Monday 22nd July 2019 the start of my week in Memorial University Libraries Archives and special Collections Archives and special Collections https://www.library.mun.ca/asc/
Colleen Quigley, is the Division Head, Archives & Special Collections, https://www.library.mun.ca/profiles/quigley/.
Colleen welcomed me to the archive with a great enthusiasm for the story that had led me here.
In the Centre for Newfoundland Studies I met with Linda White Archivist and Michaela Doucette a student who also works in the Archives and Special Collections Division at the Queen Elizabeth II Library as a MUCEP student. https://www.mun.ca/student/student-success/work-experience/MUCEP.php
Michaela Doucette : https://gazette.mun.ca/student-life/past-to-future/
The Watts family (from the Harbour Grace, Carbonear, and the Bay Roberts area) collection consists mainly of correspondence. Here’s some more details about this great collection below :
The collection primarily consists of correspondence from 1837-1907 between members of the Watts family. Other records include: business records belonging to Claudius, Horatio John, and Theodore, journal/diary entries written by Claudius, business reports, and media clippings. An epic scope of material is covered in the Watts family correspondence, bringing to life the joy and tragedy of a particular age in an intensely personal way. It was kindly donated to Memorial University by Frances (Watts) Winsor, the great-granddaughter of Claudius Watts in 2018.
To set the collection in context: There are 3m of textual material. 6,735 digital files (Scans)
Linda and Michaela are actively involved with the Watts collection and prior to this visit, I had been communicating with them both from afar whilst beginning to transcribe some of the scanned letters. This leads me to tell you about David Pike who was responsible for me engaging with the archive.
Lunchtime on day 1 was spent with David Pike at the University, David had been instrumental in linking me with the archive of letters about a year ago. David took time out of his busy schedule to meet with me.
Lunch was at MUN : University Centre Food Court
David is a Mathematics Professor at MUN https://www.mun.ca/math/people/ppl-faculty/dapike.php and a genealogist. It was David that I contacted about a year ago via his email address around the time of my ‘eureka moment’ when I realised that my relative (Zela Watts) in New Zealand had actually come from Newfoundland, as evidence by her fathers Will (Claudius Watts) that was accessible via a public search on the internet. It helps having relatives with unusual names, as I was able to find this connection through a random internet search of a name rather than through any family history searching websites. This is not the best or orthodox way to find your family history- but – it worked for me.
David also incorporates into his family history research, searches for the DNA of the first settlers to Newfoundland and has had global interest in some of his recent findings :
The afternoon was spent looking at some of the letters and other information given to me by Linda and Michaela, I marvelled at holding them in my hands. So very special to hold a letter that your relative had written in the 1800s.
Reflecting on DAY 1: an amazing day for making connections from the past through the letters and developing real live connections for now and the future with others interested in the history of people and migration.
Without the existence of the Watts letters archive and the funding assistance from Bournemouth University- I would not have travelled to Newfoundland to make these connections from the past with relevance to the present and the future.