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Interview with a Volunteer: Susan Smart

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.

Susan Smart is a member of OGS and the following branches:  Toronto, Halton-Peel, Simcoe, SIG-IP and York Region

How long have you been involved with OGS?
In 1996 I took a Toronto Branch genealogy course with Ruth Burkholder, “Introduction to Genealogy”. Ruth told the attendees at the end of the course that OGS really, really needed someone to send out OGS publications to the Branches, book reviewers, etc. I thought “I can do that!” and have been involved with OGS since then.

What hats do you wear / have you worn?
Well I went from sending out the publications to being a member of the OGS Publications Committee and the Joint Imprint Committee (with Dundurn Press). I’m also the OGS Strays Co-ordinator and Chair of the York Region Branch.

What project or event has been a highlight of your work with OGS?
I’d have to say that the project to index the Upper Canada Land Books has been the highlight (so far). When first asked to take it on, I was very hesitant – 22 large books of old-fashioned writing covering the years from 1787 to 1841 – but Cliff Collier (former Publishing Division Co-ordinator) was wonderfully supportive. The number of volunteers varied, but at one point there were 18 volunteers across Canada and the U.S. working away entering names, places and dates into WordPerfect. We started in the spring of 1997 and completed the project 9 years later. The latest project I’m very happy about is writing a book about death and burial in 19th century Ontario. The manuscript has just gone to the editor and I’m quite excited and looking forward to actually seeing it in print.

How did you become interested in genealogy?
About 30 years ago, my teenage son became interested in our family history and methodically kept track of all the answers he received from questioning his grandparents. After his interest shifted to something else, I discovered his notes and thought they were really interesting. So, on and off for the past 30 years, I’ve been picking up where my son left off.

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 was astounded to discover that part of our family history is a connection to the Irish Palatines. I had never heard about this until researching the Detlor name led me to Eula Lapp’s book “To their Heirs Forever”. This, in turn, led to a Loyalist connection.The whole history of the Irish Palatines and their coming to the States and then Canada is fascinating.

Many thanks to Susan for her years of hard work!

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