What Is Heraldry?

Heraldry has been defined by the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada as the “…study, design, regulation and use of armorial bearings, commonly known as coats of arms.” The first example of heraldry in Canada occurred at Gaspé, on July 24, 1534, when Jacques Cartier raised a cross that bore the arms of Francis I, King of France.

More than 450 years later, on June 4, 1988, Canada’s Governor General was made head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority and was given the power to grant armorial bearings in Canada. The Authority’s mandate is to issue coats of arms, flags and badges to Canadians and to Canadian entities. Before 1988, Canadians wishing to obtain armorial bearings had to petition the College of Arms in London, England, or the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Molson coat of arms

Molson coat of arms. Source

Learn more about heraldry from the following reference works:

  • A Canadian Heraldic Primer, written by Kevin Greaves and illustrated by Bruce Patterson and Gordon Macpherson (AMICUS 22962127)
  • Beddoe’s Canadian Heraldry, by Alan Beddoe (AMICUS 11514059)
  • Granting and Registering Armorial Bearings in Canada: Coats of Arms, Flags and Badges – Procedure Guide, by the Canadian Heraldic Authority (AMICUS 25541152)
  • Heraldry in Canada (AMICUS 120587)
  • Flagscan (AMICUS 6865457)

Library and Archives Canada holds the following fonds that pertain to this fascinating tradition:

  • The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada fonds, 1966–2001, which consists of textual records, photographs, art, and moving images that document the programs and activities of the Society (MIKAN 206959)
  • Alan B. Beddoe fonds, 1869–1979 (MIKAN 104827): Mr. Beddoe became the first president of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada when it was founded in 1966.

Interested in knowing more about Canada’s emblems and symbols?

To learn more about Canada’s emblems and symbols, such as the beaver, the fleur-de-lys and the maple leaf, consult the Canadian Identity pages of the Canadian Heritage website.

Images of heraldry now on Flickr

Heraldry is a form of identification using emblems. It started in 12th-century Europe when knights painted their shields to identify themselves while wearing armour. These coats of arms displayed the individual’s identity on the battlefield. The administration and tracking of coats of arms eventually transitioned to monarchies. The granting of these heraldic identification became an honour or reward for individuals or groups.

The Canadian Heraldic Authority, overseen by the Governor General’s office, grants coats of arms to Canadians. Canada is the first Commonwealth country to patriate the practice of this heraldic authority.

View the heraldry images on Flickr.

Newspaper Collection website launched

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce the release of a new version of its Newspaper Collection website. The website provides an overview of LAC’s newspaper collection, including a list of newspapers available on microfilm, an index to the Canadian newspapers in its collection and a sampling of online Canadian news resources available from third-party websites.

Highlights of the new version include links to other websites offering free online digitized copies of newspapers, direct links to the AMICUS descriptions, and other improvements that make the website easier to navigate.

Are we related? Discover your French-Canadian roots through a family association

A family association is an organization formed of people who share one or more ancestors with the same surname. In most cases, these are French-Canadian families. The main goal of a family association is to perpetuate the memory of these ancestors and preserve the cultural heritage associated with them, such as the land that was granted to them in New France, or the ancestral house, if it still exists.

The association members organize meetings and reunions, small or large, and publish newsletters; many also have a website. A grouping such as this of people sharing the same surname can be very helpful when doing genealogical research. Many associations have published the findings of their searches in their newsletters or in the form of a “genealogical dictionary.” If you are having trouble tracing one of your ancestors, we strongly recommend that you contact an association.

The first family associations

The Trudel-Trudelle family appears to have been one of the first to create a family association, in 1909. In the early 1940s, numerous family associations were created to mark the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the ancestors of the Poulin, Gravel, Bellemare and Gagnon families, among others. On the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Île d’Orléans in 1979, 19 family associations were created and the phenomenon really began to spread. In February 1983, the Asselin, Cloutier, Dion, Langlois and Lemieux family associations founded the Fédération des familles souches du Québec, now known as the Fédération des associations de familles du Québec, a service co-operative with over 200 member associations. Certain family associations have not joined the Fédération.

To find out more

To find out whether a family association exists for your surname, visit Centre de généalogie francophone d’Amérique or do an internet search using keywords like your surname combined with the words “association” and/or “family.” For Acadian families, visit Fédération des Associations de familles acadiennes.

350th anniversary of the Notre-Dame de Québec parish

The year 2014 marks the 350th anniversary of the Notre-Dame de Québec parish, the oldest Catholic parish in North America. Monsignor François de Laval, who arrived in Quebec City in 1659 as the vicar apostolic, signed the decree for the establishment of the parish on September 15, 1664, in honour of the “Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” However, the common name “Notre-Dame,” in reference to the Virgin Mary, was quickly adopted by the inhabitants of the city. The church, located on the Cap-aux-Diamants promontory, was opened for worship in 1650. Over the years, it has undergone many alterations, including renovations, expansions and reconstructions.

Notre-Dame Cathedral and Market Square, Quebec City, 1850

Notre-Dame Cathedral and Market Square, Quebec City, 1850 (MIKAN 2896974)

The Diocese of Quebec was created in 1674. Monsignor de Laval was appointed bishop of the enormous diocese, which covered a large part of North America. The parish church became a cathedral and was the base of the Catholic Church in North America until 1817, when the Halifax and Kingston dioceses were created.

The 350th anniversary is being celebrated in a special way with the opening of a Holy Door, a symbol of humility and a rare privilege granted by the Holy See. The Holy Door is the seventh in the world and the first in North America. It will remain open until December 28, 2014.

Library and Archives Canada has historical records on the Notre-Dame de Québec parish, including many iconographic representations of the church in different eras. The Notre-Dame Catholic parish fonds (Quebec City) contains baptismal, marriage and burial records, as well as various parish censuses conducted in 1744 and between 1792 and 1815.

William James Topley’s Fancy Dress Ball Photographs

One of the most celebrated and well-known photographs by Ottawa photographer William James Topley (1845–1930) is his composite image of the first major Canadian fancy dress ball, hosted by the Earl of Dufferin and his wife on February 23, 1876. This composite, which was constructed in the months following the event by cutting out individual photographs and pasting them onto a painted backdrop of the Rideau Hall ballroom, recreates a moment from this prestigious social affair. Look closely and see if you can make out the different costumes…

Composite image of the Dufferin Grand Fancy Ball at Rideau Hall on February 23, 1876. The image was created in the months following the event, and was probably finished in May or June.

Composite image of the Dufferin Grand Fancy Ball at Rideau Hall on February 23, 1876. The image was created in the months following the event, and was probably finished in May or June. (Source: MIKAN 3260601)

The fancy dress ball was a private costumed event that grew in popularity over the course of the nineteenth century in Canada. Those who were invited to a fancy ball would often portray characters from history, literature, Shakespearean plays, mythology, legends, nursery rhymes, or fairy tales, or even ones from “exotic” lands. While guests at fancy balls were expected to conform to certain societal expectations, they could also exercise a few liberties.

For example, women were permitted to wear their hair loose and flowing at the ball (normally it would have been worn up). They could also dress in outfits that revealed more of their legs than a typical ball gown of the day. Miss Minnie Smart, who came dressed in uniform as a heroic “vivandière” for the Dufferin Grand Ball, is certainly revealing a fair amount of her stockings in this photographic portrait!

Miss Minnie Smart dressed as a “vivandière,” originally a type of female auxiliary in the French army who sold food and drink to the soldiers.

Miss Minnie Smart dressed as a “vivandière,” originally a type of female auxiliary in the French army who sold food and drink to the soldiers. (Source: MIKAN 3421162)

Many of the costumes that men wore required tight leggings. This undoubtedly resulted in a few of the guests feeling self-conscious about their bodies, which were normally hidden under conventional dark suits.

Mr. Newby dressed as a “Court Jester.” He wore this same costume again for a skating carnival that took place in 1881.

Mr. Newby dressed as a “Court Jester.” He wore this same costume again for a skating carnival that took place in 1881. (Source: MIKAN 3477362)

There were also those who dressed as characters from other lands. These individuals often acted out their roles in very stereotypical ways, and their costumes did not necessarily reflect the identity that they were appropriating. Mr. Waddell, who came dressed as a “Heathen Hindoo,” apparently had his face painted brown with iodine, leaving a stain that lasted for days after the event.

Mr. Waddell dressed as a “Heathen Hindoo.”

Mr. Waddell dressed as a “Heathen Hindoo.” (Source: MIKAN 3477518)

Not only do these photographs serve as entertaining records of the men and women who attended this exclusive event, but they are also important visual remnants of the past that reflect the social, political and economic contexts in which they were created.

For further research

 

Images of Fancy Dress Balls now on Flickr

Victorians from all walks of life loved to dress up in costume, or “fancy dress,” for parlour games, theatricals and balls. Assuming fantasy characters for an evening provided a form of escapism from their rigidly conventional lives. Canadians were no exception.

Characters for fancy dress were inspired by various facets of Victorian culture and different historical periods.

View the fancy dress ball images on Flickr.

July 15, 1870: Manitoba joins Confederation

Originally posted on Library and Archives Canada Blog:

Before becoming a province, Manitoba was the stage for many events and pivotal moments in Canada’s history. Pending the transfer of Rupert’s Land to Canada, the federal government sent survey crews led by Lieutenant Governor William McDougall to map the Red River area in 1869. The Métis became concerned about the redistribution of land to future settlers and the effect this would have on their own lands.

The Métis group’s leader, Louis Riel, declared that the survey was a menace and established a “National Committee” of which he became secretary and John Bruce president. On October 25, 1869, Louis Riel was ordered to appear in front of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia to explain himself. Riel indicated that the “National Committee” would prevent the entry of McDougall or any governors into Red River unless the union with Canada was based on negotiations with the local population.

In November, Riel…

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I say Bennett, vous dites Benoit. Soundex: How to find spelling variations of a surname

You are deep into your genealogy research and coming across documents that show a code like T650 instead of a surname? What does the code mean? Well, it’s a code from the Soundex phonetic system, used to index surnames.

Many American archival records have been indexed using this system. It’s a way to search surnames while ignoring minor differences in spelling. The code uses the first letter of the surname, followed by three numbers associated with the sound of the name. Letters of the alphabet are assigned a number (0 to 9). Vowels (A, E, I, O, U and Y) and the letters H and W are ignored. Also, if the same letter occurs twice in a row in the name, it is counted only once (e.g., Lloyd becomes Loyd). If there are fewer than 3 letters in the name, 0 is used for the last digit.

Letter

Code

B P F V 1
C S G J K Q X Z 2
D T> 3
L> 4
M N 5
R 6

Examples:

SMITH = S530
TREMBLAY/TROMBLEY/TRIMBLE/TRUMBLE = T651

To help you identify different spellings of surnames, we suggest that you use the following Soundex indexing site: Avotaynu Consolidated Jewish Surname Index. It can also be used for non-Jewish surnames. To help you identify the Soundex code, you can use the JOS Soundex calculator.

Library and Archives Canada releases twelfth podcast episode: Between the Sheets

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is releasing its latest podcast episode, Between the Sheets.

Archival assistant Gilles Leclerc joins us to talk about LAC’s sheet music collection. We explore what sheet music is, what’s included in LAC’s collection and how the collection came about. We also discuss the historical value of sheet music and why it’s still relevant today.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS or iTunes, or just tune in at: Podcast – Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at podcasts@bac-lac.gc.ca.