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Aboriginal Awareness Week

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Aborignal Awareness

This week is Aboriginal Awareness Week in Canada. Yesterday I took a stroll into Olympic Plaza (another one of the perks of working at the Central Library) and watched some of the events that celebrated the theme “Power of Youth, Wisdom of Elders.” There were young dancers and drummers in their traditional costumes, young people that carry the pride of their ancestry and the continuation of the old ways into the new millennium. I also listened to the speech by Narcisse Blood, who brought the wisdom of his elders into the debate on the relationship of man and nature in this new, commercial world.

In this blog I talk about our built environment, the historic buildings that are under threat or have been repurposed. I also talk about genealogy, which celebrates the past and our ancestors place in that past. I often think I have my head buried in the past with only passing concern for the future. But watching the young people celebrate their past and listening to Narcisse talk about moving into the future, using the wisdom of the past, I came to the realization that one is inseparable from the other. I know it is a cliché to say that those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it, but I believe that not only is there a very great chance that we won’t learn from what we know of the past, but that if we don’t learn, there may not be a future. Originally I had posted an entry this week about endangered places but listening to Narcisse’s speech, I realized that the First Nations people in this area of the country had already lost their places. The grasslands that supported the people are gone along with the buffalo which was hunted to near extinction in a very short period of time. Narcisse passed on the wisdom of his grandfather, who, rather than be impressed by his grandson’s catch of nine beautiful whitefish, admonished him to only take what he needed. This, possibly, is the way we need to approach what we have. This applies to places, to people, and to things. Let’s use only what we need. Let’s fix what we have and celebrate our successes. Let’s bring the past into the future and learn from what both our youth and our elders have to tell us. To quote Narcisse: “Greed is not an option.”

The Calgary Public Library has lots of resources for anyone who is interested in the history of the first peoples of this area. There is a very good collection in the Community Heritage and Family History section of the Central Library including some early accounts by explorers who were among the first to encounter the people who lived in this area.

Pc 849

Sarcee Camp

Postcards from the Past, PC 849

The Rivers that Shaped Calgary

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1308

At the Junction of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, Calgary

Postcards from the Past, PC1308

I’ve written before, I think, on the rivers of Calgary, or more specifically, on the floods in Calgary. But the theme of this week’s Heritage Roundtable got me thinking about the importance of the rivers in Calgary’s history. After all, we are a city with a district called Bridgeland – obviously, there is some importance attached to the rivers and the crossing of them. The earliest settlement of Calgary was established at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers. Fort Calgary was built in 1875 in what is now the east side of the city but at the time, and until the CPR decided to situate further west, it was the hub of settlement in this area. There is a reason that City Hall is in the east end of Calgary, that was, in the early years, where the action was.

It is possible that the decision to establish the settlement where the Bow and the Elbow meet was in keeping with the encampment of the First Nations people who would settle there for the winter. The bluffs around the city, carved by those very rivers, were suitable for use a buffalo jumps and the water was clear and clean and necessary for life. The Elbow River still serves as the source of our drinking water, which is some of the best in the world. This was not always the case. Before the construction of the Glenmore Dam, the city’s water was delivered via a gravity feed system from somewhere near Twin Bridges to a reservoir in what is now the Richmond Green golf course. Reports of small fish and other things coming through the taps prompted the building of a proper dam and water treatment system that still serves part of the city.

The history of the library was also affected by the river running through our centre. Alexander Calhoun felt it was necessary to establish Calgary’s first branch library on the north side of the Bow because the inhabitants of that side of the city were cut off from the “city proper”.

I can’t imagine what life would be like without those marvelous rivers. I remember lazy summer afternoons drifting down the Elbow, skipping school to swing on the rope in what is now Lindsay Park, but was, then, just scrub land. I love the summer walks in the Weaselhead area, watching the swallows building their nests on the bridges and visits to the pelicans at the weir in the Bow. The Bow and Elbow rivers have played an important role in many aspects of the growth and development of Calgary and they have provided the inhabitants of Calgary with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

PC 143

Bow River and Irrigation Canal, Calgary

Postcards from the Past PC143

In addition to the historic images of the rivers in and around Calgary available in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (link is on our homepage and to the left of this entry), we have a number of different books that have interesting information on the history of water in Calgary. Max Foran's Calgary: an illustrated history has a very good account of the founding of the city, as well as information about Calgary's water supply. From Prairie to Park by Morris Barraclough, which is available in the collection At Your Service: part 1 includes a very detailed history of Calgary's parks including the attempts by early horticultural pioneers such as William Pearce to bring irrigation, and therefore the ability to grow trees, into the city. We also have two books by John Gilpin on order for the collection: Elbow Valley: a People Place and Builders and Benefactors: the Story of Calgary's Parks and Open Spaces. both are listed in the library catalogue and, so, you can place a hold on either or both. We are looking forward to reading them ourselves.

New Stuff at the Canadian Genealogy Centre

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Open doors

The Canadian Genealogy Centre, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is provided by Library and Archives Canada to make searching for Canadian ancestors much easier. It is free to use and has a wide variety of information available. You can access it through this site:

There are several sections and I highly recommend to anyone who is starting their research to have a look at the “How to begin” section. You can also use the “Ancestors Search” function to search all of the indexed databases available at the CGC. However, not everything is indexed yet and sometimes you will just need to search as you would with microfilm. This is true of the new addition, the Form 30A which documents arrivals by ship between the years 1919-1924. These forms were to replace the large manifests that had previously served as records of arrival. The advantage of having each passenger fill out a form is that when they were filmed, they could be arranged in rough alphabetical order. This makes browsing a lot easier than with the manifests. The cards also included more information than the manifests, including, sometimes, a place of birth. Ancestry has indexed these records and you can search them through the library’s subscription to Ancestry LE (only in a library branch, though). You can also browse by name ranges. You can also access the images through AncestryLE but the images on the Canadian Genealogy Centre website seem clearer. Keep in mind that the form 30A was in official use from 1921 to 1924 but that some ports started using it in 1919 and some not until 1922. Also keep in mind that passengers continuing to the US were not required to fill in a card. Sometimes there is overlap and people appear in the form 30A and also in the passenger lists.

PC 1264

15th Light Horse Band

Postcards from the Past, PC 1264

Another addition to the databases in the Canadian Genealogy Centre is service records for soldiers, nurses and chaplains who served in the First World War. These records, when they are uploaded, are attached to the attestation papers that were previously available on the “Soldiers of the First World War” database. They are being added in an “on demand” fashion which means that if someone requests access to the records, once they are digitized they are uploaded to the database. This is a fairly common way for archives to enhance their databases within the constraints of budget and staffing. I did some poking around in the database and found some very interesting stuff. The young gentleman whose record I checked had been treated in hospital for a fairly personal problem I’m not sure he would have wanted his family to know about but, hey, all is fodder for the genealogist, right? The Soldiers of the First World War database is also linked to Ancestry LE but only the attestation papers appear. So, if you find someone in Ancestry in the Soldiers database, have a look at the Library and Archives Canada website to see if there is more information.

One more addition to the Canadian Genealogy Centre website that might be of interest is the list of headings for all of the Canadian censuses (censi?) from 1851 on. This can be accessed under the heading “Most Requested Records” by clicking on Census or by clicking on “What to Search” in the blue bar on the left of the page.

So, keep the Canadian Genealogy Centre top of mind for Canadian research. They are always adding guides (check out the new guides for Ukrainian, Finnish and German researchers – click on What to Search: Topics> Ethno-Cultural and Aboriginal Groups) and new databases. This is THE place to start for beginning researchers and a good place to check for new and interesting databases.

Remember, if you have any questions about genealogy, we’re always ready to help. You can call us at 403-260-2692 or email us at hum1@calgarypubliclibrary or come down and talk to us. We have our genealogy Saturdays on the last Saturday of the month with coaches from Alberta Family Histories Society providing one-on-one coaching from 10-noon and the Genealogy Meet-up from 2-4 all at the Central Library on the 4th floor. We also like to get comments and suggestions from our readers so please let us know what you think or what suggestions you have for future posts. To leave a comment, click on the title of the article and scroll down the page. There is a comments box there and we would love to hear from you.

Shaganappi Golf Course

by Christine Hayes


Sometimes, when you see something every day, you actually stop seeing it in any real sense. Such, for me, is the Shaganappi golf course. I have passed it at least once a day nearly every day of my adult life. I grew up and still live in the west side of the city and I travel down Bow Trail nearly every day. I had stopped seeing the golf course. Now, of course, it is hidden behind the construction for the new leg of the LRT but it is still back there. I have had occasion recently, to gather some of my friends and neighbours around me to reminisce and my next door neighbor reminded me that she is a fifth generation Calgarian and told me the story of her grandfather, Joe Ferguson, who was the pro and the man responsible for the care of the Shaganappi golf course for many , many years. I was intrigued, especially when she told me that Joe actually lived on the golf course.

This picture is from Morris Barraclough's book and was given to him by Joe Ferguson. It shows the opening of the new municipal golf course in 1916:


From Prairie to Park, page 59

This, of course (and my friends are well aware that I am mining their conversations for blog inspiration) caught my fancy. Several years ago a donation was made to the Community Heritage and Family History collection. It consisted of notes and a manuscript of Morris Barraclough’s From Prairie to Park: Green Spaces in Calgary, which was part of the Century Calgary publications for the centennial of the founding of Calgary in 1975. I knew Morris had interviewed Joe and had documentation on the history of Shaganappi Park and golf course. It proved to be a treasure trove. Excerpts from the Superintendent’s report on Shaganappi from 1905 show that the 80 acres on the west side of the city, which were a gift from the Dominion Government, were considered unsuitable for park purposes but could be improved for field sports. In fact, in 1914, a 9 hole golf course was proposed, both for the purposes of enjoyment but also as a means to increase the revenue of the street railway, which ran out that way. By 1915 an 18 hole golf course built, sort of. 2,153 people teed off between August 7th (the date of its opening) and November 30 when it closed for the winter (really!) The following year it opened in March and some of the greens and tees were relocated on the advice of the players. William Reader, then parks superintendent “loaned a number of chairs and tables (my personal property) for use at the Club House, without expense to the city except for cleaning at their return.” That year 7582 people teed off at Shaganappi. In 1917, shortly after opening in March, the course burned over and the pro from the Banff golf course was called in to re-plan it. It became a very popular course and by 1920 it was seeing nearly 15,000 golfers a season. Golfers so loved it that on fair days in the winter, although the course was officially closed, golfers could come out to play.

The Shaganappi municipal golf course will celebrate its 100th anniversary very soon. It is very satifying to see that he course is still in use. Many of us who grew up near Shaganappi remember wheeling off on our bikes with two or three clubs slung across our backs to hack away on the municipal course. Many of my friends became life-long golfers and now take their kids to Shaganappi to knock around a few balls.

Morris Barraclough's great history of parks in Calgary is available at the Calgary Public Library. It is called From Prairie to Park: Green Spaces in Calgary and is included in the Centennial Calgary volume At Your Service Part 1. The items so kindly donated by his family are in the process of being added to the collection.

I am always looking for ideas for this blog. Do you have any historical or genealogical subjects you would like to see written about? Pop your suggestion into the comments at the bottom of this page and we'll do our best to round up a photo and write a short article.