Names have a past

While researching any genealogy, it is important to remember that you are searching beyond just your family name; you are also looking for locations. The names of various towns carry an interesting history all their own.

For a book that is both fascinating and filled with practical information, check out "Geographic Names of Saskatchewan" by Bill Barry. This concise guide lists Saskatchewan towns and cities alphabetically, with a brief history of each. This book can help your research, especially in situations where a certain town may no longer exist on a map.

Just for fun, let's take a quick stroll through the pages of "Geographic Names of Saskatchewan". Did you know that Buchanan was named after a local rancher, Robert Buchanan, who died in 1919? He originally homesteaded and operated an experimental farm for the federal government around 1882 by Qu'Appelle, but in 1887 he moved north to the Good Spirit Lake area looking for better land for his cattle. He began a second homestead here, about three miles south of where the community is now.

Speaking of Good Spirit Lake, did you know that it used to be called "Devil's Lake"?

Matthew Cocking of the Hudson Bay Company in 1774-1775 wintered there and called it "Witch Lake". Later, Robert Russell Smith, who was the postmaster at the spot, misinterpreted the Cree/Salteaux term "manitow" which actually meant "good spirit". Some Europeans at the time could not believe that a spirit could be called "good", so the name became "Devils' Lake", and the post office with that name did not close until 1954.

Atwater, near Esterhazy, also has an interesting history to the name. The town was named after A.B. Atwater, who worked for the Grand Trunk Railway. He must have held an important position, because he and two other officials were the gentlemen who had the somber task of going to Halifax in 1912 to retrieve the body of C.M. Hays, the president of the railway, who sadly perished on the Titanic.

Mr. Hays was also important in the naming of Melville; his full name was Charles Melville Hays.

Skipping across the fields, Saltcoats, Saskatchewan, established in 1888, was named after the birthplace on the west coast of Scotland of the Allan family from Allan Steamship Lines. The Allans were also shareholders in the North Western and Manitoba railway . Before the arrival of the railway, the district was called "Stirling", also named after the city in Scotland.

Every bit of information can help with genealogy research; even the name and history of a town can give insight about local residents. The Yorkton branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogy Society has members of all stages of genealogy research. Whether you are advanced in your search or are eager to begin but don't know how to start, you will find friendly people and a lot of good practical advice on how to proceed with your research.

Every family has a story: discover yours with the Yorkton branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogy Society! For more information, call Glenn at 782-7969 or Dave at 783-1093.

Submitted by Debbie Hayward

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