Victoria Genealogical Society

These pages contain an archive of our PAST VGS "Speaker Series" meetings -
monthly, genealogy-related gatherings, each showcasing
one or more speakers chosen to inform, educate and entertain you.

These popular genealogy meetings were held on the  2nd Thursday of the month (except July and August)
in Victoria BC Canada.

Archived since June 2010


VGS Past Meetings - Earlier This Year



SPEAKER: Yvonne Van Ruskenveld

In recent years, the vital role of horses in the Great War has received much-deserved attention. But other animals also served in varied ways, some as cogs in the machinery of war — carrying messages, laying wire — and some in other roles, as mascots or comfort to lonely soldiers. Photos of local soldiers with horses and dogs at Willows Camp in Oak Bay testify to the strong relationships between soldiers and their animals.

Yvonne Van Ruskenveld’s interest in World War I arose out of her historical walking tours in Ross Bay Cemetery where many Great War veterans are memorialized. She has also given presentations on soldier memorials, nursing sisters, prisoners of war, the Royal Flying Corps in North America, and the cycle corps of the CEF. She is a member of the Western Front Association—Pacific Coast Branch, the Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria, and the Victoria Historical Society.



SPEAKER: Colin Nielsen

Thanks to the cooperation of the US Parks Service and Parks Canada, the Chilkoot Trail has been preserved in perpetuity. The trail has changed little over the past 120 years and contains many artifacts dating back to the time of the Klondike Gold Rush (the artifacts are considered part of the park). Many prospectors made their way through Victoria on their way to Dyea, the trailhead, which is just outside of Skagway. This challenging trail traverses 33 miles, going from sea level to an elevation of over 3500 feet at the summit, before descending to Bennett Lake. The irony of the trail is that, by the time the main ‘rush’ occurred, most of the worthy claims had already been staked, so it was, in a sense, a trail of broken dreams. A number of ‘cities’ sprang up along the trail, and each had an interesting, but short life. Colin's presentation will give an overview of the history of the trail (pre-gold rush) and share the challenge of hiking it, along with many discoveries along the way.

BIO: Colin Nielsen is a retired RCMP member who served on Vancouver Island for many years. In RCMP training, he studied the history of the Force and one of the many famous episodes was the involvement of the Northwest Mounted Police in the Klondike Gold Rush. Colin has done quite a bit of hiking over the years (West Coast Trail, Juan de Fuca Trail, Cape Scott Trail) and had always thought that it would be interesting to hike “the Chilkoot”. In 2010, he decided to combine his current hobby (motorcycling), with a trip to Alaska and a hike of the Chilkoot Trail. Leaving his motorcycle in Skagway on August 1, 2010, he spent the next 5 days hiking the trail and returned to Skagway from Lake Bennett via the White Pass and Yukon Railway. The hike gave him a true appreciation of the hard life the prospectors experienced getting to Lake Bennett and the tough assignment the NWMP had, working at the summit, ensuring that every prospector had sufficient supplies and mining equipment, before they were allowed into Canada.



SPEAKER: Yvonne von Ruskenveld

As Victoria grew from its fort days, settlers arrived from across British North America. Among those who came from the east were some who proudly traced their ancestry to the original United Empire Loyalists. The Loyalists were settlers in the 13 Colonies who stayed loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. As a reward, they received land in what is now eastern Canada. Yvonne Van Ruskenveld will introduce us to notable UEL descendants who made their mark in Victoria.

Yvonne Van Ruskenveld has been fascinated by local history since she arrived in Victoria in 1990. Recently retired from a career as a freelance writer and editor, she is now able to indulge in her passion by researching and sharing the stories of Victoria’s past residents. She is a long-time member of the Old Cemeteries Society, presenting tours on a wide range of topics, including women’s history, gold rushes, symbolism, and epitaphs, among others. She is also a member of the Victoria Historical Society and the Western Front Association—Pacific Coast Branch, where she has given talks on World War I subjects such as local soldiers memorialized on their families grave markers, Canadian prisoners of war and the Cyclist Corps.



SPEAKER: Emma Wright

An introduction to the resources available at the Royal BC Museum and Archives for genealogical research, and a general overview of the records in the BC Archives collections which are useful when delving into and uncovering family histories.

Emma Wright holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Warwick and completed her Masters in Archival Administration at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in the UK. She has over 14 years' experience working in archives and information management in Canada and abroad. In 2016, she joined the Royal BC Museum as Archives Manager and leads the BC Archives team of archivists and technicians providing services to the public, as well as overseeing physical and digital access to the collections, acquisitions and processing. In addition, she has responsibility for Freedom of Information, privacy and corporate information management for the Museum. Emma is currently serving as a member of the Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives’ Response to the Report on the Truth and Reconciliation Task Force, and is Vice-President of the Archives Association of BC. She lives in Victoria with her cat, Jabberwock.





In keeping with tradition, we will have an extended social time at the December Speaker Series meeting. If you can, please bring finger food (appies or desserts) to share. Come and visit with your fellow genealogy enthusiasts and celebrate the season with us!

SPEAKER: Jamie Graham

Join us to hear Jamie Graham discuss his involvement in the Victoria Police Charge Books project. As well as updating us on this fascinating project, Jamie will also share some of his own “Graham Family Stories” which include a wide variety of characters. From steel magnates, opera singers and professional golfers, to a long line of soldiers, Jamie will share stories from all walks of life throughout his family tree.

Jamie Graham, O.O.M., is a former chief for the Victoria Police Department. He previously served as the chief constable of Vancouver, British Columbia from August 22, 2002 to August 13, 2007. He is an avid genealogist and believes in sharing what he has learned and helping others with their investigations.



SPEAKER: Helen Edwards

(rescheduled from February's cancellation due to snow)

Join us in hearing long time VGS member Helen Edwards tell us the story of her husband’s father and uncle; one came back from World War I, while the other did not. The material is drawn from journals written by Helen’s father-in-law during his naval service, and includes his photographs taken in the early 20th century. That these items survived all the moves of a 39-year naval career is a minor miracle and Helen feels honoured to tell his story and to give him the recognition he so richly deserves.

Helen Edwards has been interested in family history for as long as she can remember. Her interest intensified when it became easier to undertake research. This project began when she found the journals and photographs of her husband’s family. She is a researcher and writer by trade and nothing pleases her more than to write family stories and share them with an audience. She has lived in Victoria all her life and is still in the neighbourhood she grew up in! Helen and her husband live in a 1903 heritage house and are both very active in heritage activities.



SPEAKER: Patrick Dunae

Patrick Dunae will describe the challenges of locating madams and brothel prostitutes, and finding biographical and genealogical information about them, in this illustrated talk. He’s used nominal census records, police charge books, city directories and contemporary newspapers to identify many female sex trade workers and their abodes in Victoria, c. 1880s to 1920s. He hopes that VGS members will suggest other sources for further research.

Born in Victoria, Patrick is an historian, former archivist, and current president of the Friends of the BC Archives. He is the editor of, an online archive of historical material relating to Vancouver Island. He came upon this topic about scrutinizing census records for the viHistory website.



SPEAKER: Monica Sheridan

Shortly after her father's death in 2006, Monica Sheridan came upon old photographs and documents in his effects that identified her father's birth family.  Further investigation revealed the tragic murder of a grandmother she never knew, and started a decade long search for answers.

This presentation shows how, through research, road trips, phone calls, letters and countless emails, as well as good old fashioned detective work, she has uncovered the poignant story of her grandmother's life and death, and created a bond with a family she never knew.

Monica Sheridan has been Vice-President of the Victoria Genealogical Society for the past three years and has been proud to be a part of watching it grow and change. She came to the society by giving this very same talk at a Speaker Series meeting in 2014. It wasn’t long before she became as passionate about the Society as about her own research. In addition to working full time and travelling as often as possible (usually to research Ethel!), she hopes to write a book about her experiences in finding her lost family.



VGS Monthly Meetings will NOT be held in July and August.

Our Resource Centre WILL NOT be open this summer in preparation for our move.

Our Speaker Series meetings will resume in September 2017.



AGM + SPEAKER: Mark Zuehlke

TOPIC: Scoundrels, Dreamers & Second Sons: British Remittance Men in the Canadian West

AGM (Part 1):

Our Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held before the speaker session.  Please attend and support your society.

SPEAKER (Part 2):

Beginning in the 1880s, thousands of young, upper-class British men with few future prospects were sent to the Canadian West to distance them from British society. Still supported by their families, thus earning them the title “remittance men” these lads set out to continue their lives of leisure in this new, harsh land and left an indelible mark on Western Canada, perpetuated by the stories and legends that sprung up around them.

Mark Zuehlke grew up in the Okanagan Valley hearing stories of British Remittance Men and also knowing many of their descendants. Fascinated by both the actual stories and the romantic myths surrounding these men, Zuehlke made them the subject of his first work of history — Scoundrels, Dreamers and Second Sons. For many years now his work has been anchored around the critically acclaimed Canadian Battle Series—the most extensive published account of the battle experiences in World War II. The series is also the most exhaustive recounting of the battles and campaigns fought by any nation during the war to have been written by a single author.

In 2014, Zuehlke won the Governor General’s Award for Popular History, the Pierre Berton Award, in recognition of his work on this series and in other ways popularizing Canadian history. In 2006, the Canadian Battle Series title Holding Juno: Canada’s Heroic Defence of the D-Day Beaches won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize. Of his other six historical works, For Honour’s Sake: The War of 1812 and the Brokering of an Uneasy Peace won the 2007 Canadian Author’s Association Lela Common Award for Canadian History.

Mark is currently at work on his next Canadian Battle Series title. On the Internet, he can be found at and (for those with a facebook account): Battle Series/.




TOPIC: Members Night

Continuing our annual tradition for our May meeting, some of our very own VGS members will share their research experiences and family stories with you.

Please contact Monica at if you are willing to do a short presentation. You can also bring something to show and tell.



SPEAKER: Frances Backhouse

TOPIC: Panning for Golden Nuggets of Klondike History

The Klondike gold rush of 1896 to 1899 attracted tens of thousands of fortune-seekers, who stampeded to the Yukon from all corners of the world. The broad outlines of their story are well known, but individual accounts bring this extraordinary period to life. In this illustrated talk, author Frances Backhouse will discuss how she mined the historic record to learn about the women and children who were part of the treasure hunt of the century and offer some tips on how to track your own Klondike ancestors.

Frances Backhouse is the author of six nonfiction books, including three about the Klondike gold rush: Women of the Klondike; Hiking With Ghosts: The Chilkoot Trail Then and Now; and Children of the Klondike, winner of the 2010 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize. Her latest book, Once They Were Hats: In Search of the Mighty Beaver, combines her interests in history and biology. When not writing, Frances teaches creative nonfiction and journalism at the University of Victoria.



SPEAKER: Bonnie Campbell

TOPIC: The Jewish Pioneer Merchant and The Nlaka'pamux Basketmaker :
My Research Journey to Discover Their Remarkable Story

Bonnie has attended a number of VGS workshops, talks and a day-long event and it has greatly helped advance her research, record keeping and writing. Her first article about her Great-Grandfather, Louis Oppenheim, a pioneer merchant, was recently published in the Ormsby Review (BCBOOKLOOK.COM) in November 2016. Her goal is to write about two remarkable people from two remarkable cultures: a Jewish Merchant from Prussia who immigrated for the Fraser River gold rush in 1858, and a Nlaka’pamux girl from the Fraser River Canyon; as well as one of their eight children, Rose Oppenheim, her Grandmother.

Bonnie graduated from the University of Victoria and retired from a career as an investment professional. She also held volunteer positions in the Victoria community as an Honorary Governor with the Victoria Foundation; a Board member with the Juan de Fuca Hospital Foundation and Victoria Hospice; and a Trustee for the Victoria Opera Foundation.




SPEAKER: Helen Edwards
TOPIC: Two Brothers Go To War

Join us in hearing long time VGS member Helen Edwards tell us the story of her husband’s father and uncle; one came back from World War I, while the other did not. The material is drawn from journals written by Helen’s father-in-law during his naval service, and includes his photographs taken in the early 20th century. That these items survived all the moves of a 39-year naval career is a minor miracle and Helen feels honoured to tell his story and to give him the recognition he so richly deserves.

Helen Edwards has been interested in family history for as long as she can remember. Her interest intensified when it became easier to undertake research. This project began when she found the journals and photographs of her husband’s family. She is a researcher and writer by trade and nothing pleases her more than to write family stories and share them with an audience. She has lived in Victoria all her life and is still in the neighbourhood she grew up in! Helen and her husband live in a 1903 heritage house and are both very active in heritage activities.




Karen Hoshal will be presenting a talk about "Black Pioneers of the Area." Karen is a member of the BC Black History Awareness Society and a descendant of one of the pioneering families.



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2016 - Past Meetings




Please note that the LOCATION for this Speaker Series meeting on
Thursday, December 8th  ONLY  will be at:

4081 Gordon Head Road, Victoria BC
(This is the same location where we held this year's annual seminar) - view map

** PLEASE NOTE: The meeting is NOT at the Holy Cross Catholic Church located shortly before St. Leopold’s. It is about three blocks past Holy Cross. Watch for the entrance gate on your right just after Lifton Place if heading northeast on Gordon Head Road.


In keeping with tradition, we will have an extended social time at the December meeting. If you can, please bring finger food (appies or desserts) to share. Come and visit with your fellow genealogy enthusiasts and celebrate the season with us!


William Henry McNeill was a fur-trading sea captain from Boston, Massachussetts who worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company for nearly 30 years, had at least ten children with a Kaigani Haida woman and eventually settled in Oak Bay with his second wife, a high-born Nisga'a fur trader. If he isn’t considered one of British Columbia’s founders, he should be.

This presentation will recap what is known about McNeill’s family of origin and trace the descendancies of his children. There are many surprising revelations — not the least is the discovery that McNeill descendants live in Oak Bay to this day.

Peter Grant is the author of seven books about Vancouver Island (Victoria a History in Photographs; Wish You Were Here: Life on Vancouver Island in Historical Postcards; Vancouver Island Book of Everything). He is the proprietor of the weblog Oak Bay Chronicles (, which combines local and family history. He has been interested in genealogy since the 1950s, when his great-uncle Sid wrote him a letter recounting his mother’s pedigree. Having lived in Oak Bay for 50 years, he considers it his Place, even though he now lives in Vic West!


SPEAKER: Nick Russell

Why do we live in Victoria? Apart from jobs and families, for many of us it’s all about the ambience: the wonderful streetscapes, the glorious homes.

Glorious Victorian Homes celebrates this rich architectural inheritance –from log cabins through the “Revivals” (Gothic, Queen Anne, Tudor, etc.) to the Cotswold Cottage and our own authentic Victorian Vernacular.

Heritage researcher Nick Russell searched for Victoria’s loveliest and most interesting homes –houses that are imposing, delightful, amusing or just touchingly tiny.

This brand-new talk grows out of a new book of the same name, which builds on the very popular 2011 book, Glorious Victorians: 150 Years/150 Houses. A number of important new houses have been added – from a mysterious house on Rockland Avenue, to the James Bay Tearoom!

Speaker Bio:

Nick Russell has worked as a reporter and editor and taught journalism in the U.K. and Canada, He has a BA in English (McGill), an MA in Medieval English (University of London) and a PhD in Journalism Ethics (University of Wales).

A lifelong interest in old houses has led to several restorations and a handful of heritage awards. His publications include:

  • Morals & the Media: Ethics in Canadian Journalism;
  • Glorious Victorians: 150 Years/150 Houses
  • Victoria Then & Now: Postcards from the Past


SPEAKER: Yvonne von Ruskenveld
Learning About the Lives of Women Over 100 Years Ago"

What was it like to be a woman in early Victoria? To commemorate Women’s History Month every October, historian Yvonne Van Ruskenveld has been doing tours that focus on women in Ross Bay Cemetery for the Old Cemeteries Society for over 20 years. For the Victoria Genealogy Society, she will talk about her experiences in researching local women and their lives and, in some cases, how that generalizes to the lives of women in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Yvonne will introduce you to interesting women whose lives give us a window onto the world of the women on our own family trees.

Yvonne Van Ruskenveld is a Victoria writer, editor, and historian who has been fascinated by local history since she arrived here in 1990. She is a long-time member of the Old Cemeteries Society, presenting tours on a wide range of topics, including women’s history, gold rushes, symbolism, and epitaphs, among others. She is also a member of the Victoria Historical Society and the Western Front Association—Pacific Coast Branch.



SPEAKER: Kate Humble
TOPIC: "A Man's Home is his Castle"

Robert Dunsmuir built Craigdarroch Castle to reflect his enormous wealth and the story of his great success in North America. Wealth, however, doesn’t buy happiness, and Dunsmuir died before Craigdarroch was completed, leaving it to be occupied by his formidable wife Joan and their three youngest daughters. The story of the Dunsmuir clan and the magnificent monument they left behind is full of drama, tragedy, and scandal.

Join historian and Craigdarroch Operations Manager Kate Humble to discover how the Dunsmuirs challenged gender roles, inherited social status, and the forbidding North American terrain to become one of the wealthiest and most notorious families in Western Canada.

Kate Humble is an historian and currently the Manager of Operations and Development for Craigdarroch Castle. A medievalist by training, in the past few years she has worked for the University of Toronto, Royal Armouries Museum in the UK, the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, and continues to indulge her fascination with Victoria’s history through her work as a tour guide and researcher for local walking tour company Discover the Past.




PART 2 - SPEAKER:  Julia Armstrong
TOPIC: Throw a Saddle on a Star: a Pioneer’s Tale

Julia Armstrong will tell the story of her life growing up in a pioneer lifestyle in the 1960s in the Kootenays of B.C. When most were seeking modern conveniences, Julia’s family centred a life around self sufficiency by logging and farming with horses, growing gardens and making their own hydro electric power among other activities.

The presentation alternates between photos of pioneer life in the Kootenays with flashbacks to her parents’ childhoods, her father as a hobo riding the rails during the depression, and the various other photos which depict her parents preparation for homestead life.

Julia will share her childhood adventures, challenges and the joys of a family working together.

Her book, “Throw a Saddle on a Star” will be available at this presentation.


Julia Armstrong has applied many of her pioneer skills into her current life the Shuswap area of BC. She lives in a log house that she and her late husband built. Member of the Woodworker’s Guild and the Spinners and Weavers, Julia enjoys creating works of fine art and utility. She builds and restores musical instruments as well as wood jewellery, craft items and furniture. Many people in the Shuswap are proud owners of building, houses and renovated rooms that Julia has both designed and built. She has now discovered a new interest in writing about her unique experiences.



Continuing our annual tradition for our May meeting, some of our very own VGS members will share their research experiences and family stories with you.

Please contact Monica at if you are willing to do a short presentation.  You can also bring something to show and tell.


14 APRIL 2016 - DAVE OBEE - Tales from Royal Oak Burial Park


TOPIC: Tales from Royal Oak Burial Park

Please join us on April 14th to hear Dave Obee’s presentation of “Tales from Royal Oak Burial Park”. Dave is a well known journalist and genealogical researcher who has written a dozen books and given almost 600 presentations at conferences and seminars in Canada and the United States. His first was to the Victoria Genealogical Society in 1997. In this talk, Dave will discuss the history of the park, as well as some of the people who have been buried and cremated there.

Please note that this is NOT the same talk that Dave presented at the
Family History Seminar on February 27.

Dave is Editor-in-Chief of the Times Colonist and has worked as a journalist in British Columbia and Alberta since 1972. He is a member of the board of Canada's History Society, publisher of Canada's History, the magazine formerly known as The Beaver, and Kayak, a history magazine for children, as well as related websites. He is also a member of the Library and Archives Canada public advisory board.

Dave is also a columnist for Internet Genealogy magazine and Your Genealogy Today magazine, formerly Family Chronicle. He has written several books, including "Counting Canada: A Genealogical Guide to the Canadian Census", "Destination Canada: A Genealogical Guide to Immigration Records", and was the co-author of "Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide". He wrote "Making the News" and a history of Royal Oak Burial Park.

Addition information can be found on various websites including Dave Obee and Can Genealogy - Dave Obee's directory of genealogy sites in Canada.

10 MARCH 2016 - PATRICIA RYAN - "Who's Your Momma?"

SPEAKER: Patricia Ryan

TOPIC: Who’s Your Momma?

This is the perfect choice for an hour of genealogy hilarity, and head scratching – sometimes even a couple tears. The entire session is inter-active, with everyone participating in helping me figure out certain problems, problems we all face. Every single attendee will be anxious to rush home with new skills that WILL break down some brick walls. I highly recommend for ALL skill levels. And it’s fun!

Ms. Pat Ryan is a first generation Canadian whose father was born in Scotland, and mother born in the USA. She has completed the Saskatchewan Genealogy Society’s Certification Courses; is a founding member of the Certified College of Saskatchewan Genealogists; as well as holding memberships in numerous genealogy societies around the world. Pat’s style is humorous, informative, and engaging. She will ‘involve’ you in her workshops which she has presented from Whitehorse Yukon all the way to Scotland. She also teaches classes’ in Regina SK, and online, so you can participate no matter where you live!

Pat offers sound, practical advice that will leave you energized and knowing what to do! Visit her at


11 FEBRUARY 2016 - FERN PERKINS - "Proud to be Métis"

SPEAKER: Fern Perkins

TOPIC: Kishchee tey mo’yawn aen li Michif wi’yawn (Proud to be Métis)

Please join us in welcoming Fern Perkins of the Metis Nation of Greater Victoria. Fern always knew she had First Nations ancestry, but her husband Mark did not. They both discovered they were Métis while watching the CBC documentary “8th Fire”. It was a whole new world and way of thinking, and answered a lot of questions about their families.

After retiring as a teacher, and a teacher educator in the UVic Faculty of Education, Fern had time to research and travel to her Anishinaabe homeland, where she traced the journey of her ancestral grandparents, Isabella and Charles Ross, parents of the first Métis family of Fort Victoria.

Mark, a retired Battalion Chief with the Victoria Fire Department, discovered his mother was Métis, a descendant of Peter Skene Ogden. She was born at the Kitsumkalum First Nation. Mark is also in the process of retracing his family’s journey.

Fern will share with us her search for her ancestors, and for her proud Metis heritage.


14 JANUARY 2016 - SPEAKER MERNA FORSTER - "African American Cousins in Louisiana"

TOPIC: Merna Forster will give a presentation about her recent discovery of African American cousins, the journey to meet them, and visits to plantations and other places in Louisiana connected to the story. Thanks to DNA testing, she uncovered a new branch of her family tree in the Deep South. Though Merna had documented many of her American ancestors and painful links to slavery, she’d completely missed her African American relatives.

Please join Merna as she reveals the adventure of uncovering a hidden heritage – and the ongoing research with her cousins to explore their roots.

BIO: A historian and author of 100 Canadian Heroines and 100 More Canadian Heroines, Merna Forster is a VGS member. She earned her M.A. in History from Laval University, and works at the University of Victoria as Executive Director of the Great Unsolved Mysteries in History project. Merna has won a number of awards, including the Daughters of the American Revolution Historic Preservation Medal, the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Commemorative Medal, and the University of Alberta Alumni Honour Award. She’s currently leading a national campaign to get women from Canadian history celebrated on bank notes, and hopes you will sign her petition at! More info is available on Merna’s website at


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2015 - Past Meetings


SPEAKER RANDY STEWART - "My Father's Collection"

As is our tradition, we will have an extended social time at this Christmas meeting.  You are encouraged to bring pot luck finger food (appies or desserts) to share. Come and visit with your fellow genealogy enthusiasts and celebrate the season with us!


In addition to our Christmas social, our December meeting will feature Randy Stewart, Cultural Chair of the Highland Games Association. Many of you may remember Randy who joined Jim Maxwell last summer in speaking to us about their recent acquisition, the Craigflower Schoolhouse, and their plans to build a Scottish Cultural Centre on the grounds.

Randy will be presenting his talk entitled “My Father’s Collection” in which he will share some of his own fascinating family research. Randy will be illustrating his talk with a collection of historic Scottish artifacts he has acquired during his research, giving a unique “hands on” aspect to this presentation. Don’t miss it!


12 NOVEMBER  2015 
CAREY PALLISTER- "The Sisters of St Ann: Their Work and Archives"

Carey will talk about the Sisters of St. Ann and their contribution to education and healthcare in BC, the Sisters of St. Ann Archives and about the genealogical resources housed that the SSA Archives.

BIOGRAPHY - Carey Pallister is an Archivist with over 30 years’ experience in the archival field. Before becoming the Archivist for the Sisters of St. Ann, Carey was an archivist at the City of Victoria Archives. Carey has a passion for keeping history alive and sharing knowledge through community outreach, talks and workshops. She has collaborated with numerous institutions on a variety of projects and has contributed her expertise to other Archives both civic and religious.

8 OCTOBER  2015 
DOUG ROLLINGS- "A Short History of the Victoria Airport"

Our local airport is a familiar sight, but did you know that it was Canada’s 3rd largest air base in World War II? Or that it was the largest airfield in British Columbia from 1939 to 1958?

This presentation will give the impressive history of the Victoria Airport and you will look at it in a whole new light the next time you visit!

10 SEPTEMBER  2015 
FRED STOREY - "The Search for the Origin of the Family of Storey"

Please join us while author Fred Storey tells us about his adventures in following his family roots back 1100 years. Fred's story will cover the pitfalls he encountered in his research, the discovery of the origin of his family name, and what he learned about where his family lived, on land that was to become the border between England and Scotland a century before the Norman conquest.

Fred has also written a fascinating book about this journey entitled "The Legend of Stor" and copies will be for sale at the meeting.


Enjoy your summer! 

Our VGS speaker series meetings will resume in September, 2015.  Information will be posted on this page when available.


Mark your calendar! Our June meeting is not all business.

We hope to see you at our AGM to exercise your voting privileges and to enjoy the last Speaker Series presentation of the season. Materials will be sent to all paid-up members prior to the AGM.

Our speaker for the evening will be Jim Maxwell who is the President Victoria Highland Games Society.  He will talk to us about the past, present and future of the Craigflower Manor and Schoolhouse.

Bidding for our silent auction items started last month at our May meeting, and will be finalized at this June meeting.  Don't miss out on some wonderful and tasty baskets of goodies (think wine and chocolate).  Check out our VGS silent auction items.



The Victoria Genealogical Society has traditionally welcomed members to tell their wonderful stories at our May gathering. 

All members are encouraged to bring photos or family memorabilia, and to tell a short story about the item.

Other members will share their stories:

SPEAKER 1: Pat Kelly
Presentation title: "Pioneers, O Pioneers”. Early Days in the West. From Glengarry, Ontario to Riviere-Qui-Barre-Alberta

SPEAKER 2: Bart Armstrong
Presentation title: "From army boots to judge.... and a life time of service in between!"

Bart will tell the story of his late mother’s service that began with the exchange of army boots after five years use to more feminine wear. Then a several decades long advocacy career starting at the village level would take her around the world in numerous roles. Bart promises to get over his shyness and share some of this with us next week. Be sure to bring your seatbelts for what promises to be an exciting journey!

SPEAKER 3: Susan Lawrence
Presentation title: "Bambelelah – How a family that had been separated for 70 years became reconnected in a matter of hours due to diligence, serendipity, the power of the internet and…bambelelah."

At this Speakers’ Series meeting also look for items available in a Silent Auction. Unique and many delicious items (think chocolates & wine) will be available for your bids. The Silent Auction binder is available for your bids at the Resource Centre prior to the meeting until Thursday, and will also be available there after this  meeting until the AGM, June 11th. Additional bids will be entertained on June 11, and winners announced that evening.

 More details are provided on our VGS Silent Auction page.



SPEAKER 1: John Azar
Remembering War Dead and Veterans Buried in Victoria Region Cemeteries

John Azar, President of the CEF 100 Commemoration Society, will provide an overview of the South Vancouver Island cemeteries where veterans are buried. After telling stories about a few of those veterans, John will invite the audience to indicate the research they are conducting on ancestors who served in the First World War or other conflicts.

John is also inviting people to the annual Old Cemeteries tour of the Veterans Cemetery in Esquimalt on April 19th.

SPEAKER 2: Jim Kempling
BIRTH OF A REGIMENT: The Story of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry

This is the story of the birth and development of a regiment, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. The idea of the regiment was developed by two men in 1914 on the eve of war. The Patricia’s were assembled and trained separately from the rest of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, recruiting largely British born Canadians who had previous military service. Through the course of the war this very British regiment was reshaped to become a Canadian military icon. By the end of the war, the Princess Pat’s, as they were affectionately known, became the best known and most celebrated of all Canadian Regiments. In the ranks of the regiment served men from every province and major city.

Jim Kempling, a PhD student in History at the University of Victoria, has a personal knowledge of PPCLI as the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light is known. He served with the regiment for over 25 years, commanding 2nd Airborne Commando in Petawawa and later the first battalion of his regiment in Calgary. After leaving the forces he moved to Victoria where he served in a variety of positions including Assistant Deputy Minister, Superintendent of Motor Vehicles and General Manager of the PNE. Later he ran a successful management consulting business providing advice to public and private agencies in Canada, the United States and abroad.

Jim’s research focus in history centres on the Great War in Canada. His MA thesis about the early years of the PPCLI was published as a web site titled Birth of a Regiment (

Jim’s involvement with the PPCLI provides him with a detailed knowledge of his topic. As he comments: “Once a Patricia – always a Patricia.”



SPEAKER 1: David Nixon 

David will discuss the GOONS organization and purpose - to research the genealogy and family history of all persons with a given surname and its linked variants. Some ‘one-namers’ restrict their research geographically, perhaps to one country, but true one-namers collect all occurrences worldwide.

 Is there a role for this in your family research?

SPEAKER 2:  Michael Hartley

Michael will relate his adventures and the thrill he gets from paddling or trekking over waters or land over which his ancestors passed centuries before (be it French, Montagnais, Scottish, Irish or English).



SPEAKER 1: Steve Ruttan 

Stephen Ruttan’s book, "Scoundrels, Eccentrics and Originals: Tales from the Library Vault", explores the history of Victoria and, as the title suggests, some of its more ‘interesting’ characters. In this presentation, Stephen will take the audience on a brief expedition into the history of early Victoria with historical photographs and stories about two of the people in his book: Bishop Cridge and Stella Carroll.

Stephen began writing his Tales from the Library Vault stories in 2006 as a way to bring local history to life for Victorians and to introduce them to some of the Public Library’s local history collection.

Stephen is a Local History Librarian at the Greater Victoria Public Library. Born in Victoria in 1947, he grew up in a smaller, more rural Victoria of pheasants and Garry oak meadows. He obtained degrees in history and library science at the University of British Columbia and returned to Victoria in 1975. He then joined the Public Library staff. When not writing about this region he likes to photograph it and hike its trails.

SPEAKER 2: Yvonne Van Ruskenveld

Historian Yvonne Van Ruskenveld has long been interested in the untold stories of women. She is a member of the Old Cemeteries Society in Victoria, and several ago, as part of her annual women’s history tour in Ross Bay Cemetery, she came across the names of two Canadian nursing sisters: Gladys Wake and Christina Campbell, both killed by enemy action in the line of duty. Van Ruskenveld became interested in the service of Canada’s nursing sisters and sought to learn more.

When the First World War broke out, Canada stepped up with both soldiers and medical support. Across the country, military hospitals for overseas service were formed by recruiting doctors and nurses—Victoria’s General Hospital No. 5 was one of those. Nurses signed up, learned to march at Macaulay Point, received additional military training in Quebec before being sent to their the ultimate destinations as nursing sisters in Britain and close to the war’s battlefields.

A Victoria resident, Yvonne enjoys a career as an editor, writer and instructor.

The Peninsula News Review published an article on Yvonne Van Ruskenveld tiltled "First World War Nurses Did Their Part" on 3 Oct 2014.



TOPIC: VicPD Early Charge Book Indexing Project

SPEAKERS: Panel from Victoria Police Department, University of Victoria, and Victoria Genealogical Society   (representatives from the 3 partner organization)

Victoria Police Department Early Charge Boox Indexing Project"1 day imprisonment for stealing a quantity of coal" is one entry from a Victoria Police Department Early Charge Book from the 1870's. Another reads "1 month imprisonment with hard labour for stealing two shirts worth $2.50". These and other criminal charges from these Charge books paint a picture of Victoria's early history that is uniquely informative as they are colourful.

Join us at our January 8th Speaker Series for a unique opportunity to examine first hand an Victoria Police Department Early Charge Book from the 1870's and an actual "Mug Shot" book from the early 1900's. A panel of experts will be on hand to discuss these artifacts and the recently announced digitization and indexing project which was so well publicized by local media recently.

The Victoria Genealogical Society and the Victoria Police Historical Society teamed up in a joint effort to digitally preserve and make accessible this irreplaceable historical information after learning that a part of our history could be lost forever if not for proper documentation and preservation. The two agencies contacted UVic’s Research Partnership and Knowledge Mobilization (RPKM) Unit to match those needs with UVic expertise and to facilitate collaboration between both agencies and the university. Staff in the UVic Libraries’ Digitization Unit have now digitized the information and hope to make it part of their digital collections in the near future. Victoria Genealogical Society volunteers have already begun to index the charge book entries for ease of research.

The panel of speakers involved in this joint project are:

  • Representative from the Museum and Historical Society, Victoria Police Department
  • Jen Kyffin, Community Partnerships Liaison, Research Partnerships and Knowledge Mobilization at the University of Victoria
  • Lara Wilson, Director, Special Collections & University Archivist, UVic
  • Kathy Mercer, Supervisor, Binding, Processing & Digitization, UVic
  • Pat Acton, President, Victoria Genealogical Society
  • Sheila Watts, Early Charge Book Project Coordinator, member of VGS
  • Claudia Boorman, Webmaster, VGS
  • Moderated by Merv Scott, Projects Director, VGS


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2014 - Past Meetings



SPEAKER: Rosemary Neering
TOPIC: Chasing the Spanish on the Northwest Coast: from idea to finished book.

Victoria author Rosemary Neering, fascinated by the lives of ordinary people, is the author of more than forty non-fiction books, most of which focus on Canadian history. Her writing has won a number of awards, including a BC Book Prize for Non-Fiction.

Her presentation will cover the research required and the challenges behind the writing, as well as the people stories in her latest book "The Spanish on the Northwest Coast: For Glory, God and Gain".  Rosemary Neering describes the process of taking a book from conception, through research and writing, to successful conclusion and publication.

Looking for Christmas gifts? Rosemary will be selling a variety of her books at the meeting, including "The Spanish on the Northwest Coast", "Smugglers of the West", "The Pig War", "The Canadian Housewife: An Affectionate History", and "Down the Road: Journeys through Small-Town British Columbia", for $10 each, and A Traveller’s Guide to Historic British Columbia for $25.

More details about Rosemary Neering and her writing can be found on her Heritage House website.

PARTY: Pot Luck Desserts & Socializing

In keeping with tradition, we allow extra time at our December meeting to socialize and celebrate the Christmas season together. Please bring a plate  of 'dessert' type nibblies to share, and we will have an extended break so that people have time to visit and chat and buy books from both Colleen and the new book from Rosemary.  Get to know your fellow members, and perhaps even  find a research buddy.  Join in the fun!



Jim Kempling, PhD, Victoria BC CanadaSPEAKER 1: Jim Kempling - A CITY GOES TO WAR

Jim Kempling is a PhD student in History at the University of Victoria. He served in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry for over 25 years, commanding 2nd Airborne Commando in Petawawa and later the first battalion of his regiment in Calgary. After leaving the forces he moved to Victoria where he served in a variety of positions including Assistant Deputy Minister, Superintendent of Motor Vehicles and General Manager of the PNE. Later he ran a successful management consulting business providing advice to public and private agencies in Canada, the United States and abroad.

His research focus in history centres on the Great War in Canada. His MA thesis about the early years of the PPCLI was published as a web site titled Birth of a Regiment ( Last year he led a group of history students in the development of a history web site titled A City Goes to War ( Although built to accommodate links to any Canadian municipality, the initial focus of the site was on greater Victoria in the period 1910-1920. The site includes service records of over 6000 people from Victoria who served in World War 1, a teaching package for high schools and a wide range of material examining everything from education to military units. The site is supported by an extensive on-line archive of documents, letters and photographs related to Victoria in the Great War.

Jim will introduce us to his web site “A City Goes to War” and provide some insights into life in Victoria in the period 1910-1920. Of particular interest to genealogists will be the database of soldier records from the Great War with over 6000 files from those lived in the Greater Victoria area.


Gord is an engaging speaker, as he proved when he last visited us back in November of 2010.

Anyox is a remote and little-known ghost town on BC's northern west coast.  It was founded in the early 1900s and closed in the 1950s.  It's where Gord's father was born, and where his grandfather and two great-grandfathers worked, Anyox was the largest copper smelter in the British Empire from 1910-1935. One of Mr. Hutchings' great grandfathers was the BC Provincial policeman, the other the dam keeper, and his grandfather worked in the machine shop and power station.

Gord had updated his slide presentation and brought along some artifacts from his kayak trip to Anyox from his brother, and photo albums and pages from his grandfather's diaries.




Vice Admirall (Retired) Nigel Brodeur CMM, CD, 1985 in summer dress uniformVice Admiral Brodeur's presentation will address Canada’s naval heritage, little-known factors affecting the RCN’s creation and survival, and Canadian naval heroes of WW I and WW II.  We will learn about the achievements of several highly decorated BC naval and naval air officers – among them were the three naval VC winners who were BC residents – Lieutenant-Commander (RN & RCN) Rowland Bourke, Captain (RN) Thornton Peters and Lieutenant (RCNVR) Hampton Grey.

Vice Admiral (Retired) Nigel Brodeur, 2014 VGS speakerNigel Brodeur was born to a naval family in Victoria, B.C. and was raised in Victoria, Montreal and Vancouver. He entered Royal Roads military college in 1950, joined the Royal Canadian Navy as a Midshipman in 1952, underwent Sub-Lieutenant training in England 1953-1955 and later specialized in Weapons. He has served in a carrier, a cruiser, several destroyers and frigates and commanded the destroyer HMCS Terra Nova, the Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare School and the Fifth Canadian Destroyer Squadron on the East Coast.

He served in National Defence Headquarters in a variety of positions – in Maritime Systems Engineering, on the Tribal Class Destroyer Project Team, in the CMDO Branch as Director Maritime Requirements, then as Director-General Maritime Doctrine and Operations, and then as Chief of Maritime Doctrine and Operations - at which time he was also Naval Member on the Canada-United States Permanent Joint Board on Defence, and additionally was Chairman of the NATO Naval Armaments Group.

Following a brief period in 1982 as Acting Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, Reinforcement and Resupply to NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia, with an additional concurrent appointment as Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief Western Atlantic. In 1985 he was promoted to Vice Admiral and returned to Ottawa to be Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff. He retired in July 1987, and he and his wife Anne returned to Victoria, where they now live. He remains active in several associations and has authored many papers and articles on defence issues.



SEPT 11, 2014 - Monica Sheridan & Helen Edwards

SPEAKER 1 - Monica Sheridan Monica Sheridan, family research speaker

TOPIC: Shortly after his death in 2006, Monica Sheridan came upon old photographs and documents that identified the birth family of her father, who was adopted as a young boy. Further investigation revealed some shocking discoveries about a grandmother she never knew. Through a combination of genealogical research, footwork, road trips, countless phone calls, emails and letters, as well as old school detective work, she has uncovered the tragic story of her grandmother's life and death, and created a bond with a family she never knew.

BIO: Monica Sheridan has been involved in family research since a sixth grade school project set the task of interviewing her grandparents. This sparked a life long interest that was rekindled upon discovering information on her father's birth family. Since then, she has been truly hooked. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Victoria, and lives in Victoria where she works for the provincial government. She is currently working on a book about her grandmother's story, and hopes to give many more talks about the adventure of finding her.

SPEAKER 2 - Helen Edwards

TOPIC: William Harbeck's amazing 1907 video of downtown Victoria and the Gorge Waterway.

BIO: Helen Edwards is a writer and researcher. She is a 2001 graduate (B.A. with distinction) of the University of Victoria. Since then, she has worked on heritage projects for government and private clients, independently and in collaboration with others.   For the last fifteen years she has been researching her family history and began working for clients in that field. She is now a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

Helen Edwards, writer and genealogistHelen has volunteered in the heritage field for many years. She is a past president of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals and is a member of the Heritage Canada The National Trust’s Board of Governors. She was instrumental in the establishment of the BC chapter of CAHP.
Helen has attended several conferences, presenting numerous papers, and has helped organize international conferences for the Society of Architectural Historians. She is an accomplished public speaker, comfortable with elected officials and the public. Helen is a prolific writer. Her articles have appeared in magazines including Heritage Canada’s magazine, Heritage BC, Moss Rocks Review, and the Rockland Neighbourhood Association newsletter. She was recently accepted as a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada.

Helen is passionate about heritage preservation, devoting the 30 years to the cause. She is a natural leader, rising to the presidency of most boards that she has served on. Her contribution to the local heritage scene was acknowledged in 2005 when the Victoria YM/YWCA named her a Woman of Distinction.


JUNE 12, 2014 - AGM + The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Writing a Family Biography

VGS celebrates its year end every June by holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM).  It is a time to review our successes over the past year and to plan for the coming year.  Members will also get a chance to nominate or stand for open executive positions and to vote. Your involvement, input and your vote are much appreciated.

Following the business meeting, we will also have a special presentation.

TITLE: The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Writing a Family Biography
PRESENTER: Valerie Green

Valerie Green will discuss her work on her 1997 book A Daffodil Dynasty telling the story of the Vantreight family and talk about “the other side of the story” now that recently this topic has come full circle.

Valerie Green was born and educated in England with a background in English Literature and History. She studied journalism at the Regent Institute of Journalism in London. Before immigrating to Canada in 1968, Valerie’s employment included a stint at the War Office for MI5, as well as legal secretarial work and freelance writing.

After marrying and raising a family, Valerie’s writing career was, and still is, extensive and includes writing a weekly history column for the Saanich News for nineteen years, numerous articles for the Victoria Times Colonist, as well as authoring 17 books on local and regional history, mysteries and social issues. Her latest book Vanished concerned the disappearance of Michael Dunahee. She is currently working on two more books.

Now semi-retired, Valerie also continues to write a monthly column for the Seaside Magazine in Sidney, and to freelance for a number of newspapers and magazines. In addition, she serves on the board of the Saanich Arts, Culture & Heritage Committee, leads the annual Saanich Heritage Bus Tour, and volunteers with the Luther Court Society. She is a member of the Professional Writers of Canada (PWAC), the Federation of BC Writers, the Writers’ Union of Canada, and the Hallmark Society of Victoria.

Visit her website at


TITLE: Telling Their Own Stories

This annual tradition gives members a chance to share their research and stories with other members.  If you would like to do a short presentation at this meeting, please contact Pat at

Ron Nicholson - Adam’s Journey to the Promised Land.

Born and raised in St. Catharines, Ontario, Ron Nicholson, a fourth-generation Canadian, traces his ancestry back to his great-grandfather, Adam Nicholson, who escaped from slavery in West Virginia and came to Canada around 1854 travelling on the "Underground Railroad." Ron’s presentation is in part the history of the Underground Railroad and part family history.

Cindy Petrowski - Funny Polish Family

An update on last year’s presentation.

Jan-Louise Paterson - Title: 3 W's: Wales, Williams, Wizard

Following the VGS Celtic Connections fall seminar, I traced my grandmother's paternal line back to Wales. This session will reveal stories from my grandmother's maternal line including Wales to Minnesota, A Century of Progress International Exposition, held in Chicago in 1933 and 1934 and the Emerald City.



SPEAKER: Coral Grant
TITLE: How Uncovering my Grandmother’s Deepest Secret
has revealed a Rich Jewish Ancestry

Initially, all Coral had was a piece of paper with a few names and huge gaps in what was a pathetic looking family tree. Her first step in filling in the blanks was to send off information requests, to many family members. When her Dad received his request, he called her with what he thought was a family “bombshell”. The man Coral’s Grandmother was married to –whom she called Grandpa Fred - was not her biological grandfather! So who was?

Please join Coral on a journey that began in the garment district in Toronto in the early 1930’s and ends in 19th century Eastern Europe. A secret her Grandmother thought she had forever concealed eventually unraveled but not without a major road block and several twists and turns. The magic of genetic DNA testing ultimately revealed the answer and so much more. A genealogical adventure her Grandmother would never have imagined.

Coral, was born a military brat in Germany and has spent the better part of her life, moving westward after growing up in Southern Ontario. Now she lives in East Sooke, where you can’t get much further west.

When she retired from a career in as a Public Health Dental Hygienist she starting researching her family’s story and was not expecting what she would find. When Coral is not tied to her computer solving family mysteries; she is busy with her custom embroidery business. She loves to write about her genealogical finds, hike in East Sooke Park and especially enjoys early morning swims. Please ask about her new kitten.



This important annual Silent Auction fundraiser is coordinated by Betty Thacker.  We hope you join us for all the fun!

Bidding for our annual VGS SILENT AUCTION has started and will be ongoing until 13 Mar 2014.  Drop in to the VGS Resource Centre, have a coffee and a chat and look at the Silent Auction Binder which displays available items. See something you like (e.g. gift certificate for the a certain restaurant)? Place your bid now. The friendly RC volunteers will be more than happy to assist you.  Bidding will be finalized at our VGS general meeting on March 13.

Information on items up for bid has been added to our donors page.

We are still looking for more items to auction. Do you have a skill you can contribute? (e.g. help someone start a family history scrapbook)? Or perhaps you know a local business that you think would support the VGS in return for advertising in our Members’ Update (distribution approximately 300 people), and Resourcefully Yours (distribution about 900 people)?

Contact Betty at
for more information.



SPEAKER: Steve Cowan, C.D., U.E.
TITLE: Introduction to Canadian Heraldry

Heraldry has been called the floral border in the garden of history. Heraldry is the art of personal identification as combined into the components of a coat of arms. Canadian heraldry as our symbols of authority and person identification has developed from our European ancestors and has unique aspects. Heraldry is the individual artwork of genealogy; the Heralds were the first official genealogists and heraldry and genealogy are affiliated studies.

The presentation will include time for questions and guests are welcome to bring along examples of coats of arms.

Steve traces his United Empire Loyalist ancestor roots to his birthplace in Belleville Ontario which was originally called Meyer's Creek after Captain John Walden Meyers UE, his 5X great grandfather. Steve has travelled the world, both as part of his world adventure and also as part of his 30 year airline career. His fascination with marine art and marine artists has expanded from the brush and canvas to creating vector art in a computer.

This came from his interest of military and naval emblems and honours and developed to include all aspects of heraldry. His interest in heraldry lead to developing various heraldic items such as display panels, portrait shields and wall and table shields. He has worked with Mr. Laurie Patten FRHSC of Nanaimo BC, with whom he has completed the large heraldry display at the Carey Mews at Government House in Victoria BC.

Steve has conducted the heraldry presentation in Comox (May 2012), Courtenay (Nov 2012), Government House (Feb 2013), Campbell River (Oct 2013) and Qualicum Beach (Dec 2013). Besides Steve’s presentation he will also have a table display on heraldry with examples of various shields.



Every year at least 1.2 million people, from all around the world, visit the hallowed battlefields of Little Round Top, the site of the July 2, 1863 unsuccessful assault by US Confederate troops against the Union Army on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Our own VGS member Bart Armstrong was one of those who recently visited and stood on the very blood soaked grounds where vicious battles were fought, including the dramatic downhill bayonet charge by Colonel Chamberlain of the 20th Maine Infantry and Pickett’s famous charge of July 3rd; grounds where Canadians fought… and died… and were buried.

Bart claims it was an extremely humbling experience to visit the graves of Canadians at both Gettysburg and Arlington. He also reports that conducting research at the US National Archives was “like being a kid locked in your favourite candy store”. This unique research opportunity turned over stones to reveal the answers of much of our shared Canada/US history. The research also identified many more questions about the missing puzzle pieces of Canadian involvement in the American Civil War; questions still to be answered and properly documented for all to see.

Bart has traveled over 40,000 miles and visited 11 states and provinces in the last 13 years on a part time basis to feed his massive passion for anything related to Canadian recipients of the US Medal of Honor (MOH) and the Victoria Cross.

When Bart began this research, known Canadian MOH recipients numbered 54; there are now almost double that number. He has worked with historical societies, archives, genealogical societies, museums and others to collect and share information of the Canadian recipients and has published his own web site ( and over 200 stories over the last 12 months on this work.

He has worked with embassy officials from Canada, the US, Belgium and Britain in these efforts and has located and even held several original medals, some dating over 150 years ago. He has located recipients’ graves that had been lost to history for decades; he has also played roles in unveiling several markers with more yet to be done.

Bart is a former soldier, police officer, private security and investigations manager; current enthusiasms include freelance writer, researcher, editor, publisher and columnist, advocate and public speaker. His work has been noted by the print, TV and radio media and his articles have appeared in many journals and newsletters over the years.

Join us in hearing yet again of Bart’s infectious and bubbling passion for a story that took him to all of the above and then landed him - by mistake - at the foot of the most powerful memorial to the 911 victims and hear of his visits with the Canadian embassy at DC.

Please come out, and bring friends, and hear of the latest leg in Bart’s journey to get this story of Canada’s heritage more widely known both in Canada and the United States.



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2013 - Past Meetings



As is our tradition, we celebrate Christmas at our December meeting by asking everyone to contribute finger food or nibbles - either savory or sweet - to share with others as we mix and mingle.  It's time to visit with new and old friends, and to learn about the past and the future of others' genealogy research and lives.

All members and their guests are encouraged to come and help us celebrate the season!

We are so pleased to welcome Author Peter Johnson as our December speaker. Peter’s recently published book "Quarantined: Life and Death at William Head Station, 1872-1959" received excellent, nearly full page, coverage in the Times Colonist last week (see Times Colonist, Sunday, November 24, 2013, Monitor / Books section, page D9,‘New book chronicles life and death at William Head’ and an excerpt from the book entitled ‘Emerson knew death only too well’).

Family historians are familiar with New York City’s Ellis Island and Quebec’s Grosse Ile quarantine stations as the mandatory first stopping places for immigrants attempting to move to this continent. But how many know that the only quarantine station on the Pacific Coast was in our own backyard?

This latest book by Peter Johnson tells the story of Albert Head quarantine station which was then succeeded in 1893 by the William Head quarantine station. These stations with hospitals, fumigation units, detention facilities and bathhouses, operated for a considerable time; Albert Head opened in 1872 and William Head station was not closed until the late 1950s. Initially built to handle a small number of ships and people, by 1907 dozens of ships, carrying hundreds and hundreds of people, were cleared through 24 hours a day.

In his presentation Peter will tell how: the lonely death, in the 1880s, of a young girl in Victoria in a small isolated shack changed the way local officials treated immigrants and improved quarantine facilities; the prevailing class structure was reflected in quarantine accommodation and treatment; and how quarantine facilities often held as many healthy people as the obviously ill. He will also describe the WWI passage through, and accommodation of, 85,000 – both sick and healthy - members of the Chinese Labour Corps. This group travelled from China, through William Head, before being transported via rail, across Canada enroute to European battlefields where they were assigned the grizzly task of picking up body parts.

Born in England, Peter himself has immigration experiences, however none so drastic as that of those who came through Albert / William Heads. He has degrees from University of Manitoba and University of British Columbia, and has taught History, English and creative writing in high schools and colleges in Canada for over thirty-five years. He has written two previous books: Glyphs and Gallows: The Rock Art of Clo-oose and the Wreck of the John Bright; and Voyages of Hope: The Saga of the Brideships.

For additional information see



November’s speaker will be Victoria’s Mark Zuehlke  - - one of the three contenders for this year’s Pierre Berton Award, which will be presented by the Governor General at Rideau Hall on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013. This award celebrates individuals or organizations that have brought history to a wider audience through writing for popular media including publications, radio, television, film, new media and theatre. Some of the past recipients have included Pierre Berton, Peter C. Newman, and Charlotte Gray.

Fascinated by Canada's military heritage, Mark first set to writing about the role Canadians played in World War II after discussing the Battle of Ortona with several veterans in a Royal Canadian Legion Hall following a Remembrance Day Ceremony in Kelowna, B.C.  Discovering no book had been written on this pivotal battle, Mark decided to fill that gap and has now become one of the few Canadians whose livelihood is writing our history.

The success of his first book, Ortona: Canada's Epic World War II Battle (1999) encouraged him to develop The Canadian Battle Series, which documents the Canadian World War II experience in ten books including the most recent one Tragedy at Dieppe: Operation Jubilee, August 19, 1942 published last year.  However Mark's interest in Canadian history and writing have extended to include the Spanish Civil War, WWI, and reached out to diverse audiences including easier-to-read formats for those with literacy challenges, and young children. He has been involved in two books on the War of 1812: For Honours Sake which he authored and which won the Lela Common Award for Canadian History in 2007; and, an illustrated history about a family during this pivotal period, The Loxley's and the War of 1812 (2012.), for which he wrote the historical summary appendices. His work with the Loxleys has led to his being lead writer on a sequel graphic novel that takes Loxley descendants into the midst of the events that brought about Canada's confederation.

Additionally, Mark for the past couple years has been lead historian on the Operation Husky 2013 project and is spent time this summer in Sicily participating as one of the marchers on the remembrance trek following the footsteps 1st Canadian Infantry Division took during the island's liberation in summer of 1943. His experiences there are now forming the foundation for a book in which the march and related ceremonies form the basis for a meditation on the meaning of military remembrance in Canadian culture.

More information on this accomplished author and Canadian military historian can be found on Mark Zuehlke's website.

Come and bring a friend – you will be glad you did, Mark is a knowledgeable and entertaining speaker.



Last year's game night was so full of fun, laughter, prizes and genealogical facts, that VGS member Susan Webb agreed to host another evening of Jeopardy - new and improved - for this October meeting.

Yes, prizes!

Based on the popular TV game show Jeopardy, the answers have been chosen to test your knowledge of genealogy.  Contestants provide the corresponding questions.  Don't worry if you don't know how the game is played, because all will be explained.

Be sure to bring a notepad and pen, “get your game face on” and come prepared to be entertained.  If you would like to be one of the 9 contestants, please contact us and we'll be sure to pass your message on to Susan.

Please bring a friend, as you and your friend could win simply by being there!  Not only will you be part of this fun-filled evening, but you may also learn a few new genealogy facts as well.

Rick, as reigning champ, get ready to defend your title!


SEPT 12, 2013 - VGS Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

The VGS Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have joined together to present an update on what they are doing to help members. The purpose of the VGS SIGs is to gather together members who are researching family that come from the same geographic area. The people who attend these SIGs are willing to share their knowledge and research experience in the area covered by the SIG.

One small hint can open a long closed door for someone else, so do attend this monthly meeting to learn and to share your knowledge.  This is a great networking opportunity and will help get you geared up again after the summer break!



VGS Annual General Meeting (AGM) and
Presentation:  A NOSTALGIC EVENING with Susan Webb
DATE: June 13,  2013

It is important for VGS members to attend their Annual General Meeting, held every year during the June meeting.  It is an opportunity for all to hear about how we have done during the past year, about our plans for the future, and to elect vacancies in our VGS executive.  Your involvement, input and your vote are much appreciated.

Following the business meeting, we will also have a special presentation.


Ahhh yes, those were the days! Those days, however, meant something different to every person. What decade was the most fun, most challenging, most interesting or most momentous to you? Have you lived through turmoil or excitement?

Travel in time with Susan through the years from the early days of the Roaring Twenties till now, enjoying the music, the news, the food, the fashion and, of course….the fun!


DATE: May 9, 2013

It's an annual tradition that we have our very own VGS members share their stories about their families, research or any subject relating to genealogy at our May general meeting.  The format is up to each member (talk, sing, powerpoint presentations, displays etc.), each member taking about 10 or 15 minutes.

Come Thursday night and hear stories of genealogical related adventures as told by four VGS members:

1) Cindy Petrowski: Treasurer for VGS, Cindy is a novice genealogist looking to learn from others. Her focus at the moment is on her father's side - the Polish/Ukranian side which has been very challenging. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as finally family members are interested and beginning to share information.

2) Heather Shave: "Francis Passmore: Mover and Mold Breaker" Heather says that “she is a long time member of VGS who seriously started genealogy when she acquired a dog with a longer known pedigree chart than her own!

3) Joanne Barnard: “Joseph Gordon Smith and My Visit to the Twilight Zone” Joanne has been a VGS member (off and on!) since moving to Victoria in 2001. She has been passionate about genealogy for the past couple of decades and has published two family history books for her mother's and father's sides of the family. She spoke at Members Night several years ago about her infamous ancestor Herodias Long.

4) Bart Armstrong: “Monument Unveiling” of a new Commonwealth War Graves Commission marker”. A VGS member and local historian Bart has a passion for military research, especially when it involves Canadian recipients of the Medal of Honour and the Victoria Cross. For the past several years he has been working hard to honour the late long time Victoria area resident and military war hero Rowland Bourke VC. DSO. The monument unveiling was held Wednesday, May 8th – Bart will bring us the news of the event.


APR 11, 2013 - Military History of Esquimalt

DATE: April 11, 2013
SPEAKER: Richard Linzey

The speaker on April 11 will be Richard Linzey speaking on the Military History of Esquimalt. Come and meet Richard as he tells stories, illustrated with old photographs about the people, places and historical events that defined Esquimalt’s role in Canadian and world military events.

Richard Linzey is currently Manager, Heritage Programs and Services, of the BC Heritage Branch. 

A UK registered architect, Richard was raised in Kent, England, he studied architecture at Plymouth Polytechnic and building conservation at the Architectural Association in London. As head of English Heritage’s Architecture Branch, he was involved in conservation works at Dover Castle, Kent, Landguard Fort, Suffolk, the Henrician Castles of Pendennis and St. Mawes in Cornwall and Stonehenge world heritage site, Wiltshire. Richard has published two books on the conservation and management of military archaeology. Since immigrating to Canada in 2002 he has worked for Commonwealth Historic Resources Management in Vancouver and for two years as a part-time heritage planner at the City of Victoria. He joined the provincial Heritage Branch in June 2007 and is now the manager of heritage programs and services leading a team of planners developing policy for British Columbia’s historic places.

One example of Richard’s work is the protection and conservation of Cole Island in Colwood. Cole Island began its life as the Royal Navy’s ammunition storage depot in the mid-1800s, picked for distance from the main dockyard, an important safety feature if the ammunition should ignite. Richard gave a tour of Cole Island as stakeholders began to work with the public to come up with a plan for the former Royal Navy ammunition site. Check out the site:


Mar 14, 2013 - Silent Auction FUND RAISER

The Auction will be held at our VGS General Meeting
14 Mar 2013 ~ 7 pm
Gordon Head United Church Hall
4201 Tyndall Ave, Victoria, BC  ~  View Map

Bidding has already started!  Visit our VGS Resource Centre to view the binder of bidding sheets and get a head start.

A list of donors and auction items already received
can also be viewed on our donor's page.

Bidding will be finalized at the March meeting.  If you really want an item, you can take it home now by paying the pre-set premium price.  Take a look at all the wonderful items we already have to offer!


We need more auctionable items for our March Silent Auction Fund Raiser, and we are asking for your help to spread the word. Do you have a favorite business (restaurant, fabulous hair dresser, green thumb gardener or landscaper, great accommodation, outstanding entertainment, etc.) that you could ask to support VGS by donating a gift certificate[s] or interesting items for auctioning?

When you approach these businesses, please take along copies of our official VGS request letter and a thank you coupon for a half day visit to our VGS Resource Centre to leave with each donor.  These documents can be downloaded here for printing yourself, or you can pick copies up at VGS meetings or at the Resource Center. If you are able, please pick up donated items and drop them off at either location prior to March meeting.

The businesses and organizations who make donations for our VGS Auction get new customers and great advertising, including having their name and contact information posted on our VGS donors web page.  And our Society raises needed funds.

We promise a fun evening on 14 March 2013, where you can bid on these auction items and support your very own VGS.

For more information please call or email Betty Thacker at 250-592-6587 or


FEBRUARY 14, 2013 - An Evening with Dave Obee

Victoria in 1913: It was a very good year.

A look back at twelve of the most fascinating months in the history of the city, including new buildings, new transportation links, the rise of a breakwater, notable deaths and the fabulous (but tragic) summer carnival.


January 10, 2013 - 100 Years of Esquimalt History

SPEAKER: Sherri Robinson

A VGS member and fifth-generation resident of Esquimalt, historian/archivist Sherri Robinson will share highlights of her marvelous book "Esquimalt Centennial, 1912 to 2012", written to celebrate one hundred years of Esquimalt history.

For more information on Esquimalt's centennial projects and on Sherri's book, please visit the Township of Esquimalt website and either scroll down or search the page for the work "Sherri".

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2012 - Past Meetings



musical staff and clefPlease bring along some finger food (sweet or savoury) to share, and join everyone in a fun-filled evening of entertainment with well-known Victoria entertainers Bob and Sylvia Goodwin who will delight us with nostalgic songs from the past.

Sylvia began her theatrical career in England as a dancer with the John Tiller Girls (Europe’s equivalent to the Rockettes). As a singer, she performed with a vocal group called the Dene Four (they had a top ten hit, Hush-a-Bye). Sylvia was also trained as a fashion model and following her move to Canada, continued modeling, directing and producing fashion shows; she resumed her musical career twenty five (25) years later. She has performed in Gilbert and Sullivan productions and as a vocalist with the Regency Concert Group, which Bob was the accompanist for. Sylvia is now a vocal instructor as well as performing.

Bob began his musical career in Edmonton, then on to Calgary, as a pianist, accompanist and organist. Upon moving to Victoria, he continued as a church organist, accompanist then becoming musical director for the Victoria Male Voice Choir; he was accompanist for Masques Theatre, Spot-On Theatre, and Island Singers. More recently, he is accompanist and assistant choir director for Spirit Rising Community Choir and has played for the Noteables show. He has also accompanied vocal students.

Sylvia and Bob have been performing together for twenty years and they consider it their good fortune to be partners in both marriage and music.

November 8, 2012 - Historical Side of Genealogy

Speaker: Sharon Hope, author

Sharon Hope spent about 40 years in the field of forest ecology and forest research. After retiring she returned to writing which was an early passion and began to research the various historic periods that her forbearers lived through.

"The English Travelers", Sharon's second book, spans about 200 years and documents the adventures of the Estlin family. It begins with a narrative of the French Revolution and ends with a story of immigration to Canada in 1881-1882.



This evening will be packed with loads of fun and excitement as well as prizes!

Yes, prizes!

Be sure to bring a friend for this one as you and your friend could win simply by being there!  Not only can you be part of this fun-filled evening, but this will be both fun and educational.

Be sure to bring a notepad and pen and get ready to have fun.

We expect a full house for this one, so get here early and “get your game face on”!

Guaranteed enjoyment!


September 13, 2012 - Archives and Ancestors

Archivist Ann ten Cate will give an illustrated presentation focusing on archival sources for genealogical research, particularly in B.C. Knowing more about the range of possible sources for genealogical information will strengthen your research skills, and let you go beyond the traditional online databases. Dig up a few of those family skeletons in coroner’s inquests, and police and court records. This talk will also be useful for those interested in writing local or family histories.


June 14, 2012 - AGM, “What's in a name, a geographical name?”

The business portion of our VGS Annual General Meeting  will be followed by:

TOPIC: “What's in a name, a geographical name?”
SPEAKER: Janet Mason
DATE: June 14, 2012

Janet Mason joins us this evening to discuss geographical names, or toponyms, which are more than just labels on maps and road signs; they reveal patterns of settlement, exploration and migration, and mirror outside influences to our history. The origin and meaning of a geographical name is as important as the name itself, and genealogists are valued contributors to the wealth of interpretive information being gathered and published about British Columbia’s geographical names; in turn, genealogists often uncover snippets of their own family tree in the place names files & records, or published on the BC Geographical Names website.

May 10, 2012 - Members Night

This is the opportunity for members to talk about any aspect of  their family history story that they want to - perhaps including highlights of their genealogy research, their favorite ancestor, or valuable lessons or tips they have learned. Any format is accepted: show and tell, overheads or Powerpoint slideshows, or just a quick chat. Presentations are usually less than 10 minutes to allow or a number of members to present.

If you wish to give a short presentation at this meeting, please contact Susan Webb, Vice President.

April 12, 2012 - Counting Canada - A Genealogical Guide to the Canadian Census

SPEAKER: Dave Obee

Dave Obee is always informative and entertaining, and his newest book will be hot off the press!  Dave has compiled eight books for Canadian family historians, and has given more than 400 talks about genealogical and historical research to genealogical society meetings and conferences, libraries, and community groups.

On this evening we are fortunate to have Dave speak on his new book  “Counting Canada – A Genealogical Guide to the Canadian Census”.

MARCH 8, 2012 -  "PEOPLE, HOMES & SPACES IN VICTORIA BC, 1871-1911: 
Creating a geographical information system [GIS] for family historians"

Speaker: Patrick A. Dunae

Patrick A. Dunae is a writer, historian and former archivist with an interest in regional history and heritage. He is the editor of, a digital archive of Vancouver Island that includes an extensive and searchable database of nominal census records from 1871 to 1911. Using Victoria City as an example, he will describe how family historians can use census data, historical maps and other records to locate and reconstitute census households in Canada.


In honour of Black History Month, we are very pleased to welcome Karen Alexander Hoshal as our speaker this month.  Karen is an experience speaker on BC Black History, and is the Past President of the BC Black History Awareness Society, having been president for about 8 years.

Karen is a direct descendent of a prominent Black pioneering family of the area. If it wasn't for the Black migration, they would be Americans now instead of Canadians.  Hear her family's story and view her display to gain further insight into into their contributions to our community.

For further information on other Black History Month events, please visit the BC Black History Awareness Society of Victoria website,
or download these PDF posters:

Feb 1-25, 2012 - Black History Month Events
Feb 25, 2012 - NFB documentary film presentation: Mighty Jerome: The Greatest Comeback Ever


For the past 20 years Janice has been working as a physician with interest in Sports Medicine including on the Southern Gulf Islands, Vancouver and Victoria. She pushes physical activity as a way of staying young (or escaping the aging process).

Escape your medical genealogy and join in on a discussion of how your genealogy health history affects you in "Tales from the Infirmary" – A little information can go a long way to alleviating your fears … or aggravating them!

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2011 - Past Meetings


December 8, 2011 - Christmas potluck with Emily Carr

Emily Carr as portrayed by Molly Raher NewmanOur December meeting will be our traditional pot luck mix and mingle, but this year we'll hold it at our regular meeting time (doors open at 7:00pm).  Everyone is requested to bring finger food - appies, desserts etc. - for the goodies table,

A special visitation by Emily Carr has been arranged, so you're in for a treat!

Molly Raher Newman has been playing the role of Emily Carr since the last century - August, 1999 - and in the twelve years since she has introduced this famous Canadian to school children and their teachers, tourists, convention visitors, historians, writers and readers, art gallery patrons and museum members, and a host of many other people from all parts of the world.

In this light, Emily Carr will be visiting the Geneological Society this Thursday in a Christmas spirit, reading a selection of her writings about Christmas in Victoria - downtown Shoppes on Wharf and Government Streets, Victorian decorations and fresh firs, family holiday traditions, ending with the delightful story from her House of AllSorts Book - "John's Pudding".

"Emily" also brought her ukulele along (instead of her mandolin) and sang a song for us.  Molly is certainly a talented and entertaining actress and musician.

November 10, 2011 - A Vacation Adventure in Search of English Roots - Susan Webb

Susan Webb is our new VGS Vice President, and this summer she traveled on a odyssey to England to further her genealogy research.  She now wants to share her journey with you, complete with stories and pictures.  Here's how Susan describes her upcoming presentation:

"With previous expertise in studying her family tree, Susan decided it was time to research her roots. So after several phone calls and emails back and forth to the relatives, she ventured out on a well-organized holiday/adventure.

Knowing that there needed to be time for fun as well as research, a trip to England was planned to accommodate a holiday for her and the relatives. Who says research can’t be fun!!"

Susan looks forward to sharing with you how she planned her trip, the adventure itself, as well as the results.

October 13, 2011 - Amazing Women in Canada's History - Merna Forster 

Our speaker for October is coming back by popular demand. In recognition of Women's History Month in Canada, historian, author and VGS member Merna Forster will be joining us again to share more stories of some of the amazing women in Canada's history. She'll also have some of her books available.

Last year Merna shared stories about some of the women featured in her book 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces. This book truly is one of the ultimate guides to cool Canadian women from every corner of the country, featuring famous and forgotten faces in science, sport, politics, war and peace, arts and entertainment, and many other fields. We say "one of" because due to popular demand, a second volume is now available. 100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces features more great Canadians who should be celebrated.

To learn more about Merna, our Canadian heroines and Women's History Month in Canada visit, and join us on October 13.

September 8, 2011 - Melanie Arscott - The Mystery of David Stark's Photo Album

On February 23, 2011, The Inn at Laurel Point asked for the public's help to identify the owner of a photo album that had been left behind by a guest more than 30 years ago. The album contained over 200 photos dating from the turn of the last century to the Second World War. There were families from Scotland, England and Canada - but very few names. Most of the family members were only identified by their initials, if at all.

Join us to learn how the album's secrets were unlocked and the genealogical tools that helped to identify the members of the Stark family, their homes and their friends.

Visit The Inn at Laurel Point's blog for some of the background on how this album was lost, and found again earlier this year.

June 9, 2011 - AGM & Elections

We hope to see as many members as possible attend our Annual General Meeting on June 9. It is your chance to vote in our election of executive members.

May 12, 2011 - Members Night and Silent Auction

In keeping with tradition, this is the night our members got to tell their stories. Any format was accepted: show and tell, overheads or Powerpoint, or just a quick chat. Presentations are usually less than 10 minutes, allowing for a number of members to present. Thanks to Linda Boon and Gael Huntley for their very interesting presentations.

Hats off as well to our Director at Large, Layne Mikoda, who spent countless hours organizing and soliciting donations for our annual silent auction - she out did herself!  Thanks also to all the generous members who bid on items and to those whose top bid allowed them to take home their selected prize.  Your support is greatly appreciated!

April 14, 2011 - Mountjoy: A Piece of Lost Victoria

Presented by Peter Grant, Local Author

VGS speaker Peter Grant with VGS President Melony Arscott 
VGS President Melanie Arscott
presents speaker Peter Grant
with a small thank you gift after his
presentation at the VGS April meeting.

The family and local history of the Pemberton family provides reference to the era when the children of Joseph and Theresa Grautoff Pemberton built manorial properties in and around Oak Bay. Mountjoy, the 10-acre estate of Frederick Bernard Pemberton and Mary Ann Dupont Pemberton and their five children, was built in 1893, and saw many triumphs and a few tragedies before being abandoned in 1947 and destroyed by fire in 1952.

Peter Grant with friends at VGS April meeting. 
Author Peter Grant (on the far right) brought
friends to our April VGS meeting.
At least one of them is a Pemberton descendant.

Thanks for joining us on Apr 14, 2011 for an illustrated talk by Peter Grant, who lived -- and lives -- "just around the corner" and regrets having no ancestors on Vancouver Island, so has adopted the Pembertons in a kind of Mormon Manoeuvre. He writes books of both local interest (Victoria from Sidney to Sooke, an Altitude SuperGuide 1994, Victoria a History in Photographs 1995, The Story of Sidney 1997) and regional (Wish You Were Here, Life on Vancouver Island in Historical Postcards 2002, Vancouver Island Book of Everything 2008, Vancouver Island Book of Musts 2010).

Although his website is =sigh= far from up and running, you may be able to link to Peter Grant's facebook page (you may need a Facebook account to fully access it) -- more of a fun thing, he says.  Or check out his publisher's page with a link to a PDF chapter of his latest book: Vancouver Island Book of Musts.   You can also view this YouTube post of an interview with Peter about the book on Radio Long Beach.

Thanks to those who attended our VGS meeting on April 14, 2011 for this entertaining taste of Victoria history.


March 10, 2011 - Canada Census, Past and Present

Presented by Dr. Eric Sager

Our speaker for March 10 was Dr. Eric Sager, a professor in the History Department at the University of Victoria.

Dr Sager is going to talk about the Census, with a conversation around two streams:

  1. The campaigns to make historical census information available, the changes implemented in the 2005 Statistics Act, and the effect of the “consent question”
  2. The prime minister’s decision last year to replace the long form census with a voluntary household survey.

Dr. Sager wrote an informative article on the long form census for the Times Colonist last month.


February 10, 2011 - Black History Month - Ron Nicholson

February is Black History Month.  Ron Nicholson, vice president of the BC Black History Awareness Society, presented the documentary film "Go do Some Great Thing".  Based on historian Crawford Kilian's book of the same name, the film follows the 1858 migration of blacks from San Francisco to British Columbia.

More information on the BC Black History Awareness Society -

More information on Anthony Brown, the producer of "Go do Some Great Thing" -


January 13, 2011 -
Out of the Mouths of Babes: Researching the lives of historical children in BC and Alberta

Presented by: Kathryn Bridge, Manager of the BC Story Project
at the Royal BC Museum and Archives.

This will be an overview of Ms. Bridge’s research project which uses the archival records created by children - their diaries and letters - to provide the primary documentation about their lives. Child-created records are just that, the voices of children. These records have been under-utilized in historical research. The talk will include examples of individual children and their diaries and letters and explain how we can see layers of information within their writings that provide important insights into sibling and family relationships, child friendships, and the child's own views of growing up.

Join us on January 13, 2011 at the Gordon Head United Church Hall, 4201 Tyndall Ave, Victoria, BC to learn from this intriguing speaker.

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2010 - Past Meetings


December 9, 2010 -
Christmas Potluck - Rev. Robert MacRae

VGS Members Christmas Potluck
Thursday, December 9 - as in past years we'll be starting the evening off a little earlier so we can enjoy dinner before our speaker.

* Doors open at 6:30 pm
* Dinner starts at 7 pm
* Guest speaker begins at approximately 8 pm.

Bring something to share (sorry, no cooking onsite but microwaves are available for warming).
Also, please bring your own dishes, cutlery and cup for dinner.

Enjoy a relaxed evening with good friends, great food and an interesting presentation from VGS member Bob MacRae.

In addition to our annual Christmas potluck dinner, our guest speaker will be VGS member and author, Rev. Robert MacRae. Celebrating the season of giving, his talk will be about his book on H.R. Macmillan - The Man Who Gave Back.


Speaker Gord Hutchings, his parents and girlfriend. 
Our speaker was Gord Hutchings, shown here with his parents and girlfriend.

November 11, 2010
A Journey through a BC Ghost Town - Gord Hutchings

The speaker for our November 11 meeting was Mr. Gord Hutchings who presented A Journey through a BC Ghost Town - Anyox, BC.

Gord Hutchings' parents with Ron Nicholson. 
Gord Hutchings' parents visit with VGS member Ron Nicholson.

Gord recently returned from a kayak trip to Anyox, the ghost town from the 1920's where his father was born, and where his grandfather and two great-grandfathers worked, Anyox was the largest copper smelter in the British Empire from 1910-1935. One of Mr. Hutchings' great grandfathers was the BC Provincial policeman, the other the dam keeper, and his grandfather worked in the machine shop and power station.

Group after the presentation visiting with guests and looking at displays. 
Following the meeting, many eager VGS members stayed to talk to Gord and his family, and to view their displayed artifacts and photos .

Gord's grandfather's hobby was keeping a diary and photography, of which all his stories and photos were submitted to the BC archives. In the 1970's, this grandfather wrote extensively for the Colonist "Weekender" about his stories in the north.

One famous connection was his knowing Simon Gunnanoot (The Runaway Indian) and Albert Johnson (Mad Trapper), mainly because when he moved to Stewart, he became the BC liquor vendor, a handy position to be in when you're living in an isolated mining town. When he came to Victoria, he started the liquor store at the corner of Admirals and Esquimalt, just down the road from where our speaker now lives.

October 14, 2010 - Great Women in Canadian History - Merna Forster

To tie in with Canada's Women's History month, VGS member Merna Forster will be speaking to us about some of the great women in Canadian History. 

Her website, heroines,ca - A Guide to Women in Canadian HIstory, is an excellent resource, and also contains information on Merna's book: 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces

Merna currently works at the University of Victoria as Executive Director of the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History Project.


Sept 9, 2010 - Mr. Nicholas Russell

Thanks to those who joined us at 7:30 pm on Thursday, September 9, 2010 at Gordon Head United Church for the first meeting of our 32nd year!

We also be talked about the October 16, 2010 Seminar (registration table was open).

The Past is Present
The Story of Victoria Told Through its Buildings

Our guest speaker was Mr. Nicholas Russell of the Hallmark Society -

So often in genealogy we get hung up on who our ancestors were and don't take enough time to consider how they lived and what their homes were like. Mr. Russell's presentation looked at the history of Victoria through the eyes of the buildings. Starting from the First Nations Longhouses, to the Hudson Bay Company's settlement and winding up with 150 years of Victoria's building, this presentation will offer an overview of the development of our city through history.

About Nicholas Russell - Nick has spent much of his spare time over the last 20 years doing heritage research, including documenting three houses that he has lived in / now lives in.  He has written heritage walking tours here and in Regina (where he was president of the heritage society for several years) and has led walking tours, bicycle tours and "ghostbustours".  For about the last seven years he has also been part of a team recording a century of house plans filed at City Hall, and transcribing building records at City Hall and from the Colonist.


June 10, 2010 - Annual General Meeting

Guest Speaker - Ann ten Cate,  Archivist, B.C. Archives.
Topic - Violent and Unnatural Death: A Look at Coroner's Records at the B.C. Archives"

Archivist Ann ten Cate gave an illustrated talk about some of B.C.'s more famous incidents and accidents, and the historical role of the coroner in British Columbia. The B.C. Archives holds all of the coroner's records relating to inquests and inquiries in B.C. between 1858 and 1970, which in the case of inquest records, are remarkably detailed, providing information about the full circumstances of a death and all of the events leading up to, it in the actual words of the witnesses. The depositions and transcripts give fascinating descriptions of criminal activity, workplace habits, living conditions, family life, safety standards, medical treatments - and the full range of human tragedy. The records give “voice” to the men and women whose lives and deaths are examined in minute detail in these records, and whose passing may not be noted in any other way. Taken as a whole, the records document society’s attempts to improve living and working conditions, and safeguard its citizens. They are also useful for family historians, who may find some surprising answers to long-standing family mysteries.

Ann has a particular interest in genealogy and records relating to social history. She has worked at the City of Toronto Archives, the Anglican Church of Canada General Synod Archives, the Region of Peel Archives and for the last 19 years has assisted researchers at the B.C. Archives.