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Eau Claire

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

AJ 1288

Former Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Mill Offices, converted to Centre Cafe

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, ca1964

What is it about January that makes me all sentimental? I don’t know, but I do start to look at things that were familiar in my youth and think, “Ah, yes, I remember.” One of those moments was sparked by an article in the September 30, 1919 issue of the Calgary Daily Herald that I encountered while I was (supposed to be) transcribing birth, marriage and death announcements. It was an article about the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company and the improvements it had made, which made it one of the most modern mills in Western Canada. My memories of Eau Claire were different. Of course, while I was growing up, I’d known of Peter Prince and Eau Claire, but the district itself was not a place where nice people went. My memories of Eau Claire looked like the Alison Jackson photo above; run down, a little bit scary and certainly not a worthy development on the banks of our beautiful Bow.

It was hard, then, to imagine the mill, but not hard to imagine that this was once a large, industrial site. It had a look of neglect. It wasn’t until I started to pursue the history of Peter Prince and the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company that I discovered what a massive operation it was and how important it was in the development of Western Canada. It provided the materials that would be needed to build the new houses and farms and shops and other buildings that would grow up around the CPR line. The name of the company and the district that would grow up around it came from a place in Wisconsin. When the government was looking to sell off the lumber rights to the timber stands in the Bow Valley, a Winnipeg lawyer named MacFee got the news and saw that there was money to be made. He had inside information from a friend, David MacDougall, son of the Reverend George, who ran a trading post next door to the church on the Nakoda nation. MacFee needed the expertise of industry insiders and since Eau Claire, Wisconsin was the centre of the US logging industry (and had lured many Canadians south to work for them) he headed there. The lumbermen saw the potential and formed the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Co, and two expat Canadians came north to Fort Calgary. President Isaac Kerr was born in Ontario and manager Peter Prince, whose magnificent home was moved to Heritage Park, was born in Quebec. As part of the agreement with the government, the leases were surveyed in 1884 and these documents now live at the Glenbow Archives, along with lots of other records about the company. The surveys can be viewed online through the Archives Society of Alberta database. Here is the link for the Bow River limits survey.

By 1886 Prince had a small mill operating on the land the company had purchased just north of the Calgary townsite. Logging crews were dispatched and by 1887 there were log drivers on the Bow. The company grew as the demand for their product grew. To better access the mill, a channel was dug through a small isthmus, giving us what is known today as Prince’s Island. Kerr and Prince would also be instrumental in harnessing the power of the Bow River to provide electricity. The picture below shows the power generating plant. Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber would remain in business until 1945.

So, from the industrial to the residential, Eau Claire has had a varied history. I still like to wander around down there (now that I can do so safely) and think, “Ah yes, I remember.”

If you are interested in the history of the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company, there is an excellent chapter in an excellent book about the Bow River, The River Returns by Armstrong, Evenden and Nelles.

 

The Flood Gates, Bow River, Calgary

Postcards from the Past, PC 797

 

PC 797

Library and Archives Canada Launches New Census Databases

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

1891 Canada Census

Page from the 1891 Canada Census

With all the kerfuffle over the changes to collection access and services at Library and Archives Canada, I haven’t been paying much attention to what they are actually doing out there in Ottawa. I was directed to a great database at their site, the Veterans’ Death Cards records, by a member of the AFHS. Because it fit in very well with my work on the Lest We Forget Project, I was very excited that I had more information on the soldiers that the students in the Project were working on. It turned out that the Veterans’ Cards were just the beginning.

I went on to do a bit more exploring of the databases that LAC has put up. A great place to find out about these digitized records is through the Library and Archives Canada Blog. Anyone who has ancestors in Canada should subscribe to this one, because it turns out, they have been digitizing all kinds of records. For example, they have just put up a new “edition” of the 1906 census of the Northwest Provinces that now includes the ability to search by name and ages. In December, they began a process to launch 15 census databases including very early returns from New France. While many of these haven’t been indexed they can be viewed page by page (and the really early ones aren’t that long anyhow.) The blog also includes information about the release of the next Canadian census (1921 – Yay)

The Ancestors Search on the LAC website will catch a lot of the databases. You can see what is available and which databases are part of the search here Included are passenger lists, border entry records, land records and military records.

Another way to search the digitized holdings of Library and Archives Canada is to use the Archives Advanced Search and select “Yes “the drop-down menu beside Online. I used the search term census and found censuses of various First Nations as well as the Federal census records.

Another link you should try is the listing of Microform Digitizations That list includes the recently digitized War of 1812 records So, although it can be a bit of a struggle to find the records, they are there and are well worth looking for, especially now that we can’t get the microfilm from Library and Archives Canada anymore.

Have you got a suggestion for a really great website that you’d like all the other genealogists out there to know? Let me know. I'd love to hear from you.

Century Homes Database Launched!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Century Home

One of the beautiful residences in the Century Homes database

Photograph courtesy James McMenamin,

Have you ever wandered past an old house and wondered when it was built, who used to live there, and what stories it contains? I know I do this all the time and, because I work in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library, I have resources at my fingertips that allow me to do a little house genealogy in my spare time. But today, we have launched a new database that will make information about the Century Homes in our city available online to anyone who cares to look.

If you read this blog regularly you will have read about the Century Homes Project. Most recently I posted that Century Homes had won a Governor General’s History Award for Community Programming. It was, and still is, a great initiative that got people involved in documenting their own century homes and sharing that information on signs posted in their yards. As part of the legacy of Century Homes (and because we don’t like to lose any information at all about the history of our beautiful city) Calgary Public Library is hosting the database that was created using the photographs and documentation that were created. It was launched this morning at City Hall and boy, are we chuffed. (You can see the Mayor's presentation to the proud Century Homes folks here) We’ve been working away at transcribing and uploading and doing all the things that are involved in getting a major project like this off the ground and we are delighted with the results. As of today we have all the photographs loaded and have about 100 of the yard signs transcribed. We will continue with the transcription until we have every bit of information in the database and accessible to everyone.

We invite you to have a look at this newest addition to our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. If you are interested in having your century home included in the 2013 tour (and in our database), check out the Century Homes website.

Your New Year's Resolution - Trace your Family Tree

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Files

So, was one of your New Year’s resolutions to get started on your family history? If it was, great; if it wasn’t, why not? Researching your ancestors is one of the fastest growing hobbies (although I hesitate to call it that) in North America. Companies like Ancestry and Findmypast are making genealogical records available, and making money while doing it. Who would have thought it would come to this? When Calgary Public Library purchased a collection of census records on microfilm, it made the papers, now those very records can be searched by name online. It is nearly painless – or so it would appear at the outset. However, if you have made a resolution to start your family history, I want to give you a little bit of advice so that you can fall in love with genealogy research, rather than becoming so frustrated that you completely abandon it. The wealth of information available on the internet and through subscription services like Ancestry is both a blessing and a curse. That we have this information at our fingertips is the good part. The bad part is that we have ALL this information at our fingertips, and it can be quite overwhelming to sort through the 20,000 hits you get from your first search attempt on Ancestry. So here are a few pointers for you newbies out there:

  • Start with yourself. This seems kind of silly when you already know everything about yourself, but recording all of your information can provide important clues to where to look for the information about those who went before. It is a lot easier to look for information when you have a specific question in mind. So, write down your data - name, birthdate, spouse, children, parents. It helps to have it in a pedigree chart, so that when you are asking for help, or need to remind yourself of what you’re doing, you have the relationships and basic information at a glance. You can find blanks of pedigree charts all over the internet but the Canadian Genealogy Centre has a nice, clear chart that contains the basic information you will need to proceed.

  • Start organizing before you have anything to organize. It pays to have an organizational system in place before you collect so much information that entering it or filing it becomes an overwhelming chore. (Trust me on this one) You may choose to use software to keep you organized and you may want to keep your records as paper copies. Either way, it really does help to have a strategy in place for storing and retrieving before you actually get started.

  • Once you have all that you know written down, decide what information you would like to find out about which ancestor. Write these questions down so you will have something to help you focus on task and less likely to be sidetracked by all the cools stuff you will find.

  • Find a good how-to guide for the area you are researching. You will need to find out what kinds of records are available, where they are and how you access them. Keep in mind that not everything is digitized. I can’t tell you the number of times I have come across a defeated genealogist who has been searching online sources in vain for information that simply is not there. Check the websites of genealogical societies in the area or check out mega-sites like Cyndi’s List to see what is out there.

  • Document your sources. I know this sounds like high school but when you want to go back to your records, because your research has lead you to believe that the person listed on the page below your ancestor is actually in your family tree, you will want to find that source again. We have, on occasion, been able to identify the source of a photocopied page for a customer, but that is sheer luck, and while luck can’t be discounted in the pursuit of ancestral information, it most often comes to the well prepared.

  • Finally, keep in mind that a problem shared is a problem solved. There are any number of places where you can meet like-minded researchers who will only be too glad to help you. We are obviously your first choice <grin>. We offer Family History Coaching on the last Saturday of the month from 10 to noon on the 4th floor of the Central Library. Volunteer coaches and library staff are available to help you with your questions, no matter what your level of research. Our volunteers come from the Alberta Family Histories Society, which is also a great resource for genealogists. You can attend their meetings on the first Monday of each month or you can do research at their library and get help from the dedicated volunteers there. Check out their website for details. There is also help to be had at the Family History Centers in Calgary. These are connected with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose efforts in finding, preserving and making available (free of charge) records from around the world are making genealogy research a much less daunting task. Check out their site. In addition to the records themselves, they have a great wiki that can help you learn about all aspects of genealogy in most countries of the world.

PC 1046

Details of a personal postcard "Greetings from Calgary"

Postcards from the Past, PC 1046

So, there is your New Year’s Resolution tied up. Come visit us at the Central Library for information, assistance or advice. We are always glad to have you.

A Bookless Library...and Other Wonders

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Microphotography

 

Professor Fessenden's Photographic Dictionary

Daily Herald, December 29, 1896, p3

Viewed on Our Future Our Past

With the New Year approaching, I was at loose ends as to what my first blog entry of 2013 was going to be. In effect, I rung out the old year in the last post and I wanted to find something, well…weird…to start off a year that seems to portend some bad karma (not that I’m suspicious, or anything, but there are two Friday the 13ths in 2013 and I feel maybe we just jumped the shark with that Mayan calendar thing).

So, I reverted to form and started reading the newspapers to see what I could find that was weird and wonderful. The first article that caught my eye was an article written in December of 1896 that referred to a ‘bookless library’. Publishing houses were churning out huge amounts of literature and libraries were bursting at the seams (some things don’t change). An inventor was offering a solution – a device that would record information on photographic plates and then project them on a wall. Reginald A. Fessenden, a Canadian-born scientist, had developed form of microphotography which would allow large volumes of material to be stored in a small space. With the invention of such technology, what would become of the libraries? Books as we know them would cease to exist and libraries would be stocked with microform. Sound familiar?

Interestingly, I read about this on Our Future Our Past, in a digitized version of the microfilm copy of the Daily Herald. It is interesting that with the arrival of e-books and digital formats we are facing the same questions in the 21st century as did in the 19th. It is also, perhaps ironic, that we are still talking about preserving collections of microfilm, which, for many, remains the most durable of the storage formats. Anyone who has attended my genealogy presentations knows my old joke – if 2013 proves to be the end of the world as we know it, the cockroaches will read about us on microfilm.

Bicycle buggy

 

 

I couldn’t end this post on such a glum note, so I included this invention, the Bicycle Buggy, said to be sure to scare any self-respecting horse which encounters it. (Calgary Daily Herald January 5, 1891 p 2 viewed on Our Future Our Past)