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What's New at Library and Archives Canada

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

LAC Banner

I was cruising through the genealogical society newsletters and came across this interesting bit of information: Library and Archives Canada has launched several new databases and tools for genealogists. They have also outlined their plans for the next few years.

In December LAC announced their intention to double the volume of online genealogical content with the mounting of millions of digital images on its website. This is as a result of their partnership with Perhaps as recognition of the effect this partnership will have on Canadian researchers, was nominated for a 2010 Pierre Berton award for excellence in contributing to the study of Canadian History. They didn’t win, that honour went to Desmond Morton (yay!) but did receive an honourable mention for their work.

Library and Archives Canada has also announced their intention to phase out the sending of photocopies in response to the 750,000 requests they receive every year. Instead, by April 2011, the will be sending only digital copies. This has a double benefit. Paper use is reduced and, as digital copies are requested, LAC is looking for ways to reuse these images to provide access to the copied documents. Many archives enhance their digitization projects in this way. As images are requested they are mounted on the website. This doubles the value of work done.

New at the Canadian Genealogy Centre is the 1916 Census. It is not searchable by name but it can be searched by place and the pages can be browsed. In time, LAC will have all censuses available on their website. Also in December, LAC launched the Medals and Awards database. This resource contains more than 100,000 listings of medal citations and awards. Other databases and tools newly launched include the Canadian Families database, which is a small but growing index to church records, the Upper Canada Land Boards records which include 16,000 references to land board documents from 1765-1804, a guide to help researchers find documents relating to Internment Camps for both World Wars and new tools for researchers looking at immigration documents including transcriptions of the various forms used to record information.

It is always worthwhile, with any provider of information or database, to have a look at what’s new. At LAC, there is a link in the red bar on the left side of the page. Things are really hopping at LAC and I’m always impressed by what I find there.

Family Heirlooms

by Christine Hayes


Souvenir Handkerchief showing Calgary Public Library and South African War Memorial

Many of us have things that were left to us by family members. In my family, we inherited, on the passing of our great aunt, a musical fruit plate that my brother adored as a child, and an antler cribbage board made by my great grandfather. These are not valuable monetarily but they do have great value within our family. Other people’s heirlooms can be fascinating as well. Just look at the success of “Antiques Roadshow” and the popularity of Calgary Public Library’s Antiques Appraisal day. Sometimes other people’s heirlooms cross over from family interest to local history interest – we really like those kinds of things here. Some of the more obvious examples are postcards, of which we have a major collection here that you can view in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (see the link on the left of the page).

A very interesting artifact was brought to my attention recently by a colleague who collects vintage stuff. She was shopping and found this hankie, with an image of the Memorial Park Library on it. It is a very interesting piece. We haven’t been able to find much information about it but it looks like it might be souvenir hankies, which were popular articles for servicemen to send home to their loved ones. I found this serviceman’s letter on a website called Canadian Letters and Images Project: “When up in town this a.m. I got a few souvenir handkerchiefs, one of which I am enclosing for Jean. Hoping she likes it.” The letter was from Louis Duff to his Aunt Lily, sent from Belgium in 1915. Calgary was a training centre for several units of the C.E.F. so it is a possibility that this handkerchief, like the one sent to Jean, was purchased by a serviceman.

PC 1895

Memorial Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1895

We have an image similar to the one on the hankie on a postcard that has a 1940 postmark. It may be that the company that produced the souvenir postcards also produced the handkerchief (or that the photographer marketed his image to a number of printing houses or….). If you have any information about this kind of heirloom, please add a comment to this entry. I’m always interested to hear what you all have to say. It’s the best way to learn!

Heirlooms, such as the hankie and even the postcards, require special handling so they survive to be passed on to the next generation. We have several books in our collection that can help you, if you are lucky enough to have been passed some of these delightful objets. One is Saving stuff by Don Williams, another is Caring for your family treasures by Jane Long.

Christmas Memories from a Calgary Childhood

by Christine Hayes - 2 Comment(s)

PC 1282

Eaton Store in the 1950s (not at Christmas, though)

Postcards from the Past, PC 1282

Calgary is my home town. My parents came here in the 50s because my dad had landed a job with Pacific Petroleums. Having grown up and gone to school here, I find myself in an interesting position, working with the history of the city because, apparently, the time of my childhood is now a historical era! In that spirit, I often find myself combing our Local History collection to verify my memories. Now seemed like a good time to go on a hunt since the Christmas season is upon us and is much on my mind.

We had a few family rituals at Christmas. One was the Pacific Petroleums’ children’s Christmas party. In those days, the company was fairly small and two annual events were planned for the kids of employees: in the summer, the company picnic, often at Bowness Park, and, in the winter, the Christmas party. There was a Christmas party for the adults, too, and I remember my mother’s collection of blue Christmas plates from Birks that were the annual gifts to the wives.

I also remember the trip to Eaton’s to see Santa. I never sat on Santa’s knee, I was far too timid to do that, but I did look at him. My brother was braver and was easily convinced to climb on the strange man’s lap. We would also visit Toyland to see what kinds of things we would like for Christmas (everything) and we took a look at the beautiful window displays. We had one of the moving vignettes here at the Central Library for a while. A group of dancing bears done up in Victorian nightwear spun and twirled here for a few years after Eaton’s closed its doors.

I had two favourite things that I just had to do when I was at Eaton’s. Since my Nan worked there, I used to “do lunch” with her in the cafeteria and I always finished with a bowl of square jello. That was de rigueur for a visit to Eaton’s. And my most favourite thing? It had to be the tunnel that led from the parkade to the store. We got to take the elevator, with its funny round buttons and then roar down the underground passage, so cool, making echoes all along the way (but only if we were alone, my mom said.) That was the very best part of the whole trip. We would start before we got our coats on asking, “can we go through the tunnel, can we?” Probably drove everyone nuts, but at least I wasn’t begging for toys.

Do you have Christmas memories you’d like to share? Post a comment to this blog to tell me about your favourite Christmas things and places. And to you all, Happy Holidays from all of us here on the 4th Floor of the Central Library.

Have a Chat with Grandma this Holiday Season

by Christine L Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

Grandma from iStock

Whenever I give a presentation to beginning genealogists, I tell them that the first step in any genealogy project is to talk to the oldest member of your extended family and really pump them for information. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard researchers say “I wish I had listened when my grandma talked about her life”. People have information that you cannot get from documents. Yes, you can usually find out when someone was born, but it is very unlikely, unless the dad got completely out of hand with joy and ended up being arrested, that you will know how people felt about that birth or what that birth meant to the family. The same is true of marriages. You can imply that the bride’s parents didn’t approve of the groom if you find a marriage record in a “Gretna Green” kind of locale, or if the parents didn’t attend the wedding, but you won’t necessarily know why they felt that way. This is where your human resources come in.

Now, if you have a particularly chatty aunt or grandmother, or uncle or grandfather for that matter, you can just set up your recording device and let them go but it does help to have a few pointers in mind so you get not just gossip and random bits of information, although for me those were always the best, but also facts that may be pertinent to your research. There are ways of going about this. I found a very good article by Juliana Smith on the Ancestry Learning Centre about how to get the interesting details but also to get information that may be helpful in your search.

She suggests questions like: “Who were your neighbours when you were growing up?” or “What landmarks do you remember from your childhood neighbourhood?” Not only will questions like this open up the door to childhood memories, but when researching families, it is sometimes useful to know who was living around them (for example, if you can’t find your family in a census index, maybe you can find the neighbours, or use the names of the neighbours to verify that you have the right family in a census record or directory). The article contains other very interesting ways of asking questions to get dual purpose answers. There are also some very good books in our genealogy collection about interviewing family members. Some titles are Oral History Workshop by Cynthia Hart. It contains information on how to do interviews with family as well as lists of questions. There are also a number of very good resources available on the internet. There is a list of suggested questions at Louisiana State University.

It was the table chat about my relations (some might have called it gossip) that got me hooked on family history. The stories I gathered from my grandmother and my aunts and uncles could not have been found in any archive or library. For me, this is family history.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 14-06

"Rosscarrock" William J. Tregillus Residence

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 14-06

I’ve written before about the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (you can see the previous entry by clicking here) It is a resource that we library folk have always relied on to provide authoritative biographical information about Canadians. For years we used it in its paper form so we were overjoyed when it went online. In almost all of my genealogy presentations I point out the value of national biographies for genealogists and historians. They contain well-researched articles about notable people in a country’s history. The ability to search such a resource online is a great advantage. Online searching provides access to all the names in the entry, not just that of the principal subject. Anyone mentioned in an article will come up in a search. You can access the Dictionary of Canadian Biography through the “E-Library” link on the Calgary Public Library homepage. Just click on “History and Genealogy” to see the menu.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography turned 50 last year. The Supervisory Editor, Willadean Leo, will be at the University of Calgary, in the History Department, Social Sciences Building room 623 at 12:30 on Wednesday November 24th to give a talk about this venerable resource, its history and plans for the future. She will present examples of completed biographies, talk about some of Western Canada’s famous and infamous DCB subjects and talk about some of the biographies that are underway.

This will be a most informative lecture, one I’m sure many genealogists, biographers and historians will be interested to hear. Come and share your ideas for DCB s next half century. I hope to see you all there.

AJ 0848

Headstone of Sam Livingston, at Heritage Park

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0848

What is a Maverick?

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1649

New Settlers, Their First House, Western Canada

Postcards from the Past, PC 1649

For Calgary’s first “One Book One Calgary” event we have selected the book Mavericks: an Incorrigible History of Alberta by Aritha Van Herk. We are planning a plethora of programs relating to the themes of the book, among them my own offering, “Maverick Hunters” in which I will try to assist family historians who are tracing their own “maverick”. This exercise has led me to ask myself what exactly do I mean by maverick? What qualities make up “maverick-osity”?

Alberta has long been perceived as a place where the maverick can flourish. Take, for example, this quotation from Irene Parlby:

I do not think I should be very wide of the mark, if I said that the older parts of Canada have for years regarded Alberta as a rather peculiar place, favorable to the breeding of extreme radicals, and peculiar political phenomena, and let it go at that. One wonders if it ever occurs to them that there are always causes and conditions which breed these things.

From the earliest settlement, the place that would become Alberta was a challenging landscape. Winters could be harsh and summer hot and dry. To even contemplate coming here, one had to have a sense of adventure and an ability to look past the hardships and see the possibilities in the future. This is the spirit we still embrace. Albertans still work hard, still ride the booms and busts that are so characteristics of our economy and still look forward to the future and the possibilities it holds. So maybe this is what we need to keep in mind as we populate our family trees with our black sheep, our mavericks, maybe even our heroes. We can look in the places we always look but then we need to look in the places we haven’t thought of yet. That’s what I’m hoping to help you with when I present “Maverick Hunters.” If you’re interested, have a look at our program guide, paper or online at our registration site A hint of what I’ve learned? Once we’ve fought our battles we escape to the milder climes beyond the Rockies Wink

New Stuff at the Canadian Genealogy Centre

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Open doors

The Canadian Genealogy Centre, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is provided by Library and Archives Canada to make searching for Canadian ancestors much easier. It is free to use and has a wide variety of information available. You can access it through this site:

There are several sections and I highly recommend to anyone who is starting their research to have a look at the “How to begin” section. You can also use the “Ancestors Search” function to search all of the indexed databases available at the CGC. However, not everything is indexed yet and sometimes you will just need to search as you would with microfilm. This is true of the new addition, the Form 30A which documents arrivals by ship between the years 1919-1924. These forms were to replace the large manifests that had previously served as records of arrival. The advantage of having each passenger fill out a form is that when they were filmed, they could be arranged in rough alphabetical order. This makes browsing a lot easier than with the manifests. The cards also included more information than the manifests, including, sometimes, a place of birth. Ancestry has indexed these records and you can search them through the library’s subscription to Ancestry LE (only in a library branch, though). You can also browse by name ranges. You can also access the images through AncestryLE but the images on the Canadian Genealogy Centre website seem clearer. Keep in mind that the form 30A was in official use from 1921 to 1924 but that some ports started using it in 1919 and some not until 1922. Also keep in mind that passengers continuing to the US were not required to fill in a card. Sometimes there is overlap and people appear in the form 30A and also in the passenger lists.

PC 1264

15th Light Horse Band

Postcards from the Past, PC 1264

Another addition to the databases in the Canadian Genealogy Centre is service records for soldiers, nurses and chaplains who served in the First World War. These records, when they are uploaded, are attached to the attestation papers that were previously available on the “Soldiers of the First World War” database. They are being added in an “on demand” fashion which means that if someone requests access to the records, once they are digitized they are uploaded to the database. This is a fairly common way for archives to enhance their databases within the constraints of budget and staffing. I did some poking around in the database and found some very interesting stuff. The young gentleman whose record I checked had been treated in hospital for a fairly personal problem I’m not sure he would have wanted his family to know about but, hey, all is fodder for the genealogist, right? The Soldiers of the First World War database is also linked to Ancestry LE but only the attestation papers appear. So, if you find someone in Ancestry in the Soldiers database, have a look at the Library and Archives Canada website to see if there is more information.

One more addition to the Canadian Genealogy Centre website that might be of interest is the list of headings for all of the Canadian censuses (censi?) from 1851 on. This can be accessed under the heading “Most Requested Records” by clicking on Census or by clicking on “What to Search” in the blue bar on the left of the page.

So, keep the Canadian Genealogy Centre top of mind for Canadian research. They are always adding guides (check out the new guides for Ukrainian, Finnish and German researchers – click on What to Search: Topics> Ethno-Cultural and Aboriginal Groups) and new databases. This is THE place to start for beginning researchers and a good place to check for new and interesting databases.

Remember, if you have any questions about genealogy, we’re always ready to help. You can call us at 403-260-2692 or email us at hum1@calgarypubliclibrary or come down and talk to us. We have our genealogy Saturdays on the last Saturday of the month with coaches from Alberta Family Histories Society providing one-on-one coaching from 10-noon and the Genealogy Meet-up from 2-4 all at the Central Library on the 4th floor. We also like to get comments and suggestions from our readers so please let us know what you think or what suggestions you have for future posts. To leave a comment, click on the title of the article and scroll down the page. There is a comments box there and we would love to hear from you.

My Favourite Genealogy Blogs

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)


Genealogy is one of those pursuits that seem, at the outset, to be a nice little hobby, something to pursue in your spare time. What I didn’t know when I started was that in encompasses such a wide variety of information, it is more like Trivial Pursuit (although, don’t get me wrong though, there is nothing trivial about it.) In researching my own family tree I have learned about the Canada Company, the Jesuits in the Northwestern United States, the history of Sleeman’s Brewery, the building of the Kettle Valley Railway and that is just a sampling. And with each of these tracks comes the question of the records. What are they, where are they, who has them, do they even exist? How is one expected to keep on top of this?

Working in the library I have several advantages. I come in contact with lots of genealogists and some are even researching in the areas I am interested in. But more are not so I have to become something of an expert in records relating to subjects that are not necessarily my personal interest (I hesitate to put it that way because once the question is asked of me, it does become my interest. I am a voracious consumer of data and very nosy to boot so I am always interested in a good story that leads me to find out more about something…anything!) So I have had to learn a lot about a lot of different subjects. I also have the advantage of getting first shot at the genealogy magazines that are received in the department. We get a number of very good general genealogy titles as well as publications from genealogical societies in each province. I take a look at them as they come in to check for new titles that might be of interest to our customers and for articles that will help me learn more about any and all aspects of genealogy. (Check our catalogue using the subject search “Genealogy periodicals” to see what we have.)

Not everyone is in my position, however, so how does the average genealogist keep up with what is out there? Well, anyone can borrow the general genealogy magazines from Calgary Public Library. Titles like Internet Genealogy and Family History often include excellent articles on records and techniques. That is a good start. There are also blogs. I find that blogs can be a great source of up-to-date information about events, records, techniques, you name it. For those of you who don’t know what a blog is (although I suppose if you’re reading this, you do) ‘blog’ is short for weblog and it is just a kind of website that is updated frequently and allows (usually) for the reader to communicate with the person writing the blog through comments. You can also subscribe either by having the blog entries delivered to your email or by RSS feed (which I barely understand so won’t even try to explain here – if you’re interested in learning about it here is a link to Genealogy. This explains RSS feeds and how to subscribe to them.

I use a combination of email delivery and Bloglines to keep track of my favourite blogs. And what might those be, you may ask. Well, I always read Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. This is the gold standard for genealogy blogs. (And Dick Eastman will be coming to Calgary in October for a Family Roots Seminar put on by the Alberta Family Histories Society – click here for information) His blog can be found at He offers a free edition and the Plus edition, for which you have to pay. I receive the free edition and have found that there is more than enough information included. I also read “Genealogy Insider” from Family Tree magazine. They can be found at

Of course I read the Alberta Family Histories Society’s new blog at This blog is a new project but so far it is great. It has lots of information about happenings in and around Calgary. It also has a “Blog roll” which lists other great genealogy blogs that you may want to visit including the Canada GenWeb blog has a great listing of Canada-wide events.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. You can always find great genealogy blogs by visiting the “other blogs” (or whatever it is called) section of your favourite blog. It’s almost as addicting as YouTube! (Although you won’t necessarily find anything as useful as, say Dramatic Chipmunk J)

Use our comment section to suggest your own favourite. I’m always up for suggestions.

Where do I look for genealogy information...?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Doors from iStock

Working at the reference desk we get asked all kinds of genealogical questions. Even though we do research our own family histories, we are often called upon to find information in places that we don’t have personal experience in. We are always on the lookout for good resources to help researchers find information in various countries. My colleagues, bless their hearts, are always digging in resources and pulling rabbits out of their hats, so to speak. This time it was the person who does the entries for our Best Websites. She was entering a country resource, Portals to the World from the Library of Congress, and noticed, as she was flipping through the site, that it includes information that would be very helpful to genealogical researchers. She quickly pointed this out to me and so I am pointing it out to you!

We have long used a resource called Portals to the World from the Library of Congress to find information about countries. The links are collected by subject experts at the Library of Congress and include historical, cultural and political resources as well as information on language and literature and travel. But what got us really excited is the link for Genealogy. Pop in to Portals of the World and see what I mean. It is under our E-Library, accessible from the front page,, or from any catalogue page. In the box called “Easy Find” the first listing is “Best Websites”. This collection includes lots of stuff for genealogy that you only have to type “genealogy” to find. So type “genealogy” into the search tags box and find Portals to the World. Choose a country and have a look at the kind of information that is available.

Country resources can, in themselves, be helpful in genealogical research because knowing the history and political situation in the countries from which our ancestors came can help direct our search and can also answer some of those basic questions. Portals to the World holds a little more specific information as well. See the link “Genealogy”? Under this link you will find links to sites that provide information for genealogical researchers. The Library of Congress has also included links to their collection, where appropriate. This link is at the top of the page and can provide invaluable information about resources that we might not otherwise know about.

Another link that every genealogist should check is the one to “Libraries and Archives”. These are the repositories that will hold much of the data you are looking for and knowing where they are and what they hold can be a real boon.

So, check out Portals to the World. It’s not just for Social Studies homework!

Year of the Home Child

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Barnardo Boys

A group of Barnardo boys from Miss Macpherson's Home, London, England, who arrived at the Marchmont Home in April 1922
Library and Archives Canada / C-034840

Canadian Parliament has declared that 2010 is the year of the Home Child. An official stamp will be issued in October to commemorate Home Children in Canada.

Approximately 100,000 children were sent to Canada from Great Britain between 1869 and 1938. It is believed that the descendents of these children make up about 12% of the population of Canada. It is interesting that many people do not know about this chapter of Canada’s immigration history.

The children who were a part of this scheme were supposed to be orphans or from families too poor to support them. They would be sent to Canada to work as farm labourers or domestic servants. A number of agencies, such as the Barnardo Homes and the Middlemore Homes, were involved in identifying and transporting the children. The premise behind this was that Canada was seen as a land of opportunity that could provide these children with a more promising future that what they would have had back home. Sometimes this was the case. We did some research a while back for a society who is working on a database of home children and found information about a young boy who was sent as a home child to a farm family in Saskatchewan. The family treated him like one of their children and eventually he went to medical school.

There were, of course, the other stories. Some children were abused and neglected and treated as slaves but it is a testament to their strength and persistence that many remained in Canada and became the foundation of families and communities. Some four million of us are descended from them but we often come across the fact that our ancestor was a home child by accident. The experiences of some were so traumatic or they were so embarrassed by their early circumstances that they never spoke of their history. We find out about it only when we start our research and hit the brick wall of a child immigrant with no family background.

There are a number of resources available to genealogists who have a home child in their family tree. Library and Archives Canada is a good place to start:

From this link, click on Immigration and Citizenship, and then on Home Children. The site provides information and a link to the Home Children Database, created by another organization that has done a lot of work on documenting the experiences of home children in Canada, the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO). The direct link to their site is:

Pier 21 also has a site where the stories of home children have been collected. You can find those here:

And finally there is the site for the descendents of British Home Children:

If you are interested in reading about home children in Canada, there are a number of very good books available at the Calgary Public Library. Some of the titles are Uprooted: the Shipment of Poor Children to Canada 1867-1917, Nation Builders: Barnardo Children in Canada and Neither Waif nor Stray: the Search for a Stolen Identity . You can find others in the catalogue by searching for the subject Home Children (Canadian Immigrants)

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