In the coming days, local resident Jim Wilm will join his fellow members from the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society (SGS) in Prince Albert’s Memorial Gardens to “read the cemetery.”
“We’ll work in pairs and check the gravestone information against the current records and add new gravestone information and take photos,” Wilm said.
According to the society’s website, the SGS Burial Index contains over 500,000 records of individuals buried in cemeteries or burial sites in 299 rural municipalities in the province. Wilm said he got involved with the program to preserve records as a matter of community pride.
“We want to encourage other communities to look after their cemeteries. Some of them have been overgrown or vandalized or damaged and we want the communities to maintain them,” he said. “They are the historical remembrance of those people who lived there and unless we look after them…they won’t be around.”
He added cemeteries are among the most valuable of historic resources offering reminders of settlement patterns, historic events, religion and genealogy. Through his own research and with the help of DNA testing, Wilm was recently able to determine his family’s link to an important piece of Saskatchewan history.
“My great-great grandfather was a North-West Mounted Police in the Louis Riel rebellion,” Wilm said. “I even found his regimental number and other details about when he joined and what his involvement was. That was something I would have never known about if it wasn’t for the research that showed up about Great-Grandpa Williamson.”
Often times, he said, headstone inscriptions provide the one missing link that leads researchers to other information, so maintaining the deteriorating ones and recording them are an important step to preserving the past. Wilm and other members of the SGS meet at the Lions Club in Prince Albert once a month. They’ll meet one more time before taking a summer break to update the cemetery records which will then be made available in the online database.