Rare and ‘last copy’ history books donated to Legislative Library

The books are now a protected resource for those researching their family or community history

Those who may be researching their family’s roots or just love reading about rural Manitoba’s diverse and vibrant past now have a few more resources to guide their search at the Manitoba Legislative Library.

Twenty-seven rare and last copy local history books from the Manitoba Historical Society (MHS) have been donated to the Manitoba Legislative Library for public research. The books, published anywhere between 1910 and 2005, include histories of communities such as Winnipegosis, Minto, Oakburn and Riverside, as well as Winnipeg communities such as St. Norbert and East Kildonan-Transcona.

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“The Manitoba Historical Society has a proud tradition of collecting historically significant objects and we are pleased to entrust these books to the care of the province,” said MHS president Harry Duckworth in a news release.

“Our books and artifacts help document and chronicle the history of our province and we are pleased to see that history will be preserved and available for future generations to study and learn from.”

The books had been in storage at the MHS when consultations with Legislative Library staff revealed the library either did not have a copy of some of these titles, or copies they did possess were becoming a little too well thumbed to last much longer.

Fourteen of the 27 donated titles that have now become part of the library’s Local History Collection at 200 Vaughan St. have never been available there until now.

The donated books include such titles such as Minto Memories, Tales of Sperling, Bridging Brenda: the History of Brenda Municipality and Area, The Fox’s Tale: The History of Foxwarren and the Consolidated School District #525, and Crocus Country: A History of Mather and Surrounding Districts.

In an interview Duckworth said it’s estimated about 1,000 local histories in total have been published across Manitoba and they are found in a variety of libraries around Manitoba.

However, many times these books were never widely marketed, and although still in the hands of those who still live the communities they were written for, can be much harder to find elsewhere, Duckworth said.

It’s important to ensure a copy is in an accessible public place so those in future can continue to research and trace their roots.

“Everyone has their own reason for being interested in history and it usually has to do with their own family,” he said. “These books are a very good account of each of a large number of families and there are often photographs. For someone trying to do genealogical research they are a gold mine.”

To help increase accessibility to more local histories in 2009 the MHS together with the Manitoba Legislative Library undertook an ambitious project to digitize and make local history books available worldwide through the website www.Manitoba.ca.

To date approximately 300 history books have been digitized and posted online and it’s hoped several hundred will be added in the next five years, Duckworth said. The MHS is also digitizing local newspapers to make these widely accessible to the public as well.

Last week Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection Minister Ron Lemieux welcomed these 27 donated local history books to the Legislative Library.

“I encourage all Manitobans to explore their heritage and the unique stories that shaped Manitoba in the rich collection of the Legislative Library,” said Minister Lemieux.

A complete list of donated titles is available here.

About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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