A local group dedicated to preserving the region’s history is connecting families with lost loved ones around the globe.
The Vernon and District Family History Society has undertaken a Monument Inscription Project for 28 years.
They started in 1984 by assisting the Friends of History in transcribing the Pleasant Valley cemetery in Vernon.
The society has since grown to 147 members, who have recorded 78 cemeteries in the Central Kootenay, Central Okanagan, Columbia-Shuswap, North Okanagan and Thompson-Nicola.
“We’re primarily focused on family history,” said Keith Gilbert, society president.
“If we have someone from Toronto or England or anywhere in the world who is looking for their history we can help them.”
That is just what happened recently, when a lady from Finland contacted the society.
Her grandfather came to the area in 1924 and was working in a sawmill between Malakwa and Sicamous. He unfortunately died in an accident, which was seldom discussed by his wife.
“Eventually the grandchildren started asking questions,” said Gilbert. “We ended up being contacted, our members went up…found out he was buried at Salmon Arm.”
The granddaughter flew over and thanks to the society’s help she was able to have a couple visits with her grandparent.
“People find us, we help them out and they donate,” said Gilbert, as the society is a charity and uses donations to further its work.
The latest project undertaken by the society has been part of its effort to digitize all records and move away from the stacks of large catalogue books.
“We are still trying to complete the Pleasant Valley cemetery which is close to 18,000 burials,” said Gilbert. “It’s a big task but we’re up to the challenge.”
The District of Coldstream recently requested the society to digitize records at the Coldstream cemetery, which will assist the district in its own record-keeping.
Resident Nancy Vos recently witnessed the society working in the Coldstream Cemetery and was thoroughly impressed with its efforts.
“These six volunteers spent the entire day cleaning every single grave stone and photographing every single one,” said Vos, who is fortunate to be able to visit the cemetery, and her grandparent’s plots, on a regular basis, but realizes there are many who cannot.
“They are unsung heroes.”
For more information or to browse the society’s records visit www.vdfhs.com.