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Interview with a Volunteer: John Woollatt

Without the hard work of volunteers all across the province, OGS would simply cease to exist. Volunteers are the backbone of our organization. This feature is designed to introduce you to some of them and let you know about the work they’ve been doing.

John Woollatt is a member of OGS and the following branches: Toronto, Perth, Grey Bruce, and Waterloo

How long have you been involved with OGS?
I started not long after Ken Bird became the Executive Director.  I stopped in to enquire about the Family Group Sheets and Canadian Census Forms packages and the next thing I knew I was told to sit at a desk and was given some work to do.

What hats do you wear / have you worn?
I just got a nice new one at the Waupoos Winery on Wednesday, but I don’t think that is what you want to know.  I am willing to do anything that needs to be done from vacuuming around the shredder, to repairing collapsing bookshelves to indexing and data entry.

What project or event has been a highlight of your work with OGS?
There are probably two. 
 Getting the Empire Insurance project completed was a treat.  It was a huge and somewhat complex task and will provide OGS members with real benefits now and in the future.  It gave me contact with some terrific people – Joan Beckly (who is a demon proofreader),  Michael Ball (ace date enterer), Larry Binns plus a whole raft of students who spent up to seven weeks entering data while retaining their sanity and senses of humour. 
The other big project was the index of the Ontario World War II deaths. Cliff Collier did an amazing job editing the original script but it was hard to avoid thinking what a horrible waste of human life the whole thing represented

How did you become interested in genealogy?
 guess I am a curious person (my wife says in both senses of the word).  I just wondered where my various families came from and what theirs lives must have been like.

Would you like to share a favourite genealogical adventure you have had or tell us about a part of your family history that you particularly enjoyed learning?
I have Len Chester to thank for this.  When I began using the internet to do research, it never occurred to me that individual members of my family might be part of something posted on the net.  As a result I started off with such succinct queries as “woollatt family” and wondered why what I got was vague rubbish.  

Len told me the way to proceed was to be as specific as possible and to enclose the name you were searching in quotation marks.  I typed in the name of my grandfather’s oldest brother “George Henry Woollatt” and got an amazing newspaper article from a newspaper in Workington Cumbria.

The article described how GH and his family had been harassed by the local citizens because it was thought that GH was a German spy.        These events occurred in 1914.  GH was the principal of the local Technical College and not only was a fluent German speaker but believed very strongly that the Germans had a lot to teach the British about technical education.  He also had strange work habits and could be seen at various hours of the day and night prowling the college (sending messages to Germany?).  He also looked like Kaiser Wilhelm.  There is a lot more to the story and it lead me eventually to his descendants.

Many thanks to John for his hard work over the years!


One Response to “Interview with a Volunteer: John Woollatt”

  1. One of your best, read every word of it.