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Vimy Ridge

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1478

IODE War Memorial, Central Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1478

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

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

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

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

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

Attestation Paper LAC


Attestation paper of Thomas Lawless

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

Titanic - The Calgary Connection

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Public domain

Titanic in Southampton, April 1912

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo of Albert Dick from interview

Calgary Daily Herald, April 19, 1912

Albert Dick from Calgary Daily Herald

Who on earth is PERSI?

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PERSI landing page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy hunting.

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

Ross Avenue, Red Deer, ca 191?

Postcards from the Past, PC 1086

PC 1086

House History

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 5213th Avenue looking east

13th Avenue Looking East

Postcards from the Past, PC 52

On Saturday May 12, we will be presenting a workshop, with an archivist from the City of Calgary Archives, on how to research the history of your house. We have done these before, but this time we are happy to be giving the presentation as part of an initiative called “Century Homes.” What we want to do is to encourage people to research the stories of their homes. Your house doesn't have to be 100 years old for you to attend, but we would like people who do have a home that was built in or before 1915 to look into the Century Homes initiative (http://www.centuryhomes.org/). Doing house research is kind of like doing genealogy, but much, much less complicated (houses don't move, change their names or hide from the law, for the most part). Between the members of the Heritage Triangle, we hold vast amounts of information about homes and the people who lived in them.

Calgary experienced a building boom in the early part of the 20th century and there are still plenty of houses around from that era. If you own one of them, you can get a kit from Century Homes to help you make a yard sign. You will be asked to put up the sign during Historic Calgary Week (Friday July 27 through to Monday August 6) The information you gather about your house will be archived here at the Calgary Public Library so we will have a record of your house. As I like to tell people, history is made by the people like you and me – the very people who lived in your house. (My colleagues will tell you I beat this topic like a rented mule) Your home doesn’t have to be a massive sandstone pile to have historic value. Cities are built by the folks in the three room cottages, the tiny bungalows and the once grand multi –stories converted to boarding houses. So, think about participating in this very exciting initiative. Researching your house is not an onerous job – there are lots of sources and there are people to help you use them. And I want to stress that, while your home has to be 100 years old or thereabouts, to be considered a Century Home, there is lots of information available for people whose houses are younger. Join us to find out how to get started with your own home's unique story.

Registration for the May 12 program will begin on April 23.

Century Homes Logo

Bridges

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 226

Centre Street Bridge, pre 1915

Postcards from the Past, PC 226

Well, after much controversy, many delays and a healthy dose of skepticism, the Peace Bridge is scheduled to officially open this Saturday with a celebration including the blessing of the bridge by a First Nations elder – suitable, as the confluence of these rivers had long been a meeting spot for the people living in this part of the country.

The bridge was designed by Santiago Calatrava, the architect chosen to design the train station which will be part of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site in New York. He also designed two beautiful bridges that span the River Liffey in Dublin, one of my very favourite cities. Both are named for famous Irish authors (James Joyce and Samuel Beckett) and are beautiful additions to that city. But I digress. Our Calatrava bridge was faced with much nay saying and continual back and forth between proponents of the unique structure and those who felt the money could be better spent. Because I am a history buff, this called to mind the foofaraw over the Centre Street Bridge (of course there has to be a tie to something in the past, right?)

The part of the city north of the Bow had been settled long before it was part of the city. In fact, the area just beyond the Langevin was the red light district for Calgary because it actually fell outside of the jurisdiction of the city police. For people living on the north side of the Bow, it was imperative that they have a decent bridge to cross to the city. The developer of Crescent Heights had built a steel span bridge with wooden approaches. He sold shares in the company and used the bridge as a selling feature for the land that he was developing on the north side of the river. There were other crossings, but the closest bridge was at what is now Kensington, and it was a bit of a hike for people who were coming from Crescent Heights and area. When Crescent Heights was annexed by the city in 1908, many expected that the bridge would also fall under the care and maintenance of the city. The annexation meant that lots were opened up and houses were being built. Construction materials had to be hauled up to the hill, but the Centre Street Bridge Company was still the owner of the structure. The company wanted the city to pay $7,000 for the bridge, what it had cost them to build it. The city refused to pay even $5000. This back and forth went on between the city and the bridge company from 1908 to 1912 when the city finally agreed to buy the bridge for $300. Three years later, the structure would be washed out by one of our regular floods. What was left was sold to the provincial Department of Highways (for $200 more than the city paid the bridge company for it.) Construction had already begun on the new bridge that we all know and love. It was completed in 1916, again, with much controversy surrounding its design and the cost. Some things never change.

 

Centre Street Bridge Lion AJ

Eamon's Bungalow Camp

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Eamon

Eamon's Bungalow Camp, 10220 Crowchild Tr. NW

From "Discover Historic Calgary"

We had a great time at the Heritage Matters program on Thursday night. Our mayor gave a talk about the importance of heritage and then answered questions from the audience. What was most interesting was the mayor’s perspective on what heritage means. We have tended, in the past, to view heritage as a concern of those with the leisure to contemplate the value of 100 year old, sandstone edifices. What Mayor Nenshi suggested is that Calgary’s heritage is a much broader concept, concerning all Calgarians in their infinite variety and looking at all places with a view to their value, not just as architectural monuments, but as signifiers of the history of the people of this city.

Two sites were mentioned that have garnered some press in the last little while, Eamon’s Bungalow Camp and the Barron Building. I have written a blog on the Barron Building, which is an example of a site which has significance beyond its structure. Eamon’s Camp is one of those sites which to many of us, who grew up in the middle part of the last century, seem merely “old fashioned” as they were once a common sight. There was a Royalite station in the neighbourhood I grew up in that looked much the same. These are the buildings that are most at risk – they are a part of my childhood, how can they be heritage?! But Eamon’s is one of the last examples still standing of the mid-century commercial architecture that was once ubiquitous. The city owns the site it is on and needs to build a C-Train station and parking there. While the sign is going to be preserved, many have expressed concern about the building itself. Because of citizen concern, plans for the site may be revisited.

The story of Roy Eamon and his “one –stop tourist service centre” is fascinating. Eamon was an entrepreneur of the real Calgary type – he had businesses galore and an ability to bounce back from disaster. It is rumoured that he made and lost several fortunes. But for many years, his drive-in, service station, motel was the place to stop on the way to Banff. You could buy gas, eat lunch (in the restaurant or in the car from a tray hooked to the window – does anyone remember that?) and have your car washed all at the same place. It was a beacon to travelers until the new Trans-Canada highway came through. If you’re interested in Eamon’s you can find a very detailed history on the City of Calgary database “Discover Historic Calgary”. It has also been discussed on the Calgary Heritage Initiative website as well as in the Calgary Herald (which you can read through Newspaper Direct Press Display in our e-library - under Newspapers and Magazines)

Spring Heritage Events in Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Heritage in Calgary

Spring will come – I have it on good authority. And when it does it is going to bring with it a schwack of Heritage programming. I sometimes can’t believe the amount of stuff that the heritage community gets up to in this city. Quite a change from my youth, when a city official (who shall remain nameless) insisted that a building be torn down because it had tried to kill him (think Burns Building). Now, our mayor is coming to speak to us and talk with us about heritage in Calgary. That is going to be the kick-off for our spring heritage season. The meeting will take place in the John Dutton theatre at the Central Library on Thursday, March 8. Doors open at 5:00, with the talk starting at around 5:30. We will be serving refreshments, so join us and get your heritage spring started. Just show up, no registration is required.

On St. Patrick’s Day, there is a free course in the “Partners in Planning” program put on by the City and the Federation of Calgary Communities. This series is aimed at community members and the general public to introduce them to planning issues within the city. Urban planning in Calgary is at an exciting stage, where stakeholders and communities work with heritage organizations and concerned members of the public to build a culture of preservation. The program on March 17 is called “Planning with Heritage in Mind” and will include an introduction to preservation principles, illustrated with local case studies. You can register at www.calgarycommunities.com > Workshops and Events or phone 403-244-4111. It takes place on Saturday, March 17 from 9:00am to 12:00pm at Bankview Community Association, 2418 - 17 Street SW.

On March 22, Matco Investments is hosting "More Than Just Beer - An Historic Presentation" a talk about the Inglewood Brewery site by conservation architect Lorne Simpson. He will examine the economic and social history of the brewery. The event is free but you will need to register. You can do so at this website:

http://calgarybrewing-eivtefrnd.eventbrite.com/

Chinook Country Historical Society offers very interesting programs every month. March is the month for their Annual General Meeting which takes place on the 27th at the Varsity Community Centre. It is a dinner event so you will have to purchase tickets, but the speaker that evening will be Harry ‘The Historian' Sanders who will talk about a subject near and dear to his heart, the history of hotels in Alberta. Check out their website for further information www.chinookcountry.org

Cecil Hotel

Cecil Hotel, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 947

April 19 will bring the next Heritage Roundtable. The topic isn’t set yet, but these events are always well attended and one of my faves (see the posting about the last Roundtable) You can find up-to-date info on the Roundtables – and other events-- at www.calgaryheritage.org

At the end of April, CHI – the Calgary Heritage Initiative- will have its annual general meeting on the 26th at 7 pm at the Lougheed House. The speaker that night will be another one of my favourite historians, Max Foran. For those who don’t know about CHI, the work they do in the Heritage Community is valiant. A visit to their website is a must for anyone concerned with heritage and history. The website holds information about upcoming events, about buildings, threatened and success-stories, it keeps an eye on developments that may have an impact on the built heritage of our city, just to list a few highlights. Have a peek.

May will bring flowers and Jane’s Walks which celebrate our neighbourhoods and the legacy of Jane Jacobs, urbanist and heritage advocate. (www.calgaryfoundation.org) It looks like you can still volunteer to lead a walk in your neighbourhood.

On the 12th of May, we will be conducting a repeat of our program “Research the History of your House” in association with Century Homes Calgary. You don’t need to have a century home to research the history of your house, so join us at 10:30 at the Central Library for some pointers on how to find out the secrets of your home. Registration opens on April 23.

Those are just a few of the programs that are coming up. Everything is listed at www.calgaryheritage.org and we will try to keep posting information here about the programs coming in the summer. Try to come to some of these programs – the heritage community in Calgary is energetic and exciting and is about so much more than buildings. Hope to see you there.

Burns Home

Burns Residence, built 1901, demolished 1956

Postcards from the Past, PC 581

Heritage Matters with Mayor Naheed Nenshi

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Clock tower

Well, it is a New Year and boy what a year it is going to be. One hundred years ago Calgary was riding the crest of a boom that would make us the city we are today. Many organizations are celebrating their 100th anniversaries and heritage is really on people’s minds. That said, we are proud to once again be hosting Heritage Matters. Any of you who have attended these programs, offered jointly by the Calgary Heritage Authority, City of Calgary Land Use, Planning and Policy and the Calgary Public Library, will know how valuable these meetings can be. We have had a wide range of speakers at these programs and every last one of them has given their audience something to take home and mull over.

Our first Heritage Matters program of this year is going to be no different. It will feature our own Mayor Nenshi. We will meet in the John Dutton Theatre on the second floor of the Central Library at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday March 8. It looks like it is going to be a very interactive kind of meeting so bring your questions and your opinions and join us. We always have fun at the Heritage Matters programs and the networking opportunities are unrivalled (and we serve refreshments). So drop in and see us. No need to register in advance.

King Edward School

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

AJ 0458

King Edward School (with the west wing intact) 1967

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0458

One of my favourite places is in the news again and I am so happy to hear that not only is the building going to be preserved, it is going to be turned into an arts incubator and community groups. The building was purchased by cSPACE (the art space development arm of Calgary Arts Development) and will be transformed under the guidance of cSPACE president Reid Henry, whose presentation on the Wychwood Bus Barns project in Toronto at the Lion Awards in 2010 was an inspiration to all of us. Have a look at what can be done with some inspiration and innovation. http://www.torontoartscape.on.ca/places-spaces/artscape-wychwood-barns

The idea of an arts incubator is rather cutting edge for a city whose culture was once unfavourably compared to yogurt (What is the difference between Calgary and yogurt? Yogurt has a culture!) Many of us who have been here our whole lives always knew that there was an exciting and vibrant arts scene in the city; it was just a question of giving it a home. And the new King Edward development will do that by providing live, work, studio, and gallery space for artists, groups and community organizations

King Edward school is one of the plethora of sandstone schools that were built in the heady times just before the first war (1912, again!) The influx of people into the city had strained the school system to the breaking point. King Edward was built on the west edge of the city to accommodate what would surely be the huge population that was going to grow into the newly annexed lands. No one could have known that expansion would halt and it would be well into the 50s before the city grew much farther to the west.

The school was built from locally quarried sandstone – the quarrymen’s kids would have been some of the students there. The first principal of the school was William Aberhart. And, I must add, that one of the last teachers there was my mom, who taught junior high there at the end of her career. It was fitting, in a way, because King Edward School was actually one of the first to offer a special ‘junior high school’ program in 1931. It was so successful that it became standard throughout Alberta in 1935. Until then students were either in elementary or high school. The second floor of the school was turned into a Normal School during the war, with many teachers being granted emergency teaching certificates after four months of training, a measure designed to address the urgent need for teachers.

I am delighted that this beautiful old school will be preserved and turned into something marvelous. I am anticipating great things for this development.

PC 853

Some (Other) Calgary Schools, ca 1910s

Postcards from the Past, PC 853

Research for Writers

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Filing cabinet

To my surprise and delight I was asked to present at our annual Writers’ Weekend which was held on February 4. I presented “Historical Research for Writers” to a very surprising (to me, at least) crowd of 125 people who were all eager to find out where all the good stuff is stashed. As is usual with me, I was set off on a tangent thinking about the authors who have worked in our Local History room.

I remember when Will Ferguson, author of a number of books (all available at the Calgary Public Library) had his first “office” in the local history room. While working on Canadian History for Dummies, he stored his computer (kind of a joke to call it a laptop) in the Local History workroom. He tells the story in a Swerve magazine article. You can read it here and see a picture of him in the room.

We have also recently hosted Brian Brennan, who was researching and writing the official history of the Calgary Public Library, which will be released in April (to celebrate the “official” opening of the new library in 1912). I’m looking forward to this one, because Brian is such an inspiring storyteller and what I’ve seen of the book seems to me to be his finest work yet.

We also provided research assistance for Katherine Govier, whose protagonist in the book Between Men becomes obsessed with the story of Rosalie New Grass, a Cree woman who was brutally murdered in 1889. Rosalie’s tragic story is true and Ms Govier researched the case in the Local History room. Our copy of Between Men is signed “with gratitude” for the assistance she received on her project from our staff.

As I mentioned, the Writers’ Weekend was a huge success and I was chuffed to see the crowd that came out to hear about research. Nothing turns me off a piece of writing quicker than an error. (Well, bad dialogue comes a very close second). Where the work is fiction or non-fiction, good, solid research always has a place. We are very lucky to be able to meet and assist authors with their projects. We have helped with fairly modest publications, such as family histories, and with some major projects, such as the upcoming history of the library. We are always delighted to be able to assist – it is an opportunity for us to show off our wonderful collections and we always learn something new. What I guess I am trying to say is that you should all come down and visit us and see what weird and wonderful things you can dig up.

Local History Room

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