Take Stacey Culgin out for a family outing and chances are, she’ll soon wander off to chat with an elderly stranger.
“I love spending time with seniors. I really do,” the Debert resident said. “The family joke is, if we go somewhere, I’m on a bench somewhere talking to an old guy finding his story out… . And that’s what really makes my day, to go sit and talk with them.”
Culgin (nee McCully)is a lifelong Debert resident who recently published a book on the area’s past. Called An Historical Miscellany of Debert & Area, the book contains a wealth of information about the area’s first settlers, their homes, businesses and other interesting tidbits of an earlier time and way of life.
“Everybody has a story,” said Culgin, who has been actively working on the project for the past several years. “It’s one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done in my life.”
Her interst in genealogy began about 30 years ago when she started looking into her McCully family’s history. As she pored through the old pictures of her ancestors and others, McCully began to also develop an interest in the old houses and other buildings depicted in the black and white photographs.
“And then I tried to get the oldest picture of the house I could find,” he said. “And that leads to something else and that leads to the shed in the yard that used to be up on the Cottam Settlement. And why did it get moved down?” she said, of how her interest continued to grow.
Her love for digging through old pictures, newspapers, books and whatever else she could get her hands on led to eventually volunteering at the Colchester Historeum, which she has now been doing for about 20 years
For her own book, Culgin developed binders of files for each street in Debert and then began to edit her efforts down to a size manageable for public consumption.
Her research also involved speaking to as many elderly residents of the area she could connect with. And her goal was to have the book published “while a lot of these people who helped me are still around,” she said.
The book, which also contains many photographs, is not meant to read like a novel but is presented in an historical fashion. And that is precisely what she set out to do.
“It captures what I wanted it to,” Culgin said. “I am not a writer at all and it does not come easy to me. And I’m sure it shows up in this. I’m not an author and I’m not a writer. I’m a researcher and compiler.”
Humility aside, however, Culgin said she is more than pleased with the results she has been getting from people who have purchased her work.
“It’s sold a lot more copies than I ever dreamt so far,” she said.
Culgin initially had 200 copies printed, thinking there would be some left over for the Debert field day next summer.
So far, however, she has sold 400 copies and now is into her third printing order.
“I really thought that the generation that was most interested in it was my father’s generation. But it’s not,” she said. While that generation of residents is indeed interested, Culgin said, she is most surprised at the interest in the book from people of her own generation who have connections to the Debert area.
An example of that came from someone who sent her a message about how the book was a topic of family conversation at Christmas time and how it is sparking a newfound interest in genealogy by a younger audience.
“All of sudden they’re interested. And they’re asking questions and (saying) there’s stuff in there we didn’t know.”
And, author or not, Culgin said her first literary attempt is not her last.
“Next is the history of Belmont,” she said, with a broad smile in anticipation of the task ahead.
Culgin’s book sells for $20.
It can be purchased at the Colchester Historeum on Young Street in Toronto, at the Masstown Market and at Atlantic Systematic Envelopes in Bible Hill.