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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.

Vive le papier! or, It’s not all available on the Internet

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

paper

I have given many a genealogy seminar on the wonderful online resources available for family history research. But I have also given a lot of talks to beginning genealogists and many are surprised to find that not everything is available electronically.” What”, you say, “not everything is online!!!?” Sad, but true, and possible the best example of this comes from this very province. Access to vital records like births, deaths and marriages in Alberta still requires a request for a search through a registry office. There is no online access to the records at all. However, there is a paper index which covers events prior to 1905.

Before we had newspaper and magazine indexes online (that would be back in the days before there was such a thing as online) we used print indexes to find articles. Even now, with our wonderful collection of online resources for finding magazine articles (have a look in the E-Library to see some of the great databases) there is still very limited coverage prior to 1988. So, we still have the paper indexes on the third floor. Since my library experience dates from the “cardaceous” period, when card catalogues roamed the earth, I am familiar with these indexes and actually use them to find information that predates the electronic age. One such bit of research involved a customer who was looking for an article that was written about a friend’s grandmother and was published in a Canadian magazine, perhaps Maclean’s. The woman had started her own temp agency and was profiled because it was such an unusual thing for a woman to be an entrepreneur and the head of a successful business. The customer was pretty sure that the article was a cover story and thought he remembered photographs. The date of the article was some time in the 50s or 60s. We had the name of the company and the name of the owner. Nothing turned up in a search of the internet or in any of our online indexes. We had no clipping files on the business in Local History and we were going to give up hope but we remembered our old CPI.Q and rushed down to have a look. Sure enough, we turned up a reference to a Maclean’s article from 1954 which included photographs. A quick trip to the basement, and we had the article.

This is a good reminder to genealogists, and all researchers, that we are still a long way from having everything available at the click of a mouse. There are still valuable resources available that can’t be accessed through Google (or even Ancestry). The following indexes, housed on the third floor of the Central Library, are prime examples: Reader’s Guide, Canadian News Index and Canadian Periodicals Index can be used to find articles in magazines and newspapers that haven’t yet made it online. Check them out and see if your family made the papers.

Calgary Public Library Card Catalogue in the 1970s

Calgary Public Library: Our Story in Pictures, CPL 235-05-11

CPL 238 05 11

Canadian Federal Voters Lists in Ancestry

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Ancestry LE

Thanks to the Alberta Family Histories Society discussion list, I found out about an excellent new resource available to genealogists researching their Canadian roots. Often, in the absence of census records, we suggest that our genealogists check out the voters lists for the area they are researching. We have the municipal voters lists in paper format in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. We also have one set of Federal Voters Lists, for 1974. We used to have to borrow other years from Library and Archives Canada on microfilm. Now Ancestry has put up Federal Voters Lists for Canada for 1935-1980. Most of these images have been indexed, but a few of the later years are still only available as images for browsing. (The indexing was done by OCR and if you have a look at some of those later lists, you’ll understand why they haven’t been indexed.) To find your people in the indexed lists, you can go to the Canadian Voters Lists database in Ancestry and type in the name. Keep in mind that OCR indexing is far from perfect and it may still be necessary to browse the lists, if you know someone should be somewhere but their name doesn’t turn up. You can also find people in the un-indexed lists, but in both cases, you will need to know in which electoral district they lived.

To find an electoral district there are a few resources. Not all sources cover all years so you may have to use more than one.

For electoral districts prior to the 2003 reorganization, you can visit the Elections Canada website. This site allows you to search the 301 districts by place name and keyword. Or you can try the Parliament website which has a list of historical ridings. It can’t be searched by town but you can get a list of all ridings in the province and this may help you narrow down your search.

There are also electoral district maps available online at this site, which includes the National Atlas of Canada.

Otherwise you can use print sources such as the Canadian Almanac and Directory, which we do keep, so our collection runs from 1911 on. There is usually a way we can help you find an electoral district, so if these resources don’t help, please ask us.

If you are still in love with the clickety click of the microfilm reader, you can still get these voters’ lists on microfilm. Dave Obee has produced two great finding aids: Federal voters lists in Western Canada, 1935-1979 and Federal voters lists in Ontario 1935-1979 You can find out more about using electoral lists at the Canadian Genealogy Centre.

If you’d like to find out more about the Alberta Family Histories Society discussion list, visit their website. Information about the discussion list is right there on the front page.

Remember, you can access Ancestry LE at any branch of the Calgary Public Library for free with your library card.

Voters List Calgary 1915

Calgary Municipal Voters List

Community Heritage and Family History Collection

Century Homes - A Guide to the Resources

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1402

Unidentified House in Calgary, ca 1910

Postcards from the Past, PC 1402

I have to mention it again, but I swear it will be the last time (for a while): 1912 was a very big year in this city. And despite our reputation as a city of demolition, there are still a good number of buildings still standing from that period. Your home may be one of them. I have posted before about the Century Homes project. We have held two very successful workshops, as part of this project, to introduce owners of homes that are 100 years or so old, to the resources available at the various libraries and archives. I thought I would put this list on the blog, so that anyone who is interested in doing this research can do so.

Calgary Public Library has the following resources – most are in our local history room on the 4th floor of the Central Library

  • Henderson’s Directories (early years also available at http://peel/library.ualberta.ca/bibliography/2961.html )
  • Maps
  • Lists of voters
  • Census records
  • Photographs (through the CHFH Digital Library http://cdm16114.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/)
  • Newspapers (clippings, digital, microfilm)
  • General Histories
  • Community Histories
  • Building Inventories
  • Architectural histories
  • Community Profiles
  • Plan Books
  • Catalogues (to see what the interiors might have looked like)
  • Promotional material

City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives has the following:

  • Historical assessment information
  • Building permits
  • Some photos and plans
  • Annexation information
  • Records from towns and villages (Bowness, Forest Lawn, Montgomery, Crescent Heights) that became part of the City

Glenbow Museum, Library and Archives has these resources:

  • Directories
  • Fire Insurance Maps
  • Photograph collection
  • Selected Architectural plans
  • Personal Papers
  • Selected community information

(Update: Some fire insurance plans have been digitized by Library and Archives Canada and can be found by accessing their website: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/lac-bac/search/all and using the search term "fire insurance plan" <include the quotation marks> and the name of the location for which you are searching. )

These resources (and the outstanding staff at all of these repositories) are available to you to assist in your house research. You may want to check out the history of your house even if it is a relative “baby” in the city. You never know what you may find! There are links on the right side of the page to the Heritage Triangle brochure, which outlines the collection strengths of the three libraries/museums/archives above as well as a guide to doing building history in Calgary. This kind of research can turn up all kinds of interesting information. Come and talk to us if you’d like to get started.

PC 52

13th Avenue, Looking East

Postcards from the Past, PC 52

House History

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 5213th Avenue looking east

13th Avenue Looking East

Postcards from the Past, PC 52

On Saturday May 12, we will be presenting a workshop, with an archivist from the City of Calgary Archives, on how to research the history of your house. We have done these before, but this time we are happy to be giving the presentation as part of an initiative called “Century Homes.” What we want to do is to encourage people to research the stories of their homes. Your house doesn't have to be 100 years old for you to attend, but we would like people who do have a home that was built in or before 1915 to look into the Century Homes initiative (http://www.centuryhomes.org/). Doing house research is kind of like doing genealogy, but much, much less complicated (houses don't move, change their names or hide from the law, for the most part). Between the members of the Heritage Triangle, we hold vast amounts of information about homes and the people who lived in them.

Calgary experienced a building boom in the early part of the 20th century and there are still plenty of houses around from that era. If you own one of them, you can get a kit from Century Homes to help you make a yard sign. You will be asked to put up the sign during Historic Calgary Week (Friday July 27 through to Monday August 6) The information you gather about your house will be archived here at the Calgary Public Library so we will have a record of your house. As I like to tell people, history is made by the people like you and me – the very people who lived in your house. (My colleagues will tell you I beat this topic like a rented mule) Your home doesn’t have to be a massive sandstone pile to have historic value. Cities are built by the folks in the three room cottages, the tiny bungalows and the once grand multi –stories converted to boarding houses. So, think about participating in this very exciting initiative. Researching your house is not an onerous job – there are lots of sources and there are people to help you use them. And I want to stress that, while your home has to be 100 years old or thereabouts, to be considered a Century Home, there is lots of information available for people whose houses are younger. Join us to find out how to get started with your own home's unique story.

Registration for the May 12 program will begin on April 23.

Century Homes Logo

Research for Writers

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Filing cabinet

To my surprise and delight I was asked to present at our annual Writers’ Weekend which was held on February 4. I presented “Historical Research for Writers” to a very surprising (to me, at least) crowd of 125 people who were all eager to find out where all the good stuff is stashed. As is usual with me, I was set off on a tangent thinking about the authors who have worked in our Local History room.

I remember when Will Ferguson, author of a number of books (all available at the Calgary Public Library) had his first “office” in the local history room. While working on Canadian History for Dummies, he stored his computer (kind of a joke to call it a laptop) in the Local History workroom. He tells the story in a Swerve magazine article. You can read it here and see a picture of him in the room.

We have also recently hosted Brian Brennan, who was researching and writing the official history of the Calgary Public Library, which will be released in April (to celebrate the “official” opening of the new library in 1912). I’m looking forward to this one, because Brian is such an inspiring storyteller and what I’ve seen of the book seems to me to be his finest work yet.

We also provided research assistance for Katherine Govier, whose protagonist in the book Between Men becomes obsessed with the story of Rosalie New Grass, a Cree woman who was brutally murdered in 1889. Rosalie’s tragic story is true and Ms Govier researched the case in the Local History room. Our copy of Between Men is signed “with gratitude” for the assistance she received on her project from our staff.

As I mentioned, the Writers’ Weekend was a huge success and I was chuffed to see the crowd that came out to hear about research. Nothing turns me off a piece of writing quicker than an error. (Well, bad dialogue comes a very close second). Where the work is fiction or non-fiction, good, solid research always has a place. We are very lucky to be able to meet and assist authors with their projects. We have helped with fairly modest publications, such as family histories, and with some major projects, such as the upcoming history of the library. We are always delighted to be able to assist – it is an opportunity for us to show off our wonderful collections and we always learn something new. What I guess I am trying to say is that you should all come down and visit us and see what weird and wonderful things you can dig up.

Local History Room

Serendipity and the Search for Glenbow

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

Glenbow Residents

Residents of Glenbow Alberta, ca 1911-1913

Doreen Morden Family Archives

We have been helping and, frankly, watching in awe, one of the regular researchers who frequents the local history collection. She is working on a reconstruction of the town of Glenbow, a town that very few people have heard of. It was the centre of a quarry, which provided sandstone for several prominent buildings in the province. The town was five miles east of Cochrane on the north side of the Bow. The land was not really fit for farming as it was on a bench over the river but keen eyes noticed that in the outcroppings were seams of sandstone. Various attempts were made, starting in 1905, to set up a quarry to exploit the resources of the valley but it wasn’t until 1908 when an American, Chester de la Vergne, bought the property. He had wealth that had come from the family’s refrigeration business and soon he had excavated a town site, which eventually included a school. A post office was in operation from 1908 to 1920. De la Vergne loved the area and established the Glenbow Ranche as a home for him and his family. He built a magnificent house on the property.

At its peak, Glenbow quarry was thought to employ 500 men. By 1909 things were looking very good. A grain elevator was built in 1910 on promises that a bridge would be built over the Bow to connect the farm land on the south side with the town on the north side. But by 1912 the boom that had fueled the prosperity of the Glenbow quarry had bust. Building ground to a halt and there was no need for the fine paskapoo sandstone that had made Glenbow’s fortune. The bridge was never built so the elevator stood useless until it burned down in 1915. De la Vergne tried to start a brick making industry in order to give work to his employees, but this, too, was destined to fail. People were forced to leave the town, to look for work elsewhere. Buildings were removed or burned; equipment from the mine was sold as scrap. Three large homes, built by optimistic acquaintances of de la Vergne’s lay abandoned for many years and in the 1970s de la Vergne’s own house, empty for many years, was burned to the ground. Eventually, the Glenbow land was purchased by E.L. Harvie for farming. The land has since been donated to the Government by the Harvie family for use as a Provincial Park, but Glenbow the town has ceased to exist.

Our researcher’s task is to look for information about the town and the people who lived there as part of a volunteer effort to map the old town and quarry. Because there is so little left of Glenbow, the researchers are relying on information gleaned from any resource they can get their hands on. They are searching for the names of people who lived in the town, in hopes of finding as much information as they can. This is where serendipity has come in. (Although, serendipity does come after much hard work J)

Following a clue provided by the information on Glenbow in a local history, our researcher pursued the name of a woman whose child was put up for adoption after she died in childbirth. Using cemetery transcriptions, vital events records, online sources including Ancestry and Rootsweb, she was able to find contact information for a descendant of one of the family members. This person had a photo of some of the denizens of Glenbow standing in front of a building. That is the photo above. What we are hoping is that one of you may recognize someone in this picture. The more people that can be identified, the better chance there is of finding someone who has information. If you think you recognize anyone in this photo, please let me know. I will pass the information on to the researchers. You can post your information as a comment below (or you can contact us at information@calgarypubliclibrary.com)

If you are interested in finding out more about Glenbow, you can check out the local history Acres and Empires either in print at the Calgary Public Library or online through Our Future Our Past. You could also think about attending a talk on February 28 at the Chinook Country Historical Society’s monthly meeting at Fort Calgary at 7:30. Brian Vivian and Susan Caen will be talking about the town site, the quarry and the area surrounding. (Check out the information here - click on 2011-2012 Monthly Program Details)

PC 255Land Titles Building (made with Glenbow sandstone)

Land Titles Building (built with sandstone from the Glenbow Quarry)

Postcards from the Past, PC 255

Family Heirlooms

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Hankie

Souvenir Handkerchief showing Calgary Public Library and South African War Memorial

Many of us have things that were left to us by family members. In my family, we inherited, on the passing of our great aunt, a musical fruit plate that my brother adored as a child, and an antler cribbage board made by my great grandfather. These are not valuable monetarily but they do have great value within our family. Other people’s heirlooms can be fascinating as well. Just look at the success of “Antiques Roadshow” and the popularity of Calgary Public Library’s Antiques Appraisal day. Sometimes other people’s heirlooms cross over from family interest to local history interest – we really like those kinds of things here. Some of the more obvious examples are postcards, of which we have a major collection here that you can view in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (see the link on the left of the page).

A very interesting artifact was brought to my attention recently by a colleague who collects vintage stuff. She was shopping and found this hankie, with an image of the Memorial Park Library on it. It is a very interesting piece. We haven’t been able to find much information about it but it looks like it might be souvenir hankies, which were popular articles for servicemen to send home to their loved ones. I found this serviceman’s letter on a website called Canadian Letters and Images Project: “When up in town this a.m. I got a few souvenir handkerchiefs, one of which I am enclosing for Jean. Hoping she likes it.” The letter was from Louis Duff to his Aunt Lily, sent from Belgium in 1915. Calgary was a training centre for several units of the C.E.F. so it is a possibility that this handkerchief, like the one sent to Jean, was purchased by a serviceman.

PC 1895

Memorial Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1895

We have an image similar to the one on the hankie on a postcard that has a 1940 postmark. It may be that the company that produced the souvenir postcards also produced the handkerchief (or that the photographer marketed his image to a number of printing houses or….). If you have any information about this kind of heirloom, please add a comment to this entry. I’m always interested to hear what you all have to say. It’s the best way to learn!

Heirlooms, such as the hankie and even the postcards, require special handling so they survive to be passed on to the next generation. We have several books in our collection that can help you, if you are lucky enough to have been passed some of these delightful objets. One is Saving stuff by Don Williams, another is Caring for your family treasures by Jane Long.

Modern Architecture in Calgary

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 43-06

Elveden House under construction, 1960

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 43-06

We were at the Heritage Roundtable last week where the subject was Calgary’s architectural history. I learned a lot from the presenters, about historic building styles, the amazing resources available at the Canadian Architectural Archives at the U of C and about historic building research. But the talk that really opened my eyes was David Down’s presentation about Calgary’s Modernist architecture. In the course of my research I often see that magnificent old buildings were torn down, especially in the urban renewal schemes of the 1960s and I wonder what could have possessed the planners of the day to allow the destruction of such historic properties. However, I sometimes look at buildings like the Calgary Board of Education across the street from us or the Centennial Planetarium and wonder “how could the planners of the day have allowed those concrete bunkers to be built?” I should really be ashamed of myself, I guess. We often don’t appreciate the things of our day. It is only when we look back, with the advantage of hindsight, that we can see the elegance and beauty of contemporary architecture.

I was exercising my newfound eyes as I rode to work through the West LRT construction. I have watched as the overpass for the train was built, using that very cool mobile crane and the process certainly fascinated me. But looking at the structure itself, I see a kind of elegance and lightness in the fluted pillars and the sculpted concrete of the overpass itself. The pillars, with their delicate reeding, remind me a little of some columns seen in Egypt (like these at Edfu - or maybe I’m just dreaming?) Edfu pillars from iStock

The question was raised about what we will consider “heritage” in the next century. Will we look at the new City Water Services building or the Bow building and see a historic site worth saving or will we ask ourselves: “What on earth were they thinking?” In any case, I am going to find out more about Calgary’s modern architecture by having a look at some of the books we have here on the subject. I think I’ll start with Calgary Modern, 1947-1967 by Geoffrey Simmins and Calgary Architecture: the Boom Years, 1972-1982 by Pierre Guimond. Both are available in the CHFH collection on the 4th floor at the Central Library as well as in the regular collection.

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