Tweedsmuir History Books

What are Tweedsmuir History Books?



       Lord Tweedsmuir                         Lady Tweedsmuir

Tweedsmuir Community History Books (or Tweedsmuirs as they are commonly known) uniquely capture and preserve local community history. They vary in form from a simple scrapbook to an elaborate series of volumes bound in leather, wood or a more formal blue-and-gold cover. Tweedsmuirs are comprised of a variety of information and often include a history of the: 

  • Local Women's Institute Branch
  • Earliest settlers in an area
  • Agricultural practices and individual farms
  • Industries that formed the basis of the local economy
  • Social institutions and public buildings, such as churches, schools and community centers
  • Local personalities, such as war veterans
  • And much, much more!


Tweedsmuir History - The 1920's

The idea of WI members writing the histories of farms, buildings and places of interest at the local level began in the mid-1920s. In 1925, the Committee for Historical Research and Current Events was formed and suggested that more time be given to the study of local history in the hopes of gaining greater insight into the lives and thoughts of our ancestors.


Tweedsmuir History - The 1930's

By the mid-1930s, Lady Tweedsmuir, wife of Lord Tweedsmuir, Governor General of Canada, took a great interest in the Women's Institutes in this country. While at a meeting of the Athens Women's Institute, Lady Tweedsmuir stressed the need for preserving the history of our Canadian people. As an active WI member in England, she suggested that Ontario Women's Institute Branches follow the example of their English counterparts and keep detailed local history books.


Tweedsmuir History - The 1940's

In 1940, a recently widowed Lady Tweedsmuir was delighted to approve that these histories should be named after her late husband, thereby originating “The Tweedsmuir Village History Books.” 

Documenting local history was seen as a fitting project to mark the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the Women's Institute movement. Thus, a campaign was launched in 1945 encouraging every WI Branch in Ontario to prepare a history of their local community before the 1947 celebrations took place. This proved a popular project, and these local histories were officially named Tweedsmuir History Books in 1947.


Tweedsmuir History - The 1950's

A decade later the Provincial Board reported that 989 Branches across the province were compiling Tweedsmuir History Books. A great boost to these histories was the appointment of FWIO's first provincial Tweedsmuir History Curator in 1957, Mrs. R.C. Walker.


Tweedsmuir History - The 1960's

By 1964 Mrs. Walker reported that all levels of the organization had begun to take Tweedsmuir Books seriously, with well over 1,100 Branch histories recorded. She introduced Tweedsmuir Workshops to the volunteer curators across the province to teach the fundamentals of compiling local history books. To supplement these workshops, she released the first Tweedsmuir Manual in 1962. “The Women's Institutes,” writes Dr. Linda Ambrose in For Home and Country: The Centennial History of the Women's Institutes in Ontario, “were the undisputed authorities in matters of local history, and in 1967 there was a real appetite for all the history they could serve up.” 

The Institutes' expertise in compiling local history was central to the centennial celebrations in most rural communities in 1967. Ethel Chapman, Editor of the Women's Institute publication Home and Country said: “They are having a wonderful time. And they are teaching the younger generations Canada's history in a painless and delightful way.”


Tweedsmuir History - 2016

Today, Tweedsmuir Books are now officially "Tweedsmuir Community History Books" and the Curators are now called "Coordinators". Despite the name changes, Tweedsmuir books continue to be compiled by all levels of the Women’s Institute’s structure – Branch, District, Area and Province. While many are still in the homes of the Coordinators, others have been deposited in local archives, museums and other locations.

A number of these organisations and some WI Branches have digitized the collections in their care and some have placed them on the internet.  As well, between 2010 and 2013, the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) digitized nearly 70 collections at the Branch and District levels, primarily in Peterborough and Bruce Counties, as well as the Provincial level Tweedsmuirs and the Home & Country newsletters.   

In December 2015, we received a grant from the Government of Canada, through the Documentary Heritage Communities Program of Library and Archives Canada to create a platform to allow the public to access what had been digitized by OGS and the WI.  As well, a further 20,000 pages were digitized, including many documents from the Erland Lee (Museum) Home.  As of March 31, 2016, the start of our virtual archives has been realized.  Check it out at

We are now applying for further grants to continue digitizing documents and adding them to our virtual archives.