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Where, Exactly, is Balaclava Heights?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Map, 1907

Detail from a 1907 map of Calgary

Community Heritage and Family History Collection

Maps are very useful tools for navigation but they can also speak volumes about the history of a city. The Community Heritage and Family History room at the Central Library has a great collection of historical maps. I love to use the maps to illustrate our stories of the history of Calgary's development. You can see times of extreme optimism as in the map that accompanied the 1913 Henderson's directory. The city looks enormous. New subdivisions have sprung up all around the perimeter of the city. Districts like The Bronx, Harvetta Heights, The Nimmons Subdivision and Balaclava Heights. What is fascinating is that none of these places actually existed. The map, however, shows residential lots and roads and other fascinating features. What this map represents are the dreams and aspirations of Calgary's boosters and its real estate developers. The reality was that Calgary was facing one of its infamous busts and though the city's promoters would have liked to create these wonderful neighbourhoods, the economy would just not support it (doesn't sound familiar, does it?)

To highlight some of the interesting maps in our collection, we have mounted a display in the windows of the Local History Room on the 4th floor of the Central Library. Next time you're walking by have a peek in and see some of this cartographic history of our fair city.

Researching Calgary's Military History

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

I grew up on the west edge of the city near the Currie and Harvie Barracks. Having the military as neighbours was a normal, albeit sometimes exciting, part of my youth. We could ride our bikes to the bluff that is now called Battalion Park and on balmy summer nights, we watched the flares and listened to the guns from the military exercises that were taking place. Helicopters sometimes flew overhead. We could wave to the soldiers as their convoys passed us. It was better than watching the movie from beyond the fence at the 17th Avenue Drive-In!

PC 569

Six Soldiers, World War I

Postcards from the Past, PC 569

It was only years later, as I studied the history of my home town, that I realized what a proud military history we have. Since Fort Calgary, the city has had a military presence in one form or another. Calgary has been home to a number of famous regiments and their history is preserved in the newly renovated and expanded Military Museums. Along with the Naval, Army and Air Force Museums are the Regimental Museums of the Calgary Highlanders, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, the King's Own Calgary Regiment and Lord Strathcona's Horse. They also house the W.A. Howard Library and the Arthur J.E. Child Archives.

We are delighted that experts from the Military Museums and the University of Calgary will be giving a talk on Saturday February 28 at 1PM in the meeting room on the fourth floor of the Central Library. They will present information about strategies and resources for researching the history of the military in Calgary.

Research Plus

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Archives photo 0002

Alexander Calhoun and the staff of the new Calgary Public Library, ca 1912

Calgary Public Library Archives

The library is a great place to do research. We have loads of resources to help with even the most difficult questions. And that is great if you have the time and the skills needed to do your own research. But what if you don't? Did you know that we have a service that can, for a fee, do your research for you? ResearchPlus provides customized, comprehensive fee-based research for individuals and businesses, as well as book loans, document delivery, photocopying, faxing and more.

If you are a member of an organization who may use the library and ResearchPlus, a Calgary Public Library organizational card is only $60 per year and gives you access to this service as well as many other Library resources!

For more information about how ResearchPlus can help you or your organization, contact us at 403-260-2712 or by email at

The Sickness or the Cure

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

iStockOne of the greatest perks in this job is the opportunity it provides to peruse some of the strangest and most interesting books you can imagine. I occasionally wander through the stacks to find interesting items to use in displays or when we are giving tours. I especially have my eye open for unusual sources for genealogists. Imagine my delight when I tripped over York Factory Medical Journals 1846-1849. This fascinating book is exactly what its title promises – the journals of the physician, Dr. William Smellie, who was assigned to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the denizens of York Factory, a Hudson's Bay Company trading post. The journals record the names, professions ages and genders of the patients as well as the symptoms of their illnesses and the treatment for them. Which raises the question, which was worse, the illness or the cure? For example, take the case of Baptiste Potvin, a labourer who visited the doctor on the 24th of March, 1847:

Complains of headache & lassitude: pulse full & moderate tongue of natural appearance: man of a stout habit of body. Habeat Calomelanos gr viii in pillula *** mica panis. (Take 8 grains of Mercurous Chloride in a pill with a crumb of bread)

Now, mercurous chloride is a purgative. Hardly a common treatment for headache today. Dr. Smellie continues:

Pill operated Copiously: headache unrelieved but the symptoms no wise more urgent. Habeat Vin. Antim 3 i pro em. (Have 1 ounce of Antimony wine for an emetic.) acknowledges himself much relieved by the emetic: subsequently: went to work.

I would have shut my mouth about the headache and gone back to work, too!

If you would like to read more of these journals, the book is available to view in the Local History Room on the 4th floor of the Central Library. It includes lots of interesting background information about the doctor himself, York Factory and the medical practices of the day. The book was edited by Colin and Elizabeth Briggs. The call number is 610.97127 BRI.

Old News is the Best News

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

I love old newspapers. I could sit reading them for days on end (or at least until I get a microfilm headache). Most genealogists know that newspaper announcements can be a fabulous source for obituaries and other event announcements. They often include details that can’t easily be found in other sources. My problem, when I am looking for these announcements, is that I’m distracted by all the other stuff that newspapers offer. There is nothing better for gauging the tenor of the times in which our ancestors lived than a read through the daily (or weekly) paper. For example, I found this in The Eye Opener as I was researching popular response to Alberta becoming a province:

“Parting with the Territories is not sweet sorrow. It is a joy that has been adulterated with too much Edmonton.” Plus ça change…

And on the bottom of the same page:

“The N.W.M.P. authorities have finally closed all the maisons de diablerie a travers le pont de Langevin. C’est dommage, as the feller says.” (The Eye Opener 2 Sept. 1905: 1)

Calgary Public Library has lots of old newspapers in its collection. In addition to a complete run of the Calgary Herald, CPL holds microfilm copies of the Strathmore Standard, The Edmonton Bulletin, The Fort Macleod Gazette, The Calgary News Telegram and The Cardston News, just to name a few. The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project has made many Alberta newspapers available online. I visit their site at regularly to get my newspaper fix. We can also request newspapers that we don’t have in our collection through our interlibrary loan service. Ask us if you are looking for a local newspaper for your ancestor’s hometown.

PC 765

Herald Building, built 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 765

The Heritage Triangle

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Do you know about the Calgary Heritage Triangle?

The Calgary Heritage Triangle is a partnership among the Calgary Public Library, the Glenbow Library and Archives and the City of Calgary Archives. All are located within easy walking distance of each other. These organizations collect and preserve Calgary's heritage to ensure it is accessible to Calgarians. Download the Brochure to find more information and maps to these locations. What amazing resources in the heart of downtown Calgary!

Digital Alberta History

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Check out: Our Future, Our Past: The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project is a free, ongoing, project providing all those interested in Alberta's history access to cultural and heritage materials. Highlights of the collection include early Alberta newspapers including the Calgary Herald dating from 1885, Calgary Stampede history, local histories of Alberta communities, medical, multicultural and legal history and more

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