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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.

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

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

Canadian Federal Voters Lists in Ancestry

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Ancestry LE

Thanks to the Alberta Family Histories Society discussion list, I found out about an excellent new resource available to genealogists researching their Canadian roots. Often, in the absence of census records, we suggest that our genealogists check out the voters lists for the area they are researching. We have the municipal voters lists in paper format in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. We also have one set of Federal Voters Lists, for 1974. We used to have to borrow other years from Library and Archives Canada on microfilm. Now Ancestry has put up Federal Voters Lists for Canada for 1935-1980. Most of these images have been indexed, but a few of the later years are still only available as images for browsing. (The indexing was done by OCR and if you have a look at some of those later lists, you’ll understand why they haven’t been indexed.) To find your people in the indexed lists, you can go to the Canadian Voters Lists database in Ancestry and type in the name. Keep in mind that OCR indexing is far from perfect and it may still be necessary to browse the lists, if you know someone should be somewhere but their name doesn’t turn up. You can also find people in the un-indexed lists, but in both cases, you will need to know in which electoral district they lived.

To find an electoral district there are a few resources. Not all sources cover all years so you may have to use more than one.

For electoral districts prior to the 2003 reorganization, you can visit the Elections Canada website. This site allows you to search the 301 districts by place name and keyword. Or you can try the Parliament website which has a list of historical ridings. It can’t be searched by town but you can get a list of all ridings in the province and this may help you narrow down your search.

There are also electoral district maps available online at this site, which includes the National Atlas of Canada.

Otherwise you can use print sources such as the Canadian Almanac and Directory, which we do keep, so our collection runs from 1911 on. There is usually a way we can help you find an electoral district, so if these resources don’t help, please ask us.

If you are still in love with the clickety click of the microfilm reader, you can still get these voters’ lists on microfilm. Dave Obee has produced two great finding aids: Federal voters lists in Western Canada, 1935-1979 and Federal voters lists in Ontario 1935-1979 You can find out more about using electoral lists at the Canadian Genealogy Centre.

If you’d like to find out more about the Alberta Family Histories Society discussion list, visit their website. Information about the discussion list is right there on the front page.

Remember, you can access Ancestry LE at any branch of the Calgary Public Library for free with your library card.

Voters List Calgary 1915

Calgary Municipal Voters List

Community Heritage and Family History Collection

Upcoming Heritage Events

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Image

Fall is here, I’m pretty sure. The way we tell it is autumn at the library is by the re-emergence of programs. Not that there was any shortage of interesting stuff going on in the summer. We had our very successful Century Homes presentation and, of course, a great Historic Calgary Week, just to name a few. But it's fall when things really start to happen.

First on the list will be a presentation using Ancestry Library Edition to get some relevant information about your family. In spite of what the ads say, it isn’t as simple as typing in grandpa’s name. Ancestry is a large and powerful tool for genealogy research, but its size and scope can make it challenging to use. We will present an introduction to Ancestry LE as well as do some hands on searching. This will take place on September 21 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. It is a drop-in program so you don’t need to register in advance, but bring your library card as you will need it to access Ancestry LE. I am sorry to announce that due to the fire on the 3rd floor of the Central Library, the Ancestry program has had to be cancelled. We will try to reschedule.

In October, we are going to be hosting our annual Heritage Weekend and, I must say, they just keep getting better and better. One of the highlights will be a program about Freddie McCall, one of Canada’s legendary aviators. That takes place on the Friday night, October 19 at 7:00 p.m. in the John Dutton Theatre. This will allow you to come to the Heritage Matters program, which also happens on Friday night, at 5:30 p.m. This program will be about the remarkably successful Century Homes project, a grassroots movement to recognize and record the history of Calgary’s heritage homes.

Saturday will be packed with programs, including a meet and greet with members of various heritage organizations, a Heritage Roundtable on the various heritage sites right here in the city, a look at “unbuilt” Calgary, what the city might have looked like, if various plans and schemes had been realized. There will also be a wonderful program involving some of our very best storytellers, Hugh Dempsey, Harry Sanders, Nancy Townshend, Max Foran and our very own writer-in-residence Brian Brennan, all of whom will tell stories of Calgary’s colourful past. I am really looking forward to this weekend. Check out the list in our program guide, in paper at all library branches and online.

And we are not the only game in town. There will be a Sandstone School bus tour offered by the Calgary Heritage Initiative (more information TBA) and then, of course, DO YYC Naked on September 29 and 30, a Doors Open initiative that will take participants behind the scenes at some of Calgary’s coolest venues (you can see the sites included here.

So, there will be no shortage of things to do “heritage-wise” in Calgary this fall. I will keep you posted as more comes along. Enjoy!

Doing Genealogy in Alberta part 4 – More interesting resources

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Harvesting

Threshing Scene, Western Canada 1915

Postcards from the Past, PC 740

This is the last in my genealogy in Alberta series of blog posts. I am going to try and cover some of the more obscure kinds of records you may want to look at to find your Alberta ancestors. We’ll start with land, since that was a big reason for much of the migration into this province. But I will look at some of the less likely sources you can try.

Land Records

I love land records. I don’t come from a farming background, my people were mostly workin’ folk, so I don’t use land records a lot in my family research but we do use land records in our local history work. Land records can provide a great deal of information, or very little, depending on circumstances. My great grandfather’s homestead records were about 5 pages long, as he abandoned the homestead after only a few years. But the record of one of my colleagues was a thick sheaf of papers containing a will, information about the improvements to the land and all kinds of detail that would be useful for family historians.

In Alberta there were a number of ways early settlers could obtain land. They could file for a homestead. In doing so they would have to fill out an application which may contain information useful for genealogy. If he stayed on the land and “proved up” there will also be documentation relating to any improvements he made including how much land was cleared, what buildings were erected, the livestock, etc. There may also be sworn statements from persons of note in the community (which is why it might be worthwhile to have a peek at the homestead index even if your ancestor didn’t homestead) The index for these records is available, courtesy of the Alberta Genealogical Society. If you find an ancestor in the index, you can request a copy of the file by clicking on the “Order a copy…” link and following the instructions. We have the Calgary district homestead registers on microfilm in the local history room.

If the homesteader made the required improvements to his land, he could apply for his letters patent. You can search the index of the letters patent and see the documents through the Canadian Genealogy Centre.

If your people don’t turn up in the homestead index, it is possible they bought their land from the CPR. As part of the deal for building the railroad, CPR was given 25 million acres of land on the prairies. It sold this land sometimes as a package deal to overseas immigrants. You can find the index to these land sales through the Glenbow Archives.

When researching land records it is useful to have an understanding of what the terms mean and how the land was divided. You can find an excellent guide on Dave Obee’s blog.

He has also written a book on finding land records on the Prairies: Back to the Land: a Genealogical Guide to Finding Farms on the Canadian Prairies.

Maps can also play an important part in family history research. Maps such the Cummins Rural Directory maps can show the location of land owners. The 1924 Cummins map for Alberta is available on microfilm in the Local History room.

We have also launched a collection of digitized maps through the CHFH Digital Library. These are mostly for the Calgary region, but stay tuned, we are hoping to have more maps in there soon.

If you have the land location, the Provincial Archives of Alberta has a series of township maps for the province which show earlier homesteaders’ names. You have to use them in the Archives, as they have not been digitized.

Probate

A really good tip for researching anything, but in particular for genealogy is, follow the money. Generally, records relating to assets are some of the best records around. This is true for records relating to the estate of deceased persons. The Provincial Archives of Alberta has probate records from about 1884 to about 1975 (records less than 30 years old will still be in the custody of the Court). It is useful, when you are requesting probate records at the PAA to know where the person was living at the time of their death as the records are arranged by judicial district.

Local History Books

There have been a number of initiatives in Alberta to facilitate the creation of local histories. These are often overlooked by researchers but they should really be top of the list if you are looking for ancestors in smaller towns or in rural areas. They can contain a wealth of information about the area and the people who lived there. The Calgary Public Library has a large collection of histories from central and southern Alberta. You can find them in the catalogue by entering the name of the locale into the subject search.

There are also a number of digital repositories for local histories. The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project has a large collection of digitized histories, as does the Our Roots website. Peel’s Prairie Provinces also has a collection of digitized histories, along with other documents relating to the history of the Prairies.

Newspapers

If you read this blog a lot, you know what I am going to say about newspapers for historical research. They are the best source. Yes, you can find obituaries and wedding announcements, but there is often so much more. I often poke around the old newspapers for Calgary and find a plethora of details about life in the city, but also about what the denizens of Calgary were up to. Exam scores, participation in sporting events, parties, holidays, you name it, the paper would talk about it. So it is never a bad idea to wander through the newspapers from your ancestor’s home town. You never know what you’ll find. The Local History Room at the Central Library has a good collection of historic newspapers from small towns around southern Alberta. The Calgary newspapers are held on microfilm in the Magazines and Newspapers department as well. You can also check the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project. They have a great selection of Alberta newspapers. This collection is not indexed, however, so you can’t search it by name. Peel’s Prairie Provinces also has newspapers for Alberta. Google Newspapers has digitized some Alberta newspapers, such as the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal. As mentioned in the earlier post, we do have sources to help you identify the name of the newspaper and where it is held and we can always request interlibrary loans of newspapers on microfilm if we don’t have the paper and it isn’t digitized.

So, I have come to the end of my introduction to Alberta genealogy. And what I have found out while doing this is that there are a lot more resources out there that I first thought. I have only covered the basics so if you have further questions, you can always contact us through our Ask a Question service or through Chat (or, if you’re really old schoolJ, by phone or in person). Also keep in mind that we offer a drop-in Family History Coaching session on the last Saturday of the month from 10:00 to noon in the Genealogy Section on the 4th floor of the Central Library. Our first session of the new season is September 29.

Happy Ancestor Hunting!

Doing Genealogy in Alberta Part 3 - Census Records and other stuff

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Census

Page from the Canadian Census


So, are you still with me? Undaunted by Alberta’s rather challenging resources? Great! This week I want to outline some other important resources for finding your Alberta ancestors. And in this category, we are luckier that other parts of Canada. Because the population of the Prairie Provinces was growing so fast, the federal government, in an attempt to gauge and record that growth, instituted an extra census for the three Prairie Provinces starting in 1906 and continuing every ten years until 1956. At that time the prairie census was incorporated into the regular Canada-wide census. But what this means for people researching in Alberta, is that we have two extra censuses to consult: one for 1906 and one for 1916.

Census records are available in a variety of formats. Calgary Public Library has the complete collection of Canadian census records on microfilm at the Central Library in the genealogy collection. This includes the 1906 and 1916 censuses for the Prairie Provinces. You may ask yourself, why on earth would I use microfilm when there are computers? The answer is that sometimes digital images are hard to read and even harder to print. Scanning a reel of microfilm can be much easier (really!) than scanning a set of digital images. We also have some print indexes to census records for Alberta in the genealogy collection at Central Library. We also have finding aids available that list the census records that are available.

Digitized images of some censuses are available through Library and Archives Canada. There is a list of census databases in this very good article. The 1906 and 1916 censuses are not searchable by name, but you can search by location and browse the images. Some censuses, such as the 1891 are searchable by name.

This brings up the question of indexing. When we search an index, we are looking at information that has been transcribed by a human from documents handwritten by a human with information provided by another human. This suggests to me that there are at least three places where errors can sneak in. And the likeliest spot for the biggest errors is with the last person handling the document, the transcriber. Just because a name doesn’t appear in an index, doesn’t mean they aren’t in the census. That is when browsing images, either digital or microfilm, becomes important.

Having said that, it always pays to check the index first. And there are a number of ways to do that. To see if there is an index, you can check with the Canadian Genealogy Centre at Library and Archives Canada. They have a list of online indexes including those at Family Search, Automated Genealogy and Ancestry as well as hints on how to find print indexes.

(Just a reminder, Calgary Public Library subscribes to Ancestry LE which means that all Calgary Public Library members can log in from a computer in a library and search this database.)

So, we have the advantage of extra censuses, but what about the years in between the census? There are a number of sources we use as census substitutes. Primary among these are the Henderson’s Directories. Henderson’s directories are business directories, usually of major centres, that were compiled with an eye to providing information about markets to business people. They often include information such as a person’s place of employment and a spouse’s name. Researchers often use these directories to fill in information about their ancestors for the years between the censuses, and to locate ancestors that don’t appear in census indexes. Again, people researching on the Prairies have an advantage. A librarian called Bruce Peel set about to collect all the sources he could find on life on the Prairies. It is an impressive collection. Originally issued in microfiche, it included the Henderson’s Directories for Prairie towns such as Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, etc. It is now in its third edition and is available online.

The Local History room at the Calgary Public Library has the Peel collection in microfiche and the Calgary Henderson’s directories (a complete run to 1991) in paper. To find what directories were published and, more importantly, which are available you can check these two sources:

Canadian Directories 1790-1987 by Mary Bond

Western Canadian Directories on Microfilm and Microfiche by Dave Obee

For rural landowners, there is a Cummin’s Map for 1923 on microfilm in the Local History room.

Voters’ lists are another source for information about people. At the Central Library we have a collection of municipal voters’ lists for Calgary (1912-1971) as well as the 1974 Federal Voters’ List for Calgary. These federal lists are available on microfilm from Library and Archives Canada. You can find the listings in a publication called Federal Voters’ Lists in Western Canada by Dave Obee and we can request the lists on interlibrary loan for you. You do need to know the location of your people, because, as far as I know there is no index to these lists.

So, enough for now. Keep on searching. Next week we’ll look at land records and some other bits and pieces.

Doing Genealogy in Alberta Part 2 – Other sources for BMD info

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Papers iStock

So, did the last entry on finding birth, death and marriage records make you feel discouraged? I hope not, because even though it may be a bit tougher to get vital events information in Alberta, you are researching the people who made this province, which, in my estimation, is the greatest province in Canada :)

And, as always, there are other records available that you can access to find out what you need to know. Here are a few alternative sources that may contain information about your ancestors “big events.”

Church Records:

Before we were required to register our births, marriages and deaths with the government, the churches were the places where such events were recorded. It helps to know what religion your ancestors practiced, as well as where they lived. Keep in mind, however, that especially in rural Alberta, people would baptize, marry and be buried by whichever church was nearby, if their particular denomination didn’t have a church in the vicinity. And if there wasn’t a church nearby, your ancestors may have had to register with either a travelling cleric or at a church well out of the way. This can lead to problems. For example, if there was no religious organization or travelling cleric available, the event might not have been registered. This is particularly true of baptisms, as births cannot be planned, as a rule, and if the event took place on a homestead miles from anywhere in the dead of winter, registering your child’s birth might not be uppermost on your mind.

A good source to check for approximate dates and for religious affiliations is the census. I will look at census records in more detail in an upcoming post.

The other difficulty with church records is where they are kept. Some religious organizations have established archives and keep their records there. Other religious groups keep their records at the church or at a district repository. In Alberta, the Provincial Archives holds some registers from the United Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church or the Edmonton or Athabasca diocese of the Anglican Church. The records of the Calgary diocese of the Anglican Church are held at the University of Calgary. There is a finding aid to the records available at the Calgary Public Library. There are numerous resources and numerous repositories for parish and religious records. Staff on the fourth floor at the Central Library can help look for the location of the records of a particular denomination.

Newspapers

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I love reading old newspapers. They are a wonderful window on the world as it was, but aside from that, the announcements can be a goldmine for the genealogy researcher. There are a number of ways to access historic Alberta newspapers. The Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library holds a number of early Alberta newspapers in microfilm format. There are also a number of projects that are digitizing early newspapers. Chief among these is the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project. This project consists of scanned images only so it is not searchable by name. There are projects that aim to index the announcements in some of these papers. One such project is The Recents which has indexes for a number of newspapers in Alberta and British Columbia.

Both the Alberta Family Histories Society and the Alberta Genealogical Society have online indexes to select years of some Alberta Newspapers.

Another source for digitized newspapers is Peel’s Prairie Provinces This project does allow for searching within an individual newspaper.

The Edmonton Journal and The Calgary Herald for select years are also available on Google Newspapers.

Paper indexes are also available for some newspapers. To find what we have in our collection, you can search the catalogue using the name of the place and "newspapers". We also have reference books that will help you determine what the newspaper was for a particular town, when it was published and where you can access copies. We can also help you arrange for an interlibrary loan of newspapers on microfilm.

Cemetery Transcriptions

One of the larger collections in the Community Heritage and Family History room is the cemetery transcription collection. We have numerous transcriptions from southern Alberta. There is also online access to a number of Alberta cemetery transcriptions through the Alberta Family Histories Society website and some through the Alberta Genealogical Society website. The City of Edmonton also has a database of information about burials in that city that happened more than 25 years ago.

Proof of Age Documents

These documents, which originated in the Pensions Branch, contain documents which were submitted by people applying for an old age pension or a Federal-Provincial disability pension and were not, for whatever reason, returned to the applicant. The index to these documents is available at the Calgary Public Library.

So, next post will be about census and substitutes. With census records, Alberta and the other prairie provinces have an edge as there are two extra federal censuses for us. So, until next week - Happy Hunting!

Doing genealogy in Alberta, Part 1 – Births, Deaths and Marriages

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

Now that Historic Calgary Week is over, it seemed an appropriate time to delve into some genealogical questions and post a few entries on the subject. The summer brings lots of visitors to the city and we see many people from out of the province coming in to the library to research family members who came to the Calgary region. What we have noticed over the years, is that there aren’t too many really good guides to doing genealogy in Alberta, so I decided I would write my own cheat sheet, so to speak, for my colleagues so, why not post it as a blog entry (or three)?

For anyone just getting started in Alberta genealogy it helps to have a few facts in hand. Until 1905, Alberta was a part of what was called the Northwest Territories. It was 1905 that saw the formation of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. That is an important fact to keep in mind as you search the census records of Canada. There was a district called “Alberta” but it was not the entire province.

I am going to start with how one goes about finding vital events registrations in the province. I will cover other records and other sources for information in subsequent postings.

So, first thing to know about doing genealogy in Alberta is that there is no index to vital records after 1905. For events prior to that date, there are two indexes that can be consulted:

Index to registrations of births, marriages and deaths: Alberta, formerly the Northwest Territories, 1870-1905 by the Alberta Genealogical Society (929. 37123 IND v.1)

Alberta: formerly a part of the North-West Territories: an index to birth, marriage and death registrations prior to 1900 by the Documentary Heritage Society of Alberta and the Provincial Archives of Alberta. (929. 37123 ALB)

After 1905, there is no indexing available.

The Provincial Archives of Alberta does hold some vital statistics registers dating up to 1980 for some locations. After 1905, these are arranged by place so you need to know where the event took place in order to search this collection. Here is the link to the Provincial Archives page that outlines the major genealogical sources available at the PAA:

http://culture.alberta.ca/paa/archives/research/genealogy.aspx

Not all years or communities are included, so you may still need to contact Vital Statistics for some records.

Here is a link to the Service Alberta site for ordering genealogical records of vital events.

http://www.servicealberta.gov.ab.ca/1175.cfm

There is legislation in place governing the accessibility of vital events registrations. The guidelines are given at the site mentioned above.

Remember, as well, that we offer Family History Coaching on the last Saturday of the month from September to November and January to June. Drop in and enjoy a one-on-one consultation with a genealogy expert.

Stampede Genealogy

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1405

Wally Lindstrom, Wild Steer Decorating, Calgary Stampede

Postcards from the Past, PC 1405

At the last general meeting of the Alberta Family Histories Society, Stampede Archivist Aimee Benoit presented the story of Guy Weadick and his wife Flores La Due. Members of the Society did some digging into the history of these two folks and were able to pull up a great deal of genealogical information. It’s always lots of fun to do these “extreme” genealogies where all you have is a name and a few bits of information – we are going to be doing a version of that for Historic Calgary Week, when we present our enhanced “Ancestors and their Attics, 2.0” . But what if your family was part of the first Stampede? What kind of information could you pull up about them? I got to thinking about this as I was watching the parade and saw the great numbers of descendants of the Stampede pioneer families. What kinds of resources would be available to people who were researching folks who might have participated in some way in the Calgary Stampede over the years?

Well, I started close to home, in the Community Heritage and Family History collection here at the Central Library. We have a great deal of information and artifacts from the Stampede including things like souvenir programs, annual reports, prize lists. For example, did you know that in 1968 the first prize for an appliquéd cotton quilt in the Needlework and Homecrafts display was $5.00? Or that, in 1912, Fannie Sperry from Mitchell Montana won a gold mounted belt and 1000 dollars cash for winning the Cowgirl Bucking Horse World Championship? (I didn’t even know that there was a women’s bucking horse contest – good on ‘em) Even if you’re not researching your own family, we have a wealth of ephemera (that means the kind of stuff you generally toss out after the event) that paints a very intimate and interesting picture of what the Stampede was like over the years. Great for filling in family history stories or just for idle curiosity.

Of course, we have an excellent collection of photographs, especially from the first Stampede. If you had an ancestor who was a cowboy or cowgirl, you might find his or her picture in the CHFH Digital Library. The photo at the top is from, I believe, sometime in the 1940s, and shows Wally Lindstrom participating in the Steer Decorating competition. Wally was the Canadian Saddle Bronc Champion in 1941 but he competed in other events so he could be considered for the All Around title.

The photo below shows Tex McCloud riding a “squalling bronc” in the 1912 Stampede. Is he, perhaps, an ancestor? Let us know if you have any rodeo in your roots. We’d love to hear from you!

(Of course there are other repositories that you can visit for Stampede history. The Glenbow Museum and Archives has a great collection as do the Stampede Archives. The Stampede Archives have an online presence through the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project at the U of C. Check it out.)

PC 276

Tex McCloud on the Squalling Bronco, Stampede Calgary, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 276

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