For decades, the people of Manitoba have been awarded a plaque to commemorate their ancestors.

But a new study has determined the province is missing out on the very reason people are trying to get one.

The research, published Monday in the Journal of American Folklore, says the province could save more than $1 million a year if it could obtain a new plaque.

“If we can get it, then we can have a permanent plaque for our family tree and a permanent memorial that honors the history of our family, our community, and the history and culture of the province,” said lead author Dr. Krista M. O’Neill.

“It’s a really important milestone in our family history.”

“It can provide a real legacy for our children and grandchildren and their descendants.”

The study, which surveyed nearly 5,000 Manitobans, was conducted in 2018 by the Manitoba Historical Association.

“We looked at how well families were performing at their own memorialization, and how well they were doing in our community,” said O’Neil.

“And we found that if we can do a plaque, we could save millions of dollars.”

In order to qualify, a family would need to have at least two generations of people who have a lineage of at least 500 generations.

The Manitoba Historical Society, which was instrumental in making this milestone possible, had previously conducted the study in 2014 and 2016.

The study found that only 3 per cent of Manitoban descendants had received a plaque since the 1920s.

“The fact that the community has been doing this for over 100 years now is really an amazing achievement,” said researcher Dr. Elizabeth Lantz.

“That’s really the only way we can actually say that we’ve been making strides in a very long time.”

Dr. O.B. Maughan, executive director of the Manitoba History Association, said the study showed the province had an “unprecedented opportunity” to establish a permanent, state-of-the-art memorial for its families.

“I think that’s what we really need to celebrate,” said Maugha.

“There are a lot of things that have gone on over the years that are absolutely critical to this, and if we do this right, it will provide a wonderful legacy.”

In a written statement, Manitoba Heritage Minister Mike Harcourt said the province was “very pleased” with the study.

“This new research reinforces what we have always said about our legacy, and I am confident Manitobians will appreciate this significant milestone,” said Harcourt.

“Our province is committed to providing the best service possible to Manitobers and to protecting the history that is in our families, and we are working diligently to make sure our families have a special place in our hearts.”

Maugha said the new study also found that Manitoba was in the top five provinces in the country when it came to how many descendants had a plaque.

The province has the third-highest number of deceased Manitobas among all provinces, behind only Quebec and Ontario.

The new research also found Manitobatas history is a “complex, multi-layered” one, with many generations of families passing away at a time, and some still living today.

“People who have the ability to move on, those are the ones who are making this happen,” said Lantz, adding the province would like to be able to preserve Manitobass history for future generations.

Maughan said the Manitoba Heritage Department will be working with other stakeholders in the province to develop a plaque for Manitobamans.

“You don’t have to be a native Manitobaman to appreciate that,” said she.

“They are just trying to be the voice for Manitomans.”

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