In the study of history, a primary source includes a document, diary, manuscript, perhaps a recording that was created at the time under study. It serves as an original source of information about the topic. A primary source can be a person with direct knowledge of a situation, or a document written by such a person.
By sifting through the documents in any donation, we can learn about the donor or a relative of the donor. We can “create” a personal story from letters and records in that donation.
A recent donation to our Museum was of interest to me on a few levels… The donation included information about Canadian FS Leighton Ogilvie Scott, a former employee of the Bank of Nova Scotia. I learned that the Canadian banks followed their employees who enlisted in the war… that they took time to inform their branches about their former employees during the war, and that they took time to honour those who lost their lives in the war… It seemed to me that the Bank treated Scott as a member of their family.
Further, I found that the family who made the donation made it a priority to keep a loved one’s memories alive…
When I asked the donor how the variety of documents had come to him over time, he responded, “My grandparents, Marie and Harry, would have received the letters from the War Ministry providing information first about Leighton missing in action and then his reported death. My Aunt Lorraine who would have been about nine years of age recalls seeing tears on her dad’s face only twice while she was at home and this was one of those occasions.
My Uncle Nelson would have been a young teen when Leighton went overseas and I believe there are two letters in the collection from Leighton to Nelson sent from England not too long before he was shot down. Nelson treasured these and I believe he kept them in his own possession. All the other material would have been kept by my grandparents. My grandfather Harry died in the 1950s and my grandmother sold the farm in the Gaspe and moved in with my parents in Ottawa. I moved out of the house in 1958 to go to college and Marie moved in shortly after. She brought all her family memorabilia with her and it mostly stayed with my mother.
Nelson had moved out in the 1940s to join the bank of Nova Scotia where he spent his entire working life. Lorraine left home in the very early 1950s to Montreal to train as a nurse. They would have both acquired some of the material from home as they set up homes later in life but most of it would have stayed with my mother. I inherited some of the material from my mother and slowly became the family archivist. When she died I got bundles of material. Nelson died in 2012 and his son Alan made sure I had much of Nelson’s material and Alan recently sent me a few of the items I sent you earlier this year in the last shipment of material.
Nelson provided The Bank of Nova Scotia with the material and photograph they used in the War Memorial Poster and display which you have as well…”
Because of the efforts of an entire family, an important part of FS Leighton Ogilvie Scott’s life has been kept alive, not only for the family, but also for those of us interested in learning about that particular time in our history.
In my next post, I’ll share some of Leighton’s story, based on the donated documents.