Wagner Hailer Family Fonds

In my last post, I wrote about part one of our genealogy vacation outing to the city of Kitchener, Ontario to search out more about Ellen’s family roots. The first part of our journey took us to Kitchener’s Mount Hope Cemetery and the discovered of some (but not yet all) of the prominent ancestral graves, including her first, second and third great grandparents.

The second part of our day was dedicated to visiting the University of Waterloo’s Dana Porter Library, in particular, the Doris Lewis Rare Book Room to examine the Wagner Hailer family fonds. I had discovered this document collection purely by accident many months ago while conducting an Internet search for Wagner family information. The website for the university states “The Hailer and Wagner families were both prominent early families residing in Waterloo County, Ontario, as were the Staebler, Biehn/Bean and Breithaupt families, whose documentation is present in this fonds to a lesser degree.” The documents contained in these fonds were donated by Ellen’s uncle, Gordon Wagner who found himself in the circumstances faced by many genealogists – at the time that he was winding up his family history research, no one else in the family was interested enough to take it on. If he only knew that his niece would marry a genealogist!

Gordon completed his genealogy research during the 1980’s, at a time when the options for obtaining documentation involved waiting for records to arrive via ‘snail mail’ or traveling to sources. Fortunately, Gordon had the time and resources to travel although I still imagined that the record documentation that he had donated to the university likely consisted of a few pages in a file folder. To my amazement, the fonds consist of two filled archive document boxes.

As the university describes, “The fonds consists of correspondence, legal documents, photographs, genealogical records, relating to Jacob Hailer (1804-1885), Henry Wagner (1793-1867), Jacob Wagner (1824-1858), Louis Henry Wagner (1857-1945), Staebler Family, Biehn/Bean Family and Breithaupt Family. Documents relating to each have been family have been arranged separately with the exception of the correspondence and some legal documents which have been arranged in two chronological sequences.”

Needless to say, I was doing the ‘genealogy happy dance’ when I discovered this ‘mother lode’ of family history material. I went equipped to the library with my digital camera so that I could take photos of all the documents and materials – unfortunately, the library does not permit the use of cameras! The university does offer a free self-serve scanner that saves images onto a USB key. While I typically carry more than one USB key with at all times, on the day of my visit I had no key because I had brought the camera so a short walk to the university campus ‘tech’ store was required to purchase a new USB key. After two hours of scanning, I had managed to complete one of the two boxes of materials. Another trip or two will be required to complete the second box along with the complementary “Breithaupt Hewetson Clark Collection” (the Breithaupt family records alone occupy 125 linear feet shelf space). Enough to keep me busy for some time!

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