Capital City Portraits: Faces from the Topley Collection

One of the most popular collections at Library and Archives Canada is the William James Topley photograph collection, acquired in 1936. The Topley collection is comprised of over 150,000 glass plate and nitrate negatives, in addition to 68 studio proof albums, daily assignment logs and account books.

Dating from 1868 to 1923, the large collection illustrates the prolific career of William James Topley, an Aylmer, Quebec native, who began operating out of his own studio on Ottawa’s Sparks Street, having worked in Montreal for a number of years as an apprentice to photographer William Notman.

The photographs produced during Topley’s lengthy career serve as a fascinating visual reference to life in Ottawa, as well as other Canadian cities and towns. His images include street scenes documenting daily life, commissioned photographs of store fronts, Parliament Hill before, during, and after the 1916 fire, and perhaps most compelling, his portraits of citizens, both famous and otherwise.

By 1872, the Topley studio was attracting more than 2,300 sitters a year, including prime ministers, governors general, members of Ottawa’s high society, businessmen, and average citizens. He created his famous composite image of the first major Canadian fancy dress ball, hosted by the Earl of Dufferin and his wife, in 1876.

Many of Topley’s clients were the families of Ottawa’s movers and shakers. Being the capital city, it was common for relatives of politicians, land owners and lumber barons to make their way to Topley’s studio at some point, to sit for a portrait. In the early nineteenth century, it was still a somewhat prestigious event to have your portrait taken, and wives, children, and even pets were photographed at the studio, some of them multiple times over the years.

In viewing these wonderful portraits, it is fascinating to see the clothing, hairstyles, and expressions of Ottawa’s earlier citizens, and interesting to see the faces of people for whom some of Ottawa’s streets, parks and schools are named.

Miss Powell, 1870

Miss Powell, 1870 (MIKAN 3479280)

Miss E. Pattie and cat, 1873

Miss E. Pattie and cat, 1873 (MIKAN 3461227)

Mr. Brewer, 1875

Mr. Brewer, 1875 (MIKAN 3433630)

Miss Sparks and Miss Magee, 1889.

Miss Sparks and Miss Magee, 1889 (MIKAN 3448969)

Mrs. Bronson, 1869

Mrs. Bronson, 1869 (MIKAN 3478860)

Other local portait sitters

For further research

War Brides of the First and Second World Wars

Wars are tragic events but they sometimes have an unexpected silver lining. During the First and Second World Wars, Canadian soldiers often found love overseas, got married and brought back their loved ones to Canada.

We are happy to advise you that we have added a new page to our Military Heritage section about the foreign women who married Canadian soldiers, the war brides. They shared a common experience of leaving their country and heading for Canada on long journeys, first by ship and then by train. They faced many challenges as they settled into a new country, a different culture and sometimes even a new language.

War brides, en route to Canada aboard S.S. Letitia, waving goodbye to families and friends.

War brides, en route to Canada aboard S.S. Letitia, waving goodbye to families and friends. (Source Mikan 3352285)

On this new page, you will find records from a variety of sources. The majority are found in the records of National Defence, Department of Employment and Immigration, Department of External Affairs, the Directorate of Repatriation, and the Canadian Wives′ Bureau, but many also come from private organizations.

Visit the War Brides page to explore the printed and archival resources available at Library and Archives Canada.

Notarial Records

Would you like to know more about the daily lives of your New France and Quebec ancestors? Then you might be interested in looking at notarial records, where you can find a wealth of information about your ancestors’ goods and properties, and any transactions they may have entered into with others. The oldest known notarial record dates back to 1635.

A notarial record is a private agreement written by a notary in the form of a contract. Some of the most common ones are marriage contracts, wills, estate inventories, leases, and sales contracts.

Notarial records are held by the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), but Library and Archives Canada holds copies of some records in the collection, Fonds des greffes de notaires du Québec. You can also use the advanced archives search to look up the name of an individual or a notary.

Sale made by Nicolas Réaume and Charles-Noël Réaume to their brother Alexis. Notary F. Le Guay, May 9, 1781. Library and Archives Canada, MG18, H-44, vol. 8, 4 pages.

Sale made by Nicolas Réaume and Charles-Noël Réaume to their brother Alexis. Notary F. Le Guay, May 9, 1781. Library and Archives Canada, MG18, H-44, vol. 8, 4 pages. (MIKAN 2313614)

How to search for notarial records

You can use a variety of tools to search for notarial records. For the oldest records from 1635 to 1784, consult the Parchemin database, developed by the Archiv-Histo historical research society (French only), which provides an abstract of each notarial record (date of the record, name of the notary, names of the parties, etc.). Parchemin is available at BAnQ, and in some public libraries, and archives.

You can also consult several name indexes (French only) for various regions in Quebec. Through a large-scale digitization project, you also have access to online directories and indexes of notaries from all regions of Quebec up to 1933 through BAnQ’s Archives des notaires du Québec (French only).

Once you have found a reference, you can consult the original record on paper or on microfilm. You may even be able to consult it online as BAnQ, in collaboration with FamilySearch, will eventually have all the records available online.

A paradise for genealogists: Quebec’s civil registers

As any genealogist will tell you, researchers whose ancestors lived in Quebec are fortunate. The sheer volume of surviving civil registers and the manner in which both Catholic and Protestant registers were kept make them a valuable resource. In fact, Quebec has been called “a genealogist’s paradise!”

The careful recording of vital statistics in Quebec is largely due to a series of religious and civil ordinances and regulations originating under French rule.

The historical influence of France

The year 2014 marks the 475th anniversary of the Ordonnance de Villers-Cotterêts [Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts] (in French only), signed in August 1539 by the King of France, Francis I, in what is now the department of Aisne. Under this edict, priests were required to register baptisms and burials. In 1579, another ordinance signed at Blois required that marriages be registered.

With the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and the publication of the Rituale Romanum de 1614, [Roman Ritual of 1614], the Roman Catholic Church further emphasized the importance of civil registration, specifying how to record the names of the godfather and godmother, witnesses, parents, etc.

Finally, in 1667, the Ordonnance de Saint-Germain-en-Laye [Ordinance of Saint-Germain-en-Laye] introduced the practice of keeping duplicate copies; one copy was kept by the priest and the second was filed with civil authorities at the end of the year. This ensured the preservation of innumerable registers that could have been destroyed or lost forever had only one copy existed.

Applications in New France and modern Quebec

These regulations took effect in New France in 1621 and were enforced by local authorities. Following the Conquest of 1760, the British authorities chose to retain it, recognizing the value of this system.

In Quebec, civil status registers have the following characteristics:

  • There are three types of acts: baptism, marriage and burial.
  • The acts are drawn up by parish priests.
  • They are presented chronologically, usually within a single register.
  • They are subject to two separate regulations: ecclesiastical and civil.

See Vital Statistics: Births, Marriages and Deaths to learn more about these documents and how to consult them.

Happy searching!

Major Update to the 1861 Census of Canada Database

Following the release of the 1861 Census of Canada database in 2013, a number of missing records and misplaced images were reported by Library and Archives Canada clients and staff. We corrected over 133,000 entries! Following is a list of improvements to the database.

Canada West and Canada East Issues

In Canada West, the records for the cities of Hamilton, Kingston, London, Ottawa and Toronto were previously reported missing but the records did exist. The five cities, although enumerated separately in 1861, were tucked away amongst their neighbouring rural districts. For example, the city of Ottawa was listed under the district of Carleton and the city of Kingston was listed under Frontenac. The five cities are now correctly identified as districts and their respective wards are identified as sub-districts.

Additionally in Canada West, the rural districts of Renfrew and Russell were also reported as missing. The records for those two districts and their sub-districts can now be searched. In the rural district of Kent, the sub-districts of Camden and Gore, the town of Chatham, and the district of Chatham have been correctly identified. The images in the districts of Brant and Dundas are now correctly linked.

In Canada East, several image linking errors were corrected, particularly in the districts of Argenteuil, Montcalm and St-Jean.

Census Databases Online

Library and Archives Canada’s website currently contains 15 census databases. While conducting your family research, perhaps you have found an entry for an ancestor whose name was transcribed incorrectly or his/her age was misread by the transcriber. We can fix that!

To request a correction, click on the link, “Suggest a Correction” on the item page and provide your email address and an explanation. Once we have confirmed that the suggestion reflects the content of the original census record, the revised transcription will appear on our website. Remember that spelling variations are common and that a surname may have changed over time. Therefore, playing around with different spellings of a surname increases your chances of finding your ancestor. Using Soundex — a way to find phonetic variations of your name — can also be helpful.

Enjoy your time travels in the last census before Canada’s Confederation!

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

 

The 375th anniversary of the arrival of the Ursulines in Quebec City

Quebec City is celebrating a number of significant anniversaries in 2014, including the 350th anniversary of the founding of the parish of Notre-Dame de Québec, and the 375th anniversary of the arrival of the Ursuline Sisters—pioneers in education in Quebec — and the Augustinian Sisters.

The origins of the Ursulines in Europe

The Company of St. Ursula was founded by Angela Merici in 1535, at Brescia, Italy, to promote Christian values within the family, society and the Church. After the Council of Trent, the Company was restructured to become a cloistered order, devoted primarily to educating young girls. Ursuline convents soon sprang up across Europe, in particular throughout France.

The establishment of the Ursulines in New France

In 1639, Madame de La Peltrie financed the founding of a convent and the first school for girls in New France. She left France aboard the St. Joseph with three nuns from the Ursuline convent at Tours: Marie (Guyart) de l’Incarnation, who was canonized by Pope Francis in 2014, Marie de Saint-Joseph and Cécile de Sainte-Croix. They, along with a group of Augustinian nuns, endured an arduous crossing that took three months.

Earliest Ursuline sisters with Amerindian pupils at Quebec City

Earliest Ursuline sisters with Amerindian pupils at Quebec City. (MIKAN 2895625)

The first Ursuline school, established in Quebec City’s Lower Town, received about 18 French and Amerindian boarders. Like their Augustinian counterparts, the Ursuline Sisters moved to the Upper Town in 1642, to a site their order still occupies today. The Ursulines provided accommodation for the Filles du Roi when they first landed in Quebec City, as well as for English captives in the early 18th century. One of those captives was Esther Wheelwright, who would eventually become the community’s superior. From Quebec City, the Ursulines expanded to found convents and schools around Quebec and New Brunswick, as well as in Japan and Peru.

To learn more

Library and Archives Canada has a number historical documents on the Ursuline community, mainly in the Fonds de la Congrégation de Sainte-Ursule and the Marie de l’Incarnation Fonds. You can also do an archives search to find other documents or images. For a definitive history of the Ursulines (in French only), we recommend Les Ursulines de Québec 1639–1953, by Dom Guy-Marie Oury.

The 375th anniversary of the arrival of the Augustinians in Quebec City

Quebec City is celebrating a number of significant anniversaries in 2014, including the 350th anniversary of the founding of the parish of Notre-Dame de Québec, and the 375th anniversary of the arrival of the Augustinian Sisters (in French only)—pioneers in health care in Quebec—and the Ursuline Sisters.

The establishment of a hospital in New France

In 1637, the Duchess of Aiguillon, niece of Cardinal Richelieu, agreed to finance the founding of a hospital in Quebec City to care for the Aboriginal population and the colonists. On August 1, 1639, the first three Augustinian Hospitaller Sisters arrived in Quebec City after a long and arduous three-month crossing on board the Saint-Joseph. Those three Sisters were Marie Guenet de Saint-Ignace, who was the first superior of the community, Anne Lecointe de Saint-Bernard and Marie Forestier de Saint-Bonaventure-de-Jésus.

They founded a first hospital in Sillery, on the outskirts of Quebec City, near the Jesuits. However, with the Iroquois threat, the Sisters felt it best to remain within the walls of the city, and opened the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec in 1646, in Quebec City’s Upper Town. The Augustinian Sisters not only took care of the sick at the hospital, they also took in abandoned children between 1800 and 1850, and welcomed and cared for immigrants upon their arrival at the port of Quebec City.

Among the women who joined the order was the first nun of Canadian birth, Marie-Françoise Giffard (daughter of seigneur Robert Giffard), and Marie-Catherine de Saint-Augustin (beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1989).

Hôtel-Dieu, Quebec City, ca. 1822–1832

Hôtel-Dieu, Quebec City, ca. 1822–1832. (MIKAN 2898815)

The Augustinians today

The work of the Augustinians forms the basis of today’s health care system in Quebec. The nuns founded a total of 12 monastery hospitals throughout Quebec, acting as administrators, nurses and pharmacists. Today, all of those hospitals form part of Quebec’s public health network and are still in operation.

To learn more

Library and Archives Canada has a number of records relating to the Augustinian community and their first hospital, in particular the Fonds de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec. You can also do an archives search to find other documents or images. For a definitive history of the Augustinians, we recommend La croix et le scalpel : histoire des Augustines et de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, 1639–1989 (in French only), by François Rousseau.

William Redver Stark: Restoring the Sketchbooks

Different approaches have been tried over the years for conserving sketchbooks or bound volumes. For a long time, the works were simply detached in order to remove the binding. Nowadays, the historical and archival value of the binding is widely recognized. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is no exception in this regard, and conservation treatments are now designed to preserve the work in its entirety, including the binding.

In a previous article, we introduced you to the work of soldier William Redver Stark. The sketchbooks that are part of the William Redver Stark fonds were never repaired or preserved, and were beginning to show signs of wear:

  • Tears and holes
  • Pages detached, missing or in the wrong order
  • Broken binding threads
  • Covers weakly bound to pages or completely detached

The sketchbooks therefore are undergoing various conservation treatments, undertaken by a team of LAC’s highly specialized conservators in the field of book conservation and restoration. These conservators worked with the collection managers and archivists to respect the integrity of Stark’s work, and to give him his full moment of glory.

The drawings and watercolours in this collection are in very good condition. Some even look like they might have been completed only a few days ago. It should be noted that the sketchbooks remained closed for nearly a hundred years, and that the pages were rarely exposed to air or light. Thus, to study a Stark work is to travel through time, to see the work of an artist exactly as it was created a hundred years ago, during one of the most deadly and crucial wars of our time.

In sum, the restoration work done by LAC‘s conservation and restoration team will make it possible to stabilize the condition of the sketchbooks in order to ensure that they will withstand the ravages of time, and will allow future generations to have access to an important part of our history.

Example of a required restauration treatment: the adhesive tape must be removed.

Example of a required restauration treatment: the adhesive tape must be removed.
© Library and Archives Canada

Another example of a required restauration treatment : the cover must be sewn back on.

Another example of a required restauration treatment : the cover must be sewn back on.
© Library and Archives Canada

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