Elgin County’s first Woman’s Institute branch was formed in Aylmer in 1902. Elgin’s Institute branches have had a deep, positive effect on their respective communities. Under the motto “Home and Country” members engaged in efforts such as knitting hundreds of pairs of socks for local First World War soldiers, making tons of preserves for British and European families in both World Wars and leading the drive towards pasteurized milk in Ontario. They contributed to scholarships and held fundraisers for the local hospitals and the Elgin County Museum. Women came together under the banner of the Federated Women’s Institutes and worked tirelessly to make life better for their families, their neighbours and the world beyond.

In the mid 1930s Lady Tweedsmuir, wife of the Governor General began encouraging Women’s Institute branches to preserve the history of their communities in response to what she saw as a rapidly changing and urbanizing landscape. By 1947, local branches across the province were compiling living “scrapbooks” which came to be known as Tweedsmuir Histories. In many ways, the members of the Women’s Institutes were the unofficial archivists of their communities. They acquired records, oral histories, photographs and much more for inclusion in their volumes, leaving us today with an outstanding resource on the history of rural Ontario.

Through this project, the Elgin County Archives is able to bring Elgin County’s Tweedsmuir Histories into the digital age. We encourage you to explore their fascinating contents and we hope you gain further insights into Elgin’s rich historical and Agricultural heritage.


When the project began, there were 27 Tweedsmuir History volumes containing approximately 5000 pages on hand at the Elgin County Archives. As word spread about the project, this number grew to 50 volumes with over 7000 pages. The volumes were disassembled to allow each page to be individually scanned without distortion. The pages were almost all scanned as jpeg images as this yielded a high quality image with a smaller file size. As the books were being scanned, we took the opportunity to do assessments of their condition, with an eye towards prioritizing future conservation efforts. We carried out minor repairs such as replacing metal fasteners with archival clips, storing fragile items in archival folders and removing surface dirt. The volumes are all stored in document boxes at the Archives’ temperature and humidity controlled storage facility.

The scanned pages were processed in Adobe Photoshop 7 to enhance photographs and to re-align pages and their content for easier viewing on the web site. In many cases, several photos had been mounted on single pages in a volume and so copies of smaller photos deemed to be of interest, have been placed on a separate page to make viewing easier.

With so much material to accommodate, all measures to save space were used. In some cases, a page that contained a very short passage of text at the end of an article was added to the previous page. In other cases, where there was a large blank area between an image and accompanying text, that space has been removed. As most of the volumes lead off with standard material on Mrs. Hoodless, Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir, the Mary Stewart Collect, etc, we have included only one version of these items. Otherwise, a search for Lady Tweedsmuir, for instance, would yield 50 copies of the same information. There are a number of larger pamphlets found in the books, which have had only sample pages included here. These items may be viewed at the Archives.

Because of the process described above, the page numbers found in the volumes no longer correspond exactly to the material as it appears on the site. We have removed these page numbers from the scanned images to avoid confusion. The material on the web site is still in the order found in the books. The indexes found in most volumes can still be used as a guide to the approximate location of the material.



In March 2012, the second phase of the Elgin County Women’s Institute Tweedsmuir History Book Digitization Project began. The goal was to scan the remaining twenty-five volumes in the Elgin County Archives and make them available online. The project was made possible by funding from the Elgin County Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, Elgin County Historical Society and Elgin County Women’s Institute Branches.

The project concluded with twenty-eight volumes in December 2012, three being donated during the scanning stage. More than 6200 pages and 2000 photographs were scanned. Two more volumes were scanned in the spring of 2013.

Like the Tweedsmuir Histories in the first phase, the books were dismantled from their original enclosure for scanning. The books were in varying conditions, sizes and enclosures; from 3-ring binders to heavy, bolt-bound books with leather covers. Due to the assortment of age of the books and materials, some are conservation issues, with dried-out adhesives and discoloured and brittle paper. Some had the photographs and ephemera come away from the pages. Essentially, each book is a unique case and must be treated as required.

The volumes included in this phase are part of the permanent collection at the Archives and will be ‘retired’ from public use. They will not be returned to their original enclosures, but rather be wrapped in acid free paper in archival boxes and be housed in the Archives’ climate controlled storage vaults.

Scanning each photograph was new to this phase. This was done for a few reasons. Not surprising, photographs are the most sought after items from the Tweedsmuirs for reprints and viewing. The scanning allowed for high resolution images to be made once and saved for future use, preventing extra handling and exposure. As well, the Archives now have direct control over the images, as the books are part of the permanent collection. This is a major step forward for the Archives and this project. The high resolution scans will also be valuable for use in exhibits and for other Archives activities and outreach.

The original page numbers assigned in the books were not used, as not everything in the book was scanned. For example, almost each volume begins with a tribute to Lady Tweedsmuir, and the history of the establishment of the Women’s Institute by Adelaide Hunter Hoodless. This information has been scanned once, and unless it is different, it is not scanned a second time. Also, in this phase, we scanned all pages of pamphlets instead of just the cover. This was unless the pamphlet was not directly relevant to local history. These additional scans or omitted pages throw off the original page numbers.

The pages for each volume are grouped for ease and efficiency of online access, ranging in size from 5 to 21 pages. These files do not exceed 5 MB in order to accommodate those still on dial-up. The files have also been formatted to open in Adobe Reader 8 or newer.

Also new to the second phase, was the use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which will allow users to search each group of documents for key words. This may be done by using “Ctrl f” function and entering a key word. The OCR only works on the typed, computerized or neat printing. At this time, it does not recognize characters in cursive print and some older type-faces.

Keyword searching is restricted to the following volumes:

Cowal Vol 1 and 2
Crinan Volume 3
Kingsmill-Mapleton Volume 1 to 5
Middlemarch Volume 1 and 2
Port Stanley
River Road Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 5
Shedden Volumes 1 to 4
Wallacetown Volumes 8 and 9
West Lorne Volumes 1 and 5 to 10
Yarmouth Glen Volume 2