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Doing Genealogy in Alberta Part 2 – Other sources for BMD info

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Papers iStock

So, did the last entry on finding birth, death and marriage records make you feel discouraged? I hope not, because even though it may be a bit tougher to get vital events information in Alberta, you are researching the people who made this province, which, in my estimation, is the greatest province in Canada :)

And, as always, there are other records available that you can access to find out what you need to know. Here are a few alternative sources that may contain information about your ancestors “big events.”

Church Records:

Before we were required to register our births, marriages and deaths with the government, the churches were the places where such events were recorded. It helps to know what religion your ancestors practiced, as well as where they lived. Keep in mind, however, that especially in rural Alberta, people would baptize, marry and be buried by whichever church was nearby, if their particular denomination didn’t have a church in the vicinity. And if there wasn’t a church nearby, your ancestors may have had to register with either a travelling cleric or at a church well out of the way. This can lead to problems. For example, if there was no religious organization or travelling cleric available, the event might not have been registered. This is particularly true of baptisms, as births cannot be planned, as a rule, and if the event took place on a homestead miles from anywhere in the dead of winter, registering your child’s birth might not be uppermost on your mind.

A good source to check for approximate dates and for religious affiliations is the census. I will look at census records in more detail in an upcoming post.

The other difficulty with church records is where they are kept. Some religious organizations have established archives and keep their records there. Other religious groups keep their records at the church or at a district repository. In Alberta, the Provincial Archives holds some registers from the United Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church or the Edmonton or Athabasca diocese of the Anglican Church. The records of the Calgary diocese of the Anglican Church are held at the University of Calgary. There is a finding aid to the records available at the Calgary Public Library. There are numerous resources and numerous repositories for parish and religious records. Staff on the fourth floor at the Central Library can help look for the location of the records of a particular denomination.

Newspapers

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I love reading old newspapers. They are a wonderful window on the world as it was, but aside from that, the announcements can be a goldmine for the genealogy researcher. There are a number of ways to access historic Alberta newspapers. The Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library holds a number of early Alberta newspapers in microfilm format. There are also a number of projects that are digitizing early newspapers. Chief among these is the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project. This project consists of scanned images only so it is not searchable by name. There are projects that aim to index the announcements in some of these papers. One such project is The Recents which has indexes for a number of newspapers in Alberta and British Columbia.

Both the Alberta Family Histories Society and the Alberta Genealogical Society have online indexes to select years of some Alberta Newspapers.

Another source for digitized newspapers is Peel’s Prairie Provinces This project does allow for searching within an individual newspaper.

The Edmonton Journal and The Calgary Herald for select years are also available on Google Newspapers.

Paper indexes are also available for some newspapers. To find what we have in our collection, you can search the catalogue using the name of the place and "newspapers". We also have reference books that will help you determine what the newspaper was for a particular town, when it was published and where you can access copies. We can also help you arrange for an interlibrary loan of newspapers on microfilm.

Cemetery Transcriptions

One of the larger collections in the Community Heritage and Family History room is the cemetery transcription collection. We have numerous transcriptions from southern Alberta. There is also online access to a number of Alberta cemetery transcriptions through the Alberta Family Histories Society website and some through the Alberta Genealogical Society website. The City of Edmonton also has a database of information about burials in that city that happened more than 25 years ago.

Proof of Age Documents

These documents, which originated in the Pensions Branch, contain documents which were submitted by people applying for an old age pension or a Federal-Provincial disability pension and were not, for whatever reason, returned to the applicant. The index to these documents is available at the Calgary Public Library.

So, next post will be about census and substitutes. With census records, Alberta and the other prairie provinces have an edge as there are two extra federal censuses for us. So, until next week - Happy Hunting!

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