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The Next Heritage Challenge: Mid-Century Buildings

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 216

Eighth Avenue looking east from First Street West

PC 216

When I look at some of the pictures in the Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, which is comprised of pictures of buildings that were threatened in the 50s and 60s by urban renewal and other development schemes, I sometimes ask myself, “What were they thinking when they tore that down?” Many of the buildings that were lost were outstanding examples of their period, such as the Burns Mansion, most of the hotels on 9th Avenue, the CPR station and huge numbers of homes. There were people, such as Alison Jackson, who were concerned and did their best to protect those buildings and, thanks to them, not everything was lost.

Now we’re starting the same process with some of our mid-century buildings. I know that I have a hard time thinking of heritage when I look at a building that was new when I was a child and sometimes, not always but particularly when confronted with anything “avocado” coloured, I have to say, “Eeeeuw!” Prejudices aside, if we don’t start looking at these buildings with an eye to the future, the next generations will look at the surviving pictures and say “What we’re they thinking?” Two buildings have recently been in the news, both of them mid-century and both under threat: The Barron Building and the Shaarey Tzedec Synagogue.

We’ve already lost Earnest Manning High School, the Number 5 Fire Hall is at risk, the Barron Building’s future is up in the air and a demolition permit has been issued for the Shaarey Tzedec Synagogue. There is a lot of mid-century architecture in this city; we had one of our infamous booms during the 50s and 60s. Many of these are reaching the end of their lifespans and are will be looked at with a view to redevelopment. We need to be aware, before we start tearing things down willy-nilly, that what we look at today as an outmoded, electrically challenged nuisance, may one day be considered an outstanding example of the architecture of the time.

If you are interested in finding out about modernist architecture in Calgary there are a number of very good resources. Two books in our collection, both in Local History and in the regular collection are Calgary Modern 1947-1967 and Suburban Modern: Postwar Dreams in Calgary.

There is also a wonderful collection of photos at the Canadian Architectural Archives in the Calgary Civic Trust fonds.

And for those of you interested in the history of the Barron family and the building that bears their name, Irena Karshenbaum will be giving a presentation during our Heritage Weekend (October 19th and 20th) on the Barron’s and the importance of the Barron building as an anchor to the oil industry in Calgary. Find out more about our Heritage Weekend!

Barron Building CHAB

Barron Building

Courtesy Calgary Heritage Advisory Board

Canadian Federal Voters Lists in Ancestry

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Ancestry LE

Thanks to the Alberta Family Histories Society discussion list, I found out about an excellent new resource available to genealogists researching their Canadian roots. Often, in the absence of census records, we suggest that our genealogists check out the voters lists for the area they are researching. We have the municipal voters lists in paper format in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. We also have one set of Federal Voters Lists, for 1974. We used to have to borrow other years from Library and Archives Canada on microfilm. Now Ancestry has put up Federal Voters Lists for Canada for 1935-1980. Most of these images have been indexed, but a few of the later years are still only available as images for browsing. (The indexing was done by OCR and if you have a look at some of those later lists, you’ll understand why they haven’t been indexed.) To find your people in the indexed lists, you can go to the Canadian Voters Lists database in Ancestry and type in the name. Keep in mind that OCR indexing is far from perfect and it may still be necessary to browse the lists, if you know someone should be somewhere but their name doesn’t turn up. You can also find people in the un-indexed lists, but in both cases, you will need to know in which electoral district they lived.

To find an electoral district there are a few resources. Not all sources cover all years so you may have to use more than one.

For electoral districts prior to the 2003 reorganization, you can visit the Elections Canada website. This site allows you to search the 301 districts by place name and keyword. Or you can try the Parliament website which has a list of historical ridings. It can’t be searched by town but you can get a list of all ridings in the province and this may help you narrow down your search.

There are also electoral district maps available online at this site, which includes the National Atlas of Canada.

Otherwise you can use print sources such as the Canadian Almanac and Directory, which we do keep, so our collection runs from 1911 on. There is usually a way we can help you find an electoral district, so if these resources don’t help, please ask us.

If you are still in love with the clickety click of the microfilm reader, you can still get these voters’ lists on microfilm. Dave Obee has produced two great finding aids: Federal voters lists in Western Canada, 1935-1979 and Federal voters lists in Ontario 1935-1979 You can find out more about using electoral lists at the Canadian Genealogy Centre.

If you’d like to find out more about the Alberta Family Histories Society discussion list, visit their website. Information about the discussion list is right there on the front page.

Remember, you can access Ancestry LE at any branch of the Calgary Public Library for free with your library card.

Voters List Calgary 1915

Calgary Municipal Voters List

Community Heritage and Family History Collection

Heritage Weekend is Just Around the Corner

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 925

Lake View Heights, Proposed Community, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 925

Have you signed up for our Heritage Weekend programs yet? Better get on it – you wouldn’t want to miss any of these great programs.

We start the weekend with Heritage Matters on Friday night. We will hear about the fabulously successful Century Homes project and follow the quest of one homeowner to discover his homes’ past.

Right after that, pop up to the Dutton Theatre to hear about one of Calgary’s aviation heroes, Freddie McCall (for whom McCall Field was named). Shirlee Smith Matheson and Freddie McCall Jr. will be speaking and the Aero Space museum (a partner in this presentation) will have artifacts and art on display. You don’t have to register for this one – just drop in.

Next day starts with Irena Karshenbaum presenting The Oil Barrons, a talk about the Barron family and their remarkable contribution to Calgary. I’ve heard Irena speak and can say from experience that this will be a great presentation.

Then at noon, there is a Communities Heritage Roundtable about Canadian Heritage in our Midst. A panel of experts will talk about sites of national significance right here in Calgary.

At 1 o’clock we will hear from Stephanie White about Unbuilt Calgary. This will be an intriguing presentation as we hear about a century’s worth of plans for Calgary development, some of which never made it off the drawing board, some which may one day come to fruition (boating reach ‘round City Hall, anyone?)

At 2, we are going to be regaled with Stories of Calgary. Some of my favourite historian-storytellers are going to be on hand to tell us stories of Calgary’s past and the intriguing people who made up this great city. Hugh Dempsey, Harry Sanders, Max Foran, Nancy Townshend and Brian Brennan – all brilliant storytellers, will keep us entertained, and probably teach us a thing or two.

Last, but not least, we will have a Meet and Greet with representatives of some of Calgary’s heritage organizations. These are the folks who work behind the scenes to support and protect heritage in Calgary. Come and mingle with some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met – it’s going to be grand.

To find out more information and to register, follow this link.

I hope to see you there.

AJ 70 18

Calgary Municipal Airport, McCall Field, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 70-18

Smoke, Sweat and Tears: The Calgary Fire Department

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC1068

Aerial Ladder, Calgary Fire Department (1906 or after)

Postcards from the Past, PC 1068

I have seen a lot of firefighters in the last few days, what with the news of grass fires and arson and house fires (and, possibly because of the fire we had on the third floor of our library) so while I was casting about for an idea for this blog, I started thinking about the history of our Fire Department. I have had a deep and abiding affection for firefighters, not just because they run into burning buildings while we run out, but because of an event when I was a wee girl. My mom was newly widowed with four kids. One night we smelled smoke and called the Fire Department. They arrived with their lights blazing, in their fire gear and quickly found the source of the smoke – a component in our TV cabinet that was melting. The TV was hauled into the back yard and we were safe. But the firemen didn’t just go away. When they found out my mom was on her own, they checked her insurance policy and informed her that she needed to up her coverage, they searched the back yard for my new kitten who had escaped during the fracas (it was something to see this small ball of fur settled into the enormous glove of the fireman who found him) and they checked to make sure everything was in order. They didn’t have to do that, but they did it anyway. So, for this, and all the other reasons, firemen have always been my heroes. (Police and EMS, too, but that’s for a later blog.)

We haven’t always had a Fire Department, although in a place where buildings were mostly of wood and were heated with fires and lit with candles and gas lamps, the need for a volunteer fire department was quickly recognized. When the great fire of 1886 broke out on the morning of November 7, church bells were rung, to call the volunteers and other citizens, men, women and children, to form a bucket-brigade. The fire, believed to be started by an “incendiary” would eventually consume at least 18 of the city’s wooden buildings. It also prompted the mayor to throw the doors open to a vigilante group which could deal with the culprit “as you like.” It was this fire that encouraged people to build with the local sandstone, earning Calgary the nickname “The Sandstone City”. It was also the impetus for the reorganization of the Hook, Ladder and Bucket Corps into two divisions, a ladder division and a hose division, each with 30 men, the purchase of a steam engine and the building of a fire hall. “Cappy” Smart (then just James or Jack) volunteered for the fire brigade in 1885 (before that he was the town’s first funeral director). In 1898 he became the first paid fire chief for the city. The firefighters were still volunteers, however, and had to pay $18 of their own money for their uniforms. It wasn’t until 1909 that the fire fighters were paid. They were given $70 a month with 10 hours off each week. Men lined up to join what was touted as the most advanced fire department in the country. The Calgary Fire Department is still recognized as a world leader in firefighting.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of firefighting in the city, we have a wonderful collection of photos, like the one above, in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. We also have a good collection of books in the Local History room (and on the third floor, once the fire damage is cleaned up.) Notable are Yours for Life , 100 Years of Smoke, Sweat and Tears by Grant MacEwan, and Milestones and Mementoes, 1885-1985.

PC 936

The Webb Car, CFDs First Piece of Motorized Equipment, Cappy Smart is at the Wheel

Postcards from the Past, PC 936

We Say Goodbye to a Great Man

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

analecta 1947

Central Collegiate Institute Hockey Team, 1947

from Analecta, 1947

Peter Lougheed passed away last week. We have lost a great man. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at an awards evening and at other events and I always came away from those speeches inspired and proud of my province. He was a member of one of Calgary’s oldest and most notable families, but he treated every one he encountered as an equal. He has earned a place in the hearts of most Albertans, not just for his accomplishments, which were great, but also for his qualities as a person.

I wanted to write something about Mr. Lougheed that spoke to these qualities. I remembered a question we had had, shortly after I started working with the Local History collection. We use this story to illustrate how parts of the local history collection can be used for genealogical research. A customer had called asking us to find out, if we could, what Peter Lougheed had done in high school: what clubs he belonged to, when he graduated, what sports he played, etc. We knew that he had attended Central (it was called Central Collegiate Institute at the time) and that we had some of the yearbooks, the Analecta, in our collection. (I know it is kind of a dirty trick to pull someone’s high school yearbooks and look at the photos – I never tell any of my colleagues the year that I graduated, because we have my high school yearbooks here in the collection, and the last thing I want them to see is me in my teenaged glory. But I am not one of the great leaders of our century, so this is different). We have the Analecta for the years that Mr. Lougheed attended. He was called Pete then and he was a handsome and richly accomplished young man. His is a yearbook to be proud of. The photo above, is of his year on the Central Hockey team. (I like this one in particular because one of his teammates is a man that my father worked with and who lived next door to us when I was growing up.)

That year St. Joseph’s, a school in Edmonton, wanted to have an unofficial “Alberta Interscholastic Hockey Championship” and the only Calgary school that answered the call was Central. It was proposed that the two teams play a two-game, total-point series. St. Joseph’s took the first game, played April 11, 1947, 6-5. Pete Lougheed scored an unassisted goal late in the third, but it was not enough to push Central to victory. The next night Central came out shooting. Lougheed scored one in the second which helped Central score 8 goals to St. Joseph’s 5, giving Central the “mythical title” (as the Herald put it) of provincial high school hockey champs.

This is just one example of Pete Lougheed’s many accomplishments in high school. He lettered in Activities and Athletics in 1946, serving on student council (he was president in 1947), participating in Hi-Y, playing basketball, hockey and rugby, doing track, coaching football, working on the Analecta, and participating in Naval Cadets. His nickname was Chief. Prophetic, perhaps?

When I think of Peter Lougheed, I do so with affection. Although I’d met him only a few times, I felt I knew him, maybe that is how we all felt. Under his leadership, Alberta realized that it was a great province. Looking at his record of accomplishment in his youth, it is obvious he was destined for greatness, but perhaps that is because he did not see anything as impossible. It seemed nothing was beyond his capabilities. He made us feel that way about ourselves, about our province. That may be the greatest gift he has given us.

PC 1957

Central High School

Postcards from the Past, PC 1957

 

Upcoming Heritage Events

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Image

Fall is here, I’m pretty sure. The way we tell it is autumn at the library is by the re-emergence of programs. Not that there was any shortage of interesting stuff going on in the summer. We had our very successful Century Homes presentation and, of course, a great Historic Calgary Week, just to name a few. But it's fall when things really start to happen.

First on the list will be a presentation using Ancestry Library Edition to get some relevant information about your family. In spite of what the ads say, it isn’t as simple as typing in grandpa’s name. Ancestry is a large and powerful tool for genealogy research, but its size and scope can make it challenging to use. We will present an introduction to Ancestry LE as well as do some hands on searching. This will take place on September 21 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. It is a drop-in program so you don’t need to register in advance, but bring your library card as you will need it to access Ancestry LE. I am sorry to announce that due to the fire on the 3rd floor of the Central Library, the Ancestry program has had to be cancelled. We will try to reschedule.

In October, we are going to be hosting our annual Heritage Weekend and, I must say, they just keep getting better and better. One of the highlights will be a program about Freddie McCall, one of Canada’s legendary aviators. That takes place on the Friday night, October 19 at 7:00 p.m. in the John Dutton Theatre. This will allow you to come to the Heritage Matters program, which also happens on Friday night, at 5:30 p.m. This program will be about the remarkably successful Century Homes project, a grassroots movement to recognize and record the history of Calgary’s heritage homes.

Saturday will be packed with programs, including a meet and greet with members of various heritage organizations, a Heritage Roundtable on the various heritage sites right here in the city, a look at “unbuilt” Calgary, what the city might have looked like, if various plans and schemes had been realized. There will also be a wonderful program involving some of our very best storytellers, Hugh Dempsey, Harry Sanders, Nancy Townshend, Max Foran and our very own writer-in-residence Brian Brennan, all of whom will tell stories of Calgary’s colourful past. I am really looking forward to this weekend. Check out the list in our program guide, in paper at all library branches and online.

And we are not the only game in town. There will be a Sandstone School bus tour offered by the Calgary Heritage Initiative (more information TBA) and then, of course, DO YYC Naked on September 29 and 30, a Doors Open initiative that will take participants behind the scenes at some of Calgary’s coolest venues (you can see the sites included here.

So, there will be no shortage of things to do “heritage-wise” in Calgary this fall. I will keep you posted as more comes along. Enjoy!

Maps, maps, maps

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Calg 4

Calgary, NWT, 1884

Community Heritage and Family History Map Collection CALG 4

In passing, in an earlier blog, I mentioned that we are undertaking a project which will digitize parts of the collection of maps that is held in the Community Heritage and Family History room. We have been looking forward to this day for a very long time, as maps are such great resources, but such awkward things to use. They are even more awkward to store, and this sometimes makes accessing them a bit of a fight. (Not that the fight isn’t worth it!)

Well, with our new project, cranky maps are going to be a thing of the past. We have digitized a small number of early Calgary maps, but, and this is a way better thing for a library-geek, we have entered the information on all of our maps, even the ones that aren’t digitized, into the database as well. What this means is that the entire collection can be searched by keyword and the date of the map shows up as well. This is a vast improvement over trying to find the maps by looking at the red duo-tang which held the list of maps (in no particular order) or by browsing the collection, which didn’t work either, as more than half the collection is not in the map cabinet at the front of the room. (I told you they were awkward to store!)

The upshot is that we hope to see many more users of our map collection and many more requests for particular maps. In my last blog entry I talked about how important maps can be to genealogists. Aside from the directory maps of rural areas, which include names of landowners, maps can tell their stories about the place and the people. When we do tours of the local history room for schools, I like to show a wonderful map we have from 1913 (the Harrison & Ponton map of the city – which is digitized on the site) and point out the wonderful names of the districts of Calgary: Deer Park, Silver Heights, Poplar Grove, and the location of the proposed university, just west of the Banff Motor Coach Road. This map tells a story about Calgary and the people in it. We were coming off one of the greatest booms in our history; we had annexed miles of land and laid out neighbourhoods for the coming population boom. We were determined to be a city of substance. We were going to have a university, just on the western edge of the city. So what happened? We don’t have a Silver Heights or a Poplar Bluff, or a Happyland for that matter. And we know that the university isn’t west of the Banff Coach Road. Well, just as we are today, we were a city with our eyes on the future. But the future was going to be a little further off than we thought, because by 1913 the boom that we are celebrating this year, with all the building that occurred in 1912, had bust. The city did not grow to be the huge, sprawling metropolis that we had anticipated in the early part of the 20th century. This is the story behind the map.

So, check out our map collection and let us know what you think. You can post a comment at the bottom of the page. And when you’ve found the map you’d like to see, come down and visit us on the 4th floor of the Central Library. We would love to take you on a tour of our delightful (yes, now it is delightful) map collection.

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!

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