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Genealogy Databases - More Than Ancestry LE

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 53 18

Group of people watching a band in Lethbridge, 1961

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 53-18

Most genealogists are aware that the Calgary Public Library has a subscription to Ancestry Library Edition. This is a great service for customers who don’t have their own, personal subscriptions to the Ancestry products. But what some family historians don’t know is that there are a lot of other online subscription resources available that can help in their genealogical searching. So, over the next few months I thought I would tell you all a little bit about some of these resources so you can explore some of these little jewels.

The first database I am going to introduce is the Biography and Genealogy Master Index. It is found, along with Ancestry LE, in the E-Library under History and Genealogy. You get to it from the library homepage,, by clicking on E-Library in the black navigation bar at the top of the page. You can also access it from the library catalogue by clicking on E-Library in the bar at the top of any page in the catalogue. Then just click on “History and Genealogy”. Because these are subscription databases, you do need to go through the E-Library link and you will also have to log in using your library card number and PIN.

Biography and Genealogy Master Index is the second in the list. This index has been around for a very long time. When I first started at the library (cretaceous period) this was a 3 volume paper index to biographies published in biographical dictionaries, subject encyclopedias, literary criticism which includes biographical information and other indexes. This sounds very mundane and ‘library-ish” I know, but this resource allowed us to find biographical information on some very obscure people whose biographies had not been published in book form. I always test genealogical databases by typing in my maiden name, which is quite unusual. Imagine my delight when I turned up biographical information about my great-great uncle who was a writer of inspirational books and hymns. There were entries for him in a number of resources. Because of the scope of this index, your ancestor may also have an entry in the BGMI (acronym – we love acronyms in libraries!) The sources indexed cover many, many different subject areas. For example, BGMI indexes biographies in The A t o Z of Scientists in Weather and Climate; Ad Men and Women; Automotive News; The Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women; Biographical Index of Artists in Canada; The Boxing Register; Who’s Who in Asian and Australian Politics just to name a few. Keep in mind, though, this is an index only. It doesn’t contain full text articles; it merely points you to the source. We have quite a few of the resources indexed at the Calgary Public Library and we can usually arrange to have photocopies delivered via our interlibrary loan service of those we don’t have in our collection (but there is a charge for this service). If you have any questions, you can email us at or telephone us at 403-260-2785.

So, when you are starting your search for information, BGMI is a good starting point.

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

November 11, 1918

by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

PC 1378

Peace Celebrations in Calgary, 1918

Postcards from the Past, PC 1378

I am always looking through our photograph collections to find pictures that capture moments in Calgary’s history. November is the month when we celebrate our veterans, and the sacrifices they made. We have lots of really great photographs of camps and soldiers and parades but the one that most intrigues me is the one at the head of this entry. It is from the end of the First World War and in many ways the times were similar to now. There was a great influenza pandemic that was sweeping across the world, brought home with the returning soldiers who had been made vulnerable by malnutrition and stress. People were jubilant, though, because the war was over and the boys were coming home. The evil Kaiser had been vanquished and peace was upon the land. But first, we needed to celebrate. And how better to do that than with a parade and a hanging? Immediately on the news that Germany had accepted the terms of surrender, the news desk at the Albertan alerted Mayor Costello and Fire Chief Smart and the church bells and fire bells began to ring. It was 1:30 in the morning. Cappy Smart threw open the doors to the fire hall and sounded the bells on the fire-fighting equipment for a full 15 minutes. This drew people into town and soon the War veterans had started a parade which grew in magnitude as the day progressed. They partied all night long. Some of the “horseplay indulged in by the jubilating throng” included starting a fire in a pile of rubbish and overturning garbage cans. As the Herald noted the “alarm raised over the alleged shortage of liquor in the province was somewhat premature.” The revelers had no trouble finding spirits to fuel their jubilation.

The official celebration took place the next day, November 11, which Mayor Costello had declared a half-day holiday. The day included a parade, which formed up at the fire hall and was led by “massed bands of the city”, followed by veterans of the war, who were followed by the piece de resistance, the float containing the effigies of the Kaiser and Crown Prince, which were to be burned later at City Hall. Guards had to be placed so the excited crowd didn’t torch them before dark. At 8:30 in the evening bonfires were lit on the North Hill and the hill overlooking Elbow Park and the effigies were burned with due ceremony.

You will notice in this picture that a very few people are wearing the mandated ‘flu masks. Announcements in the paper insisted that the mask rule would be enforced, but special permission was granted to churches who wished to celebrate the end of the war. Short services could be held as long as they were held outside and not in the church building. The joy of the war news was interspersed with articles about deaths from the influenza and the severity of the outbreak and the need for volunteer nurses to help with the ‘flu cases. As many or more people would die of the 'flu as died on the battlefields of Europe.

You can access newspaper accounts of the end of the war and of the influenza epidemic through the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project's Early Alberta Newspapers. There is also a very interesting book on the subject of the Spanish influenza in Canada, The Silent Enemy.