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 (MIKAN 2946047)

Molson coat of arms (MIKAN 2946047)

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:

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.

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

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.

Mary Riter Hamilton, Canada’s First Unofficial War Artist

It has been 90 years since Mary Riter Hamilton donated 180 of her oil paintings and dozens of her chalk, pastel and pencil drawings depicting the devastation in Europe after the First World War to the Public Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada). These works by Riter Hamilton are not light-hearted. The subject matter deals almost exclusively with the destruction of war. They depict muddy trenches and blighted landscapes, graves and cemeteries, churches and towns ripped apart from shelling.

Memorial for the Second Canadian Division in a Mine Crater near Neuville St. Vaast.

Memorial for the Second Canadian Division in a Mine Crater near Neuville St. Vaast (c105221k)

Mary Riter Hamilton was born in 1873 in Teeswater, Ontario and grew up in Clearwater, Manitoba where her family moved to farm. She married Charles W. Hamilton at the age of 18 and by the age of 23 was widowed. It was soon before the death of her husband that Mary began attending art classes in Toronto. Recognizing her talent, most of her European-trained teachers urged her to further her studies in Paris. Mary studied first in Germany then moved to Paris where she lived and studied for the next eight years. Mary returned to Manitoba for a year in 1906 then again for eight years in 1911. During these years, Mary’s work was exhibited in galleries in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary.

The Sadness of the Somme

The Sadness of the Somme (c104799k)

Always wanting to return to Europe, it was in 1919 while Mary was living and working on Canada’s west coast, that she was offered a commission by the Amputation Club of British Columbia to provide art work for The Gold Stripe, a veteran’s magazine. Mary left immediately, “ … to paint the scenes where so many of our gallant Canadians have fought and died.” For three years, Riter Hamilton worked tirelessly in post-war France and Belgium, painting battlefields including Vimy Ridge and the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele. Conditions were harsh. She lived in make-shift shelters while enduring foul weather and meagre rations. She returned to Canada physically and emotionally spent. Refusing to sell her paintings, Riter Hamilton donated her work to the Public Archives of Canada. She died, poor and visually impaired, in 1954.

As the centenary of the First World War approaches, these works take on a renewed poignancy. Mary Riter Hamilton was never an official ‘war artist’ yet through her courage and talent and indomitable dedication, the sombre beauty and mournful tone of her collection serve as an enduring account of the ravages of war.

Trenches on the Somme

Trenches on the Somme (c104747k)

To learn more about Mary Riter Hamilton, to view more of her work, or to see what materials are contained in the LAC collection, visit: