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Hedgehog Productions

Research Projects

Archival, internet and library sleuthing

Research is not just about finding information, it is about finding the right information, verifying it,
interpreting it and then delivering it in a format that can be used for a variety of purposes by the client.
Good research — carefully gathered and assessed — should be the foundation of every editorial project.

St. Patricks Church
The Project:
A House Worthy of God, 80 pages, 2006
The Client: St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Napanee, ON (Kingston Archdiocese)
Assignment: Find the human stories hidden inside a 150-year-old church built in the town’s Upper Canadian heyday.
Approach: Context is everything so the first step was to acquire  background knowledge of the local community history before delving into the individual stories of the families and clergy who built the simple but beautiful church. After taking an inventory of the names of the church founders, the donors of the stained glass windows and the parish priests, I delved into church records, census data, newspaper accounts, birth and death certificates, gravestones and other archival documents to gradually flesh out the stories of people who had been long forgotten.
Favourite discovery: One of the windows was donated in 1900 by a protestant and dedicated to his protestant parents. The donation made sense when records showed that his wife was Roman Catholic.

Photograph: St. Patrick's Church, Napanee. Courtesy of Vern McGrath.

The Project: Cultivating the Wilderness, 80 pages, 2005
The Client: County of Lennox & Addington, Napanee, ON
Assignment: Trace the early family history of the Parrott clan who had long since left the county for greener pastures.
Approach: Neither the client nor the Parrott descendants had much information about the family’s origins. But records at both the Public Archives (Ottawa) and Queen’s University Archives (Kingston) revealed that James Parrott had a remarkable life. He started on the Atlantic coast near Boston, moved to a farmstead near Albany, NY, then to loyalist refugee camps in Quebec before ending up on the shores of a bay in eastern Ontario that still bears his name. The colourful story was revealed through land grant and registry records, wills, business accounts, census returns, newspaper stories and military records.
Favourite discovery: A 1781 military report by James Parrott in his role as a spy for the British. The handwritten notes describe a raid deep into American territory during which Parrott shot a former neighbour in his own kitchen.

Photograph: Jonathan Marcus Parrott, circa. 1880. Courtesy of the Parrott Foundation.

The Project: A Biography of Ontario’s First Provincial Archivist
The Client: Archives of Ontario, Toronto, ON
Assignment: Research the life of Alexander Fraser (1858-1936) in preparation for an entry in the Canadian Dictionary of Biography.
Approach: The Archives held Fraser’s personal papers but little had been written about him and much of what was written was in error —including his date of birth. Several days of reading speeches, letters, memoes and essays provided sufficient information to create an informative profile that showed how he grew into his job and influenced archival policy during his 33-year tenure.
Favourite discovery: An urgent love letter written by Fraser’s young bride three days before the pair eloped in 1889.

Photograph: Alexander Fraser, circa. 1910. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario.

The Project: Commemoration of an unknown aboriginal serviceman
The Client: National Capital Commission, Ottawa
Assignment: Identify a Canadian aboriginal serviceman from the Second World War whose body was never recovered so that his story could be told at the National War Memorial.
Approach: This started as an interesting research challenge because there was no guarantee that Canada had actually lost any aboriginal servicemen whose bodies were not recovered. Common sense suggested searches of Air Force casualties were most likely (aboriginals were not allowed in the navy during the war). Luck and persistence on a long internet search revealed the name of only one airman from an Ontario native reserve who was lost in 1943 somewhere over the English Channel. Armed with Elmer Paudash’s name, it was then possible to track details of his military training and details of his family history.
Favourite discovery: Paudash was descended from a long line of warrior chiefs and had an uncle and grandfather who served during the First World War with distinction.

Photograph: National War Memorial, Ottawa. By Frank B. Edwards

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