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Interview with a Volunteer: Lynn Gainer

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.


My name is Lynn Scott Gainer & I am the Chair of the Sudbury District Branch – OGS.  I have been a member of OGS for over thirty years & am quite proud of my OGS # 6018!

I suspect that my interest in genealogy was peaked when my maternal grandmother gave me a small white family bible for my confirmation into the United Church. Inside was a pedigree chart that I immediately began filling in and quizzing my parents about.  Unfortunately, at some point, I dropped it and it was run over by a car but being the packrat that I am – I still have it!

When I was about 14, my paternal Granny provided me with a typed story entitled “Looking Backwards”.  Written by Granny’s 86 year old aunt, it detailed the family’s reason for leaving England, their voyage and her exciting life in Canada (Including of course an Indian encounter while she & her husband worked on the Northern Railway).  Now I was really hooked.

Gary Peck began the OGS Branch in Sudbury in 1979.  A year later, when I attended my first meeting, I was asked to be the new chair.  Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I accepted. Let me tell you, that’s the way to get your feet wet.

In 1983, only four years later, Sudbury hosted the Annual OGS Conference at Laurentian University to celebrate Sudbury’s Centennial & boasted 300 participants who thoroughly enjoyed our theme, “Many Cultures – Many Heritages”.  All this was done with a team of only 13 dedicated members! 

Next we assisted the local LDS Church whose members asked for assistance in obtaining an LDS- Branch Library. Once that was accomplished we put our heads together to figure out how to set it up as boxes of micro-fiche arrived. Members undertook the country they were most interested in – used genealogical information they had proof of and then figured out how to find that same information in the LDS records.  That is how we learned & then were able to instruct others in how to use this amazing resource.  A true treasure for those of us in the North. Over these many years we have shared an extraordinary working relationship with members of the LDS church and Family History Library.

 I have worn many Branch hats over the years, and have involved myself in speaking to interested groups including classrooms presentations, beginner classes, workshops, conferences, church groups and just about any society that has shown an interest in genealogy.

Sudbury Branch has transcribed cemeteries, funeral home records, educated the public as well as our members with interesting speakers, fundraising events and publications. We have made a difference in the way Sudbury sees its past and we know that the future will hold many new projects.

What genealogical adventure or discovery have I most enjoyed?  I could tell you about my trip to Salt Lake City where my husband attended a work conference & I carried all my binders on the plane with me in case they got lost! Maybe the multitude of stories when finding interesting relatives all over the world.  Especially newly retired Dr, Tom Madden, MD, who at age 80 posted his surname on line after

being told by his kids to “get a hobby “, before he drove them crazy! Or possibly Bill Donovan who lives in North Dakota and writes poetry about our ancestors.  He sends me wonderful letters and gifts. I called Bill after a distant relative gave me a letter that Bill had written to them 3 years prior (They had never responded).  He was amazed when I called after so many years, offering him all the Canadian information he needed and he too was just as anxious to share his US connections with me. There have been many connections over many continents, all wonderful – even those who turned out not be related!

 Meeting and corresponding with these folks through phone conversations, letters and in person has been truly a pleasure! 

But, I’d have to say that I felt the most excitement and then sorrow when I discovered after her death, that my maternal “Nanny”, who had shared a bed with me until I was 14 years old, was a Home Child! 

In 1901 at age 12, she & her three sisters aged 14, 10 & 8 were sent to Canada by the Dr Barnardo Home after their mother died tragically in a house fire.  Unable to look after all 10 children, their father had placed these four youngest and given the 4 year old to his brother to raise.  It was so sad for my mother & all the families of these four women to learn of their mothers’ history.  Not one had told of their sad beginnings in Canada.  Thankfully the Barnardo Home was more than helpful in sharing photos and the family history with me and we are so excited to finally see that the Canadian Government has declared 2010 The Year of the British Home Child in Canada.  I will be at Libraries & Archives Canada for the reception this September and expect a few tears when we finally see these children recognized.

I am so thankful to the OGS for the work that they have done over the years to promote genealogical research and protect our historical resources.  Bringing together experts to speak and instruct at our yearly conferences and to be there for the Branches encouraging us to do the same in our areas.

What wonderful people I have worked with, corresponded with and grown to love.  What exciting stories we have shared.  As a beginner once said to me on finding her grandparents signatures on a marriage certificate from the 1800’s “Lynn, do you get this overwhelmed when you find something?”  My answer, “ For sure, I get this overwhelmed when you find something!” 

Genealogy – I love it!

- Lynn (Scott) Gainer

Many thanks to Lynn for her hard work and enthusiasm over the years!

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