society is now the only community resource left in the city for most community members for genealogical research.

“The truth of the matter is we really are struggling,” said Dobing.

Like many not-for-profit organizations in Lethbridge the Genealogy Society is looking for help to keep its doors open.

Many are hoping for some municipal support in the form of a central location where they can pool some of their resources for the collective benefit of our community. Some, like the Genealogy Society, are still hopeful that the Bowman Building could still be an answer to their struggles.

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