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Doing Genealogy in Alberta Part 2 – Other sources for BMD info

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Papers iStock

So, did the last entry on finding birth, death and marriage records make you feel discouraged? I hope not, because even though it may be a bit tougher to get vital events information in Alberta, you are researching the people who made this province, which, in my estimation, is the greatest province in Canada :)

And, as always, there are other records available that you can access to find out what you need to know. Here are a few alternative sources that may contain information about your ancestors “big events.”

Church Records:

Before we were required to register our births, marriages and deaths with the government, the churches were the places where such events were recorded. It helps to know what religion your ancestors practiced, as well as where they lived. Keep in mind, however, that especially in rural Alberta, people would baptize, marry and be buried by whichever church was nearby, if their particular denomination didn’t have a church in the vicinity. And if there wasn’t a church nearby, your ancestors may have had to register with either a travelling cleric or at a church well out of the way. This can lead to problems. For example, if there was no religious organization or travelling cleric available, the event might not have been registered. This is particularly true of baptisms, as births cannot be planned, as a rule, and if the event took place on a homestead miles from anywhere in the dead of winter, registering your child’s birth might not be uppermost on your mind.

A good source to check for approximate dates and for religious affiliations is the census. I will look at census records in more detail in an upcoming post.

The other difficulty with church records is where they are kept. Some religious organizations have established archives and keep their records there. Other religious groups keep their records at the church or at a district repository. In Alberta, the Provincial Archives holds some registers from the United Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church or the Edmonton or Athabasca diocese of the Anglican Church. The records of the Calgary diocese of the Anglican Church are held at the University of Calgary. There is a finding aid to the records available at the Calgary Public Library. There are numerous resources and numerous repositories for parish and religious records. Staff on the fourth floor at the Central Library can help look for the location of the records of a particular denomination.

Newspapers

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I love reading old newspapers. They are a wonderful window on the world as it was, but aside from that, the announcements can be a goldmine for the genealogy researcher. There are a number of ways to access historic Alberta newspapers. The Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library holds a number of early Alberta newspapers in microfilm format. There are also a number of projects that are digitizing early newspapers. Chief among these is the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project. This project consists of scanned images only so it is not searchable by name. There are projects that aim to index the announcements in some of these papers. One such project is The Recents which has indexes for a number of newspapers in Alberta and British Columbia.

Both the Alberta Family Histories Society and the Alberta Genealogical Society have online indexes to select years of some Alberta Newspapers.

Another source for digitized newspapers is Peel’s Prairie Provinces This project does allow for searching within an individual newspaper.

The Edmonton Journal and The Calgary Herald for select years are also available on Google Newspapers.

Paper indexes are also available for some newspapers. To find what we have in our collection, you can search the catalogue using the name of the place and "newspapers". We also have reference books that will help you determine what the newspaper was for a particular town, when it was published and where you can access copies. We can also help you arrange for an interlibrary loan of newspapers on microfilm.

Cemetery Transcriptions

One of the larger collections in the Community Heritage and Family History room is the cemetery transcription collection. We have numerous transcriptions from southern Alberta. There is also online access to a number of Alberta cemetery transcriptions through the Alberta Family Histories Society website and some through the Alberta Genealogical Society website. The City of Edmonton also has a database of information about burials in that city that happened more than 25 years ago.

Proof of Age Documents

These documents, which originated in the Pensions Branch, contain documents which were submitted by people applying for an old age pension or a Federal-Provincial disability pension and were not, for whatever reason, returned to the applicant. The index to these documents is available at the Calgary Public Library.

So, next post will be about census and substitutes. With census records, Alberta and the other prairie provinces have an edge as there are two extra federal censuses for us. So, until next week - Happy Hunting!

Doing genealogy in Alberta, Part 1 – Births, Deaths and Marriages

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

Now that Historic Calgary Week is over, it seemed an appropriate time to delve into some genealogical questions and post a few entries on the subject. The summer brings lots of visitors to the city and we see many people from out of the province coming in to the library to research family members who came to the Calgary region. What we have noticed over the years, is that there aren’t too many really good guides to doing genealogy in Alberta, so I decided I would write my own cheat sheet, so to speak, for my colleagues so, why not post it as a blog entry (or three)?

For anyone just getting started in Alberta genealogy it helps to have a few facts in hand. Until 1905, Alberta was a part of what was called the Northwest Territories. It was 1905 that saw the formation of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. That is an important fact to keep in mind as you search the census records of Canada. There was a district called “Alberta” but it was not the entire province.

I am going to start with how one goes about finding vital events registrations in the province. I will cover other records and other sources for information in subsequent postings.

So, first thing to know about doing genealogy in Alberta is that there is no index to vital records after 1905. For events prior to that date, there are two indexes that can be consulted:

Index to registrations of births, marriages and deaths: Alberta, formerly the Northwest Territories, 1870-1905 by the Alberta Genealogical Society (929. 37123 IND v.1)

Alberta: formerly a part of the North-West Territories: an index to birth, marriage and death registrations prior to 1900 by the Documentary Heritage Society of Alberta and the Provincial Archives of Alberta. (929. 37123 ALB)

After 1905, there is no indexing available.

The Provincial Archives of Alberta does hold some vital statistics registers dating up to 1980 for some locations. After 1905, these are arranged by place so you need to know where the event took place in order to search this collection. Here is the link to the Provincial Archives page that outlines the major genealogical sources available at the PAA:

http://culture.alberta.ca/paa/archives/research/genealogy.aspx

Not all years or communities are included, so you may still need to contact Vital Statistics for some records.

Here is a link to the Service Alberta site for ordering genealogical records of vital events.

http://www.servicealberta.gov.ab.ca/1175.cfm

There is legislation in place governing the accessibility of vital events registrations. The guidelines are given at the site mentioned above.

Remember, as well, that we offer Family History Coaching on the last Saturday of the month from September to November and January to June. Drop in and enjoy a one-on-one consultation with a genealogy expert.

Our Mayor Launches Historic Calgary Week (and we launch a collection!)

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

 

Mayor Nenshi

Mayor Nenshi Proclaims Historic Calgary Week,

Photograph courtesy Val Jobson

It is here! Mayor Nenshi launched Historic Calgary Week this past Friday at the Southern Alberta Pioneers building. There are SO many interesting programs going on this week, I can’t decide where I want to go. Check out the brochure and join in on this celebration of our heritage.

So, because it is the annual celebration of our history, Calgary Public Library has launched our newest digitized collection - Historic Maps of Calgary and Alberta. Maps can be a fascinating way to look at the history of a city and its people and this collection highlights a sampling of historic Calgary maps that have been digitized from the Community Heritage and Family History's print map collection found in the Local History Room at the Central Library. The print map collection consists of hundreds of maps dating from the early 19th century and into to 21st. Below is a sample of one of the digitized maps:

Calg 4

 

Map showing Calgary in 1884

Community Heritage and Family History Map Collection, CALG 4

This map of Calgary N.W.T. shows locations and dates of early Calgary buildings and provides valuable insight into our city's history and development. For example, did you know that in 1884 the City Pound was across the street from where the Central Library is now?

 

Click here to see the collection, or find it through the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (under Books & More from our website)

To see the sample of digitized maps available online, click on Digitized Map link on the collections front page. You can also access information about the hundreds of actual maps in our collection; click on the Browse All tab at the top of the page. So while we work at getting more of the maps digitized and available, you can see the real thing in the Local History room on the fourth floor at the Central Library. And keep in mind, that if you have any questions about the maps or about history or genealogy, you can contact us via our Chat Reference, by email or by telephone at 403-260-2785.

Historic Calgary Week 2012

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

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St. Mary's Cathedral (designed by Maxwell Bates)

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 2510

Historic Calgary week starts on July 27 and runs to August 6. The theme for this year is Culture, Commerce, Community - Connect and there are over sixty events taking place. As usual, the Calgary Public Library Community Heritage and Family History department will be presenting a program as part of this week. On Thursday August 2 at 2:00 p.m. we will be presenting “Ancestors and Their Attics 2.0 – The Century Homes Edition.” This program explores just how much information you can uncover starting with just a postcard, some first names and a lot of snooping. The early version was very popular and we have continued our pursuit of the family and found even more interesting information about them and their house.

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601 and 603 15 Avenue SW (603 was the home of Freddie McCall in 1908)

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 7520

 

There are lots of other fascinating programs on offer. Just a few of the ones I’m looking forward to are “In the Lougheed Neigbourhood: Calgary’s Great Modern Artist, Maxwell Bates” with Nancy Townshend on July 20, “What’s Under Calgary” with Cory Gross on July 31, and “Reader’s Legacy” on August 3. I would also like to see the City Hall Tour, the Freddie McCall program, the War of 1812, and there are also all the Century Homes to visit – and the Lion Awards on August 1. I am going to have to quit work just so I can take in all of the great offerings. You can see for yourself the wide variety of events that are going on during Historic Calgary Week by visiting the Chinook Country Historical Society website. Hope to see you at one (or all) of them.

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Central Memorial Park (one of William Reader's accomplishments)

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 25-10

Ride through Time at Lougheed House

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

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Beaulieu from the south east

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, aj-14-10

We are going to be at Lougheed House on Saturday July 21 for their annual Ride through Time. Ride through Time is a great chance for all Calgarians to see the house and its gardens. It is a party atmosphere, with a pancake breakfast for the first 600 guests, a display of antique cars and fun and games for the whole family. This is one of our favourite events of the year because we meet a huge variety of people. Another perk is that we get to set up our display in the magnificent Lougheed House, which is the only remaining Victorian residence in Calgary.

The house has seen one hundred and twenty years of this city’s development. It has ridden the booms and the busts. The house was built in a boom year, 1891, on 2.8 acres of land which was part of a larger parcel granted to Senator Lougheed in 1890 (see Land Patent below). Beaulieu was pretty much out on its own at the edge of the city. A photo in an article on the “bright future” of Calgary in the Globe of October 17, 1891 shows the house under construction with no buildings anywhere nearby. It really was out on the bald prairie. But, as the Globe article stated, Calgary’s future was bright, and in a short time the city had grown and the community of what is now the Beltline was well populated. (You can read the article by going to the database “The Globe and Mail: Canada’s Heritage from 1844” under History and Genealogy in our E-Library)

 

Letters patent for Senator Lougheed Letters patent, issued to Senator James Lougheed, on block 86, lots 1-20

Western Canada Land Grants Database, Library and Archives Canada

 

Central High School would be built a few years later, and, as the postcard below shows, the area was well populated by 1912.

Senator Lougheed died in 1925 and Lady Lougheed continued to live in the house, even after it had been taken by the City of Calgary for non-payment of taxes in 1934. (This was not an uncommon occurrence. Many of Calgary’s great homes were seized during the depression for non-payment of taxes.) After Lady Lougheed’s passing, the city organized an auction to clear the house of its furniture, art and other fixtures. The family had taken what they could but the rest was sold. I can only imagine the grief of the Lougheeds at this development.

Once the city owned the land, the question arose of what to do with it. The beautiful sandstone mansion could have been lost to the wreckers ball but, in an ironic twist of fate, the very economic downturn that had led to the city owning the house, also led to its survival. Unemployment was soaring and young people had very limited options. The Federal Government pledged one million dollars for courses to prepare young people for work. What better place to hold these classes than Beaulieu.

With the coming of World War II, the training programs ended and Beaulieu was shuttered for two years. In 1941 the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) was formed. They needed training and once again beautiful Beaulieu stood at the ready. It was converted into barracks for the women. After the war, the house was briefly a YWCA residence for demobbed service women and then came the Red Cross. They rented the building and then later purchased it. Land that was not purchased by the Red Cross was developed as small apartment building in the 70s. Eventually the Red Cross outgrew its space and once again there was talk of demolishing the building in order to build a bigger facility. It was a boom time. The small apartment buildings were knocked down to make away for larger towers. However, by 1980 we had hit a bust and the plans for the large apartment towers were abandoned. In the interim, though, Beaulieu had been declared a provincial historic resource and ownership was transferred to the province. The Red Cross was given a building nearby and a parking garage was built under the backyard.

The house lay empty for 15 years. In 1993 the city purchased the land on which the apartment buildings had stood and set it aside for park purposes. The Lougheed Estate was finally back together, though owned by two different arms of government.

The Lougheed House is a wonderful symbol of this city’s history. Drop by on Saturday and say hi! 

 

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Thirteenth Avenue [looking] east showing Beaulieu on the right

Postcards from the Past, PC 165

Stampede Genealogy

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1405

Wally Lindstrom, Wild Steer Decorating, Calgary Stampede

Postcards from the Past, PC 1405

At the last general meeting of the Alberta Family Histories Society, Stampede Archivist Aimee Benoit presented the story of Guy Weadick and his wife Flores La Due. Members of the Society did some digging into the history of these two folks and were able to pull up a great deal of genealogical information. It’s always lots of fun to do these “extreme” genealogies where all you have is a name and a few bits of information – we are going to be doing a version of that for Historic Calgary Week, when we present our enhanced “Ancestors and their Attics, 2.0” . But what if your family was part of the first Stampede? What kind of information could you pull up about them? I got to thinking about this as I was watching the parade and saw the great numbers of descendants of the Stampede pioneer families. What kinds of resources would be available to people who were researching folks who might have participated in some way in the Calgary Stampede over the years?

Well, I started close to home, in the Community Heritage and Family History collection here at the Central Library. We have a great deal of information and artifacts from the Stampede including things like souvenir programs, annual reports, prize lists. For example, did you know that in 1968 the first prize for an appliquéd cotton quilt in the Needlework and Homecrafts display was $5.00? Or that, in 1912, Fannie Sperry from Mitchell Montana won a gold mounted belt and 1000 dollars cash for winning the Cowgirl Bucking Horse World Championship? (I didn’t even know that there was a women’s bucking horse contest – good on ‘em) Even if you’re not researching your own family, we have a wealth of ephemera (that means the kind of stuff you generally toss out after the event) that paints a very intimate and interesting picture of what the Stampede was like over the years. Great for filling in family history stories or just for idle curiosity.

Of course, we have an excellent collection of photographs, especially from the first Stampede. If you had an ancestor who was a cowboy or cowgirl, you might find his or her picture in the CHFH Digital Library. The photo at the top is from, I believe, sometime in the 1940s, and shows Wally Lindstrom participating in the Steer Decorating competition. Wally was the Canadian Saddle Bronc Champion in 1941 but he competed in other events so he could be considered for the All Around title.

The photo below shows Tex McCloud riding a “squalling bronc” in the 1912 Stampede. Is he, perhaps, an ancestor? Let us know if you have any rodeo in your roots. We’d love to hear from you!

(Of course there are other repositories that you can visit for Stampede history. The Glenbow Museum and Archives has a great collection as do the Stampede Archives. The Stampede Archives have an online presence through the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project at the U of C. Check it out.)

PC 276

Tex McCloud on the Squalling Bronco, Stampede Calgary, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 276

100th Anniversary Stampede Parade - Yahoo!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1573

Cowboys and Cowgirls in 1912 Stampede Parade

Postcards from the Past, PC 1573

Well, it’s nearly here! The 100th anniversary Calgary Stampede begins with the parade on Friday. The parade is, for many, the most important part of the Stampede celebration. The streets are lined with thousands of folks, many of them dressed up in western regalia. The first Stampede parade I can remember was in 1965. Walt Disney was the parade marshal, and if I’m not mistaken, Mickey Mouse was here, too. I may have been at other, earlier, parades as my parents loved the Stampede and my dad’s office was right on the route. I wouldn’t have been one yet when Bing Crosby was parade marshal, but I bet my parents took me to that one – they were Bing Crosby fans. I don’t remember the Three Stooges, but I bet I was at that one, too as my brother was a die-hard fan.

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Bing Crosby, Parade Marshall, 1959

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 34-06

My favourites were always the marching bands and the mini-cars. Those seemed to be pretty standard over the years. I live near a wide open field so I get a sneak preview of some of the marching bands as they practice (at 9:00 in the morning on the weekends, mind you). My other faves were the First Nations representatives who have been an integral part of the Stampede since the beginning. And with the 100th anniversary Stampede parade, the chiefs of the Treaty Seven Nations are going to be honourary parade marshals. It is going to be something, I tell ya.

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First Nations People in Traditional Dress in Stampede Parade, undated

Postcards from the Past, PC 593

I believe that everybody, even those of us with curmudgeonly tendencies, loves a parade. And it seemed that in the days before we were inundated with entertainment options, parades were a very common event. Military bands paraded up and down the streets, returning soldiers paraded through the city, there was a parade on the opening of baseball season, (for which the mayor had declared a half-day off for the city). There were Victory Bond parades, which included floats and fire eaters supplied by Cappy Smart and the fire department. It seems that on any excuse, a parade was held. This must have been a very interesting time. Some of the fanciest parades, pre - Stampede, were for the Dominion Exhibitions that were held here. The postcard below is a photo of a Roman chariot in the parade for the Dominion Exhibition of 1908.

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Roman Chariot on 8th Avenue, possibly part of an historic parade

Dominion Exhibition, 1908(?)

Postcards from the Past, PC 868

So, the parade itself is a nostalgic event, from a time when you could just get up a bunch of yahoos and march down the street for any good reason. I like that. Let’s bring that spirit to the 100th Anniversary Stampede Parade and get your yahoos out.

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Start of the 50th Anniversary Stampede Parade, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 63-15

We have a Historian Laureate!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Historian Laureate

Harry Sanders is our Historian Laureate

Scott Jolliffe, Chair CHA, Harry Sanders, Alderman Druh Farrell

Photo courtesy Judith Umbach

I was delighted to be able to attend the crowning of Calgary’s first Historian Laureate. Being a long-time Calgary native, I have watched the attitudes of administration toward the preservation and celebration of heritage develop over the years from an almost personal animosity toward old buildings (think Rod Sykes being attacked by the Burns Building) to today’s understanding of the value of preserving the past. Our new laureate is a person who has spent his entire adult life bringing heritage to the people and interpreting it for them through his own, passionate view. Harry Sanders makes history meaningful. In his hands, heritage is a living thing, a story of everyday people – the people who make this city great.

Part of the investiture ceremony was a poetry slam. Our other laureate, Kris Demeanor, Calgary’s first Poet Laureate (and believe me, when I was growing up, studying literature at university, the idea that the city of Calgary, Capitalist Calgary, would ever have a poet laureate would have provoked gales of laughter in all of the cement and steel towers that line our streets) wrote and delivered a challenge – one that Calgarians have long been debating – what use is history?

With his permission, here is Kris’s throw down:

Okay, I know it’s not in the Calgary tradition of niceness and politeness, but I cannot hold my peace!

I don’t care about Guy Weadick’s rope and release any more than I do the fathers of Greece

It’s old news and we all know that’s only fit for wrapping fish and chips

Look, nothing against Harry, I’m sure he’s a wealth of facts colourful, sublime, astounding and scary,

But let me save you all two years of talk of beaver pelt hats and ‘That used to be a nunnery!’

And give you a quick and easy summary of all you need to know about history

PERSONAL: You are the genetic union of a mother and father, they gave you food and water, you grew, learnt a bunch of stuff, most of it useless, you got a job and barbecue.

THE WORLD: Big Bang, plants, fish, caveman, hominid, ice age, Egypt, Rome, Aztecs, war war war war war, Bible, Genghis Khan, Da Vinci, Queen Victoria, war, war, war, Einstein, guy in Hummer with a baseball cap and GI Joe facial hair, there, DONE.

History teaches us nothing, we have always just been bluffing our way from one grand embarrassment to another- we don’t look at letters from our last lover, or replay the video reel of us throwing up at the school dance or failing math.

Let our collective insecurity and shame over the past lead the way to a brighter tomorrow full of wisdom we don’t need to borrow. All I could learn from my forefathers and foremothers is how to stoke a coal stove and churn my own butter, and I don’t want to do that.

I don’t want to imagine a world without frozen pizza, omnipresent technology and direct flights to Cuban all-inclusives for five hundred dollars.

Look, Harry will claim that history is interesting, but when I look back I see buffalo carcasses stacked, endless trains rolling down endless track, dust, snowstorms, scarlet fever and clothing with colour choices ranging from beige to brown, look around, we’re surrounded by concrete, glass, GPS, pubs with seven beers from Belgium and full of people looking forward, ahead, and into the future, why go back or even stay in neutral, sure maybe the Marx Brothers played here, but I can get the latest and greatest sent straight from a satellite and into my ear.

History? Two weeks of the retro kitsch of Stampede is all I need to feel connected to folk of old who found themselves stuck in this cold, harsh land, I’m burning my brand into the hide of this city with a laser.

I’ve been here since birth, and trust me, we’ve long since paved over anything worth unearthing. Harry, good luck putting flesh on the past, but you’re going to run out of fodder fast!

So, though tongue-in-cheek, this does raise the question – What value is there in the past? Harry’s job as historian laureate will be to answer this question, which he did, in verse, no less:

Poetry may be the more universal art

Some things are best said in verse

But a forgotten poem is never repeated

So forgetting our history is worse

Those we follow inform who we are

Crowfoot, Macleod, Weadick, Edworthy

They’re with us still, for good or ill

Daily, we’re shaped by our history

So, it is a great honour to have a small part

In celebrating this 100th anniversary

I pledge to remind you all of our shared past

As Historian Laureate of Calgary

I know that Harry will continue to answer the question in his own inimitable style. Way to go, Harry!

Poet Laureate and Historian Laureate

Poet Laureate Kris Demeanor asks the Question "What's so great about history?"

Photo courtesy Judith Umbach

Heritage Roundtable: Century Homes

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Cliff Bungalow by Bill Longstaff

Cliff Bungalow School

Photo by Bill Longstaff

The next Heritage Round Table is on Thursday at the Cliff Bungalow–Mission Community Association. In keeping with our Century Homes theme, we will be hearing presentations on how to identify the style of your home from David Monteyne of the U of C Faculty of Environmental Design, how to photograph your century home from photographer James McMenamin and historic paint colours and sampling with heritage consultant Laura Pasacreta. If you have a picture of your home, you can bring it along for a “What style is it?” consultation with the experts.

The Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association is at 2201 Cliff Street SW in the historic Cliff Bungalow School. The program is on June 21 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and there will be refreshments, of course. You can find out more on the Century Homes website www.centuryhomes.org

I think just the opportunity to see this beautiful old school would be reason enough to come, but the speakers will be the icing on the cake.

This is proving to be a very popular program and it is filling up fast. Get you registration in today, if you’d like to hear these great presentations.

Century Home

A Beautiful Century Home as Photographed by James McMenamin

UPDATE:

The Round Table was a roaring success. Over 100 people attended. Here is what happened, thanks to our summer library student, Melissa:

On Thursday, June 21, Calgary Public Librariy was pleased to attend the Heritage Round Table hosted by Calgary Heritage at the Cliff Bungalow–Mission Community Association.

David Monteyne, Associate Professor at the University of Calgary Faculty of Environmental Design, began the evening with a presentation about various residential architectural styles from Calgary’s early boom. The two-story home in the photograph below is one example of the homes that would have been available for purchase a century ago from the Sear’s Modern Homes Mail Order Catalogue. This architectural splendor would have sold for only $1277!

Bungalow Plan Sears Catalogue

Modern Home No. c187, The Sherbourne, from the Sears Modern Homes Mail Order Catalog 1913 to 1922

Professor Monteyne also concluded the evening with a “What style is it?” consultation for those attendees who brought along pictures of their century homes to help them identify the style of their homes.

Following Professor Monteyne’s presentation on architectural style, architectural photographer James McMenamin discussed how to photograph century homes. While this was less of a technical demonstration, McMenamin provided helpful hints on lighting considerations, on selecting photographic angles, and on how to position objects in architectural photographs. Some helpful hints include: 1) If there are objects, such as a tree or a flag pole in your yard, be sure to include the entire object; and 2) Try to take pictures of your home in soft lights rather than hard lights, such as the sun, which create dark shadows. Examples of McMenamin’s photography can be viewed at: http://www.jamesmcmenamin.com/.

The presentations for the Round Table concluded with Heritage Consultant and Historic Archaeologist at Donald Luxton, Laura Pasacreta, who discussed historic paint colours and paint sampling of century homes. If you have a century home and you are interested in having your paint sampled to establish its original colour, contact Ms. Pasacreta at laura@donaldluxton.com.

For more information on the Century Homes project, visit http://centuryhomes.ca, or follow them on twitter @CenturyHomesYYC or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CenturyHomesCalgary

Essential Skills for Successful Genealogists

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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New Settlers, Their First House, Western Canada

Postcards from the Past, PC 1649

I read an interesting blog posting this week which outlines some of the skills that a successful genealogist will need to develop. Some of these are quite straightforward, things we probably learned in kindergarten, such as, be polite, be a good listener, be patient. Others might not be so obvious, or may be so obvious as to be overlooked. Here is the list, adapted from Bob Brooke at the Genealogy Today blog.

Have a plan: I speak from experience here; you need to have a plan. While certain advertisements and television programs suggest that you really don’t need to know what you are looking for, you really do and having a plan of attack will save you much grief in the long run. It also pays to plan how you will organize the information you collect long before you have too much information to organize. You don’t want this to happen:

Messy desk

Question authority (well, sort of.) In my wild and misspent youth, I had this as a bumper sticker. I’ve adapted it a little for genealogy. What it means is that everyone makes mistakes, even the people who record our data. It helps to know why the document was produced and who provided the information. You know that the person listed on a death certificate did not provide the information to the officials, so who did? Generally, it is best to verify every fact with at least one other document (two documents if the information comes from your family membersJ)

Listen: Learn to listen, not just to family members, who, even if they are not always the most accurate, often have great stories that may provide clues to investigate, but also listen to other genealogists. I have learned far more from the coaches in our Family History Coaching program, from other members of the genealogical society and from customers in the library that I will ever learn from classes. This is why I can highly recommend our Family History Coaching program. We are getting more and more genealogists who are coming to the program simply to work on their research while there are others working on the same thing so that there can be collaboration and information exchange. Many hands make light work (to quote my Nana)

Learn how to ask questions: This skill will arise from your planning skills. Knowing what you are looking for makes it easier to articulate a question. And, yes, you can ask questions. Librarians, archivists, genealogy societies, local history associations, message boards, all invite questions from genealogists. But, it is far easier to answer the question “do you have a transcription for the cemetery in which I think my ancestor is buried and could you look him up?” than “what do you have on Joe Blow?” or “send me everything you have on Joe Blow.”

Learn about the records: It can save you a lot of pain if you learn about the records for the area in which you are researching. Find out what is available, where they are held, how to you access them etc. Don’t waste your time looking for a birth certificate in a place or a time in which births weren’t registered. This also leads to another pointer: learn as much as you can about the place where your ancestors lived. Knowing the history, social customs, religious beliefs etc can lead you to any number of records that may exist. It can also give you insight in to the way your ancestors lived and, perhaps, how they thought. This can also provide clues.

Be patient: Genealogy is not something that can be done in the week before your family reunion. Finding records takes time, getting the records takes time, verifying the records takes time. Pursue this as a long term research project and you will get years and years of enjoyment from it.

Cite your sources: Learn how to take notes and how to properly cite a source. In the long run this will save you endless hours of frustration when you need to go back to find the source again (and believe me, you will) I have known people who have come in with a photocopy of a page of a book asking if we recognize it. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. If you are planning on publishing, you can consult a manual on how to cite sources in genealogy such as Evidence: Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills). If you are planning on keeping records for the family, the citation may not need to be as detailed, but you should give a basic citation that will allow you or anyone following in your footsteps, to find the record again. .This is usually the title, the author, if there is one, the volume number, the page number, the date it was published. For microfilm you can record the reel number and the name of the repository (each archive and library uses a different numbering structure). Actually, it probably wouldn’t hurt to read Evidence even if you’re not publishing.

Keep an open mind: This applies in many different instances. Keep your mind open to other resources, follow any leads, no matter how thin they may seem and please, please, keep in mind that just because you spell your name one way, doesn’t mean your ancestors didn’t spell it differently or that is wasn’t butchered by a census taker, a transcriber, a government official or anyone else.


So that was my lecture. I’m sure there are lots of other pointers, but in my long career as a genealogy-helper, these are the ones I wish I had followed (especially the organization one – that isn’t my desk in the photo above, but mine is just as bad)

So Happy Hunting and remember, the librarian is your friend.

Librarian

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