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A New Year in a (soon to be) New Country

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 841

Interior of a Newspaper Printing Office, Daysland, Alberta, ca. 1914

Postcards from the Past, 841

Facing another decade in the new millennium, I was pondering, as I often do, the doings of our forebears as they entered a new year and, really, a new era at the beginning of the year that would see the formation of our country. New Year’s Day in 1867 was a Tuesday. The papers were published (at least the Globe and Mail was published) so I was able to read about the goings on in Toronto, Canada West, for that day. What were those hard working, decent people, those solid citizens, up to as they prepared to meet the new year? Well….from the front page of the Globe:


Monday Dec. 31

"…As usual on a Monday morning a considerable number of drunk and disorderly persons came before his Worship.

Michael Blake, 47, drunk, not known to police, was fined $2 and costs, in default 20 days in gaol. …It appeared that he had been found drunk on Church Street, with a considerable amount of money in his pocket, and his Worship thought that it was worth something to him, under the circumstances, to be taken care of by the constables, and so he was made to disgorge.

Margaret Kennedy, 31, vagrant, known to the police, was sent to gaol for 20 days. She …has been going round, book-in-hand, begging, ostensibly for an apocryphal widow named Sophia Shaw. Among others, she bled his Worship to the amount of a couple of dollars. She entered volubly into a history of herself, Sophia Shaw, and their affairs, which narrative was stopped with some difficulty, by the time she had succeeded in mystifying the Court and all present."

Not everyone was whoopin’ it up. The various churches held celebrations in fitting with their “dispositions”. Members of the Methodist congregation prayed out the old year and in the new. St. John’s Church held a midnight service, the bells at St. James were rung from 11:30 PM and military and other bands played.

I can read these articles because the library has a subscription to “Globe and Mail: Canada’s Heritage from 1844” in the E-Library. This is a searchable database and is just one of three historic newspaper subscriptions that we have. We also have “Toronto Star: Pages from the Past” which dates from 1894 and the “Times of London Digital Archive 1785-1985”. These can be of great interest to genealogists researching in the area because they are searchable. I ran a search on one of my family names through the Globe and Mail and found an article about a boy from Norwood who had been kicked in the mouth by a horse. Not necessarily a nice article, but one that contained information about a possible ancestor (yes, weird information but that’s what makes genealogy so interesting.)

You can also use these databases to find details about the life and times of people in the past. Because we don’t have a good index for the Calgary Herald, we often use the Toronto papers when we are looking for dates of significant events, especially in the area of military history. When we find the date of a particular battle, or of the death of a soldier, we can go to the right date of the Herald and look for local coverage.

Newspapers can be gold mines of information for genealogists and historians. Check out our historic newspapers in the E-Library section of the Calgary Public Library homepage. The link is in the black bar at the top of the page. Once you’ve entered the E-Library, choose History and Genealogy from the menu and then, from the menu that comes up, select your newspaper. You will need to enter your Calgary Public Library barcode from the back of your card and your PIN.


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