BCGS History

The History of the B. C. G. S. Resource Library

By Sylvia Pencer

It all started with a small group of people who shared a common interest, a ‘small idea’ that eventually outgrew its surroundings. The date was Feb. 12, 1971 and the meeting place was the Richmond Arts Centre. Under the direction of Mrs. Gay Husband, a small genealogical resource library was created. In its early days, the library consisted mainly of books and materials donated by these first few members, namely ” ‘Jim’ Anderson, Helen Bunch, Lila Burgess, Betty Harvey, Alice Marwood, Margaret Orlandi, Ann and Phillip Yandle” (Rogers and Hyde 4). With the election of the “first four interim officers (Mrs. Gay Husband, President, Mrs. Lila Burgess, Secretary, Mr. Jim Anderson, Vice President and Mrs. Alice Marwood, Treasurer), The British Columbia Genealogical Society was born.” (Rogers and Hyde 4).

The Society’s initial efforts focused on “increasing membership, educating society members and preserving British Columbia records for future generations” (Rogers and Hyde 4). It was a non-profit organization, with “membership fees of $1.00 at that time” (Marwood) and many books, records, etc. were donated by members and other libraries. Eventually, “a significant amount of data collected, collated, sorted and organized by members of the Society” was to lead to the publication of documents, records and instruction booklets to preserve British Columbia’s heritage to be used “in many libraries and family history societies throughout the world” (Rogers and Hyde 2).

As the contents of the library grew steadily, its resources expanded to the extent that relocation became necessary, on numerous occasions. Owing to size restrictions, monthly meetings were held at a different location, apart from where the library materials were kept. In its early days, the library records were moved between various member’s residences while from 1971 to 1974, the monthly meetings were held at the Richmond Arts Centre.

The “first Society symbol was designed by Bill Topping in 1972 and illustrated by artist Lillian Ytri. It was first used on the cover of the Society’s second Quarterly [issue], Winter ‘72″ (Rogers and Hyde 17). February 1975, “a new BCGS Logo was completed based on Arthur Murdock Post’s idea, and illustrated by T.E. Southwell, a prominent Vancouver artist. It was described in the Quarterly [issue] of 1975 as:

“The BCGS has acquired a new emblem which graphically depicts our aims. The primary design element is an 18th century key which incorporates the pedigree symbol in the bow of the key. The outline of the Province of B.C. is depicted on the background with the overall design enclosed in a double circle. The key, of a kind in use at the time Captain Vancouver visited the area, indicates that our Society is in fact the key to genealogical research not only within the Province but throughout the world.” (Rogers and Hyde 17).

In 1975, The Langara College Library allotted a few shelves to contain the Society’s library collection and from 1974 to 1977, the monthly meetings were held at the College as well. In 1976, the appearance of “Alex Haley’s book, “Roots”,(BCGS) initiated a new surge of interest in genealogy, but the time came when Langara College needed the extra space and the Society’s library had to be moved . For three years, the collection remained at the Blanchflower home while from 1977 to 1981, monthly meetings were held at Britannia Center in Vancouver.

“On February 3, 1978, The British Columbia Genealogy Society was now officially registered under the Society Act of British Columbia with a Certificate of Incorporation number” (Rogers and Hyde 10). It had taken almost six years for the Society (to formulate “a constitution and by-laws that was [deemed] acceptable to both the members and the Registrar” (Rogers and Hyde 10). The constitution and by-laws would be updated as required “to reflect changing needs and practices” (Rogers and Hyde 10).

In January 1980, the Aberthau Community Centre near Jericho Beach, donated an 800 square foot floor space on the second floor to house their library collection and from 1981 to 1992, monthly meetings were held at St. Giles Church in Vancouver. In the twelve years that the library was kept at these premises, it grew to the extent that the weight of the books was causing the floor to sag so a new location was imminently needed. In December 1992, the books which now numbered in the thousands were placed in storage while from 1992 onwards, monthly meetings were held at Edmonds Community Centre (for the Retired) in Burnaby.

The books were kept in storage for about a year, till a suitable site (which measured 2700 square feet) happened to come available at 8 Avenue and Cambie Street in Vancouver. The library “reopened in April [1993] and was officially opened by the then acting Mayor Phillip Owen on November 13, 1993″ (Rogers and Hyde 5). By September 1994, the Society had to once again gather up “the more than 6,000 books and thousands of journals from 250 family history Societies worldwide,” (Rogers and Hyde 5) storing some in members’ homes and putting the major portion into storage. A Building Fund had been started, in the hopes that one day the Society would own a more permanent premises for its important collection. That time came when a bequest, written in the will of Walter Draycot, allotted that a substantial contribution from the sale of his house be donated to the Society.

Walter Draycot was born in 1883 and passed away in 1985 at the age of 102. He had a notable history, having come from Lynn Valley (Vancouver) in the early 1900’s and had “fought in the Boer War and the First World War. A statue of him is to be seen at the corner of Lynn Valley Road and Mountain Highway.” (BCGS) Walter Draycot served “with the Boy Scout movement, was an accredited genealogist”, “was a naturalist, a Justice of the Peace in British Columbia and an author on the history of Lynn Valley among other writings.” (BCGS) In 1999, “Lady Patricia Mountbatten, Countess of Burma was in town to dedicate a plaque honouring Walter who had belonged to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.” (BCGS) Walter Draycot had also been a “member of the British Columbia Genealogical Society for ten years and his genealogical research on his family history is now a part of the Resource Centre – a tribute to his memory.” (Allen)

The substantial contribution from this generous benefactor helped in achieving their goal and “on May 22, 1996, the Society moved into its very own premises at #211, 12837 – 76 Street.” (Rogers and Hyde 5) The resource library collection was designated as the “Walter Draycot Memorial Library” (BCGS) “In his honour, which allowed non-members to use the Resource Centre as it was ‘members only’ before then. The general public can purchase a ‘reader’s ticket’ for the day to use the facility.” (Allen)

Today, the Society remains “committed to the following aims:

  • the perpetuation of the British Columbia Heritage.
  • the collection, publication, and preservation of those materials relevant to the promotion of ethical principles,scientific methods and effective techniques in genealogical and historical research” (BCGS)

The Resource Centre continues to be run by volunteers (Officers of the Society are volunteers as well)” (Steele) dedicated to helping members and visitors interested in genealogy. It is expected that the effect of computers and technology “will see major developments in the way we do our research.” (Rogers and Hyde 3)

Monthly meetings are still being held every second Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Edmonds Community Centre for the Retired (Kingsway at Edmonds in Burnaby). [Editor: as of 2014, the BCGS meeting location changed to the Danish Lutheran Church in Burnaby.]

A visit to the Centre just may inspire you to delve into your own family history, as genealogical research is akin to an ‘archaeological dig’ through streams of records that may lead you to discover some ancient ancestor forgotten long ago .

Works Cited

Rogers, Barbara (edited by) and Maureen Hyde (compiled by) British Columbia Genealogical Society 1971-1996, The First Quarter Century Assisted by the Committee and Members of The British Columbia Genealogical Society. Richmond, B.C.   Printed and bound by PrestoPrint 1998
Marwood, Alice (Genealogist, a founding member) Interview 13 November 2004
BCGS [website]. “BCGS History Page”.  August 5, 2003.  British Columbia Genealogical Society.  6 November 2004
Allen, Betty (Library Administrator).  Interview.  14 November 2004
Steele, Tom (Chairman of the Scottish Group).  Interview. 6 November 2004
Kitchen, Gil (President).  Interview.  14 November 2004

This article was originally published in The British Columbia Genealogist, December 2005, Volume 34, No.4, pp. 192-194.