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It's Jane's Walk Time Again!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 63-09

House of Jacob, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 63-09

Spring must be coming because it is Jane’s Walk season again. This has become an annual event, and for any of you who have not heard of the Jane's Walks, well, let me fill you in. Jane's Walks are named in honour of Jane Jacob's who was an extremely influential thinker who advocated a community approach to city building. As part of this legacy, the Walks are held every year in many major cities. These tours are led by volunteers who talk about their communities. Last year we had a number of excellent neighbourhood tours, and this year, the momentum continues to grow and we have a choice of some extremely interesting topics and areas.

One that I am particularly looking forward to is Harry Sanders’ tour of Jewish Calgary on Sunday May 6. It will start at the Central Library and meander up to Memorial Park Library and back. Harry will point out historic and modern buildings, sites of demolished buildings, parks and institutions that have a link to the Jewish community in Calgary’s past. This is going to be great. Harry has a great knowledge of Calgary’s history and a brain packed with fascinating details. I never fail to learn from him and his talks are always entertaining. He and Marje Wing, the Customer Service Manager of the Alexander Calhoun Library, will also be conducting a walk through Marda Loop, starting at the Calhoun library on Saturday.

Calgary Public Library is connected to some other walks as well. Two of our staff members will be taking interested “Jane’s Walkers” on an Art Circuit tour of the City of Calgary’s art collection. This tour also starts at the Central Library and will proceed from there through the Plus 15 system. That tour will take place on Saturday May 5.

For a look at a “newer” area, Ann Lidgren, the Customer Service Manager of Nose Hill Library, will be exploring the Brentwood area around her branch and talking about the impact that a library branch can have in developing a community.

There will also be a tour starting out at the Louise Riley Library that will explore the history and homes of the surrounding area. This tour is led by Professor Graham Livesay.

This is just a hint at some of the walks that will be taking place. The subjects range far and wide, just like this vibrant city. You can find out about the East Village (with Clayton Buck), you can visit the Drop In Centre and see the wonderful work they are doing there, you can check out the bridges of the Mission area with Marilyn Williams or look out at the city from Crescent Road with Judith Umbach and her co-presenters. Our new Poet Laureate, Kris Demeanor, is even involved, giving us his view of the Bridgeland area. The list goes on and on. You have to check out the website (http://janeswalk.net/cities/landing/category/calgary/) and the huge variety of walks available. The chance to have an insider’s look at the various communities is a great way to get to know about our home. The walks and talks are always interesting and this year’s selection is the best yet.

PC 1278

Mission Bridge, ca 1936 (from postmark)

Postcards from the Past, PC 1278

Vimy Ridge

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1478

IODE War Memorial, Central Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1478

Last week we celebrated the 95th anniversary of Vimy Ridge. It is said that the Canadian action at Vimy was the turning point for Canada. Before Vimy we were a frozen outpost of the British Empire, after Vimy we were a nation. That bit of information is certainly crucial to an understanding of Canada’s role in the Great War . But I am a bit of a micro-historian myself. I believe that we can also come to an understanding of the impact of world events by understanding the role of individuals in those events. This ties in nicely with my interest in genealogy, but it has also served me well in a new role I have taken on. Library and Archives Canada have a project called Lest We Forget, which involves collaboration with libraries around the country. The goal of this program is to bring the lives of Canadian soldiers to students in high schools by exposing them to primary source documents, in this case, the service records of men and women from their geographic area. I was a little leery of this to begin with. I love working with primary sources but I’m not sure if that is a sign of some dysfunction or if there might be others out there who get the same thrill from dusty old papers. Well, the students we have come in contact with seem to have the same feeling about micro-history and primary source materials that I do. Who knew? So now with this affirmation in hand, I am spreading the word about primary source research and Canada’s military history.

All of this leads me to Private Thomas Lawless. One thing that was really driven home by my involvement in Lest We Forget is the absolute horror of the battlefield. Photos of no-man’s land show a churned up, muddy pit of horse carcasses and dead bodies. It was, to belabor an obvious point, a chaotic nightmare where the niceties of tradition could not be observed. Bodies sometimes had to be left where they fell. Thomas Lawless was one of these soldiers who were left behind. As a matter of fact, his body was not discovered until 2003, and therefore he was still on the missing list until 2011, when scientists were finally able to confirm his identity. Thomas was from Ireland, but lived in Calgary when he enlisted, on November 22, 1915. He was 27, had sandy hair and a fresh complexion. He arrived in England in June of 1916 on the Olympia, but seems to have immediately contracted tonsillitis, which seemed to be a chronic problem for him, and was admitted to hospital. He ran a fever for a short while but by July he was fit enough to rejoin his regiment. After he died, his next of kin, listed as Mrs.K. Johnstone of 8th Street West, Calgary, received $275.46 of his back pay. His brother in Ireland received his medals.

How do I know all of this about Thomas? His service records have been digitized and made available by Library and Archives Canada. You can access the Soldiers of the First World War database here: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/cef/001042-100.01-e.php

As the files that we are using in the Lest We Forget project are scanned, they are also put in this database. So while some records only include the attestation papers (but you can order the files if you want to see them) some include the entire service record. If you are researching an ancestor, or have seen a name on a cenotaph that you would like to pursue more information about, check out the Soldiers of the First World War database.

And just on a more personal note, some of the students from one of the schools in the Lest We Forget project are in France and were a part of the celebrations at Vimy. They are also going to visit the battlefields. They all carry their soldier’s story with them and I’m certain they will see the Great War through new/old eyes.

Attestation Paper LAC


Attestation paper of Thomas Lawless

Soldiers of the First World War database, Library and Archives Canada

Titanic - The Calgary Connection

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Public domain

Titanic in Southampton, April 1912

One hundred years ago, on April 15, the Titanic went down. It took three days for the ship that rescued the survivors, the Carpathia, to reach New York but when it did, there was media frenzy and 250 policemen had to be on hand to control the crowd and make sure that only family and friends of the survivors had access to them. In spite of that, the press got through, one even making it onto the Carpathia. The papers were full of the stories of the survivors and many of the tales surrounding the sinking of that magnificent ship were born.

One of the most enduring examples of the heroism that was seen the night of the loss was that the band played as the lifeboats were loaded in order to keep the passengers calm. It was reported that the band continued to play even as the ship went down. Interestingly, the first report of this came from Vera Dick, a Calgary woman, who had been on the Titanic returning from her honeymoon. In an interview, said to be “one of the most comprehensive and connected stories of the disaster,” Vera reported that “as the steamship went down, the band was up forward and we could faintly hear them start ‘Nearer my God to Thee’.” She continued, “There was no evidence of panic while we were on board and I first laughed at the idea of the Titanic sinking.” (The Morning Leader, April 19, 1912).

Vera’s husband, Albert (known as Bert) kept fairly quiet about the disaster until he reached Calgary. Then he gave his report to a reporter in New York and the interview was picked up by The Calgary Daily Herald (April 19, 1912). His report is essentially the same as Vera’s but he adds that while Vera was in her nightdress and kimono, he managed to get into his pants and jacket. He also had high praise for the crew, who maintained order in the face of mounting panic and stayed with the ship until the end.

Following the disaster, the few men who survived were looked on with suspicion. The rule at sea is ‘women and children first’ and, while most of the women and children (at least those in first and second class) were saved, it is often overlooked that a boatload of women and children would have been expected to need men to row the boats. Women, especially those in the privileged classes, were not encouraged to undertake vigorous physical exercise. It was for this reason, claimed Vera, that her husband was forced into the boat with her. Indeed, the reports of the survivors are filled with reports of crew members and other men taking charge of the lifeboats and rowing them away from the suction of the great liners’ sinking.

In addition to Mr. and Mrs. Dick, it was reported that the family of Frank Marshall, a carpenter living in the Riverside area of Calgary, were also on board. His wife and two children were initially reported missing but I can find no further information about them (and they aren’t listed on the passenger lists I have seen) Reports, sent through the company of Niblock and Tull, agents for White Star in Calgary, indicated that Kate Marshall was rescued. It appears, however, that Kate Marshall was travelling with her husband and was not related to Frank. Does anyone know about this family? I’d be interested to hear if they were on the ship or if this was a bit of a hoax.

 

If you'd like to read some of the news reports from the time of the event, you can check out our two subscription services "Toronto Star: Pages from the Past" and "Globe & Mail: Canada's Heritage from 1844" both of which are in our E-Library under "History and Genealogy." You can also check the newspapers at Our Future Our Past and the newspapers in Peel's Prairie Provinces.

Photo of Albert Dick from interview

Calgary Daily Herald, April 19, 1912

Albert Dick from Calgary Daily Herald

Who on earth is PERSI?

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PERSI landing page

Saturday was Family History Coaching day at the Central Library. We had two outstanding volunteers from the Alberta Family Histories Society helping customers with their genealogical questions. As usual, the customers were not the only ones learning stuff. The volunteers and I always come away from these sessions with new information. That got me thinking about some of the lesser used resources for family history research. One source that I have used in the past, but which isn’t really used all that much by others is PERSI. You know that library people love acronyms so you probably guessed that PERSI isn’t a person. What it stands for is PERiodical Source Index – which still doesn’t tell you much about it. PERSI lives in Heritage Quest Online which you can access through our E-Library under History and Genealogy.

So why would you want to look at it in the first place? Because, periodicals (magazines, newsletters, etc.) are an overlooked resource for genealogists. An enormous amount of information is published every year in commercial journals and in the publications of genealogical societies. The good folks at Allen County Public Library in Indiana index this information and make this index available to all of us. In some cases, you can actually view the article online, in others you will have to make a request for an interlibrary loan of the periodical or a photocopy of the article. This can be done at your local Calgary Public Library branch (or, through your local library if you’re not in Calgary). You can also put in the request through Allen County PL by clicking on the request form link at the bottom of the page.

I ran a quick search to see what kinds of articles turn up when I look for information about my ancestors. The first thing you will notice is that the menu offers four options. You can search for information about people, places, how-to information and by periodical title. My first search was for my mother-in-law’s family in Ireland. I found a citation for an article about her family in Breifne magazine, published in Ireland, from 1973, as well as an article from a 1962 edition of Irish Genealogist. Cool, eh?

I also tried a place name search to see what I could turn up on the Okanagan, where my father’s family settled. I chose Canada in the search tabs and then selected British Columbia from the drop down menu. I used Okanagan as a keyword and my results included 854 hits including articles that listed the names on the Kelowna cenotaph, the names of Okanagan valley pioneers from 1881 and the names of railway workers killed on the Kettle Valley line (I’m going to request that one!) You can also use this search to find information to flesh out your family story. In addition to the drop-down menu for place names, you can also use a drop-down menu to narrow your search to a type of article or record. For example, a search using Alberta and Directories turns up many articles about directories in small towns in Alberta. Some of these may also include transcriptions.

In addition to genealogy periodicals, history publications are also indexed. These can be invaluable in filling in some of the details of your family’s story. Journals like Alberta History, Beaver and Legacy are included.

How-to articles can be searched by specific keywords or by using the drop-down menu to select article by record type. So if you want to have pointers on researching tax records or records of probate, you can see what kind of articles are available.

Whenever I do a tour for new genealogists, I like to point out our fairly large collection of magazines as a treasure trove of information. Now you don’t have to read each of the 1000 or so journals we have on our shelves, you can use PERSI to find the articles you need.

Happy hunting.

Oh, and just a reminder, if you haven’t registered for the AFHS/AGS Conference in Red Deer on April 14 and 15, you’re not too late. Check out the website and register. http://rdgensoc.ab.ca/registration.html This is going to be the Alberta genealogy event of the decade!

Ross Avenue, Red Deer, ca 191?

Postcards from the Past, PC 1086

PC 1086