The gift of a ‘labor of love’

Archbishop Fred Hiltz is presented with a copy of a new two-volume work by the author, Jack Francis, the diocese of Ottawa's Archivist Emeritus. Photo: Art Babych
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is presented with a copy of a new two-volume work by the author, Jack Francis, the diocese of Ottawa's Archivist Emeritus. Photo: Art Babych
By on September 5, 2013

[This story first appeared in the September issue of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Anglican diocese of Ottawa.]

Amid the welter of people setting up booths for Joint Assembly in the cavernous Ottawa Convention Centre on July 2, there was a curious little presentation.

Jack Francis, Archivist Emeritus at the Diocese of Ottawa, presented Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada Fred Hiltz with a copy of his new two-volume work, A Biographical Dictionary of Anglican Clergy in the Diocese of Ottawa Born Before 1900, for the General Synod Archives.

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While chatting, the Primate learned this had been an ongoing labour of love for the past 40 years. This two-volume set, as the Preface states, is “a wide range of biographical information on the lives and careers of [573] clergy born before 1900 and who at some point in their careers served in the area that is now the Diocese of Ottawa.”

It details clergy “born before 1900, who were ordained both Deacon and Priest or who were made permanent Deacons. “In a very few cases, persons who were only made Deacons but were judged to have been ordained Priest…were included.”

Information compiled includes date and place of birth of clergy, parents’ names, father’s occupation, where they were educated, who they married and when, names and birthdates of children, early careers, where and when they were ordained, where they served, when they retired or resigned, their death date, their publications, and additional information, including appraisals by contemporaries.

The earliest of the 573 clergy covered was the Rev. John Byrne, born circa 1738. The last was the Rev. Donald Andrews who died in 1993. These biographical outlines span some 255 years.

This absorbing retirement project mushroomed into more of a challenge than Francis first anticipated. Just to figure out who he should research meant keeping track of all Anglican clergy across Canada born before 1900, in order to sort out those with similar names. So, in addition to files he developed on clergy who served in the Diocese of Ottawa, Jack filled some 15 mammoth binders with pages tracking 4,500 clergy who served across Canada up until 1923. Looking at it now, Jack is a bit taken aback how much effort was required.

Once you get immersed, it’s hard to let go of a project. It’s even more difficult to let it go to the printers. In recent years, Jack became indebted to Elizabeth Taylor for extensive painstaking research on the Internet of many of the clergy and their families.

The push to publish came from Barbara Apro. While volunteering at the Archives, she saw how rich a fund of information Jack had amassed. She argued that there needed to be copies of this work available for libraries and members of genealogical societies at a distance to consult, not just the working copy at the Diocesan Archives.

So, it was decided to publish the work, as a fund-raiser for the Archives at a time when the Friends of the Archives are working to raise $128,000 for shelving and the new facility under construction. The two volumes have been issued in a handsome very limited edition of 25 copies, on acid-free paper in a sewn binding by the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa Archives. The set is hand-bound in a red morocco-finish pigskin, complete with marbled paper, and it incorporates ninety full-page photos on coated paper. The finished work sells for $500 a set.

There has been one surprising result already. The Rev. Dan Graves, the new editor of the Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society has asked to publish Jack’s list of all clergy across Canada born before 1900 – to produce a booklet of more than a hundred pages. The result will be two publications within a year of one another, promoting research of Anglican history.

(Glenn J Lockwood is Archivist and Registrar for the Diocese of Ottawa)

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