Latest Posts

On Line

The Heritage Triangle PDF link

Happy Anniversary, Princess Patricia's

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1673Currie Barracks "this is the cook"s house..."

For many years the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was stationed here in Calgary at the Currie Barracks. They were back last week, as part of the Memorial Relay in which soldiers are running from Edmonton to Ottawa carrying a baton which contains the names of all 1,866 members who have fallen in active service.

The PPCLI was formed in 1914, in response to the declaration of war. Hamilton Gault, of Montreal, offered to raise and equip a regiment. In honour of the daughter of our then Governor General, the Duke of Connaught, the regiment was named the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Princess Patricia personally designed its badge and colours for the regiment to take overseas to France. As the regiment's Colonel-in-Chief, she played an active role until her death. The PPCLI Colonel in Chief today is Adrienne Clarkson, our former GG

PC 1568Princess Patricia"s Mum and Dad, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, 1912

Raised in August of 1914, the regiment was in France by September of the same year. They were the first of the Canadians to serve in that theatre of war. By December they had lost 238 men and their original Commanding Officer. In May of 1915 the Patricia’s saw action in the Ypres salient, meeting the enemy in the battle of Frezenberg. In mere hours, 175 men had died. The baton being carried in the relay will be taken to Frezenberg to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle known in the regiment as the “Death of the Originals.”

The PPCLI came to Calgary after the Second World War and were stationed at Currie Barracks. Shortly after their arrival, they were converted from a Regular Army brigade to an Airborne Mobile Striking Force. This change was enthusiastically received as many of the men had served in the First Parachute Brigade in WWII. The Patricia’s became Canada's first peacetime parachute battalion. If you would like to read more about the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, you can check out their website or read any one of the great books written about them. Maybe start with David Bercusons' recent publication, The Patricia's : A Century of Service

The PPCLI was an active part of the Calgary community until the decision was made to reduce the number of bases so the battalion was moved to Edmonton. We welcomed them back, though, with open arms

Government Documents - A Treasure Trove for Genealogists

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Genealogy Records

One of my very first jobs at Calgary Public Library was as a summer student, sorting through the government documents collection on the third floor. It was a very interesting experience, albeit one I did not wish to repeat (although I did enjoy reading the pamphlet on mink ranching.) It wasn’t until I started doing serious genealogical and historical research that I came to see the value of these documents. I am often asked to talk about “obscure sources” and these are what come immediately to my mind. At Calgary Public Library, government documents are held in two locations, for the most part. Local History has a collection of documents relating to the history of Calgary, including planning documents, documents from the Geological Survey, reports relating to industry, governance, etc. The Government Documents collection holds the bulk of the material and it is located on the third floor.

Certainly, when we talk about resources in genealogy one of the first sources we talk about is actually a government document. The census was not taken for the benefit of future genealogists. It was actually taken by the government to get an idea of what the population of the country looked like at a given time. The genealogical value is just a bonus. The same holds true for the military records I have been using for the Lest We Forget program and other presentations I have been doing to mark the anniversary of the start of WWI. The Department of Defense took and kept the information, making this treasure trove a gov doc (as we call them in the biz).

I recently took a little tour of the third floor gov doc collection and found some other, less likely, resources that genealogists might find useful – or at least interesting. For example, I did not know that, in the 1950s at least, the annual report of the Calgary Police Department included information about notable cases that include the names of victims and perpetrators. There is also a list of cases that needed photographic evidence which includes the name of the accused. It also includes the names of people killed in fatal traffic accidents. So, if you have an ancestor who is a bit of a baddie, or someone who was a victim of a baddie, you may want to have a look in the police reports. The dates given could help lead to newspaper articles and other documentary evidence. (Call Number is CA4AL C PO AR date)

PC 968Calgary Police Dept. in front of City Hall, 1912

Another little gem I discovered were reports documenting the claims made following WWI by people who wanted reparations paid for various losses incurred during the war. I didn’t expect to find this is our collection, since there was no fighting in Canada, but there it was. I hadn’t thought about it, but Canadians were affected by enemy action. There were Canadians aboard the Lusitania when it was sunk. And the reaction to the sinking of the ship led to rioting and destruction of the homes and businesses of Canadians of German origin. There was also the explosion in Halifax harbor for which people sought reparations. Soldiers and their families sought payment for the loss of personal effects sent home by the military. There are also claims such as the one by a gentleman in Daysland who claimed that a certain person of German origin set fire to his grain elevator. The proceedings are indexed by name, so it is easy enough to check to see if one of your ancestors suffered a loss for which they later sought payment. (call number is CA 1 WC REP 1930) Again, who would have known, eh? Yet another hidden resource for genealogists, researchers and nosey folk like me.

A Calgary Soldier's Story

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1478I.O.D.E. War Memorial outside Memorial Park Library

I’m a little late with this post. We were in the throes of preparing for our Historic Calgary Week presentation “A Calgary Soldier’s Story” which we delivered successfully (whew!) at beautiful Memorial Park Library last night. We told the story of Joseph A. Convery, an Irish immigrant who came to Calgary from Belfast at the age of 16 and made a success in his farming endeavours, which allowed him to bring his parents and sister to live with him. He was a brave young man who, possibly sensing that the war was coming, joined the 15th Light Horse, a militia unit in Calgary, became a Lieutenant, and then enlisted in the CEF. His bravery and daring (how else would you describe a man who came alone to the barren prairie at 16) led him to the Royal Flying Corps, those Knights of the Air, who were so important to the success of the forces in Europe. Sadly, he lost his life when his plane went down near Arras just before the last major German offensive of the war.

As usual I learned a lot about many different things when I was researching this gentleman. I found out about the Canadians in the RFC/RAF, whose fearlessness allowed them to climb into these canvas and wood crates and fly over enemy territory, sussing out the lay of the land and dropping bombs from the cockpit. Some of the great men of Canadian history passed through the RFC/RAF including Roland Michener, Lester B. Pearson, Kenneth Irving, and other men of note. This fact leads me to wondering what would have become of our intrepid Irishman had he survived the war.

Joseph’s story was just one of many and I was honoured to be able to bring it to life and share it with everyone. Our history (and I know I harp on this, forgive me) is the history of people just like Joseph Convery, who came and made something of himself and the offered all that to the defense of his adopted home. It is the story of people like Joseph that is the story of this country – the pioneers who came and stayed, even though the weather sucks and the animals will kill you. We are something else, aren’t we?

The C-Train: One of the 10 Triumphs of Canadian Transportation

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

PC 1333Calgary, looking along Memorial Drive, showing the new, modern LRT

What do the Avro Arrow, the Canadian Pacific Railway, Pearson Airport and the C-Train have in common? They are all on the list of 10 Triumphs of Canadian Transportation as chosen by the Transport Association of Canada in honour of its 100th anniversary. At least two of the above are resounding successes (sorry Pearson) and both the Railway and the C-Train have had a huge impact on our city.

The coming of the railway to Calgary is a pivotal point in the city’s history. Becoming the hub of the rail system west of Winnipeg insured that Calgary would be a “big city”. It was the starting point for settlement and was also the place where those settlers came to pick up their goods and machinery and deliver their products. This started the first of the city’s great population booms. Without the railway, we would not be the city we are today. The railway was so important to the people settled around what would become Calgary that when the location of the station was announced, folks packed up their homes and moved them to be closer to what was going to be the centre of the town.

PC 604The Imperial Limited arriving at Calgary

The C-Train also changed the landscape of our city. I remember when we got around the city on electric trolley buses. While great, they did not allow for rapid movement so commutes could be nightmarish (especially in the winter, when the slip-sliding trolleys would lose their contact with the overhead lines on a frighteningly regular basis). We became a city of cars, but not, sadly, of roads that could handle them. Rush hour was sometimes traumatizing – more than once a commuter, trapped in his or her vehicle in unmoving traffic, leapt from their car in a claustrophobic panic. The coming of the C-Train, fraught as it was with conflict, allowed us to move further and further away from the core (for good or ill) and has allowed the city to grow to over a million people. The C-Train just came to my neighbourhood and I am in total agreement with the Transport Association of Canada that it is a triumph (but that’s just my personal opinion)

PC 969Streetcar accident at the corner of 14th St and 17th Ave SW, 1919

The Community Heritage and Family History department has a lovely collection of early transportation images online as well as an outstanding collection of books and other documents about the history of both the railway and the transit system in Calgary. One of the newest books we have on how the railway could have shaped Calgary, had we followed their plan, is Development Derailed by Max Foran. Copies are available in the Local History room as well as in the general collection.

Yahoo! It's Stampede Time Again

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

1977 Stampede Poster1977 Stampede Poster from our Collection

Stampede time is upon us once again. The Parade went off without a hitch (at least I think it did) and we are now all kitted up in our very best cowboy gear. I love this time of year! Stephen Avenue is alive with visitors and weekend cowboys (and some real cowboys, too). There are buskers and vendors and food trucks and it is all being enjoyed by people from all over the world. They are here to partake of Calgary's unique personality as dazzling urbanite meets small town prairie good old boy. Yahoo, dawg.

 

1923 Stampede Poster1923 Stampede Poster from our Collection

 
 

Things were not much different 100 years ago. In early July of 1914 the Industrial Exhibition was under way. There were 7000 entries, surpassing the previous year’s numbers by nearly 2000. Over 700 babies were entered in the baby show (yes, that's what I said) and the Tuesday of the exhibition was "Better Babies" day. There were interesting performances, including an acrobatic troupe, an aeronaut who dropped a bomb from his balloon which, when exploded, "emits the aeronaut" and the "greatest number of musicians in the assembled bands that have ever appeared." The papers listed the all the winners of the competitions, see this link for a list of the winning chickens Right alongside the half page spread of prize poultry was an ad for shares in the Turner Valley Oil Company Ltd. ($1.00 a pop – a lot less than you'd pay for a prize hen) In fact, the newspaper was filled with advertisements for oil companies, punctuated with prize lists and race results. For the first time, oil derricks were set up around the grounds, primarily as advertisements for the companies drilling in the area. Salesmen were on hand to convince fairgoers that this was their chance to make it big. "Oil offices sprung up like magic and frantic representatives of the up town magnates were this morning dashing about in advanced state of frenzy, vainly attempting to get carpenters to do a dozen things at once.” Then, as now, the two worlds of Calgary existed side by side.

While our collection doesn't hold much about the 1914 Industrial exhibition, we do have an extensive collection of Stampede memorabilia including postcards, programmes, reports and posters, as evidenced by the two that grace this posting. The Stampede Archives has the poster for the 1914 exhibition and it eloquently sums up the two sides of this city; the fashionably clad young lady, with her equally fashionable collie, gazing lovingly at her prize winning horse. Need I say more.

1914 Industrial Exhibition poster1914 Calgary Industrial Exhibition from Calgary Stampede Archives

The Calgary Stampede Archives is a treasure trove of information about and images of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. Check out their wonderful collection to see more.

Trains, Again

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 412At the Summit of the Rockies, 1908

I was digging around the University of Alberta Press site looking for a particular book, when I happened on the Atlas of Alberta Railways Online, a resource that lit up the heart of this railroad junkie. This resouce includes tons of information and pictures and documents about the history of railways in Alberta (hence the name, I suppose). I hate to admit my ignorance, but it looks like this site has been up for years and I have never used it. It is much more than a traditional atlas because, in addition to maps, there are photos and documents, plans (such as the plan of the typical prairie grain elevator) and news clippings.

There are also essays on the history of the railways and bits and pieces of interesting trivia. For example, did you know that many of the men who laid the tracks on the Calgary to Edmonton railway were of Scandinavian origins and that they could earn up to $3.50 a day? Well, according to the Edmonton Bulletin of September 1, 1883, them's the facts!

 

PC 424Four Engines Driving a Passenger Train to the Summit

We have a great collection of railway stuff in the Local History collection at the Central Library as well. We have photos and postcards, which you can see in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library but we also have a lot of ephemera, which is just a fancy name for the kind of things you generally throw away once you've finished using them. This includes menus, brochures, timetables and other promotional material.

The collection also has personal stories of people who worked on the railway, original documents relating to the railways in Canada and Alberta, like some of Sanford Fleming's reports and other really interesting works on railroads. This is a great resource for railway nerds, but it can also be a goldmine for genealogists as well.

Promotional material, pictures, settler's guides (like the one shown below) were published by the railways to encourage and aid settlers on the Prairies. Adding this information into a family history would give rich detail to your family's story and lead to a greater understanding of the motivations and expectations of prairie settlers.

 

Settlers GuideCPR Settlers Guide to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 1912

 

My Favourite Flood Story (so far)

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Flood Centre Street Bridge Centre Street Bridge during flood 2013, City of Calgary

We had a very successful launch of our Flood Story website on Saturday. Our Mayor Nenshi came and shared his flood story as did Councillor Druh Farrell. We also collected stories from many of our library patrons and this is exactly what we are looking for. Anyone who has heard me speak about genealogy knows that, while I know the documents and dates are important, it is the stories that make our family history. The research is the framework; the storytelling is the real work.

In doing some last minute work on the website I came across some really wonderful stories. This is mostly thanks to John Gilpin, whose dogged research provided the content of the website. He uncovered some colourful stories, such as the fire department rescuing dogs that were trapped in the pound by the rising waters during an ice jam flood in 1950. Animal rescue is a recurring theme in the flood stories I've been reading. Whether it was the horses gathered for Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebration in 1897 or the man out by the Industrial School, nested in the rafters of his barn with the chickens in 1902, right up to the last flood, where the Humane Society opened its doors to animals whose families were displaced (including two pigs).

Another common theme is the constant need for people to be reminded to stay away from the rushing rivers. In almost every flood, the papers bemoan the fact that people haven't the common sense to stay away from the water. My favourite story of all comes from the blatant flaunting of this advice by a Senator, no less, during the flood of 1884. Senator Ogilvie had been visiting Banff when the floods hit, washing out roads and rail beds. He was desperate to get back to Calgary so set off with his entourage by hand car. I'll let the Herald reporter take it from here:

[The Senator] "with commendable courage, bordering almost on senatorial recklessness, started via handcar for Calgary. Having to do some fording over the rivers where the bridges had once been, the burly form of the Senator suddenly disappeared from view...Gen. Supt. Egan and others of the party at once organized themselves into a committee of investigation to make due enquiries for the missing representative of Her Majesty's Senate. The Hon. Senator being a good representative of flesh and blood and being hard to conceal in a small space was very fortunately discovered clinging with wonderful tenacity to an iron rail..." (Calgary Herald July 23, 1884)

That is a great story and so is yours. Please tell us your flood story, it doesn't have to be from the 2013 flood. You may have been here for the 1950, maybe even the 1932 flood. We'd like to hear from you. You can post your story on the website, just click on Memory Bank, or if you'd prefer to write it, we have forms at all of our branches that will allow you to do just that. Check out the website - its great!

Senator Alexander OgilvieSenator A. Ogilvie from biographi.ca

On the Move

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1075McHugh House in 1966

It's been quite an interesting week watching the McHugh house on the move. Contemplating the extent of the job and the equipment required made me really appreciate the efforts of Calgarians of the past who picked up and moved their homes, with, seemingly, no cares. This can’t have been the case, but the number of incidences of “mobile homes” in Calgary in early years always astonishes me. In the program on house history that with do with our Heritage Triangle partners, the City Archives and Glenbow, we even have a section about finding out exactly where your house started its life, as moving houses was common enough, at one point in the city’s history, that the city government had to legislate that a permit was required to move your house. Before that you could just harness up the horses and drag your house down the street.

The Deane house was moved, not once but twice, in its long life. The first move saw it shifted from one location to another on the Fort Calgary site. The second move saw it migrate across the Elbow River on a temporary bridge. That feat was daring enough to garner a mention in Popular Mechanics (July 1930).

Popular Mechanics July 1930Deane House Being MovedI'm guessing that houses were moved for lots of reasons but in many cases, I blame the railway. Certainly when Calgary was just a baby town, the CPR decided to lay out a townsite on the west side of the Elbow River, whereas most residents had set up on the east side. Many of these enterprising pioneers picked up their houses and moved.

Whole towns up and moved when the railway finally announced its routes. Castor, Alberta, known then as Williston, was picked up and moved a mile to be closer to the rail line. Wainwright, too, had to be moved 2 ½ miles to closer to the Grand Trunk line. This move included the hotel, which was pulled by horses along the railway grade. An earlier post to this blog talks about these moving villages as well as others.

The Map

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

PC 712 eFire Headquarters 1930s

I spent part of my day off at a presentation at the Firefighter’s Museum listening to the story of “The Map.” During the clean out of the civil defense bunker at Shaganappi, a huge map was discovered. It was one of those pull down maps, like we all had in our classrooms back in the day, but this one was very special. It is a map of the city of Calgary used by the Fire Department in its headquarters (see the postcard above). It indicates all of the fire stations and the call boxes and measures 12 x 9 feet. It had been lying in water and was quite badly damaged but because it is such a vital record of the city’s history, a paper conservator, Lee Churchill, was hired to restore it to its former glory.

I work with maps in the local history room, but I have never seen one like this. First off, it is the largest map I have ever seen. It is larger than some of the rooms in my house. In order to open it to work on it, Lee has spread it across nine of those ubiquitous folding utility tables (with several layers of underlayment to protect it of course). There are districts on the map that I have never heard (Bryn Mawr Place? Harlem?) and it has red dots marking the location of all the fire alarm call boxes. It is a very cool thing, and Calgary Public Library got a mention as one of the sources tapped to try to determine the age of the map.

The talk was very interesting. When I started in the local history area of the library I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a paper conservator, and Lee’s talk about the process of paper conservation really opened my eyes to the delicacy and precision (and patience) that the job requires. Also, because this was the inaugural session of “Conversations in the Kitchen” we were treated to Newfoundland Toutons, courtesy of our presenter. For me it was the best day possible: old maps, a museum and food. My thanks and deep admiration go out to all of the staff and volunteers at the Firefighter’s Museum. What a wonderful place you have. To find out more about the museum, you can visit their website. Lee is also keeping a blog about the process of restoring the map.

 

PC 936Cappy Smart on the Webb Car

The Royal Visit, 1939

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

CrowdsCrowds in Calgary from Royal Visit Pictorial Review

 

Today is the 75th anniversary of the visit of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Calgary. It was the first visit by a reigning monarch to Canada. In today’s terms it would be as if Kanye and Kim decided to hold their wedding in our fair city. In other words it was a very big deal. The guns of the 19th Field Brigade fired the 21 gun royal salute, alerted by a signals officer perched on top of the Palliser Hotel. The roar of cannon could be heard all over the city.

As soon as the royal couple set foot on the platform, Pipe Major William Pow led the Pipe Band of the First Battalion Calgary Highlanders in the National Anthem (“God Save the King” in those days). The royal couple inspected the Highlanders honour guard, resplendent in their new uniforms, and the King complimented the commanding officer on the appearance of his men. Following the inspection, the King and Queen and every dignitary Calgary could muster, leapt into an eleven car fleet that would take the couple, via a very circuitous route, to City Hall. The crowds went wild. The Herald reported that the cheering was like the roar of a “mighty giant.”

Although the visit was only two hours long, it was jam packed, as you can see by the route map below. They passed the Cenotaph, drove through the cheering crowds that lined the roads to Cresent Road, where they would have a clear view of the city and the Rocky Mountains. At Mewata Park, a First Nations camp was set up by people of the Blackfoot, Stoney, Blood, Sarcee and Peigan tribes. Their Majesties were greeted by the sounds of drums and a chant of welcome. Duck Chief, Yellow Horn, Shot Both Sides, David Bearspaw, and Joe Big Plume, Chiefs of all the nations, were on hand to welcome the royals.

 

Route mapMap from Official Souvenir Program of the Visit of Their Majesties to Calgary

The newspapers were full of empire and majesty. The Calgary Herald “Royal Visit Edition” included an insert of 28 pages devoted to royal family and the empire, with lots of Canadian nationalism thrown in.

As the King and Queen left the city for Banff, patients from the Sanatorium were given a special treat when arrangements were made to have the Royal train slow down as it passed Keith. Patients got dressed in their finest and congregated on the lawn, hoping that their majesties would greet them from the observation deck.

 

PC 1061Their Majesties Leaving Calgary, Postcards from the Past

The day after the “biggest event in the city’s life” the police reported that the crowds were well behaved, there was no rowdyism and visitors had had the opportunity to see this city at its finest. Events were planned for their entertainment including an exhibition of the musical ride by Lord Strathcona’s Horse and a demonstration by 3rd Bomber Squadron’s Wapiti bombers at Currie Barracks. Many citizens placed pennies on the train tracks to be crushed by the royal train and provide souvenirs. The newspaper estimated that there was about thirty dollars worth of coin on the tracks.

It was certainly the biggest event in Calgary’s history. Commemorative publications were produced by the carload. We have a great many of these in our Local History collection at the Central Library (look in the catalogue under royal visitors 1939) as well as some of the postcards produced to commemorate the event. Check them out and share some of the excitement.

12345678910Showing 11 - 20 of 96 Record(s)