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Archdeacon Larry Beardy says his family’s research is part of the process of healing from disruption, displacement and loss of identity. Photo: Tali Folkins For Archdeacon Larry Beardy, priest at St. John the Baptist Anglican Church in Split Lake, Man., genealogy is not a mere hobby. His family feels the same way. A need to find out more about their family’s history and roots is what brought Beardy – along with 40 members of his family spanning four generations – to make a 3,000-km journey to Toronto in early July to visit the General Synod archives at the Anglican Church of Canada’s national office.

“Our ancestors are with us in spirit here,” Beardy reflects as he takes a break from poring over archival documents the afternoon of July 11. “It’s a very sacred moment for us.”

As he speaks, more than a half-dozen family members sit desks, poring over their notes and quietly comparing what they have found or consulting with archives staff. A small child patiently lolls in his mother’s lap as she makes her way through a file.

The family’s odyssey originated out of a chance meeting about a year ago, Beardy explains. At a gathering of Indigenous families in northern Manitoba, Beardy, who is Cree, happened to mention the name of his maternal grandmother, Lucy Kitchkeesik. A woman at the gathering said she also had a grandparent with the same surname. They started to talk and, as they together pieced together family histories, it became clear they were related.

The two families arranged a series of gatherings over the months that followed. The more they discovered about their shared connection, the more they wanted to know, and before long, Beardy says, they had resolved to create an extended family tree.

Most dioceses in the Anglican Church of Canada have their own archives containing the kinds of records that would be invaluable in this kind of research—parish registers with records of baptism, marriage and burials, for example, says General Synod archivist Nancy Hurn.

Split Lake was formerly part of the diocese of Keewatin; after that diocese ceased operating in 2014 (replaced partly by the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh), its archival records were transferred to the archives in the Anglican Church of Canada. So Beardy and the other Kitchkeesik descendants eventually decided that, if they wanted to pursue their research further, they would need to go to Toronto.

On July 4, they made the ten-hour drive to Winnipeg, to catch a 36-hour train ride to Toronto. But the train was seven hours late—so by the time they reached Toronto it was 4:30 on the afternoon of July 7, Beardy says. They spent a week in Toronto, staying at hotels and visiting the archives during the day.

Beardy and his family say the trip has been well worth the expense.

“It’s been a very good experience,” says Larry Beardy’s sister Sally Beardy. “I’m really thankful that the Anglican Church of Canada archives has given us the opportunity to do this. As you can see our family’s very interested and very in awe of some of the stuff that they’re coming across. They’re really excited.” Beardy, center, with some of his family members who accompanied him to the General Synod archives in Toronto. Photo: Contributed Larry Beardy says his family sees their research as an important part of the process of healing from the disruption, displacement and loss of identity experienced by their people since they first made contact with colonizing Europeans and their descendants.

He experienced this loss of identity first-hand, Beardy says, as a former residential school student. At the age of eight years-old, he boarded a […]

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