Carmangay, Alberta 1911
Postcards from the Past, PC 483
I was having a discussion with one of my regular customers about the kind of information one can find in a local history. I think anyone researching family, especially if they were rural people, should check to see if a local history has been written for the area in which they settled. Local histories often include the stories of families, usually written by a member of that family or by someone who remembers them. This can provide details of our ancestors lives that we would not be able to get anywhere else. For instance, I could never figure out the origin of my great uncle's middle name. It looked like a family name but we didn't have any Plante's in the family that I knew of. Reading the local history for Guelph, where the family was from, I noticed that the priest in the parish was Father Plante. Eureka! Of course, as with any anectodal resource we need to take the information we glean with a grain of salt but...
What my customer and I were discussing, though, was the detail about the history of a place that can be gleaned from these little jewels. Many of the local histories in our collection include information about the schools, churches, hotels, stores, swimming holes, you name it. They can also include lists of men who enlisted in the forces during particular conflicts, the names of the pastors in the various churches, all kinds of information that would be difficult to find elsewhere, if it could be found at all.
The importance of local histories for the study of social history is indicated by the various digitization projects that are being undertaken to make this information available to all researchers. The two that we use the most at the library are the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project, Our Future Our Past which includes digitized local histories from Alberta and the Our Roots/Nos Racines project which has digitized local histories from all over Canada. Of course, you can always visit our library catalogue and search for a local history for your area (use the place-name and the word 'history' to see what we have). Our Community Heritage and Family History collection includes a large number of Alberta histories and our circulating collection also includes Alberta local histories as well as a few for locales outside of the province. If the history you're looking for isn't in any of the above collections, we can always try to get it for you on interlibrary loan.
(The postcard used to illustrate this entry is a photograph of Carmangay Alberta circa 1911. It is postcard 483 and can be found in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Collection which is accessible through the link on the left)