Join the dance! – Dance Archives at LAC

Did you know that Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has fonds and collections related to dance in Canada? These include fascinating documents in a variety of formats on many aspects of this major component of the performing arts.

These fonds illustrate the careers of the founder of the National Ballet of Canada, Celia Franca, and a few of its principal dancers, including Veronica Tennant and Karen Kain.

Other fonds focus on the achievements of companies and artists in the field of modern dance, including the Groupe de la Place Royale, co-founded in 1966 by choreographers and dancers Jeanne Renaud and Peter Boneham. LAC also holds the fonds for the Toronto Dance Theatre and the Margie Gillis Dance Foundation, which are among the leading institutions in modern dance.

The collection also includes archives from schools of dance and of dance pioneers in Canada, including the Lacasse-Morenoff, the Gina Vaubois and the Ottawa Ballet Company, founded by Nesta Toumine in 1947, and Alex Pereima, ballet dancer and arts administrator.

At the same time, there are a certain number of fonds related to institutions that support dance companies and artists in Canada, including the Canada Council for the Arts, the 
National Arts Centre Corporation
, the Canadian Conference of the Arts and the Dance in Canada Association.

Many dance-related posters and photographs can be found through our Archives Image Search tool, using the keywords “dance” or “ballet.” You are also invited to consult our Flickr album.

Keep in mind that not all of our documents are available online. However, you can order archived documents through our online Request for Retrieval of Documents form. Please consult our article on How to consult material that is not yet available online for more information.

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

The Man Behind the Grey Cup

Although Albert Henry George Grey, 4th Earl Grey won’t be at this year’s 100th Grey Cup game and party, he would no doubt be proud of his legacy. Earl Grey, who served as Governor General of Canada from 1904 to 1911, commissioned and donated the trophy, which bears his name for posterity.

In the spirit of promoting Canadian sports and culture, Lord Grey first intended to donate a trophy for the senior amateur hockey championship in Canada. But Sir Hugh Andrew Montagu Allan beat him to it, and today the Allan Cup continues to serve that role. Not to be deterred from making a name for himself in Canadian sports, Lord Grey donated the Grey Cup as an annual award for the senior amateur football champions, in 1909.

Lord Grey only lived eight more years after donating the cup, dying in his home in Howick, England, in 1917. However, his contribution to Canadian football lives on and this year the Canadian Football League celebrates the 100th Grey Cup championship. Millions of Canadians will be watching the championship game on Sunday, November 25, either live in Toronto or on televisions across the country and around the world.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds many resources relating to the history of the Grey Cup. To learn more about the life and activities of Grey himself, you can consult the Albert Henry George Grey, 4th Earl Grey fonds.

LAC is also pleased to feature footage of the first Grey Cup game in 1909 between two Toronto teams; the 1931 final; and the legendary “Mud Bowl” from 1950, on its YouTube channel.

There are many images in LAC’s holdings that show how the Grey Cup has become part of the Canadian consciousness, weaving its way into everything from federal and provincial politics to marital relations.

Don’t forget to browse LAC’s football Flickr set!

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

Home Children—Introduction

The immigration of children from Great Britain accounts for a significant part of Canadian history. Between 1869 and the end of the 1930s, religious authorities and philanthropic organizations sent more than 100,000 poor, orphaned or abandoned children—better known as home children—to Canada, believing that they were offering them a better  chance for a healthy life. Many Canadians have an ancestor who experienced this often-misunderstood migration.

Anyone who came to Canada alone as a child was very likely one of the home children. Family members quite possibly obtained information on this from written documents or oral histories.

Library and Archives Canada has several genealogical records on home children, including passenger lists, correspondence, inspection report cards and various documents produced by different organizations that took part in the children’s transport and care.

Stay tuned for our upcoming series of articles on home children who later made their mark in Canada’s history, and on well-known people whose ancestors were home children. The series will help you discover our vast collection of genealogical resources that enable you to trace an ancestor who might have been one of the home children.

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

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at LAC: Services for the Public Available in Ottawa

Colour photograph of stacks. There is an aisle down the middle with rows of books on either side.

Stacks of published material at Library and Archives Canada

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has many buildings across Canada, two of which we introduced you to in A Behind-the-Scenes Look at LAC: The Preservation Centre in Gatineau and A Behind-the-Scenes Look at LAC: The Nitrate Film Preservation Facility.

Another LAC building, located at 395 Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa, is a popular destination for researchers who come regularly to consult the archival and published collections. This facility is home to collections management, public services, description and cataloguing, and administrative functions. There are countless stacks of published material housed on the various floors of the building; however, only the main lobby, and the second, third, and fifth floors are accessible to the public.

Public admission to the research rooms is restricted to registered researchers. Because of the vast amount of material in the collections, researchers must request what they need in advance of their visit so that LAC staff have sufficient time to retrieve it on their behalf.*

If you’re wondering why researchers themselves cannot browse the countless stacks of published material, it is for reasons of safety for both the researchers and the collections. In addition, the sheer volume of material makes it virtually impossible for someone to locate what they need without a good understanding of the collections and how they are organized.

Close to Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada, the 395 Wellington Street facility first opened its doors on June 20, 1967. It cost roughly $13 million to build and features granite and marble finishes, complete with golden mosaic pillars in the main lobby. The building showcases a variety of artwork, such as a sculpture of Italian poet Dante Alighieri by Angelo Biancini and a Henry Moore bronze sculpture entitled “Three Way Piece-Points,” located near the main marble stairwell. The Moore sculpture was presented by the British Government to the people of Canada, along with 10,000 books, to mark this country’s Centennial in 1967.

Glass-engraved panels by artist John Hutton, depicting five themes, can be seen throughout the building. They represent the written word, the spoken word, important writers, Apollo and the Muses, and the birth of Canada. You can also view them on our Facebook page!

A series of murals adorns the research rooms on the second floor. The Comfort Murals contain two works known as “Heritage” and “Legacy.” They were commissioned more than 25 years ago by Charles Fraser Comfort, a past Director of the National Gallery of Canada. The Pellan Murals are the work of Quebec artist Alfred Pellan, completed in 1968. Each of these abstract paintings features a kaleidoscope of colour presented in a collage-style interpretation. “The Alphabets” is displayed on the western wall, and “Knowledge” is displayed on the eastern wall.

The history of this Government of Canada building is recorded in the CBC Digital Archives soundtrack 1967: The National Library of Canada opens new HQ.

*Please note that our core services are offered from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. To learn more about all of our services, please consult the previous article “What can you do at 395 Wellington Street before your appointment?

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

From Enlistment to Burial Records Part II: The Canadian Forces in the Second World War

For many Canadians, Remembrance Day on November 11 is evocative of the selfless contribution of the Canadian Forces. The eleventh day of the eleventh month
brings to the forefront the memory of those who died while serving their country in the Armed Forces. Each year, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) receives countless queries about military services files of individuals who served after 1918 (including the Second World War).

Once again, our experts have put together some answers to many of the most frequently asked questions. Keep in mind that, in addition to consulting the content below, a great place to begin your research is on our Genealogy and Family History’s Military pages.

– Is the person still alive? When did he/she serve?

Access to personal information included in a person’s personnel file requires that his/her signed consent. If you served in the Canadian Forces, consult our Canadian Forces after 1918 section to find out how to request copies of your own service file.


If the person is deceased, the date of death has an impact on what information is released.

If the individual died less than 20 years ago, limited information may be released to the immediate family. Proof of death and relationship must be provided.

There are no restrictions on access to information relating to an individual who has been deceased for more than 20 years. Proof of death is required.

Newspaper obituaries are a key tool in genealogy and help when researching military service files. Our online catalogue AMICUS can be searched to locate and borrow newspapers.

Consult our article “How to Find a Canadian Newspaper on Microfilm” for more

If the person died while in service between 1939 and 1947, the service files are open to the public. References to those service files can be found in our Second World War Service Files: Canadian Armed Forces War Dead database.

Consult our article “How to Order Military Records from the Personnel Records Unit” to learn how to obtain a copy of these files.

– Beyond the service files:

Once you have a copy of the service file, some questions will be answered but other questions will arise: In what battles did the person serve? Where is he/she buried? Our previous article “From Enlistment to Burial Records Part I: The Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War” describes key sources that are equally relevant to post First World War research, such as War Diaries, Veterans Death Cards, and Medals, Honours and Awards databases.

– Even more places to look!

Finding aids such as The Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and our article on “Published Histories: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war” contain a wealth of information on military activities.

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

Animals in War (1914–1918)

Colour poster depicting countryside combat, with a horse-drawn tank and soldiers fleeing from the cannonade.

During the First World War, the terrain on the front lines was often muddy and without paved roads, which made it difficult to use motor vehicles. This is why armies relied on a wide array of beasts of burden, including horses. These animals were used primarily by cavalry troops, but they also served to haul cannons, ammunition and food, as well as to pull non-motorized ambulances. Horses were ever-present in the theatre of operations.In September 1914, the first contingent of troops to leave Canada for England loaded up 7,636 horses! Although they belonged to the cavalry units, most of the horses were purchased by the Canadian government from private owners to meet army needs. Hundreds of thousands of additional horses were subsequently sent to the front lines. By the end of the war, the army had lost eight million horses in combat.

Other animals were also used by the army during the First World War. Mules, donkeys and cattle primarily transported materials, ammunition and food. In eastern regions, such as Egypt, camels were also used.

The terrain—continually bombarded in some areas or very mountainous in others—made it difficult to communicate, so winged or furry messengers were called
in. There were even special units responsible for maintaining a flock of carrier pigeons, ready to be sent with messages tied to their legs. Dogs were also used as messengers.

Colour sketch of a brown dog sitting.

Colour sketch of a brown dog sitting. Source

The Canadian Army had a Veterinary Corps at the time, with blacksmith and farrier units who all saw to the care of work animals. During the conflict, veterinary hospitals and mobile veterinary units were created behind the front lines to treat animals and make sure they were well fed.
At all times, animals were alongside soldiers on the front as companions in misfortune. From the very beginning, military mascots have served to represent the group who adopted them. Even members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force had mascots during the First World War, as shown in the following image.

Group of soldiers around a goat wearing a cape with insignia.

Mascot of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Battalion, August 1916. Source

Visit our Flickr album for more photographs.

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

From Enlistment to Burial Records: The Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War

Each year, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) receives countless questions on how to locate military services files, such as:

  • How do I find out more about a soldier (or a nursing sister) in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)?
  • When and where did he enlist?
  • How old did the soldier say he was? (Many underage soldiers gave an earlier year of birth when they enlisted)

A great place to begin your research is on our Genealogy and Family History’s Military pages.

To help guide you through the process, our experts have put together the following explanations.

Attestation papers

Also known as “enlistment” documents, these records indicate the date and place of birth, the marital status and the name and address of the next of kin.

The Soldiers of the First World War database contains references to more than 600,000 people who served during that conflict. Most of the corresponding attestation (enlistment) papers can be viewed online, including those of the Nursing Sisters.

To learn more, consult our article “Canadians and the First World War: Discover our Collection”.

Service files

These records contain key documents such as record of service, casualty form, discharge certificate and medal card. It also provides the name or number of
the unit in which the individual served overseas.

Find more information in our articles “What You Will Find in a Canadian Military Service File” and “Understand the Abbreviations Commonly Found in Military Service Files”.

War diaries

The War Diaries are a daily account and historical record of a unit’s administration, operations and activities.

Consult the War Graves page for information on the burial location of a soldier who was killed in action.

If the soldier survived the war, the Veterans Death Cards give information such as the next of kin, burial location and date of death. The digitized images, which are in alphabetical order, can be navigated in sequential order.

For the soldier who was decorated, a nominal index to medal registers, citation cards and records of various military awards provides further information on many soldiers’ achievements.

Our article “War Diaries: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war” can also guide you with your research.

Published histories

For an easy-to-read overview of the unit’s activities, we recommend starting with “published histories.” These books are often called “regimental histories” and our article Published Histories: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war” will give you more information.

Thematic guides

The Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force
lists references to records and files that complement the research in First World War records. This thematic guide further describes the contribution of most units in the CEF.

Other past articles of interest this Remembrance Day:

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

Reference Appointment by Skype

Did you know that we now use Skype to answer your reference questions? You can take advantage of the Skype reference appointment service when you need to meet with a specialist at Library and Archives Canada but cannot come to Ottawa, or when you wish to prepare for your visit ahead of time.

Through Skype, a reference specialist (archivist or librarian) will help you navigate our online tools, locate documents in our vast collection and clarify any conditions of access that may apply. You can follow along through a screen-sharing feature, share links through instant messaging and, of course, communicate with us by voice and video.

Before booking an appointment, make sure to consult our tips on how to get started with your research and other frequently asked questions. You can also peruse the Library and Archives Canada Blog to see if your question has already been answered.

To book your 30-minute Skype reference appointment, please contact us by telephone at 613-996-5115 (or toll free at 1-866-578-7777). You can also email us
by using our “Ask Us a Question” form. Please provide the following information:

  • your question
  • a preferred date and time (we are available Monday to Friday, between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time)
  • that you would like a Skype appointment
  • your phone number (in case we have trouble reaching you by Skype or by email)
  • your Skype name

A reference specialist will contact you via Skype the day of your appointment.

If you are new to Skype, download the Freeware.

We look forward to meeting with you, wherever you may be!

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