New Brunswick

Modern technology uncovers and displays old Miramichi photos

With more than 40,000 photos and 8,000 members, a Facebook group celebrating the history of Miramichi is helping people who live in the region get a glimpse of the region's past.

Thousands of historical photos, life stories from early 1900s highlighted in Facebook group

A look back at Water Street in the former town of Chatham. (Facebook/Karl Wade)

With more than 40,000 photos, a Facebook group celebrating the history of Miramichi, N.B., is helping people who live in the region get a glimpse of the past. 

Group administrators Karl Wade and Charles Asoyuf started the group Our Miramichi Heritage Photos in 2012 and began adding a large collection of old pictures Asoyuf had been collecting for years. The group now has more than 8,000 members.

Wade, who grew up in the former town of Newcastle, which is now part of Miramichi, said he always "had a fondness for the past" but started focusing on the region's genealogy after dealing with colon cancer. 

"My priorities kind of changed," he said. "It's nice to learn all these things ... things you never knew happened, people you didn't know existed and they were such a big part of the Miramichi in their time," he said. 

Thousands of pictures

Karl Wade says this picture of a man from Blackville playing the fiddle is another favourite of his. (Facebook/Karl Wade)

Making sure the photos are organized into the right albums can take time. Wade says the 40,000 photos are divided amongst 440 albums, and more pictures are added every day.

At one point Wade spent more than 30 hours a week on the site, but he has cut back to 15 to 20 hours. As the collection of photos has grown, so has the number of number of people joining the page.

"We have a lot of members that really love the site and seem to be on it more than I am," he said. 

An old photo of Queen Elizabeth Park, commonly known as the Town Square in the former town of Newcastle. (Facebook/Karl Wade)

Reuniting family

The site does more than just display photos. People are encouraged to share stories and ask questions in the comments. Those interactions have helped reunite relatives and rekindle friendships.

In once case, Wade said a woman in the United States made a connection with a family member she knew nothing about. Now she's planning to visit that relative in Miramichi in 2017. 

Hearing stories like that is a reward for the work he puts into the group, Wade said.

Unexpected discoveries

This photo of Minnie Arabelle Clarke who died in 1887 at the age of nine from diphtheria is one of Karl Wade's favourite photos in the Our Miramichi Heritage Photos group. (Contributed/Karl Wade)

Wade often spends his time searching for more old photos and says he often stumbles upon unexpected surprises. During one of his searches, he found a book of New Brunswick biographies published in 1900.  

Now he has begun sharing biographies of people who lived in the Miramichi region as well. 

Of all the pictures posted in the group, Wade says there's one that stands out from the rest in his mind. 

"There's one of a little girl back in the 1870s or 1880s. It's a fantastic photo. She died very young but her picture kind of ... is almost haunting. It's one of my favourites."