News Release

Telling the Stories of Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia

Someone once described 92-year-old Betty Rhodenizer of the Bridgewater Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a genealogy guru. When it comes to genealogy, anyone seeking information, guidance, mentoring or expertise about the Foreign Protestants who arrived in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, in the mid-1700s might find this to be true.

Genealogy, the study of one’s ancestors or family history, is one of the most popular hobbies worldwide. People of all faiths and nationalities enjoy discovering where they came from.

Rhodenizer, who was born in and lives in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, first became interested in family history in the summer of 1959, shortly after becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She and her husband were the first to join the Church in the Lunenburg County area.

For Latter-day Saints, learning about one’s family history is more than just a casual endeavour. They believe families can be together after this life, so strengthening relationships with all family members, both living and dead, is essential.

South Shore Genealogical Society

As Rhodenizer began researching, seeking to learn more about her family ancestry, she found that various church records were not readily available to the public. She discovered she could travel to Halifax and search church records at the Nova Scotia Archives at Dalhousie University. At that time, she was able to photocopy some records and bring them home to gather the information she required.

With her research success came opportunities to share experiences with others. Rhodenizer met many like-minded people, and they decided that they needed to form a research group to help others. Thus, in 1979, Rhodenizer became a founding member of the South Shore Genealogical Society (SSGS). She became the first president and held that position for a number of years.

The SSGS was organized in the local Bridgewater Latter-day Saint Church; then, it moved to the town hall in Lunenburg. From there, the society moved into the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic on the historic Lunenburg waterfront. It is now located in the historic Lunenburg Academy.

Family History

As interest in family history research continued to grow, a local Church family history centre (now known as a FamilySearch centre) was established in the Bridgewater Ward building, where Rhodenizer served as director for 20 years (1990–2010). In the family history centre, it was possible to access microfiche and microfilm records from the Church’s extensive collection. Everyone was welcome to use these records to do family history research.

During this period, when Rhodenizer helped launch the SSGS, she also worked on her own family history. She compiled and published two books on her parents’ families: Rhodenizer and Nowe. Her family history collection became so large that a separate room in her home became her family history library.

Cemeteries of Lunenburg, Queens and Shelburne Counties

While working with the SSGS, one of Rhodenizer’s prime projects was the collection and publication of volumes of inscriptions from the cemeteries of Lunenburg, Queens and Shelburne counties. Rhodenizer recalls, “What a joy and what a marvellous, spiritual experience spending countless hours with those precious souls, many of whom were close and distant relatives.” The SSGS’s work predated the modern efforts of Find a Grave, BillionGraves and other digital databases of cemetery records.

As Rhodenizer continued to help others with their research efforts, her collection of information grew immensely. The collection needed to be protected and preserved. In December 2019, a Latter-day Saint missionary couple went to Bridgewater and was assigned to digitize Rhodenizer’s collection. They were able to complete this work just in time to return to the United States before the borders closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local Monuments

Rhodenizer was also part of a committee that raised $38,000 to erect a monument to the Foreign Protestants of Lunenburg. This monument was completed in 2003 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the town’s founding (1753). Rhodenizer researched and compiled the 408 surnames engraved on the monument.

Completed with her friend Yvonne Rafuse, Rhodenizer’s latest project is a presentation to the municipal government for financial support in raising a monument recognizing and naming those individuals who are buried in numbered graves at the Municipal Home (Poor Farm) at Dayspring, Lunenburg County.

In addition to offering her genealogy expertise, Rhodenizer uses her many other talents in the community. She performed with a local ukulele group and is an active member of Seaside A Cappella, a four-part women’s chorus. They have competed internationally, placing seventh out of 22 choruses in Verona, New York, in 2022 and fifth out of 29 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 2023. They hope to compete in Louisville, Kentucky, this year.

President Russell M. Nelson said, “When our hearts are turned to our ancestors, something changes inside us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves” (“Generations Linked in Love,” April 2010 general conference).

Contributed by David Veinot

Read the article in French.

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