The Vangie Way of Pictou County is remembered for its genealogical research and kindness
Vangie Way has been called a rock star in the genealogy world, an ambassador for the region and a traveling encyclopedia of knowledge in Pictou County.
“She’s one of those people who comes too infrequently,” said Clyde Macdonald, a longtime friend of Way. “She was certainly the salt of the earth. I’ve always called it a true walking encyclopedia and it was.
Way, who was born in Springville and raised her own family in Riverton, died on September 15 at the age of 98, but the impact of her research and kindness lives on in her hometown.
Macdonald, who has written 19 books on local history, dedicated his first book, Artisans in Stone in Pictou County, to Way.
“She has been a great help and a researcher for me,” he said. “She certainly continues to be an inspiration to others to place their research in book form.”
In addition to his knowledge and expertise, Macdonald said Way was a really nice person.
“Vangie was a prolific knitter and actually a knitter of mittens for young children,” he said. “Every November, she would come by the house and give me the first choice of mittens for my grandchildren.”
Like many, he was a fan of her oatcakes, a treat she was famous for making well and sharing widely.
“I always thought Pictou County was very lucky to have Vangie Way,” Macdonald said. “She will definitely be missed and will be remembered for sure.”
When Marlene Chisholm became interested in genealogy, she was directed to what was considered by many to be the most reliable source of information.
“One of the first things I was asked was ‘have you spoken with Vangie Way?’” Said Chisholm.
A phone call was followed by 20 years of friendship.
“I looked to Vangie as my mentor,” Chisholm said. “She showed everyone she met a mountain welcome.”
This included tea and of course oatmeal cakes at her home in Riverton, surrounded by filing cabinets and stacks of files filled with historical information.
This welcome was not only reserved for the residents of Pictou County, but anyone interested in the heritage of Pictou County, said Chisholm.
Countless times, she has helped people from various parts of the world learn about their relationships.
“She just added such an elegant welcome to those people who made their experience here in Pictou County special,” said Chisholm. “They all went home and they all loved and enjoyed and have fond memories of Pictou County.”
For each family she helped, Way would open a file and, during her research, if she found anything about that family, she pasted it for them.
“Whenever she saw something, she let people know about the treat she found,” Chisholm said.
Thanks to the efforts of Chisholm and other members of the Pictou County Roots Society, these documents are now available to the public at the New Glasgow Library.
“There are well over 100 files on different families,” Chisolm said. “I see it as Vangie’s legacy. This will help the people who come to Pictou County for years to come.
But it’s not just the work she did that will live on, but how she did it.
“She has set an example for all of us on how family history research can leave lasting impressions,” said Chisholm. “She did it with a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes, still excited about our ancestors. It didn’t matter that they weren’t his family. It was the joy she had to meet and help the people who approached her about their family history in Pictou County. She was our ambassador.
Nedra Wilson has been a friend of Way for over 40 years and a member of the Pictou County Roots Society of which Way was a founding member in 1998.
Like others, she says, Way was the source for information on genealogy in Pictou County.
“She had heard so much about so many years doing it,” Wilson said. “She had so much to offer people.”
She too benefited from Way’s generosity.
“You never walk away from Vangie’s without something to eat and a cup of tea,” she said. “She just made people feel comfortable.”
She remembers asking Way once if it was sure how she always met people she had never met before and took them to distant places to see old farms and cemeteries.
Way has just ruled out caution.
“People who do genealogy, you can trust them,” Way said.