In the mid 1930’s, Lady Tweedsmuir, wife of Lord Tweedsmuir, Governor General of Canada, took a great interest in the Women’s Institutes in the country. She stressed the need for preserving the history of the Canadian people and suggested that Ontario Women’s Institute Branches keep local history books. In 1940, she was delighted to approve these histories, named after her husband, and so originated “The Tweedsmuir Village History Books.”
Tweedsmuir History Books capture, record and preserve local community history in a very unique way. They vary in format from a simple scrapbook to an elaborate leather bound volume secured with a key. They are comprised of a variety of information which includes the history of the local Women’s Institute, earliest settlers in the area, agricultural practices and history of family farms in the area, history of businesses and industries that form the basis of the community, history of local churches, schools, community centres etc. They record stories about local personalities and happenings, war veterans and much, much more. Throughout the decades Institute Branches in Ontario continue to keep records and write stories about their local communities thus updating and adding to their Tweedsmuir Collections.
The New Dundee Institute took this mandate from Lady Tweedsmuir very seriously. In 1940, the members began compiling their own local history books. The first scrapbooks were handwritten and give many details about pioneers in our area. They contain photographs and newspaper articles as well. The scrapbooks chronicle life in New Dundee, Roseville, Rosebank and Mannheim. Presently, our collection contains over 21 scrapbook albums and records over 175 years of history. A number of women contributed valuable information to these histories over many years. If it had not been for their passion, vision and commitment, this valuable resource would not have been preserved.
Until this time, the scrapbooks have been stored in cupboards and closets and have been available to the members for teas and functions. Some of the newspaper articles and handwritten pages are aging and becoming very fragile. There was concern that content could be lost due to deterioration or misplacement.
The Tweedsmuir Committee recognized the importance of preserving this historical legacy and that the information they contained should be made readily available to the public. Many people would benefit from being able to access these records. In 2007, the New Dundee Institute undertook the enormous task to have the History Books scanned and digitized under the leadership of Marilyn Sararus, Chair of the Tweedsmuir Committee. The information from these books can now be accessed from a website which is linked to the local Wilmot Township History Archives. Tweedsmuir Histories – Wilmot Township. Around this time, the Haysville and New Hamburg Women’s Institutes disbanded and amalgamated with the New Dundee Branch. Available scrapbooks from these two branches were digitized and are also contained on this website. All of the original scrapbooks, over 30 in number, are now housed in the Sir Adam Beck Archives located at The Township of Wilmot Municipal Offices as part of the permanent records.
The members of the New Dundee Women’s Institute came together to help fund this project, with the assistance of local community organizations, individuals and the Township of Wilmot and Our Ontario – a division of Knowledge Ontario, a government organization which provides free assistance to Heritage Organizations seeking to get historical content online. Now this historical collection is preserved and available on the internet for genealogists, historians, archivists, educators, persons interested in their family history and for use in the school curriculum where students as well can learn about local history and the many achievements of Women’s Institutes.
For the complete account of this project follow this link: The New Dundee Women’s Institute Tweedsmuir Story