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May. 19, 2019 | Sunday
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Residents encouraged to explore local history during Heritage Week
Ontario Heritage Week is celebrated on the third week of each February. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Niagara-on-the-Lake is well-known for its numerous historic sites and heritage buildings.

In light of Ontario Heritage Week, the Historical Society is encouraging locals and tourists in the town and across the country to visit museums, sites and cultural centres, and celebrate their diverse heritage.

Since 1974, the third Monday of February has been identified as a Heritage Day in Canada.

In 1985, the Ontario government identified the third week of February as Ontario Heritage Week.

Each town and historic organization across Canada celebrate this week differently, from holding educational events to providing free access to unique historic spaces.

The theme for this year’s week is Heritage: The Tie that Binds.

“In celebration of our past and our future, we encourage all Canadians – whether young or old, deeply rooted or new to Canada – to visit museums, historic sites and cultural centres, and connect with traditional knowledge keepers, educators, parents and grandparents to experience Heritage: The Tie that Binds,” said the National Trust of Canada website.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum representatives said they don’t have any special events planned for this year’s Heritage Week.

Coun. Clare Cameron, who is a member of the town’s municipal heritage committee, said preserving local heritage is important.

“The fact that we have a large collection of heritage buildings in Old Town but also some interesting sites in other villages within Niagara-on-the-Lake is part of what attracts people to come and visit and that’s what attracts people to want to live here. So economically, I think it’s a defining feature of what we are as a community. For that reason, too, I think it’s important that we protect it.”

Cameron said she would like to see the committee consider developing a mobile application or a map that would let users recognize and learn about historic sites and properties as they’re walking around different parts of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“Of course, we ask a lot from people who act as volunteers, there’s only so much you can do,” she said. ”But that’s something I’d love to see because we have so many good stories to tell about the buildings around us.”

For people who want to learn more about their roots, NOTL Library is holding monthly workshops led by David Hemmings.

Hemmings, president of the Niagara Historical Society and Museum, said he started hosting Practical Genealogy and DNA workshops as a “service to the community.”

The first session, Practical Genealogy, is for people who don’t know where to start their genealogical research, said Hemmings. These workshops are also valuable to people who might not have money to buy subscriptions to genealogical databases.

The second session, the DNA workshop, is for more experienced participants who already have some understanding of the testing.

However, people should be ready to discover something they might not like.

“I always say ‘beware of what you ask for,’ said Hemmings. “You might have people in your background you wouldn’t make friends with. People who had occupations or life experiences that led them doing things you wouldn’t do. But that’s a reality. That’s life too.”

Knowing your heritage and roots is important because it is “valuable to your overall awareness of who you are,” said Hemmings.

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