Preserving Valley history one family at a time
Sarah Rennie - What do you do if the next generation does not want or know what to do with heirlooms that have been passed down the family line for years? Its a question facing more and more families in the Valley. For a group of avid local historians, the question came up when a number of old family bibles began to surface. Their response? The Heritage Treasures Museum for the Montérégie West region. ”We feel heritage is so important,” says Jean Furcall, speaking on behalf of a committee of around 15 people interested primarily in preserving the heritage of the region. Several meetings have already taken place over the past several months to start what will be a virtual museum at first, with the objective however of finding a location in the Valley to house and display collected heirlooms, diaries and artifacts that document the origins and rich history of the region. The committee has now partnered with the Montérégie West Community Network (MWCN) on a grant application to continue working to build this museum both online and in a permanent physical location. Along with the MWCN, the committee is also collaborating with representatives from the New Frontiers School Board, the Hemmingford Archives, the Chateauguay Valley Historical Society, and Howick Seniors on this project. Family reunions, trees and published works Mrs. Furcall and fellow historian Donna Templeton have written a series of books detailing the earliest days in the Valley with a focus on individual stories and accounts told as a result of extensive research and collaboration with family members, as well as through found artifacts such as diaries. The books are replete with fascinating information and detail the expansive history of families that have helped to shape the Valley as we know it today. The titles published include From Scotland to the English River, Down Valley Lane, MacGregors: Kith and Kin, and You’ll Live Forever. Their latest collaboration is an updated family tree for the Carmichael, Craig, MacGregor, McKell and Templeton families. The heart and soul of the project, Mrs. Templeton worked tirelessly on the genealogy, recording over 6,000 names, with the support of Mrs. Furcall and Lynn Bryson. The books were all on display for purchase during an Open House, which took place at the Riverfield Curling Club on November 17. The event was well attended and most walked away with several copies of the books to be given as Christmas presents. The popularity of the books suggests there is a hunger in the area for local history, for family connections and stories. “The Valley is a special area because a lot of people have stayed or come back,” adds Mrs. Templeton, in describing the significance of Valley families to local history and the importance in documenting their names and stories. That being said, this latest book may be the last. “It has become so difficult,” she explains, noting how families are not the same “cohesive unit” they once were, and that while modern communications technology should simplify the task of reaching out to family members spread across the globe, this is far from the reality. As a result, it may be up to the next generation to take up the cause in recounting the stories of Valley families. Call for submissions With this new book already guaranteed a place in the Heritage Treasures Museum, the committee is asking Valley residents to consider photographing any family heirlooms, documents, diaries, and artifacts to be shared online as part of the virtual museum. “There is a lot we can do before we rent an actual physical space,” says Ms. Furcall, of the potential to house an archive online. Those interested in following the progress of this project, or in contributing material, can find the museum online at: www.facebook.com/heritagetreasuresmuseum.
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