Ottawa: Libraries and Archives Canada!

June 16, 2012

After arguing with myself over this, I took a stand and said “DO IT.”  Just go and visit and see what the Libraries and Archives Canada has for you. If you don’t you will regret it.  So I poured over the website and catalogue and finding aids. 

Monday, May 28, 2012 was to be my first visit to Libraries and Archives Canada (LAC).  I was both excited and intimated. 

Library and Archives Building

These types of archives  are what I call “white glove” and have a great deal of the material carefully stored and it has to be retrieved.  This can be difficult when you have limited time.  Fortunately, you can order items in advance at LAC and I took advantage of that obtaining my authorization number via their online link. 

Just about the time I was preparing for this trip to Ontario and Quebec, the news hit that changes were coming to this great archive.  So it was twice as important that I did go and visit. 

The changes are not pretty and it is looking like this once great institution is being stripped. I have never seen anything like it.  Yes, there are threats of budget cuts here in the States, but not like what is happening at the LAC. 

Article:  “The Wrecking of Canada’s Library and Archives:”  http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012/06/07/LibraryCuts/

Save Library and Archives Canada:  http://www.savelibraryarchives.ca/

Canadian Council of Archives has a handout that I picked up asking for support to save LAC.  Here is a link to their Immediate Action which includes signing a petition:  http://www.cdncouncilarchives.ca/action2012.html  I signed the petition.  Won’t you take a minute to do the same?

ALERT!! LAC has a new website?

Much to my confusion it appears that they have a new website at LAC? Try this:  http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx 

Their blog which I found very helpful is also going through changes: http://thediscoverblog.com/

My Visit:  I arrived via taxi.  The traffic was thick so it took awhile and was a bit expensive.  I could have walked but I really wanted to arrive with some energy to spare, so I decided to walk back at my leisure and do some sightseeing. 

The Entrance to Library and Archives on Wellington St.

There is a drop off area at the LAC so that makes it easy to get to the front door.  There was a sign about parking for the LAC, another change. There was no one at the large reception desk but I noticed that everyone was gathering at the Security desk to the left.  I joined the line up. When it became my turn they took my driver’s license and went back to the main desk and found my paperwork.  I signed this and that and received a locker key and a plastic bag. They weren’t kidding about this ugly plastic bag.  It made a lot of noise.  I was told I had to fill out a photograph release form at some point. 

I found the locker rooms to the left, down the hall and then right again.  I removed what I needed and put my stuff into the locker and carefully put my locker key away. I saw that others were being checked by one of the Security guards and got “busted” for putting items in their plastic bag that they were not supposed to.  I was approved!  I have experienced this type of restriction on what you can carry before and know to read the rules before I arrive.  It helps not to drag what you don’t need into the archive.  Sometimes the lockers are small and you can’t get your big briefcase into them.  So I use a smaller lighter weight bag that has a shoulder strap.  These lockers were a good size.

The elevators were nearby and easy to access.  The lobby area of the 3rd floor has a desk with an attendant who seems puzzled when you ask a question.  There where two large rooms on either end and I decided to try the Genealogy Room first and starting pulling information sheets from the racks and orienting myself. 

Ah HA! stacks…books to access from a shelf!  So I was happy to see that they did have books available for browsing.  I did locate the Glengarry section.  The bookcases circled the room with a section of several aisles with more books toward the back.  There were omputers stations in the middle, plenty of tables and light. 

Okay now that my breathing was returning to normal, I headed to the other side of the building and entered the big room where many people were seated at many long tables looking at documents from carts loaded to the brim. To the right and behind was a room with two desks, two individuals behind two big glass doors.  People were lined up to talk to these persons? To the left was a big bookcase with microfilm and other items piled with alphabet letters.  I found the M’s and there were my films.  There was no explanation about the Butler Papers I had ordered?  There was the Cornwall and Glengarry newspapers but the Pembroke films were missing?

I asked the group of individuals lined up to ask their questions of the two behind the glass doors,  “Where it the microfilm room?  They all pointed to the other end of the big room where there was a door.  So I walked down to the end and through a small room filled with microfilm filing cabinets noting that this was self-serve and into another room where all the microfilm readers were located. 

My goal had been to utilize their wonderful newspaper collection and search the Pembroke,  Cornwall and Glengarry newspapers to see if I could not find evidence of an article about my great-grandfather Archibald McDonell’s visit to Glengarry before he migrated to Minnesota about 1901-1902 and to see if any obituary notice was placed for him in 1912 and a marriage notice about his son John (Jack) to Sarah.  It looked like I could have pulled the newspaper films myself .  It still was nice to have them ready.  

They had sent me a follow-up email about my advanced order but somehow I missed it. When I was filling it out on-line the website glitched and it dumped part of my order.  I only discovered this when I printed it out.  I suggest if that happens make up another advanced order.   It was okay it was a newspaper that I was not sure would be of use  from VanKleek. 

The microfilm room had dim lighting so that was good.  The readers were set up in rows and a variety of them available to use.  I did have a bit of trouble with the readers, one was broken, another was the button to move the film was not working to well.  So I had to move around a little to find one that would function.  My quest was a longshot since Archie had not been living in Glengarry for 40 years. 

I had used the Lower and Upper Canadian Land Records index and found one possibility regarding a group petition covering Chichester, Sheen and Waltham in 1848.  You can search by location at the index pages.  I found the film and the petition and photographed it after signing the form I mentioned.  Apparently Lower Canada was big on group petitions.  This means they could be under another name? The chance of finding Archie’s land petition was growing less likely by the minute.  Sigh!

I found a bookcase in the middle of the big room on the wall and set down the microfilm that I had used. The big room was filled now with lots of people with cameras on tripods and large carts filled with boxes.  It was really busy. I would have taken photographs of the layout inside of LAC but they had cameras everywhere and I was concerned I would get into trouble. I tried Google images but it was not getting me the inside pictures that I wanted.

I returned to the Genealogy Room and had a chat with one of the librarians.  The Upper Canadian Land Petitions cut off at 1867 and the Lower Canadian land petitions cut off at 1841.  I had searched the indexes online e but was not having any luck finding Archibald McDonell my great-grandfather.  I was looking for his petition for the Land Grants he had received in 1868 and 1883.  Her response was that there had been a fire in Hull in 1900 and a lot of the Quebec’s record had been lost to that and more.  I did find the 1848 group petition and she agreed that the Lower Canada Land Petitions were usually a group effort.  She said that a rich individual would put up the money and they would sell the land to the settlers from the actual location.  There are three groupings of Quebec Land Records:  Seignorial, Township, Cadastral.  The township version started about 1840-41 in Quebec.  Apparently you have to know which time frame your ancestor was involved with to access the records. 

I offered my McDonald booklet but was told I needed to give them two.  One for the stacks and the other for the storage.  This meant that if I only gave them one it would not be easily accessed and that was all I had with me for I was traveling light and had brought only what I needed.  I have read that they are no longer accepting family histories.  I will let you decide? 

The line to the librarians behind the glass door was empty so I waited till I was beckoned in.  I asked about the  Butler papers that were missing from my order (Smy, William – The Butler Papers Amicus No. 32561962).  She did a search on her computer and found that they were at the Brock University in St. Catherine’s.  Apparently I missed that small piece of information.  St. Catherine’s is near Niagara.  

Why was I wanting to look at these Butler papers, well he was the man who was involved with the Wyoming Massacre that took place during the Revolution in Pennsylvania at Wilkes-Barre.  He held my 4th great-grandfather Solomon Goss prisoner in Forty-Fort and I was curious if I could find out more information.  Online they say his papers were probably destroyed in the War of 1812.  Still I am ever hopeful. Yeah, I am a dreamer. 

On my way to the Ottawa Public Library on Saturday, I passed by the Valiants Memorial near the War Memorial about Wellington and Elgin Streets and there was the many busts of military people who Canada holds in esteem. 

I found him easily, Lt. Colonel John Butler.  Yes, there is a bust of this man.  I could not help myself.  I had to have a picture taken with me in it.  We had a very nice chat. 

Me and Lt. Colonel John Butler of Butler’s Rangers, Ottawa

I have written about this encounter with John Butler on my blog: Solomon Goss of Fearing Twp. in Ohio.  It fits there more appropriately.  The interesting part is that Butler’s Rangers has a regiment headed by a McDonald.  Is it possible, my Dad’s old New England roots were tangling with his Canadian McDonald cousins?  I can only speculate because I have yet to figure out Archibald and Mary McDonell’s parents and their origins.  Yup, I do have fun!


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