Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

Family tree tips for visiting your ancestor’s homeland

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BY LORETTA HOUBEN

Loretta Houben beside her great- grandmother’s grave in Saskatchewan.

Loretta Houben beside her great- grandmother’s grave in Saskatchewan.

I have a curious mind and an adventurous spirit, so this summer when I knew I’d be attending a genealogy conference in Calgary, Alberta, I begged my husband to drive me to three places fairly close by where I knew my ancestors had once lived and worked. He kindly obliged and is now my hero! We travelled over 4,000 km by car to Three Hills, Alberta, and to Saskatchewan.

I’ve never experienced the vast prairie landscape before and it was spectacular. I had done my research ahead of time, but wasn’t exactly sure where my paternal grandpa had actually worked in Three Hills.

Our first stop was to consult the local museum in the town. Staff were very helpful and supplied us with a map to find the ranch. They also gave me a phone number for the owner, who was the great grandson of the man my grandpa worked for 100 years ago in 1916!

Loretta Houben at the Alberta ranch.

Loretta Houben at the Alberta ranch.

The original barn was still standing, and the house. It was fascinating to see the place and get a feel for the area in which he lived until he moved to Spalding, Saskatchewan.

We had booked all our hotels ahead of time. We used our GPS often so we never got lost. After the conference we headed to Humboldt in Saskatchewan. That’s a very long drive, but it was the highlight of my whole trip.

Earlier in 2016 I had joined a Facebook group for Saskatchewan and the members gave very helpful advice. One of them provided me with contact information for a local memorial business, and to make a long story short, the owner made a wonderful marker for my great-grandmother’s grave which had been unmarked for 85 years. Kind family members contributed money to help pay for the cost.

It was quite an experience to see my great-grandmother’s grave no longer lost but with a beautiful marker that included her name, full date of birth and death, and an epitaph which reads “Forever in our hearts.” The process of finding the grave and having the marker made and installed was all managed by email! I was quite impressed.

The next day we headed to Spalding, where my father was born. I had no idea where the farm was located, but thanks once again to Facebook groups, Garth Ulrich, who lived some distance away, said he would take us to all the places we wished to see.

It was a gorgeous day and we followed at 110 km per hour down dusty country roads as he showed us the various farms where my dad had grown up and also the school ground now overgrown with bush but which had a nice plaque to mark the spot where my dad had gone to school.

Another highlight was seeing the cemetery in the middle of wheat fields where my grandpa’s first wife is buried. Garth even provided a map of the cemetery so I could locate where her grave is, as there is one monument for everyone and no individual markers.

I’ll never forget my amazing genealogy adventure!

Loretta Houben is a long-time resident in the Collingwood area and enjoys making her family past come alive.

Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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