AMHERST, N.S. – Anyone who lives for 100 years or more usually has a story to tell.
Members of the Cumberland Genealogical Society have not only taken an interest in those stories, but they have compiled them into a new book after three years of thorough research.
The book, Five Score and More: Reflections of a Centenarian, profiles about 300 centenarians with connections to Cumberland County, and is available for sale as a fundraiser for the society.
“It’s just one of those things that captures a lot of history, and gives a good cross section of what life was like in this county,” said society president Barb Reid. “They go back as early as the 1700s for some births, and then go forward from there.”
The driving force behind the project was Susan Hill, a society member who passed away in 2014. The book is dedicated to her.
The concept came from a similar book, written in French, that member Mary Willa had come forward with. Hill thought it was something that would work for Cumberland County, and enlisted volunteers like Reid and Phyllis Perry to take on the job of gathering the information.
“Susan’s mind was always wandering to projects that would help with the history of Cumberland County,” said Reid.
For the past three years the volunteers have been canvassing the county and the continent beyond, making trips from Advocate to Malagash to meet centenarians and their surviving relatives, and corresponding by telephone, email and letter with others from Newfoundland to British Columbia, California to Florida, and all points in between.
Starting with a master list of about 150 names, the list quickly grew, as they would learn about other centenarians from the people they would meet. The only pre-requisite was that the subject have a Cumberland County connection – either born here, died here, married here, lived here or went to school here. Many were found in the obituaries of archived newspapers.
They put so much time into the project that Reid’s husband John said he “pretty much lived alone for three years.”
They also made great use of their $25 unlimited long distance telephone plan.
“I was waiting for Bell to call and say they weren’t prepared to offer me that $25 plan anymore,” she said. “Bell didn’t make any money off of me for the last three years. My phone bills were coming in 3-4 pages long every month.”
The end result is a large book, packed with information. Most of the centenarians featured each have their own page, with pictures and information about their lives.
Perry said she is pleased with the finished product. Fourteen of the featured subjects were from her family tree.
“I think we covered the stories very well, and captured a lot of them,” she said. “We weren’t sure what we were going to end up with, but we had a pretty good idea one page would do each one. Ho thick it would be, or how many we had, we weren’t sure.”
The book is printed in colour, which made it more costly to produce, but was a worthwhile expense, they believe.
The book is available for $54.95 at the Cumberland County Genealogy Centre in Amherst, in the lower level of the building at 16 Church Street. The centre is open on Fridays and Saturday afternoons during the winter, but can also reached by telephone at 902-661-7278 or by email at email@example.com. Reid can also be reached at home at 902-545-2782.