Latest Posts

Off Line

The Heritage Triangle PDF link

City of Calgary Annual Reports

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 935

Horses and Wagon outside of Fire Station Number 2

Postcards from the Past, PC 935

While I pride myself on my knowledge of the Community Heritage and Family History collection, I will admit that I don’t know every item in there. And I am always delighted when a customer passes on an interesting tidbit. This week a researcher drew my attention to the annual reports from the City of Calgary for 1909 to 1914. Now, I am not really a fan of government documents, but they do sometimes turn out to be the most fascinating things. That is true of these annual reports. Did you know that in 1909 it cost the police department twice as much to feed the horses as it did to feed the prisoners? Well, the horse feed coast $294.65 while food for the prisoners cost $138.28. Also, a fire alarm was called in on the 25 of January 1910 to the home of T. Wheatley 1012 17 Avenue W. The fire caused $50 damage and was caused by “matches and mice”. Those pyromaniac rodents! The Fire Department put it out. There is a roster (listed as “rooster” in the report) of firemen and the horses who served with them. For example, Frank was a 12 year old white horse, who stood 17 hands and weighed 1500 pounds while Brownie was an 11 year old black horse (?) who stood 16.2 hands and weighed 1550 pounds. Cap was Chief Cappy Smith’s horse, and though not very imaginatively named, he was a 12 year old bay who stood 15.3 hands and weighed 1150 pounds.

As for the police, they tried 3922 cases, 1334 of which were for drunkenness, 2 for fortune telling and one for “pigamy” (one hopes that is a misprint). They even kept statistics on the nationalities of those they arrested. Only one person was from Iceland. There is a complete roster of the police force including former service, the date the person joined the police force and the date when the person was appointed to their present rank. There’s another obscure source for you genealogists!

Now if someone could tell me what the Irish Suspense Account is. It is listed in the City Comptroller’s Office Annual Statement under receipts and is $195.93. I have a notion this may be a bit of a racial slur. Does anyone have any ideas?

The reports also give a very vivid statistical picture of the concerns of the citizens and the growth of Calgary. The Medical Health Officer’s report for 1913 lists every occurrence of every disease, points out the need for a new water treatment facility and calls for the establishment of free public baths because “there are hundreds of people in the city today who never have a bath from one year’s end to the another.” Between them and the horses the town must have smelled very interesting.

These reports could be very useful for genealogists, historians and folks who just want a glimpse of the history of the city (and, believe me, it can be a very entertaining experience). They are kind of hard to find in the catalogue – you have to go to Power Search and enter Calgary into the author box, Annual Report into the title box and Budget into the subject – or you could just remember the call number 352.0006 CAL – but they are well worth the search. Drop in for a peek.

Year of the Home Child

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Barnardo Boys

A group of Barnardo boys from Miss Macpherson's Home, London, England, who arrived at the Marchmont Home in April 1922
Library and Archives Canada / C-034840

Canadian Parliament has declared that 2010 is the year of the Home Child. An official stamp will be issued in October to commemorate Home Children in Canada.

Approximately 100,000 children were sent to Canada from Great Britain between 1869 and 1938. It is believed that the descendents of these children make up about 12% of the population of Canada. It is interesting that many people do not know about this chapter of Canada’s immigration history.

The children who were a part of this scheme were supposed to be orphans or from families too poor to support them. They would be sent to Canada to work as farm labourers or domestic servants. A number of agencies, such as the Barnardo Homes and the Middlemore Homes, were involved in identifying and transporting the children. The premise behind this was that Canada was seen as a land of opportunity that could provide these children with a more promising future that what they would have had back home. Sometimes this was the case. We did some research a while back for a society who is working on a database of home children and found information about a young boy who was sent as a home child to a farm family in Saskatchewan. The family treated him like one of their children and eventually he went to medical school.

There were, of course, the other stories. Some children were abused and neglected and treated as slaves but it is a testament to their strength and persistence that many remained in Canada and became the foundation of families and communities. Some four million of us are descended from them but we often come across the fact that our ancestor was a home child by accident. The experiences of some were so traumatic or they were so embarrassed by their early circumstances that they never spoke of their history. We find out about it only when we start our research and hit the brick wall of a child immigrant with no family background.

There are a number of resources available to genealogists who have a home child in their family tree. Library and Archives Canada is a good place to start:

From this link, click on Immigration and Citizenship, and then on Home Children. The site provides information and a link to the Home Children Database, created by another organization that has done a lot of work on documenting the experiences of home children in Canada, the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO). The direct link to their site is:

Pier 21 also has a site where the stories of home children have been collected. You can find those here:

And finally there is the site for the descendents of British Home Children:

If you are interested in reading about home children in Canada, there are a number of very good books available at the Calgary Public Library. Some of the titles are Uprooted: the Shipment of Poor Children to Canada 1867-1917, Nation Builders: Barnardo Children in Canada and Neither Waif nor Stray: the Search for a Stolen Identity . You can find others in the catalogue by searching for the subject Home Children (Canadian Immigrants)

When Irish Eyes are....Calgarian?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 83-14

Burns Block, 1964

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 83-14

The Scottish origins of Calgary’s heritage are quite obvious. We have Macleods and Macdougalls and Lougheeds aplenty. Even the name “Calgary” is taken from a Scottish place on the Isle of Mull. What many people don’t realize is that Calgary had its Irish contingent as well. Many well known people in Calgary’s past have an Irish background and, given that Wednesday is St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going to tell you a little about a couple of the notable Irishmen that helped build this city.

The first and probably most famous is Patrick Burns. He was a man of humble origins, born Patrick O’Byrne near Kirkfield Ontario. A note on the census record for a town near Kirkfield in 1851 says that “the Gaelic is the general language spoken, the greater part of the people understand English particularly the young people. In some cases I was forced to hire an interpreter which cost me one pound.”

Burns came to Calgary, via Minnedosa Manitoba, in about 1890, when the Calgary-Edmonton Railway was under construction. Pat’s friend from his childhood, William McKenzie, had turned to him to provision the railway workers.

He’d only been here a short while before he set up his abattoir east of the Elbow, near Calgary Brewing and Malting. By 1903 he had moved into his beautiful mansion on 13th Avenue SW. By 1911 the Burns Building had been constructed. By 1912, Burns and his buddies had funded the first Calgary Stampede. Pat Burns died in 1937 and left his huge estate in trust to the Burns Memorial Fund, created to help children “reach their full potential.”

If you’re interested in Pat Burns and his contributions to Calgary, there is an excellent book by Grant MacEwan, Pat Burns: Cattle King available at the Calgary Public Library. You can also view pictures of the many buildings and businesses owned by Pat Burns in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. Just search using the name Burns.

The second Irishman whose efforts helped make the city what it is today is John Glenn. He was born in 1833 in County Mayo, Ireland and rattled around England and the United States before finding his home where Fish Creek met the Bow River. When he settled there in 1875 he became one of the first European settlers in this area. He sold his original farm to Edgar Dewdney, the Indian Commissioner, in 1879 and moved to the south side of Fish Creek near the Macleod Trail crossing. He was one of the first farmers, along with neighbour Sam Livingston, to cultivate a cereal crop in the district. He was also responsible for the first irrigation system on the prairies which he shared with his neighbour Sam Shaw, who also used the irrigation system to operate his woolen mill.

John Glenn contributed the land for the building of St. Paul’s Anglican Church near Midnapore. This was in spite of the fact that Glenn was a Catholic. When the Catholics of the area wanted to build a church, it was John Glenn’s son, Patrick, who donated the land right beside St. Paul’s for the Catholic St. Patrick’s Church.

John Glenn was also a pioneer investor. When the CPR was selling lots for the townsite of Calgary in 1883, Glenn was the first to purchase. He built the Frontier Livery Stable, which was then the largest in the city, as well as two other buildings. When he died as the result of an accident in 1886 he left an estate valued at $2600. John Glenn was remembered as a charitable and hospitable man whose name was to be found on many a charitable subscription list in and around Calgary. The Glennfield picnic area in Fish Creek Park is named in memory of John and his wife Adelaide. Information about the Glenn family can be found in the Community Heritage and Family History Collection at the Calgary Public Library by searching the catalogue with the subject “John Glenn Calgary” (so you won’t get books about the astronaut). In particular, the DeWinton and area history book From Sodbusting to Subdivision has a lot of information.

There were many, many more Irish folk who came to Calgary and left their mark. These are only two of those notable sons and daughters of Eire. Slainte!

Stanley Park District

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1248

Elbo [sic] River

Postcards from the Past, PC 1248

I was reading the old newspapers, again, when I stumbled on the announcement of the winner of the “name that district” contest on April 15, 1909. J.R.C. Smith, of 1811 Centre Street, Calgary, suggested the name Stanley Park for the new subdivision adjoining Elbow Park. For his prize, he was awarded a fifty-foot corner lot in the subdivision. Over seven-hundred people entered and this, according to promoters, was an indication of a potential rush of buyers for the new lots. I have no idea why the name Stanley Park was chosen over all the others and I have no indication of the significance of the name (although I am still looking). I am very curious so if anyone out there knows, please let me in on the tale.

I checked the Henderson’s directories to see if I could find out more information about Mr. Smith (suspecting, I must admit, that he was made up and this was all a publicity ploy) and what I was able to find was that there was a Smith living at 1811 Centre Street Calgary. Crispin Smith, who was a city magistrate, was the householder at that address. Could J.R.C. Smith have been his son? I don’t know and I haven’t been able to find any more information. No addresses turn up in Stanley Park in the five succeeding years of Henderson’s directories. Even though Stanley Park was named and lots were designated, little development took place until the 1950s. The park itself, was designated a park in 1924, but most of the development of the park took place when landscaping began in the 1960s. My resources are obviously incomplete on the subject of Stanley Park, so I would be most delighted to hear from anyone who can add to my information.

Even the photo I’ve put into this entry is not of the area of Stanley Park but of a lovely vista of the Elbo (sic) River.

Obscure Sources for Genealogy Research

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Obscure sources

I had the pleasure last night of giving a presentation to the Alberta Family Histories Society monthly meeting. I was asked to give a talk about some of the more obscure resources that we have for people researching their family history. I was given somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour to talk. How was I going to fill that time?

Well, I solicited input from my colleagues and cruised the shelves myself and came up with some really specialized kinds of resources. These are not the kinds of resources you would use to start your search. You would be led to many of them by research that you have already done. For example, you would not just pick up Alberta List, which is a listing of people in all levels of government, unless you had some reason to believe that your ancestor was in government in some capacity. Likewise you would not randomly start looking through school yearbooks unless some clue had led you to believe that your ancestor had attended a particular school.

Some of the resources I looked at were listings of passenger arrivals and departures from many, many different ports and collected from many, many resources. My favourite was suggested by my colleague who has Icelandic ancestors: Vesturfaraskra, 1870-1914: a record of immigrants from Iceland to America. I think I just liked the name but it came highly recommended as a great resource for Icelandic research. This is one case, too, where the paper versions of lists can be helpful. With Icelandic names, the transcription can be quite horrific if the transcriber is not familiar with the language. Online indexes are fabulous, don’t get me wrong, but they do rely on transcribers. With a book in front of you, you can scan down the index and see if the name, or some variant of it, is in there. It is much harder to do that with an online search. Vesturfaraskra is just one title. We have a lot of passenger list books for many different ports and from many different sources. Most of these are not available online so if you can’t find your ancestor in the regular resources (Ellis Island, Castle Garden or in Canada’s passenger lists) it may be because they came through another port.

If you are researching your “black sheep” side (which in my chart seems to be all sides, just kidding, ma) you may be interested in Original lists of emigrants in bondage from London to the American Colonies, 1719-1744. These lists were taken from the Treasury Money Books (because the Treasury had paid a contractor for the expense of feeding, clothing and transporting the felon). Some of us must certainly be descended from these folks

These are just a sprinkling of the various weird and wonderful sources I was able to dig up in the genealogy collection here at the Calgary Public Library. In preparing the presentation my eyes were opened to the genealogical possibilities of many unlikely sources. As always, it is a question of following the trail, even if it leads into unlikely areas.