Sunday, 29 September 2019

52 Ancestors: Week 37 - Bankruptcy Records

Week 37's prompt for 52 Ancestors is "mistake". Our ancestors were human, just like us. They made mistakes. Some were small, and some were large enough to warrant official notice. One such type would be bankruptcy. This post I'm going to lead you towards sources for bankruptcy records.

The Courts
Of course the first place you should look for bankruptcy records in the court system. There are both federal and provincial governments involved in bankruptcy. The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy is the federal overseer of the majority of the process. If a discharge of the bankruptcy is required through the courts, that is done through the provincial court system. Week 9's post dealt with Canadian Courts, and you can access it here.

You can also search for court cases on the CanLii website. The Canadian Legal Information Institute has digitized the decisions of tens of thousands of court cases across Canada. There are decisions at both the provincial and federal level. They have cases from the 1800's to present day.

Canada Gazette
Back in 2017, I wrote a blog post about the importance of the Canada Gazette to researchers. The official newspaper of the federal government, it contains notices of all manners of petitions and bills passed. You'll especially want to look at this in the early years of the country. Here's an excerpt from November 21, 1846. It shows two notices. The first is that James Robinson is handling the bankruptcy of John Grierson. The second is a notice of an auction sale of the land of Alexander Christie.

On the very same page is another notice discharging the bankruptcy of Peter Pearce.

Make sure you also look the the provincial gazettes as well. Check the provincial government's website to see how you can access copies.

As always, newspapers are a good source to finding "dirt". Check the classified ads for bankruptcy sales. If your ancestor was an upstanding member of the community, you may also find newspaper articles of their financial troubles. here's a couple of notices taken from Ontario newspapers. The first is from The Porcupine Advocate in Timmins, Ontario:

The second is from The Independant in Grimsby, Ontario:

Provincial Archives
Court cases routinely get transferred to provincial archives, and bankruptcy cases are no exception. You may also find interesting items in personal fond collections. For instance:

Yet again, this site contains some gems. When I searched using "bankruptcy", I received some interesting hits. Among these are several historic Canadian law journals. They may or may not mention specific cases, but they do discuss the legal aspects around bankruptcy.
I also found some digitized items relating to individuals:

52 Ancestors: Week 36 - Finding School Records

School records can be a fun way to see your ancestors in their formative years. Besides pictures, you can also gain insight into their interests and hobbies through yearbooks. If you're lucky enough to find admissions records, you can find details of family. This post I'll be looking at sources for school records.

Ancestry has a collection of Canadian Yearbooks digitized in the collection Canada, Selected School Yearbooks, 1901-2010. This collection can be searched by name. or, alternatively, you can browse. The yearbooks are grouped by province, then by city, then by school. From what I could see, the vast majority of the schools only had one year digitized. And don't forget to look at the advertisements. As a rule, yearbooks tend to have community businesses buy ads. Here's an ad page from the 1928 Manitoba Provincial Normal School, in Winnipeg:

Find My Past
Though known mostly for UK records, Find My Past is growing its North American records. Among their Canadian school records are the following record set titles:

  • Ontario, Canada- Midland High School Review, Year Book, 1932
  • Ontario, Canada- Queens University Summer School Prospectus, 1943
  • Ontario, Canada- Roll Of Pupils Of Upper Canada College, Toronto, 1830-1916
  • Ontario, Canada- The Caradoc Academy
  • Ontario, Canada- The London Grammar School and The Collegiate Institute
  • Ontario, Canada- The Magnet (Vol. 8, No. 1), Jarvis Collegiate Instiute Yearbook, 1926
  • Ontario, Canada- The War Book Of Upper Canada College, Toronto, 1914-1919
  • Ontario, Canada- The Western University
  • Ontario, Canada- Torontonensis - The Year Book Of The University Of Toronto (Vol. 17), 1915
  • Ontario, Canada- Torontonensis - The Year Book Of The University Of Toronto (Vol. 38), 1936
  • Ontario, Canada- University Of Toronto Roll Of Service, 1914-1918
  • Ontario, Canada- University Of Toronto, Commencement Program, 1947
  • Ontario, London Public Schools, 1848-1871
  • Quebec, Canada- Mcgill University At War, 1914-1918 and 1939-1945
  • Quebec, Canada- Mcgill University, Directory Of Graduates. 1946

Public Libraries
The local public library in your ancestor's area are a good place to look for yearbooks. Most of these library systems collect local history. School yearbooks and newspapers are a natural extension of these collections, especially if they are also the local area's archive. As an example, I checked the New Brunswick Public Library System's website. I found copies of yearbooks from several different schools, including ones from St. Vincent's Girls' High School (Saint John, NB).

If the school your ancestor attended still exists, why not try contacting them? The school libraries will most certainly have copies of their yearbooks and student newspapers. This doesn't just hold true for post secondary education. Middle schools, junior high schools and high schools will too.

Provincial and Municipal Archives
Most provincial and municipal archives will have school records. And not just yearbooks. You can find teacher certifications, attendance registers, and school board minutes, to name a few. I took a quick look at the online catalogues of some archives and found:

  • The Archives of Manitoba has a collection of records for the Manitoba School for the Deaf. Among the collection are attendance registers and enrollment applications.
  • Newfoundland's The Rooms has a fond called St. Mary's School fonds. It is a collection of log books of the day to day activities of the school in the early and mid 20th century.
  • The Halifax Municipal Archives has the Tower Road School Student Records. These are the student files, so there's report cards and family information. Because of the personal information involved, access may be restricted.
  • The City of Toronto Archives has a file called Normal School - extrance examination results. The file contains the list of children who passed their entrance exams in 1909.
  • The Royal BC Museum has among it's collection Series GR-0470 - Correspondence School administrative records. This collection among other things, has documents relating to teaching children who were in the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II

What gems have you found looking for education records? Let us know in the comments below.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

52 Ancestors: Week 35 - Finding Occupational Records

Occupational records can give good insight on the working life of your ancestors. If your ancestor was in politics, the military, or in a position of power, chances are you can find detailed records on them. However, if your ancestor wasn't, you might have to be a little more creative in finding records. This post I'm going to steer you to some sources that go beyond looking at a business directory.

Family Search
What you want to do is search their catalog. By using the search word "Canada" I was able to bring up a list of their holdings both online and offline. If you go through the list, you'll notice subheadings such as Business Records and Commerce, and Occupations. Expand on these subheadings and you can get individual titles. For instance, here's some titles of books I found:
  • Polk's dental register and directory of the United States and Canada, 1925 : complete index of dentists, alphabetically arranged
  • Shipping literature of the Great Lakes : a catalog of company publications, 1852-1990, compiled by  Le Roy Barnett
  • Ogilvie in Canada : pioneer millers, 1801-195, by G.R. Stevens
  • Clock & watchmakers and allied workers in Canada, 1700 to 1900, by John E. Langdon

When you click on the title, It will give you the record information. It will also give either a link to view it online, if possible. If it is not digitized, then you can click on the link to WorldCat to see if there is a copy available at a library near you. These can be public libraries, university libraries, or other institutions across the world. For instance, I found 55 different places to find Clock & watchmakers and allied workers in Canada, 1700 to 1900

Library and Archives Canada
The LAC has records pertaining to employment in their holdings. You can access their information page here.

As you can see above, they have a variety of occupational records listed. Just click on the type you're interested in, and it will give you some more detail on what they have, the access restrictions, and how to access.

Alternatively, you can also use the Archives Search. Try typing in an occupation, and see what comes up. I used the search term "salesmen". and got 71 hits. Among the results were:

  • "Volume 2 / Alberta Brotherhood of Dairy Employees & Driver Salesmen, Alberta.". 
  • Nasmith, Fennell & Porter - Toronto, Ontario - Fraudulent operations of certain stock salesmen re Manufacturers Finance Corporation Ltd. 
  • Bond Salesmen's Ordinance - NWT.

Internet Archive
This site can be a goldmine of information, but it takes some work to find things. Because they have digitized items from all over the world, you will really have to play with the search terms. I used "inspector Canada" just to see what would come up. There were over 300 hits, but many of them were only loosely connected to the search term I used. It will take some targeted searching. One interesting thing I found was a publication titled Transactions of the Engineering Institute of Canada from 1919. On page 34 an obituary section starts. Some obituaries are quite detailed in the work history of the engineer.

Provincial and Local Archives
If your ancestor worked for a company that had ties to the local history of the area, check the local or provincial archive. For instance, when I looked at the Provincial Archives of Alberta's website, I used the search term "butcher". Among their holdings are several photographs of butcher shops from the 1920s and 1930s. These butcher shops are from around the province. While it may not give you specific details of your ancestor, how great would it be to have a picture of where they worked?

I looked at the Halifax Municipal Archives' website and searched using "transit". Among their holdings are the Dartmouth Ferry Commission Records. I saw among the collection staff reports and engineer log books.

Contact the Company
If the company your ancestor worked for is still in existence, why not contact the company? Even if they don't have a company archive, they might steer you toward where historical records might be kept.

Have you come across a source for looking at employment records? let us know what it is in te comments below.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

52 Ancestors: Week 34 - Finding Coroner's Reports

Week 33's theme for the 52 ancestors series of posts is "tragedy". When you have an ancestor who died in unusual circumstances, there might have been a coroner's, or chief medical examiner's, inquest. These inquests looked into these kinds of deaths. Because the coroner could interview people and look at evidence that would not qualify in a criminal court, one could find a wealth of information in them. These are the responsibility of provincial governments. As such, each province does things a little differently.

So how to find out if your ancestor's death warranted an inquest? Well the first thing you'll want to look at is historical newspapers. Because of the circumstances in which inquests were held, newspapers would almost certainly have reported on it. Even if the death itself didn't make the news, the fact that a coroner would be looking into it would ensure that it made the news. Depending on the circumstances, you might even find articles on the proceedings themselves.

The majority of Provinces today have a Coroner's Office. Alberta, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Manitoba have Offices of the Chief Medical Examiner. These provinces have modeled their death investigation systems after the US, while Coroner provinces have modeled their systems after the UK model. There are slight differences in how they do things, but the main elements are the same. Statistics Canada has been compiling a national database and has some background here. You can also see their findings investigating deaths from 2006-2008 here. It gives a general view of the types of deaths investigated. Even though it does not discuss individual cases, it is interesting reading.

In both systems, the inquests and their findings were open to the public at the time they happened. However, now the average time restriction for access by the public is 100 years. Until that time, records are held by either the Coroner's Office, or the Attorney General. If the death you are looking at it is less than 100 years ago, your first course of action should be to contact the Coroner/ Chief Medical Officer's office. They would be able to let you know whether it is open access. If it is not, then they should also be able to direct you in whether you qualify for access to restricted records, and how to request access.  What I'm going to focus on is where to access open records.

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Provincial Archives
The majority of Provincial Government records are deposited at Provincial Archives once they become open to the public. I did some searching on their websites, and these types of records will require an on site visit. Or, you can hire a researcher if that's not possible for you.

  • The Rooms in Newfoundland has a few records as part of their Supreme Court Fonds
  • The Public Archives and Record Office  of Prince Edward Island have them as part of the Attorney general Fonds
  • The Nova Scotia Archives has inquest records among their County Court Fonds. Not all districts have surviving records.
  • I checked the County Guides at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, but I cold not find specific mention of Coroner's Inquest records. My suggestion would be to contact the Archives directly.
  • BAnQ in Quebec holds historic coroner's inquest reports. They have several different fonds and files in their online search. Because there are BAnQ Archives across the province, you will want to pay special attention to which location the record is kept at.
  • As usual, the Archives of Ontario has a comprehensive research guide for coroner's reports. Here is their PDF guide Criminal Justice Records at the Archives of Ontario. Scroll down to the Coroner's Reports section.
  • The Archives of Manitoba hold records covering 1870-1916
  • The Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan's search capabilites are transitioning to new software. Because of that, I could not definitely say they have coroner's reports. 
  • The Provincial Archives of Alberta has coroner's inquests in several collections.
  • Coroner Reports are part of the Ministry of Attorney General fonds at the BC Archives.

Local County, Municipal and University Archives
If you can't find what you're looking for at the Provincial level, try looking at more location specific archives. For whatever reason, these smaller archives may have obtained the records. You may also find collections relating to coroners themselves. For instance:

Canada Gazette and Provincial Gazettes
In the past, I wrote a blog post about what a great resource the Canada Gazette is. Though a federal publication, I did find some interesting results looking for "coroner's inquest". Here's a page thathas a proclamation saying that a Mr. William E Brainerd has a warrant out for his arrest due to the findings in the shooting death of his mother:

Also check Provincial Government gazettes. Historical issues can be found in provincial archives.

A search on Canadiana using the words "coroner inquest" resulted in over 7,000 results. Look at this gem titled Authentic report of the proceedings of a coroner's inquest held upon the body of Job Broom

Some Final Tips
  • Make sure you contact the Archives before you visit. Sometimes records are stored off site, and require some notice to have them ready for you.
  • Don't limit your search to government record collections. As I showed in the examples above, information can be found in family fond collections.
  • On that note, take some time to research who the Coroner/Chief Medical Examiner was in your ancestor's place and time period. By searching their name, you might find additional record sets. 
  • Now for the downside: a lot of these records did not survive. So, just because you found mention of an inquest in the newspaper does not mean that you will have a record of the proceedings. But the information you might glean from these records make it worth the search.