(I wrote this in March and forgot to post it!)
It’s been a while since I’ve written about visiting the Mennonite Heritage Archives but I was there yesterday morning and want to tell you about it very quickly before I forget or get distracted or fall asleep.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Maria Kroeker Neufeld and Maria Kroeker Neufeld, both of Lost River, Saskatchewan. They are cousins. I am descended from one. Conrad Stoesz wrote about the other. As Archivist at the MHA, he knows things. It is very handy to share ancestors with an Archivist.
Andrew was speaking in Sally Ito’s class at Canadian Mennonite University first thing in the morning and I figured I’d go along for the ride. I love visiting the CMU campus (where the MHA is located) and feel I don’t visit often enough.
We were there so early the only thing open was folio cafe, which suited me fine because I could sit and contemplate and sip a coffee and nibble a lavender cookie before beginning my day. I love folio cafe! Everything about it was wonderful. The mugs feel just right in my hand. They serve Little Sister coffee. The baked goods are very fine. The dollar coffee refill feels generous to me and I appreciate it.
Next, I noticed CommonWord had opened for the day, so I wandered through, taking note of Andrew’s books placed near Sally Ito’s and Jonathan Dyck’s. I picked up Kate Bowler’s newest book and some local honey.
Then I headed to the Archives!
I love information about Mennonites that especially has something to do with me (though I think even the ones that don’t have anything to do with me, still do actually — we’re all part of this story — all evolving and splitting and changing and yet still somehow share this name and are rooted in this history which I have loads to learn about). But at the MHA the info swirls around me… hints of significant stories… many hidden to me because I don’t know German. Which is a poor excuse. It must be in my DNA somehow to be able to figure it out. We have Google Translate. Ralph Friesen recently referenced painstakingly transcribing German (in the most recent Preservings issue). Many others who profess to appreciate Mennonite history take the next step to figure out how to engage with German text. So.
There were two books on my mind that tell of parts of my own history. I did manage to walk away having purchased these books, thanks to Conrad somehow finding them very quickly. But I have to say, I feel so lucky that we are related. He showed me more about Lost River! He took out a file filled with research and as we were paging through its contents, I declared, “That’s a picture of my grandparents! And this other photo — that’s my mom standing in front!” It was a photocopy of a page from a book wherein my maternal grandfather had written about his time in Lost River.
I HAD NO IDEA THAT BOOK EXISTED.
And I still haven’t seen it. Conrad tells me it’s at the CMU library (and don’t you, Dear Reader, dare go sign it out! haha). I don’t know why I didn’t fetch it right away. I may have been beginning to blank out. Unfortunately, I do that. Anyway. I was reading some words my grandpa had written about his time working at Eaton’s in Winnipeg! What a treasure. But it was only by chance I saw that — it was the new chapter about Conrad’s family that had been the reason for the photocopy.
ALSO maps of cemeteries in Lost River.
Goodness sake. I do need to go there.
And, I’m feeling so very grateful for the Mennonite Heritage Archives.
TO BE CONTINUED! (Road trip planning, et cetera…!)