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Doing Genealogy in Alberta part 4 – More interesting resources

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Harvesting

Threshing Scene, Western Canada 1915

Postcards from the Past, PC 740

This is the last in my genealogy in Alberta series of blog posts. I am going to try and cover some of the more obscure kinds of records you may want to look at to find your Alberta ancestors. We’ll start with land, since that was a big reason for much of the migration into this province. But I will look at some of the less likely sources you can try.

Land Records

I love land records. I don’t come from a farming background, my people were mostly workin’ folk, so I don’t use land records a lot in my family research but we do use land records in our local history work. Land records can provide a great deal of information, or very little, depending on circumstances. My great grandfather’s homestead records were about 5 pages long, as he abandoned the homestead after only a few years. But the record of one of my colleagues was a thick sheaf of papers containing a will, information about the improvements to the land and all kinds of detail that would be useful for family historians.

In Alberta there were a number of ways early settlers could obtain land. They could file for a homestead. In doing so they would have to fill out an application which may contain information useful for genealogy. If he stayed on the land and “proved up” there will also be documentation relating to any improvements he made including how much land was cleared, what buildings were erected, the livestock, etc. There may also be sworn statements from persons of note in the community (which is why it might be worthwhile to have a peek at the homestead index even if your ancestor didn’t homestead) The index for these records is available, courtesy of the Alberta Genealogical Society. If you find an ancestor in the index, you can request a copy of the file by clicking on the “Order a copy…” link and following the instructions. We have the Calgary district homestead registers on microfilm in the local history room.

If the homesteader made the required improvements to his land, he could apply for his letters patent. You can search the index of the letters patent and see the documents through the Canadian Genealogy Centre.

If your people don’t turn up in the homestead index, it is possible they bought their land from the CPR. As part of the deal for building the railroad, CPR was given 25 million acres of land on the prairies. It sold this land sometimes as a package deal to overseas immigrants. You can find the index to these land sales through the Glenbow Archives.

When researching land records it is useful to have an understanding of what the terms mean and how the land was divided. You can find an excellent guide on Dave Obee’s blog.

He has also written a book on finding land records on the Prairies: Back to the Land: a Genealogical Guide to Finding Farms on the Canadian Prairies.

Maps can also play an important part in family history research. Maps such the Cummins Rural Directory maps can show the location of land owners. The 1924 Cummins map for Alberta is available on microfilm in the Local History room.

We have also launched a collection of digitized maps through the CHFH Digital Library. These are mostly for the Calgary region, but stay tuned, we are hoping to have more maps in there soon.

If you have the land location, the Provincial Archives of Alberta has a series of township maps for the province which show earlier homesteaders’ names. You have to use them in the Archives, as they have not been digitized.

Probate

A really good tip for researching anything, but in particular for genealogy is, follow the money. Generally, records relating to assets are some of the best records around. This is true for records relating to the estate of deceased persons. The Provincial Archives of Alberta has probate records from about 1884 to about 1975 (records less than 30 years old will still be in the custody of the Court). It is useful, when you are requesting probate records at the PAA to know where the person was living at the time of their death as the records are arranged by judicial district.

Local History Books

There have been a number of initiatives in Alberta to facilitate the creation of local histories. These are often overlooked by researchers but they should really be top of the list if you are looking for ancestors in smaller towns or in rural areas. They can contain a wealth of information about the area and the people who lived there. The Calgary Public Library has a large collection of histories from central and southern Alberta. You can find them in the catalogue by entering the name of the locale into the subject search.

There are also a number of digital repositories for local histories. The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project has a large collection of digitized histories, as does the Our Roots website. Peel’s Prairie Provinces also has a collection of digitized histories, along with other documents relating to the history of the Prairies.

Newspapers

If you read this blog a lot, you know what I am going to say about newspapers for historical research. They are the best source. Yes, you can find obituaries and wedding announcements, but there is often so much more. I often poke around the old newspapers for Calgary and find a plethora of details about life in the city, but also about what the denizens of Calgary were up to. Exam scores, participation in sporting events, parties, holidays, you name it, the paper would talk about it. So it is never a bad idea to wander through the newspapers from your ancestor’s home town. You never know what you’ll find. The Local History Room at the Central Library has a good collection of historic newspapers from small towns around southern Alberta. The Calgary newspapers are held on microfilm in the Magazines and Newspapers department as well. You can also check the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project. They have a great selection of Alberta newspapers. This collection is not indexed, however, so you can’t search it by name. Peel’s Prairie Provinces also has newspapers for Alberta. Google Newspapers has digitized some Alberta newspapers, such as the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal. As mentioned in the earlier post, we do have sources to help you identify the name of the newspaper and where it is held and we can always request interlibrary loans of newspapers on microfilm if we don’t have the paper and it isn’t digitized.

So, I have come to the end of my introduction to Alberta genealogy. And what I have found out while doing this is that there are a lot more resources out there that I first thought. I have only covered the basics so if you have further questions, you can always contact us through our Ask a Question service or through Chat (or, if you’re really old schoolJ, by phone or in person). Also keep in mind that we offer a drop-in Family History Coaching session on the last Saturday of the month from 10:00 to noon in the Genealogy Section on the 4th floor of the Central Library. Our first session of the new season is September 29.

Happy Ancestor Hunting!

Doing Genealogy in Alberta Part 3 - Census Records and other stuff

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Census

Page from the Canadian Census


So, are you still with me? Undaunted by Alberta’s rather challenging resources? Great! This week I want to outline some other important resources for finding your Alberta ancestors. And in this category, we are luckier that other parts of Canada. Because the population of the Prairie Provinces was growing so fast, the federal government, in an attempt to gauge and record that growth, instituted an extra census for the three Prairie Provinces starting in 1906 and continuing every ten years until 1956. At that time the prairie census was incorporated into the regular Canada-wide census. But what this means for people researching in Alberta, is that we have two extra censuses to consult: one for 1906 and one for 1916.

Census records are available in a variety of formats. Calgary Public Library has the complete collection of Canadian census records on microfilm at the Central Library in the genealogy collection. This includes the 1906 and 1916 censuses for the Prairie Provinces. You may ask yourself, why on earth would I use microfilm when there are computers? The answer is that sometimes digital images are hard to read and even harder to print. Scanning a reel of microfilm can be much easier (really!) than scanning a set of digital images. We also have some print indexes to census records for Alberta in the genealogy collection at Central Library. We also have finding aids available that list the census records that are available.

Digitized images of some censuses are available through Library and Archives Canada. There is a list of census databases in this very good article. The 1906 and 1916 censuses are not searchable by name, but you can search by location and browse the images. Some censuses, such as the 1891 are searchable by name.

This brings up the question of indexing. When we search an index, we are looking at information that has been transcribed by a human from documents handwritten by a human with information provided by another human. This suggests to me that there are at least three places where errors can sneak in. And the likeliest spot for the biggest errors is with the last person handling the document, the transcriber. Just because a name doesn’t appear in an index, doesn’t mean they aren’t in the census. That is when browsing images, either digital or microfilm, becomes important.

Having said that, it always pays to check the index first. And there are a number of ways to do that. To see if there is an index, you can check with the Canadian Genealogy Centre at Library and Archives Canada. They have a list of online indexes including those at Family Search, Automated Genealogy and Ancestry as well as hints on how to find print indexes.

(Just a reminder, Calgary Public Library subscribes to Ancestry LE which means that all Calgary Public Library members can log in from a computer in a library and search this database.)

So, we have the advantage of extra censuses, but what about the years in between the census? There are a number of sources we use as census substitutes. Primary among these are the Henderson’s Directories. Henderson’s directories are business directories, usually of major centres, that were compiled with an eye to providing information about markets to business people. They often include information such as a person’s place of employment and a spouse’s name. Researchers often use these directories to fill in information about their ancestors for the years between the censuses, and to locate ancestors that don’t appear in census indexes. Again, people researching on the Prairies have an advantage. A librarian called Bruce Peel set about to collect all the sources he could find on life on the Prairies. It is an impressive collection. Originally issued in microfiche, it included the Henderson’s Directories for Prairie towns such as Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, etc. It is now in its third edition and is available online.

The Local History room at the Calgary Public Library has the Peel collection in microfiche and the Calgary Henderson’s directories (a complete run to 1991) in paper. To find what directories were published and, more importantly, which are available you can check these two sources:

Canadian Directories 1790-1987 by Mary Bond

Western Canadian Directories on Microfilm and Microfiche by Dave Obee

For rural landowners, there is a Cummin’s Map for 1923 on microfilm in the Local History room.

Voters’ lists are another source for information about people. At the Central Library we have a collection of municipal voters’ lists for Calgary (1912-1971) as well as the 1974 Federal Voters’ List for Calgary. These federal lists are available on microfilm from Library and Archives Canada. You can find the listings in a publication called Federal Voters’ Lists in Western Canada by Dave Obee and we can request the lists on interlibrary loan for you. You do need to know the location of your people, because, as far as I know there is no index to these lists.

So, enough for now. Keep on searching. Next week we’ll look at land records and some other bits and pieces.

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)

 

AJ 2510

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.

AJ 7520

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.

PC 442

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)

 

AJ 14-10

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! 

 

Pc 165

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.

AJ 34-06

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.

PC 593

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.

PC 868

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.

AJ 63 15

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

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