The Cornwall Public Library’s Genealogical & History Collection

June 24, 2012

Cornwall, Ontario, is home to the Cornwall Public Library and the Cornwall Room.  The library is on the northwest corner of 2nd St. and Sydney St.  It is a very large building and not to hard to spot.  If you enter from the front you have to walk this very long hallway to get to the main part of the library. 

Cornwall Public Library in Cornwall, Ontario

You can turn right onto to Sydney St. from 2nd St. and left into the parking area behind the library.  You will have to pay for parking but it is reasonable.  Make sure you have quarters.  Follow the signs and road over to the parking lot which is to the west as you enter with a little manuevering through the parking lot below.  There are one way signs and parking restrictions, so watch out.

The backside of the Cornwall Public Library

The library entrance is through the doors in the back of the building to the left of the loading area.   Go through the door and you come to a hallway that enters another hallway and then you turn to your right to enter the library.  The References desks are straight ahead. 

I stopped there and asked where they kept their genealogical collection and was lead to an area to the far side of the main floor.  There were study desks and tables along that wall.  She took me to the stacks where some books for genealogy were shelved.  It is good to know that some items are outside the Cornwall Room.

I inquired about a history room and was told it was only open certain hours: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 2 to 4 pm. Here is the library phone number if you have questions (613) 932-4796. 

It was Tuesday, June 5th!  So this meant I would have to rearrange my schedule and come back the next day.  The librarian was kind and wrote down the hours for me which I have shared with you.  These hours are not on the website. 

The CPL has a new website at:  http://library.cornwall.on.ca/  It is not working very well today.  To get to the CPL Archive area click on eResources and you will see Local Interest.  The only tab working at the moment is the SDG Online and the ones on top.  The CPL Archives and Surname List are giving me the page of death.  I actually had trouble with the older website when I first went to their webpage.  I have to admit the blog about Freddy the Bear is a riot and good for a laugh  http://cornwallyac.blogspot.ca/

I returned the next day, Wednesday and was early enough that I grabbed a book from the stacks in the Reference area shown to me the day before.  In the picture below they are the first two sections of the first bookcase.  There were some cemetery books, histories and more.

The Reference Section of the Cornwall Library, some possible genealogical titles

The book I removed was: “Bowering’s Guide to Eastern Ontario, A Cultural and Historical Companion.”  Whoa! This is a tour book and historical guide.  I made myself comfortable in some cushy chairs right in front of the Cornwall Room doors and began to review it.

The contents are:  The Perch Route, The Fur Trade Route, Glengarry Higlands Roads, Touring Cornwall, The Loyalist Front Route, The Lost Villages Adventure, the Apple-Cheddar Route, Armchair Traveling, Local Historical and Heritage Groups, Travel and Tourist Information Centers and an Index of Place Names.  By Quarry Press and published in 1992.  Certainly a lot closer to the present time than the “Up and Down the Glens” by Dorothy Dumbrille done in 1954.  I enjoyed her book and have a copy which I found at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  I was overjoyed with this find and am in the process of ordering a copy to review in depth.  Too bad I didn’t have it before I visited Glengarry.  

The Cornwall Room, Cornwall Public Library

The Cornwall Room is at the front of the library in the corner.  You enter the library go up to the Reference desk turn left and head to the windows and you will find the Cornwall Room on the right in the corner.   

Much to my relief the volunteer arrived at exactly 2 pm and opened the doors.  I waited a few minutes to give her some time to settled in.  She was very nice and friendly.  I gave her a copy of my McDonald booklet to be added to the collection.   

Apparently you can enter the room, settle in at a table and pull books off the stacks and not have to wait for the attendant.  This I did happily.  The volunteer really should reshelve the books because one cemetery book was mislocated and it took her awhile to find it. 

She gave me a brochure: “Genealogy and Local History Material available at The Cornwall Public Library.  This brochure is a little out of date but it does have good information.

The brochure describes the collection in this manner:

  • CPL Computer Catalogue – all holdings are listed.
  • Cornwall Room:  has books, photographs, papers of a local or regional content and that require special protection. Access is restricted and requires the presences of an informed attendant during limited hours.
  • General Reference Materials are located in the Reference Collection area of the library and are open to use during library hours.
  • Microfilm and fiche readers and printers are availabe and it is best to make an appointment to use.  The limit is three hours per day per patron. 

Microfilm:

  • Census records from 1851 to 1901 for Stormont, Dundas and Glengary.
  • Paris registers from the S.D.&G region with differing dates.
  • Newspapers – Standard-Freeholder from 1883 to present and some of the Cornwall Observer and Reporter for dates about 1876. 

Microfiche:

  • Land Records from the Ontario Archives by family name and location of property dating from the mid 1700’s to the late 1800’s.

Books

  • Numerous holdings of compiled genealogies
  • Historical writings for S.D. & G. 
  • City statistics, documents etc. for municipal departments
  • Histories of local businesses, churches and organizations
  • City directories, telephone books and voter’s lists.

Vertical Files: 

  • Newspaper clippings about Cornwall and other areas of an historical nature.

Cemetery Listings/Obituaries

  • Recorded transcriptions of cemeteries in S.D. & G.
  • Copies of Obituary notices from local newspapers various dates

Local History Name Index

  • A partially completed indexing of un-indexed holdings in their collection.  Specifically related to the Local History and Cornwall Room Collections.  Listings are by family name with call number, page and book.

Example from one of my search: 

The Macdonell family in Canada – author Morice, A.G., Location: Cornwall Room, Publisher: Canadian Historical Review, Pub. Date 1929, Call Number LHCR929.2 MOR.

Then a list of names with pages:  G.M. Adam 18, Donald Aenas 27, etc.

Historical Maps

  • Several maps from the area from the late 1700’s into the late 1800’s.  Many show land owners and or occupants.

As you can see it is not real detailed yet it is a start.  The Stormont GenWeb site has this to say about the holdings at the Cornwall Public Library:  http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onstormo/info-local-cornwallplib.html  Very close to the same information. 

So this means a thorough search of the CPU’s online catalogue on the subjects of your interest and with attention to the location of the item in the library.  This way you know what you can access at regular library hours and what you will have to plan to review when the Cornwall Room is open. 

I live in the Pacific Northwest of the USA so calling International long distance is something I shy away from.  I would probably default to their email: generalmail@library.cornwall.on.ca  write in the subject line:  Inquiry from CPL website.  You might have to try several times to get a response.  They never answered my inquiry. 

I have not given specific source references, like books and cemetery compilations because  that could get really complicated.  There are many for Glengarry as well as Stormont and Dundas, not to mention Prescott and Russell. 

You can start with these two website to get an idea of what is published and then study library and archive websites to see what they hold:

The City of Cornwall website is amazing:  http://www.cornwall.ca/en/webadmin/publiclibrary.asp

While I was studying the Cornwall Room collection a lady entered who seemed very knowledgeable about the area.  She and the volunteer seems to know each other and were discussing a cemetery reading project.  It sounded wonderful what was happening in identifying graves at a local church.  I was to learn that she was from the Saint Laurent Genealogical Society (it really should be written in French) located in Cornwall.  I had visited this society several days before and will write about them in the next post. 

This conversation between the two ladies tells me that a big missing part of my visit to Glengarry is the personal connections with the people who know the history and genealogy of the area.  There is hope, for I did meet some really nice, helpful people.  I just needed more time.


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