Discover Finding Aids!

Did you know that the concept of the finding aid dates back to the very origins of archives? The ancient Sumerians created finding aids on clay tablets so that they could locate specific bureaucratic documents. We have moved a long way from the clay tablet, but the principles of the finding aid remain the same.

An archive contains all of the documents created and used by a person, family, government institution, or corporate body in the course of that creator’s activities or functions. Generally called fonds or collections, the documents of an archive are arranged in a hierarchy, from the general to the specific. In other words, from the fonds level to the item level:

Fonds/Collection

(Sous-fonds – if it exists)

Series

(Sub-series – if it exists)

File

Item

If you have never used an archive before, you may wish to consult the guide Using Archives: A Practical Guide for Researchers for more information.

Finding aids are tools that provide information about the archival documents held in a fonds or a collection. While finding aids can take many forms, they are generally used in the same way. Researchers use finding aids to help determine whether a certain fonds or collection of archival materials contains the documents, photographs, etc. that they might need to consult for their research project. Finding aids are created for fonds or collections but can also be created for series and sub-series of very large fonds or collections.

One of the most common types of finding aid is the content list. It typically provides general file-level reference information and contains the following elements:

  • Archival fonds orcollection code (i.e.,MG26-A or RG10)
  • Volume or box numbers
  • File number (and sometimes a file part number)
  • File title
  • Date of creation or date range of documents held within a file

It does not provide content listings of all the documents in each file.

For a percentage of our collection, there are no content lists available. For example, lists are not created for collections of less than 10 boxes of material. Many photographic and cartographic collections do not have content lists. Some older holdings of government documents also lack content lists.

Lastly, not everything is available online;for some fonds or collections, the content list exists in paper format only, and must be consulted in person. You may also order copies of material by following the instructions outlined in our post “How to Order Digitized Reproductions and Help Build the Digital Collection.

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

How to Order Newspapers on Microfilm via Interlibrary Loan

If you read our post on How to Find a Canadian Newspaper on Microfilm, you already know what newspapers we have! Now you might ask: “How can I access them?”

Easy! Borrow any newspaper on microfilm from our collection through interlibrary loan (ILL)*.

For example, to access all the issues of the Montréal Journal for June 1904, just follow these steps.

  1. Go to our Microform Holdings section that lists localities by province. Then, select Montréal to find the Montréal Journal.
  2. Record the information provided for that daily newspaper. In this case: Journal.NJ.FM.1147 16 dé 1899- 7 mr 1905 AN 7046754.
  3. Go to your local library and consult a librarian to order the newspaper for a specific date. He or she will need the information you recorded earlier to retrieve your newspaper.
  • Title: Journal
  • Place of publication: Montréal (to avoid getting the Journal for a different city)
  • AMICUS Number: AN 7046754
  • Dates you need: June 1904

The following information is not needed:

  • Microfilm reel number (only required for archival material on microfilm, not newspapers)
  • Shelf number (e.g., NJ.FM.1147)
  • Entire date span (e.g., 16 dé 1899- 7 mr 1905)

Did you know?

  • The loan period is four weeks (eight weeks for Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and outside Canada), including travel time.
  • Each person can borrow 12 reels at a time per title.
  • If your date range is covered on more than 12 reels, you must order those for the remaining dates once the first set of reels has been returned and checked-in.
  • There are no renewals.
  • If you are searching a wide range of dates, start by requesting six reels, then ordering another six a couple of weeks later. This will give you enough time to access the reels you have on hand while others are on the way.

Happy reading!

(*) Update: End of Interlibrary Loan (ILL) Services

ILL services at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will end in December 2012. Users of LAC‘s current services should note the following dates:

  • November 13, 2012: End of loan requests from international libraries.
  • November 16, 2012: End of renewals. All items loaned after this date will be non-renewable.
  • December 11, 2012: End of loan requests, location searches, and ILL-related photocopying services.

LAC‘s ILL listserv (CANRES-L) and Canadian Library Gateway will also be archived in December 2012.

LAC will continue to facilitate interlibrary loan activities among other institutions through the ILL form in AMICUS, and through ongoing administration of Canadian Library Symbols.

Through our modernized service channels, LAC will emphasize increased digital access to high-demand content. LAC is working with Canada’s ILL user community in order to inform this approach to accessing the institution’s unique holdings.

For more information, please visit “Interlibrary Loan at Library and Archives Canada“.

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

Understand the Abbreviations Commonly Found in Military Service Files

In previous posts, we’ve explained how to order Military Service files and we’ve even outlined what type of documents you are likely to find in them; but what happens once you begin reading a Military Service file and see abbreviations? You may recognize some abbreviations, such as “YMCA” (Young Men’s Christian Association), but others, such as “11thIFofC” or “YISMHRCAMC”, may prove to be somewhat puzzling.

Help Is at Hand

Understanding these abbreviations can be difficult, especially if you are unfamiliar with Canadian military history. For this reason, the Genealogy Services have transcribed over 6,000 abbreviations commonly found in these records and have added them to their Genealogy and Family History “What to Search: Topics – Military” Web pages. Using the “List of Abbreviations Used in Military Service Files” link, you can search for the abbreviations in alphabetical order.

Understanding that “11thIFofC” stands for “11th Regiment (Irish Fusiliers of Canada)” or that “YISMHRCAMC” means “York Island Station Military Hospital Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps” will help you decipher the soldier’s life and provide you with a much better understanding of ranks, jobs, regiments and much more.

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

Discover the Access Codes for Archival Records at Library and Archives Canada

Have you ever ordered an archival record only to find out that it is restricted? Archival records may be subject to access restrictions. To find out if a record is open or restricted, you must identify its access code. When you are in the Archives Search database, you can find these codes in the “Conditions of access” section of records descriptions (see image below):

A black-and-white three-column table of a record description in the Library and Archives Canada Archives Search database. On the left is the title “Conditions of Access,” in the middle is the volume number(s), and on the right is the access code “90: Open”.

A sample record description in the Library and Archives Canada Archives Search database. Note the conditions of access in the right column.

The most common access codes are 90, 32, 18 and 10.

  • Open Records (code 90)

Any records that are unrestricted and directly available for consultation are marked as “90: Open.”

  • Government Records (code 32)

Some government records must be reviewed according to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act beforebeing made available. Records restricted under these laws are identified as “32: Restricted by law.” For an example, please consult the Operational records of Prairie Northern Region record description.

To request restricted government records, follow the instructions on our Legislative Restrictions page.

  • Private Records (codes 18 and 10)

Records that are “18: Restricted” can be accessed through an application procedure established by the donor. These restrictions affect what you can consult, as well as what you can copy.

Records that are “10: Closed” cannot be consulted. In some cases, restrictions on closed records are set to be reviewed after a date specified by the donor.

To find out what files are restricted in a private fonds, consult the PDF document linked under “Conditions of Access” in the fonds description. For an example of this type of document, please see the Lester B. Pearson fonds description.

The next post, Discover the Access Codes for Archival Records at Library and Archives Canada – Part II, will review other access codes that apply to archival holdings. Until then, let us know if you have any questions or comments. We would love to hear from you!

How to Consult Material that Is Not Yet Available Online

For Archival Material – Use Archives Search

When searching for archival material (i.e., diaries, photographs etc.), use Archives Search. You will be able to search database records, known as “archival descriptions”. Sometimes the contents of the record have not yet been digitized. When this is the case, use one of the following methods to consult the material:

  • In person at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa: Please order any material that you may require, at least five days prior to your visit, by using our Request for Retrieval of Documents Form.
  • Via interlibrary loan*: If the material you require is available in microfilm format, you may borrow the microfilm reel(s) by interlibrary loan. Locate the alpha-numeric reference number, indicated in the archival description (e.g., C-1234) and provide this number to your local librarian.
  • Ordering reproductions: If you require an item in our collection that has not yet been digitized, follow the steps outlined in our blog post: “How to Order Digitized Reproductions and Help Build the Digital Collection” to order reproductions.

For Published Material – Use Library Search/AMICUS

When searching for published material (i.e., books, newspapers, etc.), use either our Library Search or, for more search features, use our AMICUS catalogue. The search results will often be database records (known as “bibliographic records”) and not full-text online documents. There are three ways you may consult the material:

  • In person at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa: You may order published materials in advance of your visit. Please contact us by telephone and select option 8 in the automated menu. You may request up to five items per day.
  • Via interlibrary loan*: Most published items can be borrowed by interlibrary loan through your local library. Please provide your librarian with the item’s AMICUS number.
  • Ordering reproductions: If you require an item in our collection that has not yet been digitized, follow the steps outlined in our blog post: “How to Order Digitized Reproductions and Help Build the Digital Collection” to order reproductions. Please note that copyright protection may limit what we can reproduce.

(*) Update: End of Interlibrary Loan (ILL) Services

ILL services at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will end in December 2012. Users of LAC‘s current services should note the following dates:

  • November 13, 2012: End of loan requests from international libraries.
  • November 16, 2012: End of renewals. All items loaned after this date will be non-renewable.
  • December 11, 2012: End of loan requests, location searches, and ILL-related photocopying services.

LAC‘s ILL listserv (CANRES-L) and Canadian Library Gateway will also be archived in December 2012.

LAC will continue to facilitate interlibrary loan activities among other institutions through the ILL form in AMICUS, and through ongoing administration of Canadian Library Symbols.

Through our modernized service channels, LAC will emphasize increased digital access to high-demand content. LAC is working with Canada’s ILL user community in order to inform this approach to accessing the institution’s unique holdings.

For more information, please visit “Interlibrary Loan at Library and Archives Canada“.

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

What’s New? The Launch of the Library and Archives Canada Podcast Series

We are pleased to announce the release of the new podcast series, Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

With new episodes released monthly, the podcasts will guide you through our many services and introduce you to the people who acquire, safeguard and make known Canada’s rich documentary heritage.

Subscribe to episodes using RSS or iTunes, or just tune in at:
www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/podcasts/index-e.html

The series, developed and produced by the Resource Discovery Sector at LAC, showcases treasures from our vaults and explores topics such as Aboriginal peoples, transportation, immigration, genealogy, government, as well as military and peacekeeping.

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

For more information on recent announcements at LAC, visit “News”.

How to Search for Your Ancestor in our Genealogy Databases

Did you know that Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has an online Ancestors Search function that combs through many of our genealogical databases at once, simply by using your ancestor’s name?

The Ancestors Search page lists all of our genealogical databases. Those labelled with the letter “G” are included in the Ancestors Search results, while the others can be searched individually.

If you cannot find your ancestor’s name in the Ancestors Search results, try searching in one of our other databases, listed by topic.

The layout of each of our genealogy databases is similar and includes useful tabs on the left menu. For example, the “Search Help” section provides information that will:

  • help you understand the records we have indexed;
  • tell you how to interpret your search results;
  • explain how to consult or obtain copies of documents.

Did you know?

  • Databases can have indexing errors because of poor handwriting, poor legibility, or the fading of ink over time in the original records. If you find an error in the index, use the “Suggest a correction” feature.
  • Some databases allow for wildcard searching, that is, you can substitute a letter with a symbol to allow for more search results. For example, use “Sm*th” for Smith or Smyth, or “Fred*” for Frederick or Fredrich.
  • In the past, many names were written phonetically by the person recording them, such as the priest for a Parish Register or an enumerator for the Census. This resulted in various spellings of the same name.
  • Nicknames or middle names may have been used by your ancestor(s). For example, many French Canadians of the Catholic faith were baptized as Marie or Joseph, and as such, your ancestor(s) may have been registered under one of these names.
  • A woman may have been listed under her married or maiden name.
  • Sometimes individuals anglicized their names. For example, a branch of the “Boisvert” family became the “Greenwood” family. Many immigrants from Eastern European countries also anglicized their names, such as in a branch of the “Kowalchuck” family, which became the “Cowell” family.
  • Names or dates may be different than what you have in your records. Our ancestors did not have to identify themselves as we do today and they might not have known their exact date of birth or date of immigration.

Only a portion of LAC’s genealogical records have been indexed. Visit our Genealogy and Family History pages for more information about genealogy topics and other sources.

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