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The Cecil Hotel

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

AJ 89 11Cecil Hotel before the paint job, 1965 Alison Jackson Collection

It’s in the news again, and the news ain’t good. It looks like we may be saying goodbye to the infamous, but decidedly colourful, Cecil Hotel. The city is in the process of selling the hotel to the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, the organization that is responsible for the redevelopment of the East Village. The land the hotel sits on could be turned in to a short term parking lot. The argument against preserving the building is that over the years the distinguishing heritage characteristics of the hotel have been stripped away. On the other side of the argument is that the building is much more than a physical object. The value in many of our heritage properties also lies in the intangibles – the purpose and the people associated with the site. This may be what is plaguing the efforts to preserve the Cecil. In the last years of its life, it became a byword for murder and mayhem. The police were spending as much time there as the patrons. While a little scandal can often be a positive (think of the black sheep in your family) the level of crime and violence associated with the Cecil is proving to be detrimental to its preservation.

The Cecil wasn’t always a dive. Built in 1911, it was a working man’s hotel and included a dining room and bar, along with a billiard room and a barbershop. A quick search of the Henderson’s Directories shows that blacksmiths, mechanics, stablemen, and other tradesmen called the Cecil home. With a booming and transient population, these kinds of hotels provided short and long term residences for men working in and around Calgary. An article in The 100,000 Manufacturing, Building and Wholesale Book stated that “be it stranger or Calgary citizen who enters the portals of the Hotel Cecil he is at once impressed with the atmosphere of good fellowship which permeates every nook and cranny of this popular hostelry.”

 

PC 947Cecil Hotel 1912 Postcards from the Past

The Calgary Public Market was next door and many of the storefronts of the Cecil were occupied by businesses that capitalized on this proximity. One of the businesses that operated from the hotel was Der Deutsch-Canadier, Western Canada’s largest German language newspaper. The proprietors of the hotel, who were German immigrants to the city, were also the publishers of the newspaper.

There is no trace of any of the other buildings that made up the area around the market. In fact, there are only 10 heritage buildings left in the whole East Village, a sad fact given that this end of the city was the hub of activity in the pre-WWI years. I’d be sorry to see the Cecil go. It would take with it one hundred years of human history in all of its grubby glory.

For an interesting perspective on the Cecil, you can visit the site “This is my Cecil” started as a part of the “This is my City” program.

Fall is the Season for Heritage Programs

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1590Four Soldiers in Uniform 1915?

With fall (or at least what passes for fall in this city) comes Heritage programs by the bushel. Things are gearing up and I thought I should let everyone know what to look out for.

Starting tomorrow, Wednesday September 24 and running until Thursday the 25th, The Military Museums is presenting a series of lectures under the banner Material Culture and The First World War: Western Canadian Narratives Noted speakers from across the country will be talking about a wide variety of topics relating to Canadian involvement in World War I, how the war was represented to Canadians on the home front, the stories of those affected by the war and life in Alberta after the war. This looks like it will be a fascinating series and I only wish I didn’t have to work. I’d be in there like a dirty shirt. The cost is $50 for the two days or $35 for just one day. You can find more information as well as a link to the registration page right here

Also kicking off this month is our Family History Coaching program. Coaches from the Alberta Histories Society will be on hand to help you, one on one, with your genealogy questions. Researchers at all levels of skill are welcome. We have three genealogy minds to set to your project, and three heads are always better than one. We meet on the last Saturday of the month (the 27th this month) from 10:00 to 12:00 on the 4th floor of the Central Library. There is no registration required, so you can just pack up your papers and drop in for a consult.

Breaking the Silence poster Breaking the Silence

In October, we will be welcoming a speaker from the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association and author Sandra Joyce to deliver the talk Breaking the Silence: British Home Children. Over 100,000 children were sent to Canada and often put to work as indentured servants. This program is in partnership with the Chinook Country Historic Society and will take place at the Central Library on Saturday October 18 at 1 pm. You can find more information here. No registration is required

And for those of you interested in learning AND eating, the Firefighter’s Museum is hosting Conversations in the Kitchen. This time, in honour of Fire Prevention Week, the subject will be Watch what you heat. CFD’s Public Information Officer Carol Henke will be talking about what can go wrong in the kitchen, linking back to artefacts from the museum’s collection. Afterwards, Carol will share her infamous fire hall pancake recipe. You can register for this program, which takes place on October 10 at 10:30 by contacting programs@firefightersmuseum.org. Admission is by donation. You can find out more on theirFacebook page

So, get out, steep yourself in history and have a good time! See you out there.

I've Got a Bushel of Green Tomatoes, Thanks Mother Nature!

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

PC 1606And we thought we had a lot of snow, Postcards from the Past, PC 1606

Well, September is here and boy did it come in like a lion! I’m assuming this means it will go out like a lamb, or is that only for May? Anyway, having slogged through ankle deep snow and wrestled the fallen branches from my poor old birch tree, I am feeling rather icy toward Mother Nature. My dog is delighted, but he is the only one I know who is.

Even though I am a native Calgarian, I cannot reconcile myself to the climate here. Every year I plant tomatoes, dreaming of the hot late summer days when I will pick the ripe fruit from the green and fragrant plants. And nearly every year, I am out in the freezing cold picking hard-frozen, green orbs from blackened, frost damaged and, quite frankly, pathetic-looking remnants of my labours. Does this make me an optimist or a fool? (Quite likely, a bit of both—a foolish optimist?).

Certainly this phenomenon would explain the hundreds of recipes calling for green tomatoes in the prairie cookbooks we have in our Local History collection. I thought I might have to resort to one of these as I looked at my hastily harvested crop. And since I am using a recipe from our cookbook collection in Local History, you get to share my experience.

So, here is a recipe for green tomato marmalade—which is something I had heard of but never eaten, until I saw a ripe tomato version at a shop in the Farmer’s Market. This one is from the Blue Bird Cookbook by the Domestic Science Department of the American Woman’s Club of Calgary (call number 641.5 BLU). The recipe courtesy Ms. H.L. Freeland:

Chop 2 quarts of green tomatoes fine, 2 lemons cut fine, a little water. Boil until tender and add cup for cup of sugar. Cook until it jellies and add ginger root for taste.

What could be easier?

Another one I’m going to try is green tomato chow chow, just because I like the name, also from the Blue Bird cookbook. Recipe courtesy Mrs. A.E. Shore.

Green Tomato Chow Chow

1 peck green tomatoes
4 large onions
6 green peppers
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne pepper
vinegar

Chop tomatoes (not too fine) and let stand in brine overnight. Drain and cover with vinegar (not too strong). Add peppers, onions, sugar and spices and cook until tender. Place in bottles or jars with parowax over them if corks or covers are not available.

 

Winter Elbow RiverA lovely winter

I Love Government Documents - And You Will, Too!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Gov Docs displayGovernment Documents on Display, Central Library

One of the coolest things about working in a large urban library is the range of stuff we have available for research. I wrote an earlier blog article on some of the gems we have in our government documents collection. We’ve set up a display with some of the cooler stuff from the collection. Check out the picture above.

The great thing about these obscure resources is that there are so many of them. That is also a bad thing because when we do our genealogical research there may be records that are really useful, but we don’t know they exist, which is where librarians and other research-savvy folk come in. It is our business to find out about these weird and wonderful resources and to pass that information on to you.

Government documents come from all areas of government in all countries. Here at Calgary Public Library we don’t really collect a lot of government information from outside of the country but Library and Archives Canada do. And in their blog I discovered that a fairly obscure collection of documents from the Imperial Russian Consulates in Canada have made their way into the digital universe. People researching ancestors in Eastern Europe may or may not be aware of the LI-RA-MA collection (acronym alert – it stands for Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers – the names of the last Imperial Russian Consuls in Canada) The consular records, following the Russian Revolution, were boxed up and moved from pillar to post, with the attendant loss and damage this lack of care inevitably brings. The consuls, themselves, were kept in Canada and employed by the Canadian government to assist with the large numbers of Eastern European immigrants who had settled in Canada.

LAC has had this collection on microfilm since it was loaned to them by NARA (the US National Archives and Record Administration) in the 1980s. It is comprised of approximately 84 reels of microfilmed documents created by the consulates in Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax. Some of the documents are about the day to day functioning of the consular offices; some are correspondence about particular immigration and naturalization problems, and documents relating to the internment of Eastern Europeans in Canada during the war. This is a treasure trove for historians but the mother lode for ancestor hunters is Series IV, which is the Passport/Identity papers series. This group of records is comprised of the applications of Russian subjects for various kinds of identity papers including passports and visas. But in order to apply, citizens had to prove they were Russian subjects, so they had to fill in an extensive questionnaire about their origins, often including a town or county of birth. Keep in mind that at the time, the Russian Empire included parts of Poland, Finland and most of the countries that would become the USSR.

AJ 0092Russian/Greek Orthodox Church of All Saints, AJ 0092

LAC has made the index and images of the documents available on its website

The index cards have been transliterated into the Latin alphabet, but the original documents are in Russian. You have to have a look at this wonderful collection. (There are also records available in the United States for immigrants who settled there. See the link above for information regarding that collection.)

How to Find an Old Newspaper

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

CPL 238 05 04People reading newspapers on microfilm, CPL Archives

Genealogists and historians know how important newspapers are in any kind of historical research. Whether you’re looking for an obituary or trying to find out what was going on in your hometown, nothing captures the tenor of the times like a newspaper. How do you find those newspapers, though? If you’re not from a major urban centre, it can be tricky even finding out what the newspaper was called, especially since researching the various permutations of a newspaper’s names and its publication history can be a genealogical research project in itself.

Our national library, Library and Archives Canada, collects lots and lots of newspapers. They receive print copies of select Canadian current dailies, all Canadian ethnic newspapers, all Canadian Aboriginal newspapers, and student newspapers received from Canadian University Press. They also receive some international papers. While you can consult any of these newspapers at Library and Archives Canada in person, not all of us can make that trek. But do not despair – much of the library’s holdings are available on microfilm (200,000 reels of it!) and can be borrowed on inter-library loan. And to help us find those newspapers, Library and Archives Canada has launched a new database — well, actually an enhanced version of a much-loved and oft used database.

This site has always been an invaluable resource for the names and publication history of Canadian newspapers. What the upgrade has given us are links to digitized versions of the papers, where they exist. Sites such as Peel’s Prairie Provinces, Our Future Our Past, Google News, and various other digitization projects can be accessed from the LAC list. The site also includes a list of general indexes to Canadian newspapers, including online paid sources, free sources and print sources as well as a geographical listing of indexes for specific newspapers or places. Have a look at what is available for Alberta.

There is also a section of online sources for news and indexes to the news. It’s a one-stop shop for all things newspaper.

BTW, our Family History Coaching program kicks off its new season on September 27. Join us for one-on-one help with your family history project. Volunteers from the Alberta Family Histories Society will be on hand in the genealogy section of the Central Library from 10 a.m. to noon. 

Harnam Singh Hari

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

From Sodbusting to SubdivisionHunam Singh and his son Ujugar, taken from Sodbusting to Subdivision

Calgary commemorated its first Sikh settler on the weekend, naming a park in honour of Harnam Singh Hari, in Kingsland, the community that occupies the land where he established his farm in 1909. I am ashamed to admit that I did not know this man’s name or the history of the Sikhs in Alberta. I remembered, however, that I had come across the name Singh while I was searching for soldiers who had enlisted for service in the First World War and was surprised to find them there. To remedy my ignorance I went digging in our Local History collection. (Luddite that I am, I always start my research with books). I found Splintered Dreams: Sikhs in Southern Alberta by Jaswinder Gundara that tells the stories of several Sikh families including that of Harnam Singh Hari.

The stories of our earliest non-European immigrants are always inspiring to me. People came to Canada in spite of a hostile environment and sometimes even more hostile communities. Chinese immigrants were charged a head tax, other Asian immigrants were required to have at least $200 with them while immigrants from Europe were only asked to have $20. Women and children under 18 were prohibited from immigrating, meaning that a lot of the Punjabi men came to Canada alone, leaving their families behind. In spite of all of this, people still came to Canada and men like Harnam Singh Hari worked hard and flourished. After purchasing several sections in what would become the Kingsland area, Harnam Singh and his son, Ujugar, purchased more land in the DeWinton area. The family is still farming in the area, and were chosen as Farm Family of the Year in 2011.

Harnam Singh returned to India in the 1950s taking with him ideas for the improvement of his home village and a share of stories to tell. His great grand-daughter has written a moving article about him for the Indian Quarterly. He passed away in India in 1969 but, thanks to the park that bears his name, he will not be forgotten.

Happy Anniversary, Princess Patricia's

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1673Currie Barracks "this is the cook"s house..."

For many years the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was stationed here in Calgary at the Currie Barracks. They were back last week, as part of the Memorial Relay in which soldiers are running from Edmonton to Ottawa carrying a baton which contains the names of all 1,866 members who have fallen in active service.

The PPCLI was formed in 1914, in response to the declaration of war. Hamilton Gault, of Montreal, offered to raise and equip a regiment. In honour of the daughter of our then Governor General, the Duke of Connaught, the regiment was named the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Princess Patricia personally designed its badge and colours for the regiment to take overseas to France. As the regiment's Colonel-in-Chief, she played an active role until her death. The PPCLI Colonel in Chief today is Adrienne Clarkson, our former GG

PC 1568Princess Patricia"s Mum and Dad, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, 1912

Raised in August of 1914, the regiment was in France by September of the same year. They were the first of the Canadians to serve in that theatre of war. By December they had lost 238 men and their original Commanding Officer. In May of 1915 the Patricia’s saw action in the Ypres salient, meeting the enemy in the battle of Frezenberg. In mere hours, 175 men had died. The baton being carried in the relay will be taken to Frezenberg to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle known in the regiment as the “Death of the Originals.”

The PPCLI came to Calgary after the Second World War and were stationed at Currie Barracks. Shortly after their arrival, they were converted from a Regular Army brigade to an Airborne Mobile Striking Force. This change was enthusiastically received as many of the men had served in the First Parachute Brigade in WWII. The Patricia’s became Canada's first peacetime parachute battalion. If you would like to read more about the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, you can check out their website or read any one of the great books written about them. Maybe start with David Bercusons' recent publication, The Patricia's : A Century of Service

The PPCLI was an active part of the Calgary community until the decision was made to reduce the number of bases so the battalion was moved to Edmonton. We welcomed them back, though, with open arms

Government Documents - A Treasure Trove for Genealogists

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Genealogy Records

One of my very first jobs at Calgary Public Library was as a summer student, sorting through the government documents collection on the third floor. It was a very interesting experience, albeit one I did not wish to repeat (although I did enjoy reading the pamphlet on mink ranching.) It wasn’t until I started doing serious genealogical and historical research that I came to see the value of these documents. I am often asked to talk about “obscure sources” and these are what come immediately to my mind. At Calgary Public Library, government documents are held in two locations, for the most part. Local History has a collection of documents relating to the history of Calgary, including planning documents, documents from the Geological Survey, reports relating to industry, governance, etc. The Government Documents collection holds the bulk of the material and it is located on the third floor.

Certainly, when we talk about resources in genealogy one of the first sources we talk about is actually a government document. The census was not taken for the benefit of future genealogists. It was actually taken by the government to get an idea of what the population of the country looked like at a given time. The genealogical value is just a bonus. The same holds true for the military records I have been using for the Lest We Forget program and other presentations I have been doing to mark the anniversary of the start of WWI. The Department of Defense took and kept the information, making this treasure trove a gov doc (as we call them in the biz).

I recently took a little tour of the third floor gov doc collection and found some other, less likely, resources that genealogists might find useful – or at least interesting. For example, I did not know that, in the 1950s at least, the annual report of the Calgary Police Department included information about notable cases that include the names of victims and perpetrators. There is also a list of cases that needed photographic evidence which includes the name of the accused. It also includes the names of people killed in fatal traffic accidents. So, if you have an ancestor who is a bit of a baddie, or someone who was a victim of a baddie, you may want to have a look in the police reports. The dates given could help lead to newspaper articles and other documentary evidence. (Call Number is CA4AL C PO AR date)

PC 968Calgary Police Dept. in front of City Hall, 1912

Another little gem I discovered were reports documenting the claims made following WWI by people who wanted reparations paid for various losses incurred during the war. I didn’t expect to find this is our collection, since there was no fighting in Canada, but there it was. I hadn’t thought about it, but Canadians were affected by enemy action. There were Canadians aboard the Lusitania when it was sunk. And the reaction to the sinking of the ship led to rioting and destruction of the homes and businesses of Canadians of German origin. There was also the explosion in Halifax harbor for which people sought reparations. Soldiers and their families sought payment for the loss of personal effects sent home by the military. There are also claims such as the one by a gentleman in Daysland who claimed that a certain person of German origin set fire to his grain elevator. The proceedings are indexed by name, so it is easy enough to check to see if one of your ancestors suffered a loss for which they later sought payment. (call number is CA 1 WC REP 1930) Again, who would have known, eh? Yet another hidden resource for genealogists, researchers and nosey folk like me.

The Newspapers Have Arrived!

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

PC 841Newspaper Office in Daysland Alberta

After more than a year waiting patiently for our microfilmed newspapers to arrive, we are happy to be able to say that we finally have a mostly complete collection of the Calgary newspapers including the Albertan, the Sun, The Calgary Herald and some of the other, earlier newspapers such as The Eye-Opener. They are all living on the 4th floor, happy in their little cabinets alongside our brand new microfilm readers.

My colleagues are concerned about my joy surrounding these new arrivals, thinking that I’ve gone completely off the deep end into a chasm of nerdiness, but we have all felt the lack of this collection since we lost it in the flood last year. I can't tell you the number of times I have said “that would be in the newspaper” only to realize that we had no way to gain quick access to this resource. Yes, the Calgary Herald is on Google Newspapers, but it is incomplete. There are also early newspapers on Our Future Our Past, which has been our saving grace for the years prior to the 1940s, but past that we had nothing until 1988, when the Calgary Herald starts full text on Canadian Newsstand. And even then, the classifieds are not included, which means that obituaries and birth announcements are not included. We hadn’t realized how much we depended on the microfilms until we were without them.

So, nerdy or not, I am delighted that this collection is now available for all of us to use. Newspapers are unparalleled in the insight they can give about people and their times. When I am researching an event I often take a wander through the papers of the time to get a sense of how people reacted and what they found important. We used the newspapers extensively when looking for stories for our Flood Story website. Having the stories of individuals who were affected by the floods gives more substance to the statistics and dry descriptions found in official reports.

Linton Ad 1897Ad for Photos of the 1897 Flood from Calgary Herald

A Calgary Soldier's Story

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1478I.O.D.E. War Memorial outside Memorial Park Library

I’m a little late with this post. We were in the throes of preparing for our Historic Calgary Week presentation “A Calgary Soldier’s Story” which we delivered successfully (whew!) at beautiful Memorial Park Library last night. We told the story of Joseph A. Convery, an Irish immigrant who came to Calgary from Belfast at the age of 16 and made a success in his farming endeavours, which allowed him to bring his parents and sister to live with him. He was a brave young man who, possibly sensing that the war was coming, joined the 15th Light Horse, a militia unit in Calgary, became a Lieutenant, and then enlisted in the CEF. His bravery and daring (how else would you describe a man who came alone to the barren prairie at 16) led him to the Royal Flying Corps, those Knights of the Air, who were so important to the success of the forces in Europe. Sadly, he lost his life when his plane went down near Arras just before the last major German offensive of the war.

As usual I learned a lot about many different things when I was researching this gentleman. I found out about the Canadians in the RFC/RAF, whose fearlessness allowed them to climb into these canvas and wood crates and fly over enemy territory, sussing out the lay of the land and dropping bombs from the cockpit. Some of the great men of Canadian history passed through the RFC/RAF including Roland Michener, Lester B. Pearson, Kenneth Irving, and other men of note. This fact leads me to wondering what would have become of our intrepid Irishman had he survived the war.

Joseph’s story was just one of many and I was honoured to be able to bring it to life and share it with everyone. Our history (and I know I harp on this, forgive me) is the history of people just like Joseph Convery, who came and made something of himself and the offered all that to the defense of his adopted home. It is the story of people like Joseph that is the story of this country – the pioneers who came and stayed, even though the weather sucks and the animals will kill you. We are something else, aren’t we?

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