Adam PoleHistory professor Adam Pole is proud of the work students have done to digitize records of a historic Sandwich church.

UWindsor students bring historical Old Sandwich Town stories into the present

Historical records and stories of Windsor’s St. John’s Anglican Church community have found renewed life online in the St. John’s Anglican Exhibit, a student project created in a newly offered course, Public History 497.

Fourth-year history students examined genealogical records of parishioners who were connected to the west-end church in the mid-nineteenth century and digitized the research to make the history publically available.

History professor Adam Pole, who taught the course, says the students researched the church’s marriage, baptismal and burial records held in the Leddy Library’s archives. They looked at demographic trends within the broader church community, as well as the lineage of particular parishioners, including tracing the Jessop family all the way back to England.

“You can get a great insight into the social life of people when you have records showing what age they got married, what age they died and what they died from,” he says. “These students did an amazing job and I’m proud they were honoured for their work by UWindsor’s own Humanities Research Group at the Celebration of Student Research and Engagement.”

The project was created by history students Salma Abumeeiz, Sean Antaya, Kayla Dettinger, Kyle Lariviere and Tyler Pickel. Dr. Pole says he was “blown away” by the project, especially considering it was the first time the course was taught.

“They used the archives as a starting point and from there, did some great detective work,” says Pole. “They talked to the current priest, visited the church, walked through the graveyard and took photos.”

The group learned how to digitize with cameras and use software to include geospatial mapping. The project was highlighted in the online magazine Canada’s History as an example of online teaching.

Pole says the course is meant to strengthen connections between the history department and the community.

“Public history is history outside of academia and is about connecting the public with their past,” he says. “It’s about getting people involved in the history of their own community with things like museums, heritage sites, even historical films, and these online exhibits are part of that.”

Other student projects from the course include the history of a high-profile Windsor murder trial and a scrapbook of an Ontario nurse’s personal life. All of the digital exhibitions can be viewed on the  Public History 497 course website.

Public History 497 is a collaboration between the Department of History and the Leddy Library’s Centre for Digital Scholarship. The course was developed with a UWindsor Open and Online Learning Strategic Development Grant.