Latest Posts

On Line

The Heritage Triangle PDF link

Mysterious Young Ladies of Missouri

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)




I absolutely love old photographs of people. I am lucky to have several photographs of my ancestors and extended family that have been passed down through the years, and I am even luckier that the people in these photographs have been identified. It's wonderful to be able to attach faces to the names on my family tree. I also love looking at the clothing and hair styles, and at the props used in the photo studio. These images are a wonderful genealogical and historical resource.

Many antique and internet dealers have Victorian carte-de-visite (2.5 inches by 4 inches) or cabinet card (4.25 inches by 6.5 inches) photographs for sale. These photographs are plentiful, and tend to be inexpensive, so I have added a few "adopted ancestors" to my collection over the years. (I am always sure to note on the back in pencil that I BOUGHT them, rather than inherited them. No sense causing headaches for future researchers in my family!) These photographs sometimes come with information written on them, but often the only clue to their origins is the printed name and location of the photographer on the mounting card. I'll admit that it saddens me a bit that some of these photographs have traveled far, and have been around for a very long time, only to end up in a random "for sale" box in Canada!

I recently purchased two carte-de-visite photographs of sisters at a local antique sale. The backs of the photos have the printed name of the photographer, "Cramer", and the location of his studio in St. Louis, Missouri. The only other information on them is the first names of the girls written on the back of each photo - "Lucretia" and "Sallie". I liked the photographs themselves anyway, but I was unable to pass up the mystery included in the price. Using their names, and my sleuthing skills, would I be able to figure out who these girls were? (If their names were "Mary" and "Jane", I wouldn't even have attempted to search for them!)

The elder sister, "Sallie", appears to be about 12-14 years old, and "Lucretia" appears to be about 10-12 years old. They are well-dressed, in fashions most likely from the 1880s, and I know from the studio stamp that at some point around that time frame the girls were in St. Louis, Missouri. So now how to find them?

The Calgary Public Library subscribes to a database called "Heritage Quest Online", available in the "History and Genealogy" section of our E-Library. Heritage Quest's main focus is American history, and it gives you access to hundreds of scanned genealogical books, Revolutionary War records, Freedman's Bank Records (for researching African American ancestors) and PERSI (The Periodical Source Index), which is a collection of 2.3 million genealogy and local history articles. This database also gives you access to the full set of U.S. federal census records for 1790-1930, and all of these features can be accessed from home.

The best place to start with a search like this is often the census records. I went to Heritage Quest Online, clicked on the "Census" link, and then entered "Sallie" with no surname. With the girls’ fashions appearing to be from the 1880s, I selected "1880" as the census year to begin my search, and selected "Missouri" as the state.

On the 1880 census, there were 5075 women in Missouri named "Sallie". Of these, 643 lived in St. Louis County. Fortunately "Lucretia" is a far less common name, and it appeared only 537 times in the state of Missouri. Still a relatively large result, but only 57 of these entries appeared in St. Louis. A considerably narrower search! When I clicked on the name of the county to view the records, the ages of all the "Lucretias" appeared alongside their names. (Very helpful!) The younger girl in the photographs appears to be around the age of 10-12, but I decided to check those between 8-15 years old. (Victorian clothing styles sometimes make children appear to be older than they are.) These criteria eliminated all but six entries on the list. Could one of these "Lucretias" have had a sister named "Sallie"? I clicked on each possible match in St. Louis, and found that only one on the list, ten-year-old Lucretia Hazard, had a sister named "Sallie", who was twelve in 1880. Their father James is listed as a "merchant", which is a good match for the socioeconomic status indicated by the clothing of the girls. If this is the correct family, these photographs were taken around 1879-1882. These photographs are in very good shape, considering that they are 130 years-old, so they were obviously well cared for before they ended up for sale.

Of course, there is no way to conclusively confirm that these photographs are of the Hazard sisters without further research. It's possible that I could be off in my estimation of the date of the photographs. It could also be a coincidence that the Hazard family had daughters with these two names, and these girls could instead have been members of another family that was passing through St. Louis, or visiting from elsewhere. They may also have been cousins, rather than sisters. However the names of the girls, their ages, the city they lived in, the occupation of their father and the time frame indicated by their clothing are all a match, so it's quite possible that I have solved the mystery! (I have located a family tree online for these lovely ladies, so I’ll try to see if I can get them “home”.)




Historic Calgary Week, 2011

by Christine Hayes - 3 Comment(s)

PC 712f

Eighth Avenue West

Postcards from the Past, PC 712f

It’s that time of year again. Chinook Country Historical Society’s Historic Calgary Week kicks off on Friday. This year the theme is Trails and Tales and, believe me, are there ever some great stories waiting to be told. The opening ceremonies are at the Southern Alberta Pioneers Memorial building at 3625 4 Street SW at 9:45 am and what follows is eleven days of tours, stories, presentations, songs and over all celebration of this city’s history. There is an excellent line-up this year including our presentation of “Lest we forget” in which we will talk a little about the military heritage of the city and show you some of the very neat things we have for anyone doing research about the military in Calgary or about an ancestor who served with the military. This one is proving to be quite a challenge for us to pull together because we have SO MUCH STUFF! It’s amazing what you find when you start looking. Even though I’ve been working with the collection for eons (literally, I’m a dinosaur) I always find new bits and pieces when I start one of these projects. Our program goes July 27 at 6:00 here at the Central Library.

Another presentation that I am looking forward to is the talk by Brian Brennan on the history of the Calgary Public Library. Brian has written the history of the library for our centennial celebration next year. I always love to hear Brian talk and the subject of this particular presentation is near and dear to my heart. This presentation is at the Memorial Park Library, our very first Central Library (1221 2nd Street SW) on Tuesday July 26 at 7:00. This is going to be a treat.

There is also going to be a tour of another proud centenarian, our old City Hall. Clint Robertson, one of the city’s Heritage Planners, is going to tell us about the architecture of old sandstone beauty and show us some of the changes that have been made over the years. He will also take us into the City of Calgary Archives. For any of you who are history geeks like me, you have to see what is in the archives. The staff there are the greatest and they have even cooler stuff than we do (well, mostly – our stuff is still pretty cool). City Archives are our partners, along with Glenbow, in the Heritage Triangle (see our brochure) and is a necessary visit for researchers and the history-curious.

John Gilpin will also be giving a talk on the Elbow River and the waterworks question at noon on Monday July 25 at Central United Church. I’ve heard John talk and he is like the Local History Room, just packed with fascinating bits of historical information.

Also on the agenda are two programs for the genealogically inclined offered by the Alberta Family Histories Society at their library at 712 16th Avenue NW. They will be offering a Genealogy 101 course for those interested in getting started in their family history and they will present “Here’s looking up your address” on Thursday July 28 at 7:00.

Clayton Buck, the indefatigable promoter of this great neighbourhood we are in (East Village) is giving a walking tour of the Village on Sunday July 31. The CHA is giving a tour of Mount Royal, CHI is doing a tour of West Connaught and the Beltline, Mount Royal University is talking about its centennial history, Southern Alberta Pioneers are giving talks about some of the early denizens of the Calgary area, Harry Sanders, another fascinating speaker, is talking about his passion, early hotels of Calgary...the list goes on and on. I wish I could list more but I’m running out of space. You really have to check out the Historic Calgary Week brochure. You can find it at Most programs are free, although donations are always gratefully accepted, and most don’t require registration (although there are a few exceptions, due to space limitations – these are noted in the brochure)

Keep an eye out, we will be attending as many of these events as we can fit in – come by and say ‘Hi!’

I.O.D.E. War Memorial in Central Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1478

PC 1478

Royal Visits

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 719

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the Calgary Train Station, May 26, 1939

Postcards from the Past, PC 719

It was a very exciting Stampede Parade this year. There hasn’t been this kind of buzz for a very long time. And much of it, I think, was due to the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It was very nice to see this young, royal couple enchanting the crowd and breathing new life into our (nearly) 100 year old celebration.

The excitement raised by this visit reminds me a little of the visit of Wills’s grandparents, Queen Elizabeth, and King George VI. They came to Calgary in May of 1939, just before the world would be changed by the Second World War. Things were looking grim in Europe when the Royal couple came to visit so the city needed it’s spirits lifted. The Royal Visit gave us that. It was an enormous undertaking. Thirty thousand children were brought in to the city from points around Southern Alberta. Each child was given a bottle of milk and lapel pin as well as flags to wave as they greeted the Royals. The city anticipated over 75,000 visitors would come to Calgary, doubling the city’s population. This all for a visit that lasted only two hours.

The itinerary for our royal visitors was jam packed but they managed to squeeze in an unscheduled stop to visit a First Nations encampment at Mewata Park. The said that this was the highlight of their visit. Even though it was not Stampede, the King had asked if it would be possible to witness wild bronc riding. This event had to be scrapped because the enthusiasm of the crowd raised fears that people would panic. There were two chuckwagons on the site, however. It is not known if the King offered to throw a cook stove into the back of one. The Queen remarked to Mrs. Davison, wife of the mayor, “I am only sorry we are not able to see some of your Stampede events in Calgary.”

PC 729

The visit was covered minute by minute by the local newspapers. There was also a souvenir programme produced for the event which included a map of the route of the parade and an article by Alexander Calhoun on “Calgary, the garden city of the west.” The schedule shows what should have been a two day visit, but was obviously seriously curtailed. This is in our clippings file “Visits of State” in the Local History room. We also have a number of books relating to the royal visit including one from a railway perspective (the tour was made on a special Royal train.) You can find information about this and all of the other royal visits by searching the catalogue using the words 'visits state canada'.

Souvenir Programme of the Royal Visit

The Story of the Big Ditch

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

The Story of the Big Ditch

The Story of the Big Ditch by E. Cora Hind

From the Community Heritage and Family History Collection, Calgary Public Library

We here in the Community Heritage and Family History department are extremely lucky in that we get to work with a really cool collection and we also get to meet many very interesting people, both in the library and at outreach events. We always learn something from our customers and sometimes the researchers we meet know more about our collection that we do. This is true of a small piece of memorabilia that we have in our collection – The Story of the Big Ditch by E. Cora Hind. It was pointed out that we are possibly the only repository of this beautiful little suede covered booklet that was issued for a very special event….but first, some background.

Anyone who has driven south of Calgary for any distance is aware of the fact that we are drylanders. The southern part of Alberta, beautiful as it is, was once suitable only for grazing cattle. One can only imagine the dream of a man who looked at this prairie and thought what a wonder it would be if only water could be brought to it. Thankfully, there were men who could see at least what irrigating land would bring in terms of profit. Irrigated lands in Southern Alberta could be sold for nearly twice what non-irrigated lands could bring. As a result, many companies got into the irrigation business in Southern Alberta as an adjunct to their land business. The government was amenable to these businessmen, as it meant that their goal of settling the west could be met, while the expense of improving the land on which settlers would live would be borne by other organizations.

This is, in essence, the reason for the existence of the Southern Alberta Land Company in the early part of the 20th century. They had land, they wanted to sell it for more than they paid for it, and so they developed a scheme to irrigate a large tract (several large tracts, in fact) of land west of Medicine Hat.

The official opening of the irrigated tract of the Southern Alberta Land Company was to take place on September 12, 1912. The Duke and Duchess of Connaught and the Governor General were scheduled to be in attendance. This lovely brochure was produced but the event never took place. (You can see it online at the Internet Archive - The intake at the headworks of the project had collapsed in a flood in May. In spite of that, the brochure states that “the intake dam has added greatly to the beauty of the river” and “this gigantic undertaking is all but completed” when in fact the intake had been quite seriously damaged (contrary to what was told to the Financial Post in November of 1912) that the damage was not extensive and “has only delayed the turning on of the water a little”) and repairs would only be started a year later. Building was delayed by the war and many other trials and tribulations hit the company. The story is a long and interesting one and is well documented in the book Prairie Promises: History of the Bow River Irrigation District by John Gilpin (who I must also thank for the heads up on The Story of the Big Ditch)