The St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre opened a major new exhibit in September 2014: Doing Our Bit: World War One from St. Catharines to the Western Front. This exhibit tells the story of the men and women from this community and their experiences of the war. During the process of developing that exhibit, in an effort to get a handle on who actually went overseas from the community, staff at the Museum compiled a spreadsheet of information taken directly from sailing rolls itemizing the men, their next of kin and the address of their next of kin. Unfortunately for today’s World War One historian, the attestation records from the war only included the address for next of kin, not for the soldiers themselves. This single fact, makes it difficult to accurately list every man from St. Catharines who went overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. Take as an example a man who emigrated to Canada from England whose parents continue to live there and who are listed as his next of kin. Notwithstanding this challenge, a list was created and continues to be developed, to create an accurate idea of all the men from the city who signed up to fight with the Canadian Army. Sadly, this list does not include navy and airmen as the records are not accessible for either of these two branches of the service. So unless we were aware of these men through other records, they were not on our list. The final list – which is still a work in progress – has almost 800 men and their pertinent information.
A compelling way to tell use this information is to map it to show the impact of the First World War on neighbourhoods and communities. For this, the Museum was fortunate to connect with Trevor Twining and Robin McPherson. Both strong advocates of Open Data and interested history fans, were willing to help make the mapping concept a reality. Trevor is a computer guru and local champion of Open Data and he was able to transform the table – using Google Fusion Tables – into an interactive map; and Robin, a member of the Municipal Heritage Committee, helped clean up and add to the information in the table. The map linked below is the product of this great partnership. Without Trevor and Robin’s enthusiasm and willingness to share their expertise, this would continue to be a pile of papers in a file. The map is still a work in progress. There is still information missing and we want to add more links to attestation records available through Library and Archives Canada and we continue to work with the data to make it a richer resource.
I am happy to say that this project – our first foray into the Open Data realm – was a pleasure to work on and I hope to continue to work these great community partners in the future!
To see the map check out this link.
Kathleen Powell is the Supervisor of Historical Services / Curator at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre
Hi, Kathleen. What a great resource! Congratulations to everyone involved in the creation of it.
I do have a question. What is the significance of the red as opposed to green place markers please? I haven’t quite figured it out yet.
I note that the work is still in process. The amount of data to be included must be astonishing. Perhaps your readers can assist by providing some of the missing information.
For example, ithere have been street name changes that could be incorporated. I see a few addresses that reflect modern street names, rather than the WW1 location. For example, “Pine St, Merritton” was changed to “Pinecrest” and “Thorold Road” is now “Oakdale”. “Canal Street” is signed “Moffat” now and so on.
It may be possible to match soldier’s home locations by comparing surnames in directories or voter lists of the 19 teens. By this time in history, street numbers were in use in some, though not all, towns.
I wonder if any of the soldier’s families might be able to ‘fill in some blanks’ that are missing. For instance, I have some information on my Great Uncle Charlie Florence that could be added to the data you already have entered, concerning his date of death in France, and also the exact location of his Merritton residence. His name is on the Merritton cenotaph along with several others with living families who could help by providing more details.
I realize that this is a monumental task. Are you looking for volunteers to help with the database? If you are, please add me to your list, Kathleen. I’m sure you may find others willing to “do our bit” on this special database.
Again congratulations on this important addition to the mounting resources being made available on social media by our museum. History is always interesting, but telling the stories of our families is always especially meaningful.
Thank you from the Florence family and me.
Hello, the red pins are men who were killed and the green are men who returned. Thanks for your comments Isabel, and yes we are always looking for additional information for this project. I will connect with you via email and we can chat further!
Thanks, Kathleen. Looking forward to it.