The Ontario Historical Society celebrates the life of Duncan Coulter McKillop, a long-time OHS member and heritage activist, who passed away on April 27, 2015, at the age of 92. Duncan was born in St. Thomas, Ontario, in 1923, and studied history, economics, and political science at the University of Western Ontario. He then graduated with a law degree from Osgoode Hall and went on to practice law in St. Thomas for over 40 years. After his retirement, he went back to university and pursued a graduate degree to improve his research skills in aid of his love for local history.


Duncan was a founding member of the board of directors of the Tyrconnell Heritage Society (THS), which incorporated through affiliation with the OHS in 1994. THS saved and magnificently restored the historic 1851 Backus-Page House and now operates it as a museum, open to the public.


In addition to being a life member of the OHS, Duncan was also a founding member of the Elgin-St. Thomas Archives Association and was instrumental in helping Elgin County establish its archives. He was a member of the London and Middlesex Historical Society, the London and Southern Ontario Branch of the United Empire Loyalists, and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario. He was involved in compiling the names of the 1877 Historical Atlas of Elgin County by lot, concession, and township. Some of his other projects included reviewing local diaries, letters, and ledgers. He also studied, and was considered an expert on, Colonel Talbot and his land transactions.


Duncan served as the provincial director for The Ontario Genealogical Society between 1974 and 1977.Duncan was a strong supporter of both local history and the OHS. For example, he wrote with L. Jane Hughes and presented a paper entitled “Anna Jameson and the First Nations: Fiction versus Fact” at the OHS’s Celebrating One Thousand Years of Ontario’s History Symposium in 2000. The OHS salutes the dedication and enormous contribution of a tireless advocate for the preservation of Ontario’s local history, the late Duncan McKillop.


Jean MorrisonThe OHS was saddened to learn of the passing of Jean Morrison on September 22, 2014, at the age of 87. For over four decades, Jean played a vital role in the historical community within Thunder Bay and across the province.

Jean was the first woman to receive a Master of Arts degree in History from Lakehead University. Her thesis, “Community in Conflict: A Study of the Working Class in the Canadian Lakehead, 1903–1913,” brought national attention to the history of Northwestern Ontario and remains a seminal work in Canadian Labour History.

Her last book, Labour Pains: Thunder Bay’s Working Class in Canada’s Wheat Boom Era, received recognition with the 2009 OHS J. J. Talman Award. She also won two M. Elizabeth Arthur awards and is the author of the book Northwest Company in Rebellion: Simon McGillivray's Fort William Notebook, 1815.

Until her retirement in 1990, Jean served as a research historian at Old Fort William (now Fort William Historical Park). Her expertise and impact in that community led the historic park to name its Fur Trade library in her memory.

In addition to Jean’s significant impact within the historical community in Northwestern Ontario and beyond, Thunder Bay Museum Director and Editor of Ontario History Dr. Tory Tronrud remarked that she will be remembered, “most for her sparking personality, her willingness to help, her sense of humour, and her constant professionalism.”

Canada has lost a dedicated champion of family history and cemetery preservation. OHS is saddened by the sudden, unexpected death of Robert “Bob” Crawford on Wednesday, November 13, 2013.

Bob was a long-time member, donor and close friend of the OHS. Since 2004, he served with great distinction on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS), including as President, Past President and Secretary. Bob was also Past President of the Halton-Peel Branch of the OGS.

On behalf of OHS, I had the great pleasure of working closely with Bob for nine years in the struggle to prevent the relocation of our historic cemeteries for private interests. He had a deep understanding of the constant challenges and threats to Ontario’s cemeteries.  Bob was generous with his time and wisdom. Always a gracious mentor, OHS will remember Bob for his incredible integrity, quiet passion and warm smile. He was a giant man with a giant heart.

Read more about how the OHS and OGS work to preserve Ontario's cemeteries

By 2004, both OGS and OHS could no longer afford to hire lawyers for our cemetery battles, so Bob and I acted as Agents for our respective organizations.

Together, we prepared our legal cases for the public interest, coached our witnesses, introduced evidence, conducted cross-examination and gave final arguments at Tribunal hearings. We worked as a tag team, sometimes playing in rotation “good cop, bad cop,” for a united voice in the defense of our historic cemeteries.

Since 2010, we also worked together on behalf of OHS and OGS to register the over 1,500 unregistered cemeteries across the Province so that all cemeteries in Ontario are treated equally and have the same legal rights. This legacy project is unfinished. There is still much work to be done. Bob never for one moment doubted that there were tremendous obstacles and resistance to this initiative – Bob, the work goes on, the cause endures. We are now more determined than ever to successfully complete this historic project for you.

Just as OHS and OGS are sister organizations, Bob and I were like brothers. I remain deeply saddened by his departure, leaving us far, far too soon. Bob Crawford dedicated his life to making Ontario a more decent and civilized society for all of us. OHS sends its condolences and best wishes to his family.

Rob Leverty
Executive Director
The Ontario Historical Society 


Photo: Bob Crawford, OGS Secretary and Past President (pictured above far right) was very concerned about the status and high number of Ontario’s unregistered cemeteries.

On June 2nd, 2011, The Ontario Historical Society (OHS) and The Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) officially presented to the Government of Ontario a binder listing all the unregistered cemeteries in the province.

Seen above (left to right) are: Rob Leverty, OHS Executive Director; Marjorie Stuart, OHS Cemetery News Editor; the Hon. John Gerretsen, then Minister of Consumer Services (responsible for cemeteries) and MPP (Kingston and the Islands); Diane Clendenan, OGS; Jim Brownell, then Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister and MPP (Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry); and Bob Crawford.

Photo courtesy of the Office of Minister John Gerretsen.



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