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Eau Claire

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

AJ 1288

Former Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Mill Offices, converted to Centre Cafe

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, ca1964

What is it about January that makes me all sentimental? I don’t know, but I do start to look at things that were familiar in my youth and think, “Ah, yes, I remember.” One of those moments was sparked by an article in the September 30, 1919 issue of the Calgary Daily Herald that I encountered while I was (supposed to be) transcribing birth, marriage and death announcements. It was an article about the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company and the improvements it had made, which made it one of the most modern mills in Western Canada. My memories of Eau Claire were different. Of course, while I was growing up, I’d known of Peter Prince and Eau Claire, but the district itself was not a place where nice people went. My memories of Eau Claire looked like the Alison Jackson photo above; run down, a little bit scary and certainly not a worthy development on the banks of our beautiful Bow.

It was hard, then, to imagine the mill, but not hard to imagine that this was once a large, industrial site. It had a look of neglect. It wasn’t until I started to pursue the history of Peter Prince and the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company that I discovered what a massive operation it was and how important it was in the development of Western Canada. It provided the materials that would be needed to build the new houses and farms and shops and other buildings that would grow up around the CPR line. The name of the company and the district that would grow up around it came from a place in Wisconsin. When the government was looking to sell off the lumber rights to the timber stands in the Bow Valley, a Winnipeg lawyer named MacFee got the news and saw that there was money to be made. He had inside information from a friend, David MacDougall, son of the Reverend George, who ran a trading post next door to the church on the Nakoda nation. MacFee needed the expertise of industry insiders and since Eau Claire, Wisconsin was the centre of the US logging industry (and had lured many Canadians south to work for them) he headed there. The lumbermen saw the potential and formed the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Co, and two expat Canadians came north to Fort Calgary. President Isaac Kerr was born in Ontario and manager Peter Prince, whose magnificent home was moved to Heritage Park, was born in Quebec. As part of the agreement with the government, the leases were surveyed in 1884 and these documents now live at the Glenbow Archives, along with lots of other records about the company. The surveys can be viewed online through the Archives Society of Alberta database. Here is the link for the Bow River limits survey.

By 1886 Prince had a small mill operating on the land the company had purchased just north of the Calgary townsite. Logging crews were dispatched and by 1887 there were log drivers on the Bow. The company grew as the demand for their product grew. To better access the mill, a channel was dug through a small isthmus, giving us what is known today as Prince’s Island. Kerr and Prince would also be instrumental in harnessing the power of the Bow River to provide electricity. The picture below shows the power generating plant. Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber would remain in business until 1945.

So, from the industrial to the residential, Eau Claire has had a varied history. I still like to wander around down there (now that I can do so safely) and think, “Ah yes, I remember.”

If you are interested in the history of the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company, there is an excellent chapter in an excellent book about the Bow River, The River Returns by Armstrong, Evenden and Nelles.

 

The Flood Gates, Bow River, Calgary

Postcards from the Past, PC 797

 

PC 797

Library and Archives Canada Launches New Census Databases

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

1891 Canada Census

Page from the 1891 Canada Census

With all the kerfuffle over the changes to collection access and services at Library and Archives Canada, I haven’t been paying much attention to what they are actually doing out there in Ottawa. I was directed to a great database at their site, the Veterans’ Death Cards records, by a member of the AFHS. Because it fit in very well with my work on the Lest We Forget Project, I was very excited that I had more information on the soldiers that the students in the Project were working on. It turned out that the Veterans’ Cards were just the beginning.

I went on to do a bit more exploring of the databases that LAC has put up. A great place to find out about these digitized records is through the Library and Archives Canada Blog. Anyone who has ancestors in Canada should subscribe to this one, because it turns out, they have been digitizing all kinds of records. For example, they have just put up a new “edition” of the 1906 census of the Northwest Provinces that now includes the ability to search by name and ages. In December, they began a process to launch 15 census databases including very early returns from New France. While many of these haven’t been indexed they can be viewed page by page (and the really early ones aren’t that long anyhow.) The blog also includes information about the release of the next Canadian census (1921 – Yay)

The Ancestors Search on the LAC website will catch a lot of the databases. You can see what is available and which databases are part of the search here Included are passenger lists, border entry records, land records and military records.

Another way to search the digitized holdings of Library and Archives Canada is to use the Archives Advanced Search and select “Yes “the drop-down menu beside Online. I used the search term census and found censuses of various First Nations as well as the Federal census records.

Another link you should try is the listing of Microform Digitizations That list includes the recently digitized War of 1812 records So, although it can be a bit of a struggle to find the records, they are there and are well worth looking for, especially now that we can’t get the microfilm from Library and Archives Canada anymore.

Have you got a suggestion for a really great website that you’d like all the other genealogists out there to know? Let me know. I'd love to hear from you.

Century Homes Database Launched!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Century Home

One of the beautiful residences in the Century Homes database

Photograph courtesy James McMenamin,

Have you ever wandered past an old house and wondered when it was built, who used to live there, and what stories it contains? I know I do this all the time and, because I work in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library, I have resources at my fingertips that allow me to do a little house genealogy in my spare time. But today, we have launched a new database that will make information about the Century Homes in our city available online to anyone who cares to look.

If you read this blog regularly you will have read about the Century Homes Project. Most recently I posted that Century Homes had won a Governor General’s History Award for Community Programming. It was, and still is, a great initiative that got people involved in documenting their own century homes and sharing that information on signs posted in their yards. As part of the legacy of Century Homes (and because we don’t like to lose any information at all about the history of our beautiful city) Calgary Public Library is hosting the database that was created using the photographs and documentation that were created. It was launched this morning at City Hall and boy, are we chuffed. (You can see the Mayor's presentation to the proud Century Homes folks here) We’ve been working away at transcribing and uploading and doing all the things that are involved in getting a major project like this off the ground and we are delighted with the results. As of today we have all the photographs loaded and have about 100 of the yard signs transcribed. We will continue with the transcription until we have every bit of information in the database and accessible to everyone.

We invite you to have a look at this newest addition to our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. If you are interested in having your century home included in the 2013 tour (and in our database), check out the Century Homes website.

Your New Year's Resolution - Trace your Family Tree

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Files

So, was one of your New Year’s resolutions to get started on your family history? If it was, great; if it wasn’t, why not? Researching your ancestors is one of the fastest growing hobbies (although I hesitate to call it that) in North America. Companies like Ancestry and Findmypast are making genealogical records available, and making money while doing it. Who would have thought it would come to this? When Calgary Public Library purchased a collection of census records on microfilm, it made the papers, now those very records can be searched by name online. It is nearly painless – or so it would appear at the outset. However, if you have made a resolution to start your family history, I want to give you a little bit of advice so that you can fall in love with genealogy research, rather than becoming so frustrated that you completely abandon it. The wealth of information available on the internet and through subscription services like Ancestry is both a blessing and a curse. That we have this information at our fingertips is the good part. The bad part is that we have ALL this information at our fingertips, and it can be quite overwhelming to sort through the 20,000 hits you get from your first search attempt on Ancestry. So here are a few pointers for you newbies out there:

  • Start with yourself. This seems kind of silly when you already know everything about yourself, but recording all of your information can provide important clues to where to look for the information about those who went before. It is a lot easier to look for information when you have a specific question in mind. So, write down your data - name, birthdate, spouse, children, parents. It helps to have it in a pedigree chart, so that when you are asking for help, or need to remind yourself of what you’re doing, you have the relationships and basic information at a glance. You can find blanks of pedigree charts all over the internet but the Canadian Genealogy Centre has a nice, clear chart that contains the basic information you will need to proceed.

  • Start organizing before you have anything to organize. It pays to have an organizational system in place before you collect so much information that entering it or filing it becomes an overwhelming chore. (Trust me on this one) You may choose to use software to keep you organized and you may want to keep your records as paper copies. Either way, it really does help to have a strategy in place for storing and retrieving before you actually get started.

  • Once you have all that you know written down, decide what information you would like to find out about which ancestor. Write these questions down so you will have something to help you focus on task and less likely to be sidetracked by all the cools stuff you will find.

  • Find a good how-to guide for the area you are researching. You will need to find out what kinds of records are available, where they are and how you access them. Keep in mind that not everything is digitized. I can’t tell you the number of times I have come across a defeated genealogist who has been searching online sources in vain for information that simply is not there. Check the websites of genealogical societies in the area or check out mega-sites like Cyndi’s List to see what is out there.

  • Document your sources. I know this sounds like high school but when you want to go back to your records, because your research has lead you to believe that the person listed on the page below your ancestor is actually in your family tree, you will want to find that source again. We have, on occasion, been able to identify the source of a photocopied page for a customer, but that is sheer luck, and while luck can’t be discounted in the pursuit of ancestral information, it most often comes to the well prepared.

  • Finally, keep in mind that a problem shared is a problem solved. There are any number of places where you can meet like-minded researchers who will only be too glad to help you. We are obviously your first choice <grin>. We offer Family History Coaching on the last Saturday of the month from 10 to noon on the 4th floor of the Central Library. Volunteer coaches and library staff are available to help you with your questions, no matter what your level of research. Our volunteers come from the Alberta Family Histories Society, which is also a great resource for genealogists. You can attend their meetings on the first Monday of each month or you can do research at their library and get help from the dedicated volunteers there. Check out their website for details. There is also help to be had at the Family History Centers in Calgary. These are connected with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose efforts in finding, preserving and making available (free of charge) records from around the world are making genealogy research a much less daunting task. Check out their site. In addition to the records themselves, they have a great wiki that can help you learn about all aspects of genealogy in most countries of the world.

PC 1046

Details of a personal postcard "Greetings from Calgary"

Postcards from the Past, PC 1046

So, there is your New Year’s Resolution tied up. Come visit us at the Central Library for information, assistance or advice. We are always glad to have you.

A Bookless Library...and Other Wonders

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Microphotography

 

Professor Fessenden's Photographic Dictionary

Daily Herald, December 29, 1896, p3

Viewed on Our Future Our Past

With the New Year approaching, I was at loose ends as to what my first blog entry of 2013 was going to be. In effect, I rung out the old year in the last post and I wanted to find something, well…weird…to start off a year that seems to portend some bad karma (not that I’m suspicious, or anything, but there are two Friday the 13ths in 2013 and I feel maybe we just jumped the shark with that Mayan calendar thing).

So, I reverted to form and started reading the newspapers to see what I could find that was weird and wonderful. The first article that caught my eye was an article written in December of 1896 that referred to a ‘bookless library’. Publishing houses were churning out huge amounts of literature and libraries were bursting at the seams (some things don’t change). An inventor was offering a solution – a device that would record information on photographic plates and then project them on a wall. Reginald A. Fessenden, a Canadian-born scientist, had developed form of microphotography which would allow large volumes of material to be stored in a small space. With the invention of such technology, what would become of the libraries? Books as we know them would cease to exist and libraries would be stocked with microform. Sound familiar?

Interestingly, I read about this on Our Future Our Past, in a digitized version of the microfilm copy of the Daily Herald. It is interesting that with the arrival of e-books and digital formats we are facing the same questions in the 21st century as did in the 19th. It is also, perhaps ironic, that we are still talking about preserving collections of microfilm, which, for many, remains the most durable of the storage formats. Anyone who has attended my genealogy presentations knows my old joke – if 2013 proves to be the end of the world as we know it, the cockroaches will read about us on microfilm.

Bicycle buggy

 

 

I couldn’t end this post on such a glum note, so I included this invention, the Bicycle Buggy, said to be sure to scare any self-respecting horse which encounters it. (Calgary Daily Herald January 5, 1891 p 2 viewed on Our Future Our Past)

Merry Christmas, 1912 Style

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 152

Merry Christmas from the Carnegie Library, Calgary, Alberta

Postcards from the Past, PC 152 ca 1912

Whew, we’ve made it. It has been a year packed with lots of great events. This was the year of our 100th birthday, as well as the 100 year celebrations for many of the structures that were built during our 1912 boom. We were the City of culture for 2012 and we hosted a special edition of the Bob Edwards awards. The Mayan calendar came to an end and we are all still here, so all in all, the year was a great success. This will be my last chance to talk about the heady days of 1912 – and since 1913 marked the end of the boom, I am going to close out the year talking about what people were doing for Christmas in that year.

The weather was a bit chilly. The temperature was expected to go up to -1C after an overnight low of -13C.

Charity was a great part of Christmas in Calgary. The Morning Albertan’s Santa fund was over a thousand dollars and The Salvation Army was distributing over 100 food hampers (flour bags filled with necessities for a Christmas celebration) to needy families and providing pastries to people in jail. They also held a Christmas dinner for needy single men.

But giving was also on the agenda, as always. The Calgary post office was overwhelmed with letters and parcels from the Old Country (England). Three special trains were sent west with parcels from the Empress of Ireland.

Pryce Jones stayed open until 11 o’clock on the 23rd and 24th to accommodate those last minute shoppers. The store was offering a new and chic accoutrement for the autoists (i.e people who had cars) – foot muffs. These intriguing little goodies would fit both tender feet of the “fair autoists” (i.e. girls in cars) and would swathe them in fur, to keep them from freezing in the unheated and mostly open automobiles. These little luxuries ran from $3.00 to $12.50 depending on the amount and quality of the furs used. You could have these gifts delivered to your door on Christmas Eve.

Hudson’s Bay was even more modern, offering gift certificates for those who just couldn’t decide on what gift to give.

Senator Lougheed announced that “Miss Calgary”, our dear city, was getting some great presents including a new million dollar post office, a customs warehouse, immigration building and an armory.

As a reaction to this frenetic holiday season a group was formed in New York calling itself, SPUG, the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving. The idea spread like wildfire among the young, fashionable club men and women who believed that society had moved away from the fun and good times spent with family and friends and focused too much on the money one spends.

Food, as much a part of Christmas celebrations as Useless Giving, was very much on the minds of our Calgarians, albeit with a bit of a different twist. Restaurants were getting ready for the rush of Christmas diners. Some didn’t change their menus much, except to add turkey, but the Club Café had an unexpected delicacy to offer, a black bear cub. Many homemakers were planning to roast a fat capon, in lieu of the expected turkey as the capons were less expensive and tastier and the leftovers could be used to prepare various chicken dishes and dainties. The secret to a good capon was the use of fatty bacon as a wrapping as well the liberal application of butter (I think you could probably roast a cardboard box with fatty bacon and butter and make a passable meal!) Stuff that with bread crumbs and a half pound of truffles which have been soaked in Madeira, a goose liver and, of course, bacon and you will have a feast fit for a king.

So, it seems that nothing has really changed, eh? We are still rushing about in the cold, desperate to get that last minute gift and falling back on the gift certificate when we just can’t make up our minds. Young people are still objecting to the commercialization of Christmas, while homemakers are still trying to find the best way to cook a peculiar and rather unpleasant bird to make it palatable. We are still faced with the fact that not everyone will be able to have a happy Christmas, but we are still showing what a great city we are by giving to charities that try to ensure a decent Christmas for the less fortunate. So, my wish for you is that you enjoy the holidays, however you may spend them.

Christmas Picture

Write That Family History, Already!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Remember

With the holiday season now upon us (where on earth did November go, anyway?) we are turning our focus toward the family and spending time with those closest to us (for good or ill.) The holiday season is a great time to spend time with our elders, talking about the past and finding out about our family’s history. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard “I wish I’d talked to my [aunty, grandma, great-uncle] about her/his family, but I didn’t” or “I wish I’d paid attention when granny talked about her childhood”. Don’t be one of those genealogists! Now is the time! Get out your smart phone, set it on record and have that chat with granny or Auntie Jean or Great Uncle Herb. Their stories are the important ones, the ones that can’t be found in census records, birth certificates or city directories. This is what makes your family unique and these are the stories that many genealogists are striving to recreate.

If you need some questions to spur your family member’s memory, there are some great books out there to help you. One in particular isTo our children’s children: preserving family histories for generations to come by Bob Greene. This book has some very good suggestions for questions that spark memories, like, “Did you ever skip school? Did you get caught? Were you punished? How?” Questions like this encourage reminiscing around specific incidents and can get you much more than “Tell me about your school days.”

Once you have done some genealogy and have gotten what stories you can, you may want to write a family history or a memoir. We are having a Writers’ Weekend on February 2nd I’m very excited that one of our programs will be Writing Memoir and Biography with Brian Brennan. Brian is a brilliant storyteller and his skills at bringing a person alive on the page are unparalleled. If you're going to learn you might as well learn from a master. You can register for this free program here or by calling 403-260-2620.

James and Bridget

My Family, ca 1890

Governor General’s History Awards Announced

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

House in Elbow ParkOne of the participating homes in the Century Homes Calgary project


Century Homes Logo

If you read this blog regularly you may remember a post about the Century Homes project. This is a grassroots initiative of the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society, fuelled and supported by individuals and organizations who value the heritage of this beautiful city of ours. The Community Heritage and Family History department’s own librarian was involved in this project and I am delighted to be able to say that the winners of the Governor General’s History Awards have just been announced and the Century Homes Calgary project won in the category of Community Programming. So now I can say I personally know a Governor General’s Award winner (or two).

The project was started in 2011 and grew from there to an extremely successful endeavor, so that by July over 500 Calgarians had researched the stories

of their homes and created banners to tell the rest of us what they had discovered. During Historic Calgary Week thousands of Calgarians toured the homes and read the stories. It was such a success that it will be repeated next year.

At the library we saw a huge jump in the use of our Local History room as customers flocked to us to find out who had lived in their homes. We were delighted to have the chance to talk to customers about what they had found and to help them dig a little deeper into the history of not just their houses, but the people who lived in them, the communities that had grown up around them and the history of the city. We offered programs in conjunction with the City of Calgary Archives to show people the resources we had available in all three repositories within the Heritage Triangle and how to use them.

Calgary Public Library is also involved in the longer term goal of this project, which is to create a legacy database, which will include photographs of the homes and the information and stories that the homeowners have created. This will be an important addition to the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library as it will document, not just the project but the history of some of the century buildings in the city.

We really enjoyed our part of the Century Homes Project and are looking forward to helping even more researchers next year. If you are interested in participating in next year’s Century Homes Calgary, visit this website for more information. To find out more about the Governor General’s History Award, follow this link.

Congratulations to the all of the volunteers and homeowners, the Calgary Heritage Initiative, the City of Calgary Corporate Records, Archives, Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Association, Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association, Calgary Heritage Authority, Calgary Public Library, Chinook Country Historical Society and The Federation of Calgary Communities.

Vive le papier! or, It’s not all available on the Internet

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

paper

I have given many a genealogy seminar on the wonderful online resources available for family history research. But I have also given a lot of talks to beginning genealogists and many are surprised to find that not everything is available electronically.” What”, you say, “not everything is online!!!?” Sad, but true, and possible the best example of this comes from this very province. Access to vital records like births, deaths and marriages in Alberta still requires a request for a search through a registry office. There is no online access to the records at all. However, there is a paper index which covers events prior to 1905.

Before we had newspaper and magazine indexes online (that would be back in the days before there was such a thing as online) we used print indexes to find articles. Even now, with our wonderful collection of online resources for finding magazine articles (have a look in the E-Library to see some of the great databases) there is still very limited coverage prior to 1988. So, we still have the paper indexes on the third floor. Since my library experience dates from the “cardaceous” period, when card catalogues roamed the earth, I am familiar with these indexes and actually use them to find information that predates the electronic age. One such bit of research involved a customer who was looking for an article that was written about a friend’s grandmother and was published in a Canadian magazine, perhaps Maclean’s. The woman had started her own temp agency and was profiled because it was such an unusual thing for a woman to be an entrepreneur and the head of a successful business. The customer was pretty sure that the article was a cover story and thought he remembered photographs. The date of the article was some time in the 50s or 60s. We had the name of the company and the name of the owner. Nothing turned up in a search of the internet or in any of our online indexes. We had no clipping files on the business in Local History and we were going to give up hope but we remembered our old CPI.Q and rushed down to have a look. Sure enough, we turned up a reference to a Maclean’s article from 1954 which included photographs. A quick trip to the basement, and we had the article.

This is a good reminder to genealogists, and all researchers, that we are still a long way from having everything available at the click of a mouse. There are still valuable resources available that can’t be accessed through Google (or even Ancestry). The following indexes, housed on the third floor of the Central Library, are prime examples: Reader’s Guide, Canadian News Index and Canadian Periodicals Index can be used to find articles in magazines and newspapers that haven’t yet made it online. Check them out and see if your family made the papers.

Calgary Public Library Card Catalogue in the 1970s

Calgary Public Library: Our Story in Pictures, CPL 235-05-11

CPL 238 05 11

Matters of Money

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

1913 Muncipal Manual

City of Calgary Municipal Manual

Currently on display on the 4th floor of the Central Library

 

The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least amount of hissing.” Jean Baptiste Colbert, 1619-1683

City Council is meeting this week to discuss the next budget and it looks like our taxes may be going up again. Governments have to get their money somewhere, and taxation and fees are generally the way they go about it. This topic came up when I was talking to the students at King George School. They will be doing a project to celebrate their school’s centennial and I wanted to tell them what life was like in Calgary in 1913. I consulted the Municipal Manual for that year (we have a complete collection of the manuals in the Local History Room at the Central Library) to find out general facts about the city and found some of the fees and taxes charged in 1913. Things were not much different then, we paid taxes based on a mill rate which was based on the assessed value of the house. Citizens could challenge their assessments if they felt they were out of line. We were charged for water, fees for taxis were set out as were fees that chimney sweeps could charge. What is a little different was how these fees were calculated. For example, annual water rates were calculated first by the number of rooms in the dwelling starting at $5.00 for five rooms and going up $10.00 for 15 rooms with 50 cents charged for each additional room. Added to the base rate were charges for each “additional convenience” such as a sink, toilet or bathtub ($1.00 for each of these). You were also charged $1.00 for a lawn and $1.00 for the first horse or cow and 50 cents for each additional animal. There were separate rates for commercial customers, hotels, churches and other concerns ($40.00 for a public skating rink for example)

The city government also raised money by charging for licenses. To hold a circus on a public holiday or during exhibition week, the license cost $500. At other times of the year it w as $200 unless the daily entrance fee was under 25 cents, for which the license was only $100. It was $4 to register your female dog, $2 for a male. Junk stores (remember those?) had to pay a license fee of $50 while a rag and bottle man paid only $5.

These fees are only meaningful if we have a look at what other things cost at the time. A lot in Capitol Hill was listed at $400 while a lot on 13th Avenue W (a much tonier neighbourhood) was $2200. A seven room bungalow-style house in Mount Royal, on a 53 foot lot, was listed at $8500 (and even then the lot was advertised as being very good site for an apartment block) while homes in the Ogden district were selling for $1600 to $2000. The going rate for a general, all-round servant was about $30 a month and employment in the new field of movie projectionist would net you about $25 a week. A good man’s suit could be had for $15 and a pair of ladies Radium brand stockings sold for 50 cents. Twenty pounds of sugar cost $1.10 while a pound of English coffee (don’t know, I’ve had coffee in England and that isn’t a recommendation but…) was 24 cents.

1913 was the beginning of the end of one of Calgary’s famous booms. Land speculators who had pinned their hopes on the expansion of the city to the north of the Bow would sell their land at bargain basement prices and growth would be stalled. Fees didn’t go down, though, and new ones were added ($25 a year for a gumball machine license in 1916). Then, in 1917 a temporary measure was introduced to help finance Canada’s part in the First World War – the income tax – and we are still waiting for that one to be revoked.

PC 50

 

Eighth Avenue Looking East, ca 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 50

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