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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.)

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

Trains, Again

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 412At the Summit of the Rockies, 1908

I was digging around the University of Alberta Press site looking for a particular book, when I happened on the Atlas of Alberta Railways Online, a resource that lit up the heart of this railroad junkie. This resouce includes tons of information and pictures and documents about the history of railways in Alberta (hence the name, I suppose). I hate to admit my ignorance, but it looks like this site has been up for years and I have never used it. It is much more than a traditional atlas because, in addition to maps, there are photos and documents, plans (such as the plan of the typical prairie grain elevator) and news clippings.

There are also essays on the history of the railways and bits and pieces of interesting trivia. For example, did you know that many of the men who laid the tracks on the Calgary to Edmonton railway were of Scandinavian origins and that they could earn up to $3.50 a day? Well, according to the Edmonton Bulletin of September 1, 1883, them's the facts!

 

PC 424Four Engines Driving a Passenger Train to the Summit

We have a great collection of railway stuff in the Local History collection at the Central Library as well. We have photos and postcards, which you can see in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library but we also have a lot of ephemera, which is just a fancy name for the kind of things you generally throw away once you've finished using them. This includes menus, brochures, timetables and other promotional material.

The collection also has personal stories of people who worked on the railway, original documents relating to the railways in Canada and Alberta, like some of Sanford Fleming's reports and other really interesting works on railroads. This is a great resource for railway nerds, but it can also be a goldmine for genealogists as well.

Promotional material, pictures, settler's guides (like the one shown below) were published by the railways to encourage and aid settlers on the Prairies. Adding this information into a family history would give rich detail to your family's story and lead to a greater understanding of the motivations and expectations of prairie settlers.

 

Settlers GuideCPR Settlers Guide to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 1912

 

Research the History of Your House, World War I Edition

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

PC 758East Calgary, Alberta

 

It is that time of year again. With Historic Calgary Week fast approaching folks may be thinking ahead to the Century Homes project. We are offering a revised version of our program on researching house history, focusing on a house on Memorial Drive that was home to a soldier who served in World War I. This will give us the opportunity to explore some military resources for genealogists and house historians. In fact, we were able to find this solider because of the research that someone had done on their heritage home. They mentioned in their sign that the original owner had been on active service in 1915 so using a bit of reverse research we were able to find the house and the owner (and a whole lot more).

We are working again with our Heritage Triangle partners and we have managed to pull up a ton of information. I don’t want to give away too much, but even if you don’t have a house to research, you may just want to drop in to hear the story of this house and its fascinating tenants. You can register for this program in person at any library branch, online or by calling 403-260-2620.

I would also like to give a nod of appreciation to all of the organizers and participants of the Heritage Fair that was held over the weekend. It does my heart good to see all the students and the hard work they’ve put in to their projects. Also, a big thanks goes out to the staff and soldiers at Mewata Amoury for hosting the event. It was great.

Welcome Home, Soldier

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 965

Dinner time for 192nd Battalion, Sarcee Camp, 1916

Postcards from the Past, PC 965

We were delighted to be a part of the last Heritage Roundtable which examined community initiatives and really turned into a celebration of all the grass roots organizations that are dedicated to preserving our heritage. Our little part was to show a few of the resources that we have available at the Calgary Public Library for researching community history. One of the sources that I didn’t cover was land records and I was reminded of two land schemes that were very important to the development of the city and the province.

After each of the two world wars Canadian soldiers were offered some opportunities to help them adapt to post-war life. After World War I, the Soldier Settlement Act was introduced to help returning soldiers re-establish themselves and to pump up agricultural production, thereby aiding in the economic recovery of the country. Soldiers were encouraged to take up homesteads on the prairies, with government loans of $2500 to help with the purchase of equipment and livestock. Returning servicemen stampeded to take up this offer. This required the Settlement Board to find more land than that which was available for homesteads. They found this land by designating certain privately held parcels as settlement areas. The board was also given the right to acquire land on Indian Reserves, school lands and forest reserves. This venture was of mixed success and much has been written on this topic (two particularly good articles, one by E.C. Morgan in Saskatchewan History Spring 1968 and one by Sarah Carter in Manitoba History Spring/Summer 1999 – both available in the Local History Room)

In Alberta, one of the settlements was just east of Carbon, on land leased to the Pope Ranch. Even now, the area is still known as the Pope Lease. You can read about the Pope family (Rufus Henry Pope was a Member of Parliament and was named Senator by Sir Robert Borden) in the history of the Carbon area, Carbon: Our History, Our Heritage (available through Our Future Our Past).

After the end of the second war a similar scheme was enacted for the soldiers returning from that conflict. The Veterans’ Land Act sought to overcome some of the problems that were created by the Soldier Settlement Act and so gave the soldiers more latitude and more opportunity. With a small down-payment soldiers could get a government loan to help buy land. More money was available for equipment and livestock. The veterans were encouraged to settle on small holdings or in the suburbs of larger cities. Lots in several outlying areas of Calgary were set aside for the ex-servicemen including Mount View/Winston Heights and Bowness. Members of the Bowness Historical Society were at the Heritage Roundtable talking about their community initiative which was to produce a second volume of their community history. This volume contains stories of the “Settlement”, which was itself a tight-knit community within the tight knit community of Bowness. Forty-seven houses were built by Bennett and White on land purchased from John Lawrie. Lots were approximately one acre, allowing for small scale agriculture such as gardens, bee hives and chicken coops. In the map below, of Bowness in 1959, shows the larger lots of the Soldiers Settlement area. (This map is also available in the Local History Room).

There are lots of very interesting bits of information to be gleaned out there. At the Heritage Roundtables we are always finding out more about our city and, of course, here at the Central Library we have the wonderful treasure trove that is our Local History collection. Come and visit us, you never know what you'll find.

Map CALG 10

Veterans Land Act Lots in Bowness

Historic Map Collection, CALG 10

 

W.R. Brock and Company

by Christine H - 4 Comment(s)

PC 901

W.R. Brock and Co. Ltd, 8th Avenue and 2nd Street SW, ca. 1912?

Postcards from the Past, PC 219

This most beautiful building was the Calgary home of W.R. Brock Company Ltd. It was a western branch of an established Toronto firm, owned by William Rees Brock, a native of Eramosa Township and brother to the founder of Great-West Insurance, Jeffry Brock.

When this building was erected, in 1905/06, it was out in the boonies. The location had been decided by the company’s traveler, W.H. Berkinshaw, who liked the prospects in Calgary so much that he made a deal with W.R. Brock. Brock wanted to open the western branch of the store in Winnipeg, but Berkinshaw, promised the manager-ship of the western branch, championed Calgary and so this beautiful building was built on the corner of 8th Avenue and 2nd Street W. According to Elsie Morrison (Calgary, 1875-1950), the only other business out that way was a livery stable. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, as the 1906 map shows a number of businesses in the area, including Frontier Livery, but also including R.C. Thomas’s businesses, a tailor and a ladies shop as well as a drug store.

W.R. Brock was a dry goods supplier who specialized in carpets, woolens, tailors’ trimmings and fabrics, men’s furnishings, women’s clothing, including dainties, and ran a mail order business. By 1912, the business was doing so well a third storey was added, overseen by William Stanley Bates. The plans and specifications are in the Glenbow Archives.

The building was very much on the cutting edge of design. It had a sprinkler system and a commercial alarm hooked into the fire department (Morrison reports that in 1950 it was still No. 1 on the Fire Department’s alarm list). This may have something to do with the fire in the business district of Toronto in 1904 that consumed many businesses, Brock’s among them (even though that building, too, had a fire sprinkler system). It also boasted the first concrete sidewalk and passenger elevator.

When the Great War started, the company saw its share of men enlist. You can view the Honour Roll online. One of the Calgary men who enlisted was Edwin Lyle Berkinshaw, the son of W.H. Berkinshaw. He died in the Ypres Salient in 1916.

W.R. Brock and Co. lasted on the Calgary site until 1952. At that time the listings in the Henderson’s Directories change to Robinson, Little and Company, another dry goods store. It appears that the building was demolished some time before 1956 (or was it just reclad, as suggested by one of our readers, see comment below) and in 1957 the Empire Building is shown as occupying the spot. A restaurant called Bennett’s was on the main floor of the building. I have been unable to find out exactly what happened to the Brock business. For a time the building was occupied by a company called Robinson, Little and Co. which traded in the same kinds of goods as W.R. Brock. A little more research and I'm sure I'll turn up something.

PC 901

Interior, W.R. Brock Company Limited, Calgary, ca 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 901

The Amazon, Again

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1591

Five People in a Rowboat at Bowness Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1591

When I wrote about the Amazon statue back in December of last year, we felt we were hot on the trail of finding out what had happened to the statue. We were inspired by the article that Daniel Lindley had written for Stephen, the magazine put out by the Epcor Centre, to comb the City’s annual reports and the reports of the Parks Department to see if we could find any trace of what had happened to her. The statue was moved, as previously mentioned, to the South Mount Royal Park in 1934 but it disappeared some time before 1953. And the reason I know that is that Daniel was contacted by someone who lived in the area and who showed him pictures of the statue and also a picture of her dog on the vacant plinth in 1953. You can read the update in the latest issue of Stephen. So, we’re a little closer to narrowing down a date, but I can find no mention of the fate of the Amazon in any of the reports.

I did find some other interesting stuff, though. The Parks Department reports are fascinating reading. Most include lists of animals at the zoo, locations and sizes of the various parks, what was planted in the parks and on the boulevards, what it cost to do various tasks. I found two separate charges for the moving of the museum specimens from Coste house; one in 1941 “Moving museum to car barns” at $3.23 and again in 1943 : “Coste’s residence, moving museum specimens” at $73.22. This would have been the collection that included our buffalo (see my previous post.)

Something else I found is that there was a street car placed in Roxboro Park to serve as a shelter. In the 1940 report, Mr. Reader, the superintendent stated: “ The old street car that was placed on this park and converted into a shelter is abused to such an extent that it seems practically useless to make any more repairs. “ I think it was dismantled in 1942. I can’t find any other record of it, but I will certainly keep looking. Wink

PC 1138

Calgary Tigers Playing Football in Hillhurst Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1138

They've taken leave of their census!

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Annie Kenny and Christabel Pankhurst

Annie Kenny and Christabel Pankhurst

From the National Archives

I don’t want to talk about flooding anymore. I’m still feeling blue about being displaced and all the havoc that my once gentle rivers wreaked on my beautiful city so I am going to concentrate on genealogy for a while. One thing you can count on when you do genealogy, there is always something worse to discover.

I have a specific topic in mind and that has to do with a kind of ‘did you know thing” relating to finding your female ancestors in the UK. Deciding that if they were not to be considered as citizens when it came to voting, suffragettes, led by women such as Emmeline Pankhurst, declared that they would not participate in the census being taken on April 2, 1911. The census asked that the householders list everyone present in the dwelling on census night. To avoid being enumerated, suffragettes took one of two approaches: Either they defaced the form, writing such things as "I will not supply these particulars until I have my rights as a citizen. Votes for Women” or they arranged to be out of the house on census night. To facilitate that many events were organized across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. This was not as frivolous as it seems as refusing to participate in the census could land one in prison.

The papers carried wonderful stories of the evening’s events. One enterprising woman was discovered in the crypt of the House of Commons on the Monday following census night. She had concealed herself there to avoid being enumerated but was “duly returned” on a census form provided by the police for that purpose. Another woman had hidden herself in a broom closet for 46 hours. Edinburgh protesters spent the night in a vegetarian restaurant and in an abandoned store. Some women slept in vans in parks. The biggest event, however, was an evening rally in Trafalgar Square that was broken up by police. The suffragettes had rented the Aldwych Skating Rink (roller skating, not ice-skating) and retired there to listen to speeches and skate until morning.

The London Times reported that the suffragettes efforts were largely useless as the women were counted by police, however, their particulars were not recorded and this has an impact on researchers looking for female ancestors in the United Kingdom (as if finding female ancestors was not hard enough). If your ancestor was a suffragette, she may not show up in the 1911 UK Census. I can find no indication that suffragettes in Canada and the US attempted the same strategy in any organized way but this doesn’t mean that there weren’t some dedicated women who staged their own census boycott. So, if you’re looking for a female ancestor around that time, keep the boycott in mind and also keep in mind that there may be records elsewhere (such as police rosters, Votes for Women organization lists, newspapers accounts of the boycott, lists of contributors to the cause and other documents. ) As always, be inventive and think outside the page (the census page, that is).

Census

Century Homes, 2013

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 80 10

Magnus Brown Residence, 1906 8th Avenue SE in 1963

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 80-10

It is time again for Century Homes. Last year’s project was wildly successful and we’re hoping to see even greater response this year. We have launched the legacy database, which you can view in our Digital Library. This database is a gold mine of information about heritage domestic architecture, typically one of the hardest heritage resources to document and preserve. Large, luxurious old homes, like the McHugh house, attract a lot of attention when they are threatened with demolition, but what of the small homes of everyday people? That is what I found so exciting about the Century Homes project. Calgarians jumped in with both feet to celebrate the everyday history of their communities and it is a wonderful thing. I never tire of telling people that history is not a list of facts and dates, it is the day-to-day life of the average person that is the important history.

We will be joined by experts from the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives and the Glenbow Museum Library to offer our program on researching the history of houses again on May 25th at 2:00 pm. (Register here, in person at your branch or by phone 403+260-2620) This program will be great for anyone wanting to participate in Century Homes, for anyone who is just interested in the history of their house or community or for people who are researching houses as an adjunct to genealogical research. Old houses tell great stories and we will help you coax a story out of yours.

Here is a little story about a house that is no longer with us. This house, at 1306 8th Avenue SE, across from the A.E. Cross house, belonged to Magnus Brown. Magnus was born in Selkirk, Manitoba in 1850. He participated in the Red River Rebellion, fighting against Riel in 1869. He was captured by the Metis but managed to escape. In June 1873 Brown married Letitia Cook from Winnipeg. Brown moved to the Red Deer River District around 1882 where he raised stock. In 1885 the Brown’s relocated to Calgary and Magnus secured contract work with Canadian Pacific Railway for railroad and irrigation construction. He was in charge of the ditch built by the Calgary Irrigation Company. Brown served on city council from 1910 to 1912. He was a devoted member of the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Oldtimers’ Association.

The house was well known for its rhubarb patch, cultivated first by Brown but then by the next owner of the property, a Mr. Laurendeau. He in turn sold it to Mr. Servonnet, who continued to cultivate the patch, but eventually sold the property in 1969. The land was then sold to the city in 1970 and a senior’s residence, called the Rhubarb Patch, stands there.

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