New version of the Naturalization Records, 1915-1951 database

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce the release of a new version of the online database Naturalization Records, 1915-1951. The nominal index has been extended with the addition of more than 93,000 names and now covers the years from 1915 to 1939, inclusively. Work is ongoing to extend the nominal index to 1951, and volunteers are welcome to help. Those interested should write to Cdn-Nat-Coord@jgs-montreal.org.

This database is one of the few Canadian genealogical resources specifically designed to benefit researchers having roots other than British. The reference numbers indicated in the database can be used to request copies of the original naturalization records, which are held by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Library and Archives Canada would like to thank the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal and its volunteers, without whom this project would not have happened.

Indigenous Heritage Portal

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce updates to the Indigenous Heritage portal. Representing Canada’s three Aboriginal groups: the First Nations, Métis and Inuit, the portal offers material organized by cultural group and subject, as well as resources for Indian residential school research.

Whether you are a first-time or experienced researcher, the portal will be the starting point for anyone interested in Indigenous Heritage. It offers a wealth of resources held by LAC, ranging from archival and published materials, to research guides, tools and databases. These resources include existing material, such as the Indian Affairs Annual Reports, 1864-1990, as well as a new resource called the Guide to the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada “File History Cards, 1872-1984″.

Over the coming months, new research tools will be added to the portal as they become available.

The Battle of Ortona

December 1943. While the Allied offensive in Italy stagnated on the Western Front outside Cassino, the British Eighth Army, which included the 1st Canadian Division, was advancing on the Eastern Front. The Canadians received orders to push forward and liberate the port town of Ortona.

From December 6 to December 8, Canadian regiments crossed the Moro River. Only three kilometres from the road to Ortona, they encountered a huge obstacle: a gully running parallel to the road. Canadian units would suffer extensive casualties in repeated attempts to cross the gully. On December 13, “C” Company of the Royal 22e Régiment, supported by the Ontario Regiment’s Sherman tanks, made it across the gully and advanced toward the road between Rome and Ortona. Under German fire, the survivors withdrew to Casa Berardi and fiercely defended their position. Captain Paul Triquet, commander of “C” Company, would be awarded the Victoria Cross for his courageous and determined leadership throughout this engagement.

Despite the breach, Canadian forces met strong German resistance from the many entrenched positions along the length of the gully. However, the capture of a strategic crossroads by the Royal Canadian Regiment on December 19 paved the way for the final push to Ortona.

On December 21, troops from the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, supported by tanks from the Régiment de Trois-Rivières, launched an assault on the town of Ortona. Canadian Command had expected the German paratroopers to retreat as soon as the Allies struck; instead, they put up a stubborn defence of the town.

The Canadians finally took Ortona on December 27. The ruined town was dubbed “Little Stalingrad.” With the Italian winter setting in, it was here their advance was halted. Canadian troops left the Adriatic front at the end of April and moved south of Cassino in preparation for the Liri Valley offensive.

Library and Archives Canada’s collection contains numerous textual, photographic, audiovisual and published materials relating to the Battle of Ortona. You can also consult Mark Zuehlke’s book, Ortona: Canada’s Epic World War II Battle, to learn more about the topic.

Be sure to view our Battle of Ortona photo set on Flickr, and read our previous post, “Understanding the Italian Campaign,” if you haven’t already!

Where art and history meet: exhibitions of historical photographs at the National Gallery of Canada

What happens when the practical also has a poetic side?

In recent months, visitors to the National Gallery of Canada have had a chance to explore the answer to this question. A series of small exhibitions of historical photographs, drawn from Library and Archives Canada’s collection, considers the aesthetic, as well as the documentary properties of images created “on-the-job” by 19th-century surveyors, public servants and engineers.

In the heart of the Rocky Mountains: A snowstorm, by Charles Horetzky

In the heart of the Rocky Mountains: A snowstorm, by Charles Horetzky (Source: MIKAN 3264251, e011067226)

At first glance, this beautiful photograph, which was part of the past exhibition Early Exploration Photographs in Canada, seem to be exactly as labelled — a view of the Peace River in British Columbia, as it appeared during a snowstorm in October 1872. It turns out, however, that Charles Horetzky, official photographer with Sir Sandford Fleming’s Canadian Pacific Railway survey team, deliberately enhanced its dramatic effect: paint splatters were added to the image in order to create the effect of non-existent snow.

The current exhibition, Paul-Émile Miot: Early Photographs of Newfoundland, on view until February 2, 2014, includes this portrait from the 1800s, by French naval officer Paul-Émile Miot.

Mi’kmaq man, by Paul-Émile Miot

Mi’kmaq man, by Paul-Émile Miot (Source: MIKAN: 3535989, e011076347)

It was taken while surveying and mapping the coastal areas of Newfoundland — at the time, France maintained a commercial fishing interest in these waters. Though Miot was capturing the earliest known photographs of members of the Mi’kmaq Nation, the extravagant pose of his subject suggests 19th-century European romanticism.

So-called inaccuracies or created effects in 19th-century documentary photographs do not negate the worth of these images as records of past events. If anything, they add fascinating nuances of meaning to these items, as artifacts.

We invite you to stay tuned for the next exhibition, on Arctic exploration photography, opening on February 7, 2014.

Understanding the Italian Campaign (1943-1945)

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the battles fought by Canadian troops on Italian soil during the Second World War. Why Italy? In 1942, the Soviets were calling for the opening up of a second front in Western Europe to provide relief from German attacks on their territory. Convinced that there were insufficient resources to invade France, the Americans backed Britain’s proposal to organize a landing on the coast of French North Africa instead, which took place on November 8, 1942 (Operation Torch) The campaign to drive the Germans out of Africa was successfully concluded in Tunisia on May 13, 1943. The offensive continued in Italy, considered to be the weakest link in the German defences in Europe.

Under the command of the British Eighth Army, the 1st Canadian Division came ashore on the beaches of Sicily on July 10, 1943. With the capture of Messina by the Americans on August 18, the conquest of Sicily was complete. On September 3, Canadian troops landed in mainland Italy. Meeting no opposition, the brigades were able to deploy rapidly. Italy capitulated on September 8, and the next day, Anglo-American landings were launched in the Gulf of Salerno.

Three critical battles will forever stand out in Canadian military history: the battle of Ortona, the breach of the Hitler Line (Liri Valley), and the breach of the Gothic Line. The Italian Campaign continued until the spring of 1945, but the Canadians would not participate in the final victory; after having engaged in vicious fighting for 18 months, Canadian troops were withdrawn from the front at the end of January 1945 and redeployed to the Netherlands.

As a result of the attention focused on the Normandy landings and the North-West Europe Campaign, there is a tendency to overlook the importance of the Italian Front and the Allied soldiers who fought there. A total of 92,757 Canadians served in Italy. Of these, 5,764 were killed, 19,486 were wounded and 1,004 were captured. Library and Archives Canada’s collection contains numerous textual, photographic and audiovisual records and published materials relating to the Italian Campaign.

Learn more about this subject:

Government of Canada Acquires Historically Significant Documents About the 1758 Siege of Louisbourg

Library and Archives Canada has acquired a two-part manuscript diary about the 1758 siege of Louisbourg in Cape Breton. The siege, a substantial battle of the Seven Years’ War, ended the French colonial era in Atlantic Canada, and contributed to France’s loss of Quebec City in 1759. The loss of Louisbourg, Quebec City and Montreal in 1760 led to the 1763 Treaty of Paris when France formally ceded Canada to Britain. “Our Government is pleased to have acquired this historically important manuscript diary, as it provides a rare glimpse, from a French perspective, into one of the most important events in Canada’s history,” said the Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. The two-part diary, totalling about 180 pages, was written by an unknown French infantry officer from the “Régiment de Cambis” who witnessed the events during the summer of 1758. The diary’s first part details the siege, defense and capture of Louisbourg from the witness’ point of view. The second part describes the aftermath of the French surrender on the troops and more specifically, on the fate of “Régiment de Cambis”, which was held in captivity in England until 1759. These singular, original documents will greatly enrich Library and Archives Canada’s collection related to these events. The item was acquired for a total of about Can$50,000, including insurance, transportation and auction house fees, at an auction held by Sotheby’s in New York yesterday.

Did your ancestors come from Finland?

Do you want to know who your first Finnish ancestor was and when he or she left Finland and arrived in Canada? Are you curious about your Finnish origins?

If so, our website is a great place to begin your research. Here you will find a page dedicated to genealogical research on the Finns. This page provides you with historical information, archival documents and published material from the Library and Archives Canada collection, as well as links to other websites and institutions.

If your ancestor came to Canada between 1865 and 1935, you might find his or her name on the passenger lists.

Kingston Penitentiary: Home to Canada’s most notorious criminals

Canada’s oldest penitentiary opened on June 1, 1835, under the name “Provincial Penitentiary for Upper Canada.” Located in Portsmouth, now part of Kingston, this institution was designated for the incarceration of prisoners from both Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Kingston Pen, as it is commonly known, closed its doors on September 30, 2013.

Who were the inmates over the course of the penitentiary’s 178 years of existence? To discover their stories, consult the Kingston Penitentiary inmate history description ledgers, which have been digitized and can be viewed on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website.

The ledgers provide photographs (mug shots) of inmates and information such as name; alias; age; place of birth; physical description; occupation; crime committed; and date, place and length of sentence.

Sample page, Kingston Penitentiary inmate history description ledgers.

Sample page, Kingston Penitentiary inmate history description ledgers. Source

To find the pictures of some of the inmates who were incarcerated at the Kingston Penitentiary, search for a person’s name in the Archives Search menu.

  1. On the left of the screen, under Archives Search, click on the Advanced option. The advanced search screen will appear.
  2. Type the word Kingston in the first search box, leaving the default “Any Keyword” in the drop-down menu. In the second search box, type the surname of the inmate, leaving the default “Any Keyword” in the drop-down menu.
  3. From the Type of material drop-down menu, select Photographic material.
  4. From the Online drop-down menu, click on Yes, then click on Submit. Your search will generate a list of results.
  5. Select an underlined title to access the full description of the photograph. The descriptive records display images of photographs that have been digitized.

Where else to look

Census returns, the official record of the population of Canada, also list the inmates who were incarcerated at the time of the census enumeration. In addition, nominal indexes can be searched for a reference to an inmate’s name. Remember that spelling variations are common.

Search for books on the Kingston Penitentiary and other Canadian penitentiaries in AMICUS using the author’s name, the book title, or subject keywords such as Kingston (or name of the city), penitentiary, prisons and criminals.