HANTSPORT, N.S. — Leland Harvie grew up in Hantsport. Now that he’s retired, he’s heading up the Hantsport Historical Society’s genealogy operations and helping people learn more about their past.
“I didn’t really pay any attention to it myself until one day I came home and my brother had a little bristol board chart that had our father’s name, our grandfather, great-grandfather — just a little school project,” he said. “I asked where he got that, and our dad had this little book with those details, and I got really into that.”
He eventually ended up publishing a book all about the Harvie family in Hants County in the mid-1980s and has been actively involved in genealogy projects and research as a hobby since that time.
It wasn’t until the Dorie and Garnet McDade Heritage Centre opened its doors that the idea of opening up genealogy to more people seemed possible.
“We started indexing church records and census records and those sorts of things as a finding aide to help people who might have an interest in doing their family history in Hantsport,” he said.
Other research projects the society has been involved with, including a survey of the Riverbank Cemetery, have also become genealogy resources.
Many of these resources were stored in the Churchill House in Hantsport, the former home of the historical society, but it wasn’t very accessible. Now in a building all their own, it made sense to bring these documents out of storage.
“I thought, why not do some volunteer work, have someone here as a resource to the people who stop by and have questions?” he asked.
With experience doing genealogy research in other parts of the province, and the world, Harvie said the person doesn’t even have to be from Hantsport to get started.
“I’d be happy just to help out,” he said. “I just felt it might help promote the heritage centre and to bring people in.”
And for Harvie, even when people say they’re from Hantsport, it’s understood that those ties could go much further abroad, to communities like Lockhartville, Mount Denson, and Hants Border.
He doesn’t charge for people to use his services, but a donation to the heritage centre is encouraged.
How does it work?
Harvie says to start with what you know. Bring in or have ready what you already know about your family’s history. The names of your parents, grandparents —as far back as you can go. From there, Harvie will try to track down what other information he can find.
It can get tricky though.
“They might say, well, we just knew her as Gram, or Mrs. Elliott, nicknames and that, so we go through the resources we have,” he said.
They also collaborate with the West Hants Historical Society in Windsor, which have even more resources, to help narrow things down.
Harvie said he’s noticed an increase in interest in genealogy, especially as DNA testing and private companies such as ancestry.com continue to gain awareness.
“Genealogy is so much more than just names and dates, born and married and died. These people all had lives, they all had different occupations and interests. It’s amazing how far some of them travelled,” he said.
Did you know?
Leland Harvie will be helping visitors with their genealogy questions on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. throughout the summer months.