Not Just Ancestry LE : More Online Resources for Genealogists

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

PC 503

R.B. Bennett Receiving Nomination Convention of Conservatives, Winnipeg 1927

Postcards from the Past PC 503

This is the second of my installments about some of the subscription databases (other than Ancestry LE) that genealogists should try. This week I want to introduce you to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

In my introductions to the genealogy collection here at the Central Library, I always like to mention National Biographies as a potential resource. Many countries have them and they are the semi-official records of the people who played a role in the formation of their respective countries. The grand-daddy of these is the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB – I warned you about libraries and acronyms!) DNB is the national biography of Great Britain. Calgary Public Library owns the original 22 volume set and the 15 volumes of supplements. Sources such as these can be very useful especially if you have ancestors who were notable in some way. In Canada, sometimes being notable just meant being here early so the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, in addition to politicians and industrialists, includes, pioneers, fur traders, and First Nations leaders. The articles are written by many different, reputable authors and include extensive bibliographies of primary and secondary source material. The DCB (again with the acronyms!) covers people who died between 1000 and 1930 (it is traditional in national biographies to include only dead people and to indicate coverage by date of death)

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography was started in 1959 as a joint project of the University of Toronto and the Université Laval. It is available in English and French and has been a staple reference source, in its paper incarnation, on reference shelves in libraries across Canada for decades. Now that it is available online it is much easier to use and the full text searching pulls up names of people mentioned in articles but not necessarily the subject of an entire article themselves.

You can access the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online through our E-Library accessible through the catalogue or via the link at the top of our homepage. In the E-Library you can click on either “Canadian” or “History and Genealogy” and scroll down to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. You will be asked to sign in using your library card number and PIN. Choose your language, and off you go. You can browse the collection by name, by category or by geographic location.

You can also search the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online through the site at Library and Archives Canada.

Jane’s Walk : Walk and Talk our City’s Neighbourhoods

by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

PC 907

Residential View - Mount Royal

Postcards from the Past, PC 907

I have been very lucky over the last week to meet a number of people who are passionate about their communities. At the Heritage Round Table last Thursday, I was able to hear people speak about Haysboro and Meadowlark Park. I also heard a presenter from the This is My Cecil project talk about the community feeling engendered by that wonderful old hotel and importance of a touch point like The Cecil for the community that existed here in the East Village in the past. I was also able to speak with “Uncle Buck” who is the editor of the East Village View, an important information resource for the people of this East Village community. It may be that as the city grows, the communities that make it become more important. We all want to feel a part of a larger group and many of us want others to know the stories of our communities. I live in the community I was brought up in. It is just over 50 years old and was the ‘burb of its day, but is now considered to be nearly inner city.

I am very proud of my community. If you have strong feelings about your community, or just “community” as a general concept, you may want to consider volunteering with Jane’s Walk to give a tour of your community or to help with other things. Jane’s Walks have been happening since 2007, with the first walk in Toronto. Since then a dozen other cities have started Jane’s Walks. Calgary is one of those cities. The walks are a way to combine a simple stroll around the neighbourhood with stories from the people who live there, people who know the history and local lore of the area. They are named in honour of Jane Jacobs, a visionary thinker, whose book The Death and Life of Great American Cities championed the interests of residents and pedestrians over the car-centred approach to urban planning that was then the norm. She stood up for old buildings and their refurbishment, rather than their destruction. She changed the way we thought about urban life. Her work would inspire generations of urban planners and community activists.

Jane’s Walks are a series of free neighbourhood walking tours that aim to put people in touch with their environment and their neighbours. They are given, free of charge, by people who have an interest in their neighbourhood. They aren’t necessarily about architecture or history or planning – they offer a more personal take on the neighbourhood; local lore and culture, issues facing residents, the social history of the area. If you are interested in Jane’s Walk, it will take place in Calgary on May 1 & 2, 2010. It is organized by the Calgary Foundation and starting in April you will be able to see the roster of walks at If you would like to volunteer to be a walk leader, or would like to volunteer in any other capacity you can contact Julie Black at or at 403-802-7720. You can get more information about Jane’s Walks on the website

If you are interested in leading a walk in your community (or if you are just interested in the history of your community) we have wonderful resources here at the Calgary Public Library in the Community Heritage and Family History collection. We would be delighted to help you find information to enhance your "Jane's Walk" of your community. You can find us at the Central Library, 616 Macleod Trail SE, on the 4th floor; you can telephone us at 403-260-2785 or you can contact us by email at

PC 638

Sunnyside, ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 623

Know Alberta

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 60 14

Cochrane Ranch House

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 60-14

There is now another way to access our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library., which is a doorway into the collections of a wide range of organizations such as museums, historical societies, government agencies and, of course, libraries, now includes the Alison Jackson Photograph collection, Postcards from the Past and the Judith Umbach Photograph collection.


York Hotel

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

The collections at Glenbow and at the Lois Hole Campus Alberta Digital Library are also accessible through this portal. Calgary Public Library’s digital collection is the only one from a public library accessible on Know Alberta, and the content of our digital library is larger than those of U of Lethbridge and Athabasca University. The site is an initiative of The Alberta Library (TAL), which is a consortium of over 290 libraries across Alberta that seeks to provide barrier-free access to information for all Albertans. There are some very interesting collections available through this initiative. Click on “Browse” for a link to the participating organizations and to see what collections are available. In addition to digitized photographs, Know Alberta provides a link to video collections, maps, audio collections, documents and other media.

PC 1957

Central High School

Postcards From the Past, PC 1957

The Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

I was looking for a suitable topic for a Thanksgiving entry and stumbled across this photograph of the Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo taken on Thanksgiving Day 1963 by Alison Jackson.

AJ 80-01

Alison Jackson's photographs make up one of the collections in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. Miss Jackson was a librarian with the Calgary Public Library from 1941 to her retirement in 1974. One day, walking home for lunch, she shot a photo of the Patrick Burns mansion which was shortly to be demolished. The demolition of this building and, especially, the old courthouse galvanized Alison into preserving on film buildings which were under threat. She had a keen eye and an exceptional talent and in 1975 her photographs were used to illustrate two books on the built history of Calgary: Be It Ever So Humble and A Walk Through Old Calgary both by Trudy Soby (now Cowan). These items can be borrowed from the library if you would like to see some examples of Miss Jackson's photographs. After Miss Jackson's death in 1987, her estate donated her photographs and slides to the Calgary Public Library. They have been digitized and can be viewed in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (the link is on the left hand side of the page. To browse just the Alison Jackson Collection, just click on the link.

When Alison took this photograph, the Conservatory was not under threat. In fact it was new. A donation from Eric Harvie, through the Woods Foundation, provided the money for the first component of the conservatory which was opened by John Ballem, who was the President of the Zoological Society at the time. It had been built on the site of the old Biergarten/Band Stand that had been built in 1912 before there was even a zoo on St. George's Island. The original intention was that the building, seen in the postcard below, would be a true biergarten but the province was officially "dry" and no alcohol, not even beer, could be served. The building became a teahouse with a dance hall on the second storey.

PC 541

ST. George's Island Biergarten

Postcards from the Past, PC 541

There are a number of very good books on the history of the Calgary Zoo. One of the newest is by Tyler Trafford: The Evolution of the Calgary Zoo. You can find this and other titles in the collection by entering the words "calgary zoo history" in the catalogue search box on the Calgary Public Library website.

Harvest Time

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 740

Threshing Scene, 1915

Postcards from the Past PC 740

It is getting to be very cold at night and in the mornings there is a suggestion that soon there will be, dare I say it, frost. (Sorry) For our grandmothers on the prairies, this often meant that it was time to start making preserves and laying down food for the winter. I think I have written before about the great collection of cookbooks we have in the Community Heritage and Family History collection and it was to this collection that I turned for some recipes for the kinds of preserves they would be making.

PC 242

Haying in Lethbridge, ca 1909

Postcards from the Past, PC 242

Prairie cooks used not just what they grew, but also what grew wild around them. From The Pioneer Cook comes this recipe for Rose Hip Jam. Remember, if you are going to try this recipe that grandma would most likely have been collecting hips from roses that grew wild and had not been treated with any kind of chemicals.

Gather berries after the first frost, and preserve the same day as picked. Boil 4 cups berries with 2 ½ cups water, until berries are tender. Force through a sieve to remove seeds. Add 1 cup sugar to 2 cups pulp. Mix thoroughly, and bring to a simmer slowly. Cook 10 minutes. Bottle. A layer of sugar sprinkled on the top helps to improve the flavor. (True of everything in my humble opinion!) This recipe was from Edythe Windsor, Koostatak Manitoba. (Page 101)

Rose hips can be used as a source of vitamin C, which can be quite useful when fresh fruits and vegetables are not available.

I am very interested in trying this next recipe because I have about 8 tomato plants in my yard, none of which has produced a ripe tomato yet, and likely won’t unless it stays summer until October.

Green Tomato Chow-Chow

1 peck green tomatoes

4 large onions

6 green peppers

1 ½ cups brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cloves

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Chop tomatoes (not too fine) and let stand in brine overnight. Drain and cover with vinegar (not too strong). Add peppers, onions, sugar, and spices and cook until tender. Place in bottle or jars with parowax over them if corks or covers are not available.

From The Blue Bird Cookbook by the Domestic Science Department of the American Woman’s Club of Calgary.

I suppose another thing we have to keep in mind if we are using older recipes to make preserves is that processes have changed and even though we may love these old recipes, we should follow current instructions for canning – for example, process the chow-chow in a canner rather than covering the jars with paraffin or corks. I still rely on my Bernardin book for information on how to safely preserve food. We do have copies of this at the Calgary Public Library. It is called The Complete Book of Home Preserving. Copies can be found at most branches.

If you would like to see our collection of cookbooks, come on down to the 4th floor of the Central Library and visit our Community Heritage and Family History collection. Some of the cookbooks, mostly the older ones, are in our storage collection and don’t show up in the catalogue. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a look at them, though. Just ask and we will get them for you.

AJ 1286

Hays Farm, ca 1960s?

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1286

Towns that Moved

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1834

In my last entry I talked about the coming of the railway into the Prairie Provinces and the effect that had on settlement. As I was researching some of the small towns in Alberta for our presentation for Historic Calgary Week, “Wish you were here,” I discovered that the coming of the railway had a very profound effect on some settlements. In fact, the announcement of the route of the railway caused the denizens of quite a few towns to pack up and move, buildings and all.

One such town was Castor Alberta. It was started one mile from where it is now and was known as Williston. The site of the town was sold and homes and businesses were moved to the rail line. It’s new location at the railhead for the district east almost to the Saskatchewan border led to booming enterprise. A postcard which dates to around 1910-1914 says it all: “More business is done in Castor in one day sometimes than in Waterford in a week. It supplies a country one hundred miles east, forty miles south, twenty miles north and five west. More than Boston city?” Castor was the distribution centre for building materials for towns such as Coronation and Hanna. Sandstone was plentiful in the area and the town boasted many fine sandstone buildings.

PC 488

National Hotel, Castor

Postcards from the Past, PC 488

Another town that moved was Wainwright. It started its life when an ex-policeman from Winnipeg, J. H. Dawson, invested $50,000 in land and other concerns in the area in 1906. He built a stable and a rooming house and soon other buildings sprang up. In 1908, however, the Grand Trunk Railway surveyed a town site 2 ½ miles west and named it Wainwright after William Wainwright, the second Vice President of the Company. The buildings were all moved to the new site, including the hotel which was pulled along the railway grade by a team of horses. By 1909 Wainwright was incorporated as a village. An indication of the effect the coming of the railway had on this little town, was that the first new building built was an Immigration Hall to handle the influx of settlers. You can see the old Wainwright Hotel at Heritage Park in Calgary.

AJ 1289

Wainwright Hotel, Heritage Park

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1289

Possibly the most famous town that moved was Bankhead. The town was founded in 1903 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, to provide homes for the miners who worked in the nearby Pacific Coal mines. C.P.R. needed coal from the area to drive its steam locomotives but the coal was of an inferior quality and the mines were wracked by labour unrest. They closed in 1922 and many of the residents chose to move, house and all, to Banff, seven kilometers down the road. What was left behind is still visited by tourists who want to see the remains of the most famous “Town that moved”.

PC 1348

Bankhead Coal Mines

Postcards from the Past, PC 1348

Information on these and many other towns in Alberta can be found in the library. The Community Heritage and Family History collection houses a vast collection of local histories, but copies can often be found in the borrowing collection as well. And if you'd like to see pictures of these towns, you can access them through the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library by clicking on the link in the left hand column of this page.

The Burns Building - A Success Story

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 453

Burns Building, ca. 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 453

Sometimes it feels like we want to knock down anything that isn’t shiny and new in this city. But there have been some notable success stories, of buildings that have survived the wrecker's ball. One that I get to look at every day is the Burns Building.

Patrick Burns, Alberta’s Cattle King, engaged the firm Hodgson, Bates and Beattie (incidentally, Hodgson and Bates designed the administration building on the Calgary Brewing and Malting site) to design a building for a piece of land that he had owned since 1909. The beautiful terra cotta clad building was completed in early 1913 and hailed as “Calgary’s finest business block.” Burns’ meat market occupied the ground floor and the upper floors housed a veritable “Who’s who” of Calgary businessmen.

However by the late 1970s the Burns Building was in the paper again, but without the same accolades. Mayor Rod Sykes was nearly beaned by a piece of terra cotta falling from the old, neglected building. The city took it over as part of the site for the new Civic Arts Complex. Eventually the building was deemed a fire hazard and its demolition seemed a foregone conclusion. Concerned citizens and a few aldermen fought for preservation but it was believed that the rehabilitation of the building would be too expensive. Others felt that the constraints placed on the Civic Arts Centre by the necessity of maintaining the both old Public Building and the Burns Building were too restrictive. Mayor Ross Alger lobbied hard for demolition, but lost by a single vote in 1980. Extensive restoration and renovations were done between 1981 and 1984 and the building was declared a Provincial Heritage Resource in 1987.

I can’t imagine the streetscape down here without that jewel of a building.

For information on the history of the Burns Building, you can visit our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. If you search for the postcard of the Burns Building, you will find a "Cornerstones" article written by our staff which includes more information about the building and its history. We also have a clippings file on "Buildings - Conservation and Restoration" that includes newspaper articles about the controversy over the building. You can also look for information on Pat Burns himself in our library catalogue. From the homepage, click on "Catalogue" in the black bar at the top of our webpage and then click on "Power Search". Type"Burns, Patrick" (without the quotation marks) into the text box and use the drop down menu to select "Subject". Click on Search and you are on your way.

Flores La Due

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 314

Flores LaDue, Champion Lady Fancy Roper of the World, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 314

Women have always been involved in events at the Calgary Stampede. There have been changes over the years, for example, women do not compete in bronc riding anymore, but there have always been cowgirls in Stampede competition.

By far the best known of the cowgirls, in these parts, anyhow, was Flores (sometimes Florence) La Due who was the Champion Lady Fancy Roper of the World. She was also Mrs. Guy Weadick and was a very important element in the first Calgary Stampede in 1912.

Guy met Florence (whose real name, according to her headstone was Grace Maude Bensel) at a Wild West show in Chicago. They were married in Memphis in 1906 and started a partnership that would last for forty five years. This partnership included Guy’s dream of having world championship cowboy competitions in Calgary – a dream that he would promote to four of Calgary’s most prominent businessmen as the Calgary Stampede. In 1912 this dream became a reality. Guy’s involvement with the Stampede lasted until 1932. After that he and Florence retired to The Stampede (or TS) Ranch which they had purchased in 1920 in Eden Valley. The operated a dude ranch there and when times got tough it was Florence who assisted with the family finances by trading in uncut diamonds. It is also said that she taught their neighbor, the Prince of Wales, how to do fancy roping. When the Weadicks left, to move to Phoenix for Florence’s health, the community of High River threw a grand party to see them off. Florence was given a gold wrist watch engraved “To Florence – a real partner” and this is maybe the truth of Florence and Guy. You rarely read an article about Guy without there being a mention of Florence and the important role she played. They seemed to be partners in the fullest sense of the word.

Florence died in 1951 on a visit to High River. She, her father and Guy are all buried in the Highwood Cemetery.

Needless to say, our Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library has a lot of information relating to the Weadicks and the founding of the Stampede. We are also honoured to present professor Max Foran who will speak about Guy Weadick, the founding of the Stampede and the controversial end of Weadick’s association with it. The program will be presented on Friday June 26 at 2:00 PM in the 4th floor meeting room at the Central Library. You can register in person at any library branch, by telephone at 403-260-2620 or online at (click on Programs in the bar at the top of the page).

Afternoon Tea Served on the Terrace

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 433

Banff Avenue in Winter

Postcards from the Past, PC 433

So now we're well into winter and it looks like maybe it won't last forever. Although the icy, rutted roads are starting to really get tiresome, there is still beauty in the white stuff. Walking along the wintry streets always reminds me of Banff and those beautiful postcards of the snow blanketing the town. And it also makes me long for summer.

I came across a delightful beverage and dessert menu from the Banff Springs Hotel from 1924. We have a number of menus in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at Central Library. Among my favourites are the menus from the dining cars on the CP trains and those from the elegant Banff Springs Hotel.

The beverage and dessert menu has a list of beers available (Chinook, Silver Spray, Alberta Pride and Old Fashioned Lager – 30 cents a pint), Cooling Drinks such as Horse’s Neck, Loganberry Lemonade and Bromo Seltzer; Mineral Waters such as Appollinaris, Vichy and Duncan Water and, what must have been very delightful, the Rose Marie Ice Nectar, which was made of “mingled strawberry ice cream and syrup with Ginger Ale and Whipped Cream Top”. For dessert you could have a Three Sisters Sundae, comprised of “Vanilla, Strawberry and Chocolate Ice Cream, Sliced Banana, Chocolate Sauce, Whipped Cream” or a Bow Valley (Orange water ice with apricot sauce, peaches, pistachio nuts and whipped cream.)

The last page of the menu reads “Afternoon tea served on the terrace”. Ahhhh.

PC 976

Banff Springs Hotel

Postcards from the Past, PC 976

Party Like It's... 2009 (or 1909)!

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)


Wm. Aberhart's Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute, taken in 1967

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ0506

With Barack Obama making history as the first African American to be president of the United States, our thoughts here have turned to all things political. In particular we are looking at Alberta's interesting history. Did you know that Alberta has had only four different political parties in power since it became a province in 1905? Can you name them? (See below)

Political Parties DisplayThe photograph in this entry is of a display in front of the Local History Room in the Central Library. It highlights some of the interesting items we have in the Local History room including election brochures, party publications (check out The Little Book of Reform and The Social Credit Challenge) as well as memoirs and histories.Pop in to check out the display and have a look at the collection of materials relating to Alberta politics. We're on the fourth floor of the Central Library.

(The four political parties are the Liberal Party, 1905-1921; United Farmers of Alberta, 1921-1935; Social Credit, 1935-1971; and Conservative, 1971 to present)

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