Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History Societies

There is some interest in forming an umbrella group to represent the interests of the Canadian genealogical and family history community at the federal level, and also to provide a means to promote cooperation between member societies. Gordon Watts has written about this in the 30 November issue of Gordon Watts Reports. Comments back to Gordon would be appreciated.

Apparently this isn't the first effort to form such a group as Brenda Dougall Merriman recalls in the contribution below. Let us not ignore history lest we repeat it.


The former Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History Societies was formed on 15 August 1986 in Brandon, Manitoba. Its
website was posted in 1998 but has not been maintained.
The Federation originated among prairie societies and some of the early leaders were Dirk Hoogeveen (Regina), Laura Turnbull (Grande Prairie), and Bob Pittendrigh (Regina). By 1987 the steering committee became Ruth Breckman (Winnipeg) and Joan Benoit (Montreal), while Ryan Taylor was the first newsletter editor.
We had strong support from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and some groups in BC. Annual meetings were held in conjunction with various society events in different provinces. In the spring of 1990 the Federation had 46 society members (including branches of larger societies) and 43 individual newsletter subscribers.
Presidents were Ruth Breckman (Mnaitoba) 1988-1989, Dolores Christie (Alberta) 1990-1991, Brenda Dougall Merriman (Ontario) 1992-1993, Harry Skene acting president (Manitoba) 1994-1996.
The acting president's final message in the last issue of the newsletter (Winter 1996-97) outlined some of the problems that plagued the organization at that time:
. Distance and travel costs for volunteer board members made it increasingly difficult to hold meetings once a year with a quorum.
. Member societies were no longer nominating volunteers for board positions.
. Membership was dropping.
. A new direction for the Federation might best serve its members as an information-sharing organization, with further exploration of electronic means.
The lack of volunteers apparently stalled that further "exploration" just as the electronic age was becoming a fact of every day life. It seems clear that the Federation was not a priority among most member societies by the mid-1990s, probably for a number of mixed reasons.
The Federation recognized and always believed that a vital link was essential, in some form, to unite Canadian societies in common causes. Many people put heartfelt effort into the organization over its 12+ years of existence. I salute them all, with fond memories. Now it's time, and who can argue, for a revitalized effort.
Perhaps others who participated in "CanFed" can add to this.

1 comment:

M. Diane Rogers said...

I know there are genealogists in British Columbia interested in working on a 'national voice' for genealogists, preferably alongside historians and others who share our various concerns. I wasn't involved in the now defunct Federation, although I know the B.C. Genealogical Society and many of its members were. The Federation's purpose seemed to have been to foster communication among Canadian genealogical groups, still a useful goal, but nowadays, as Brenda says, I think we need to discuss and deal with issues that affect us, as for example, the recent changes to access at Library and Archives Canada. Genealogists' views seem to be seldom sought. We need to speak up more.

My preference so far would be for something along the lines of the Canadian Historical Association's Committee on Women's History --a national Committee on Genealogy. John, I think this was your idea originally.

Nowadays, much can be done on-line or in conference calls or virtual conferences to 'shorten' the vast distances and costs we face when getting together in Canada and, of course, with the post-1901 Census Access campaign we've seen how effective e-mail can be. I'd like to see membership open to both interested groups and to individuals.

I'll be very interested to see more comments and know what ideas other individuals and groups might have about this.