George Burdon McKean, VC

By John Morden

Today in Library and Archives Canada’s blog series on Canadian Victoria Cross recipients, we remember George Burdon McKean, who earned his Victoria Cross one hundred years ago today for his heroic actions on the battlefield.

A black-and-white photograph of a smiling military officer.

Lieutenant George Burdon McKean, VC, June 1918 (MIKAN 3218939)

Born on July 4, 1888, in Willington, England, McKean immigrated to Canada in 1909 and settled in Edmonton, Alberta. Before enlisting on January 23, 1915, McKean was a schoolteacher. McKean joined the 51st Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and arrived in England in April 1916. On June 8, 1916, McKean transferred to the 14th Battalion.

Sometime in the night of April 27–28, 1918, while the 14th Battalion was stationed near Gavrelle, France, McKean earned the Victoria Cross, Britain’s most prestigious military decoration. During a scouting mission, the party of men led by McKean ran head-on into a strongly defended German position. While the rest of the unit was pinned down by machine gun fire, McKean charged into the German trench with “conspicuous bravery and devotion.” Upon reaching the position, McKean killed two German soldiers, held his ground and called for more bombs. After resupplying, McKean took another position and single-handedly killed another two German soldiers and captured four more. McKean’s example rallied his men and the mission was successful. As reported in the London Gazette two months later:

“This officer’s splendid bravery and dash undoubtedly saved many lives, for had not this position been captured, the whole of the raiding party would have been exposed to dangerous enfilading fire during the withdrawal. His leadership at all times has been beyond praise.”

London Gazette, no. 30770, June 28, 1918

Later, McKean was awarded the Military Medal and Military Cross on March 28, 1917 and February 1, 1919, respectively. He would survive the war, though he would be wounded in the right leg on September 2, 1918 during the Hundred Days Offensive. He remained in England for the rest of the conflict. Following his release from hospital, McKean served as acting captain at the Khaki University of Canada in London, England, until his retirement on July 19, 1919.

He chose to remain in England after leaving the army and was killed in an industrial accident on November 28, 1926. McKean’s final resting place is Brighton Extra Mural Cemetery in Sussex, England.

Today his Victoria Cross is kept at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. McKean is honoured with a mountain named after him in the Victoria Cross Ranges in the Canadian Rockies.

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier in an officer’s uniform with gloves and a cane standing in front of stairs and a window.

Lieutenant George Burdon McKean, VC, undated (MIKAN 3218943)

A black-and-white photograph of a group of soldiers standing and sitting in front of trees in the winter.

Officers of the 14th Battalion, France, February 1918 (MIKAN, 3406029)

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Lieutenant George Burdon McKean.


John Morden is an honours history student from Carleton University doing a practicum in the Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Finding Royalton: Searching the 1921 Census

By Julia McIntosh

For those of you wanting to learn more about searching the Census of Canada, this blog will give you some helpful tips and techniques to use in your own research.

Background

In my work at the reference desk, I received a question about the population data for Royalton, New Brunswick, specifically the number of males between the two World Wars, as the query related to recruitment. “A piece of cake,” I thought, “How difficult can it be?” As a librarian, I tend to head to the first appropriate published document. To my surprise, Royalton was too small to have been mentioned in any of the standard print sources, which focus on larger towns and cities rather than on small rural hamlets or unincorporated villages. It was time to rethink my search strategy.

Two censuses took place between the wars: 1921 and 1931. The former was preferred because it was already digitized and my client would be able to access the documents online (see the 1921 Census).

The Issues

The first issue was to find the exact location of Royalton, according to the census districts and sub-districts. For this, I had to find a contemporary map and compare it with the 1921 Census Districts and Sub-districts: New Brunswick. I also had to determine in which county and parish Royalton was situated and then determine the correct sub-district by the written description provided. Sadly, Internet map sites tend not to provide the county detail required, nor do they provide easy access to maps of the era. However, the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick did just that. Their website told me that Royalton was “Located E of the New Brunswick and Maine border, 3.16 km SW of Knoxford: Wicklow Parish, Carleton County.”

Back to the census districts and sub-districts, I searched for Carleton, assuming that the district would be related to the county name. As we all know, assumptions can be problematic! The district was not under “C,” but “V”—District 48 – Victoria and Carleton. Who knew?

My trials and tribulations were not over, however. Complicating things, there were three sub-districts in Wicklow Parish, with nary a mention of Royalton:

  • Sub-district 11 Wicklow (Parish)
    “For all that portion of the Parish of Wicklow, north and east of the following described line: Beginning at the River Saint John at the Hugh Tweedie farm; thence west along the road known as the ‘Carr Road’ to the Greenfield Road, thence north along said Greenfield Road to the Summerfield Road; thence west along said Summerfield Road to the Knoxford Road, and thence northerly along said Knoxford Road and a prolongation of the same northerly to the line between Carleton and Victoria and to include all those who border on said roads.
  • Sub-district 12 Wicklow (Parish)
    “For all that part of the Parish of Wicklow, south and east of the following line, beginning at the River Saint John at Hugh Tweedie’s farm, thence west along the road known as the ‘Carr Road’to the Greenfield Road, south along said Greenfield Road to the south line of the Parish of Wicklow, and to include those bordering on said Greenfield Road, south of said ‘Carr Road.’”
  • Sub-district 13 Wicklow (Parish)
    “Beginning at a point where the Knoxford Road crosses the county line between Carleton and Victoria, thence running west along said county line until it reaches the American boundary line, thence south along said boundary line until it reaches the Parish of Wilmot, thence east along said Parish line until it reaches the Greenfield Road, thence north along the Greenfield Road until it reaches the Summerfield Road, leading from Summerfield to Knoxford Road, thence following the Summerfield Road west, until it reaches the Knoxford Road; thence north along the Knoxford Road to place of beginning.”

What map to use? As time was of the essence, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for a 1921 Census map to be called up for me, so I checked our digitized map collection. The most current available was a Population map from the 1891 Census. At that time, Royalton was found in the Electoral District of Carleton. Hoping that not much had changed in 30 years, I compared the map with the written descriptions and deduced that Royalton was in Sub-district 13 – Wicklow (Parish). Worried that a map from 1895 might be too old, a subsequent check of the Electoral Atlas of the Dominion of Canada, 1915 confirmed the Electoral District of Victoria and Carleton, but surprisingly, Royalton was missing. At least the county hadn’t changed its boundaries in the intervening years!

A black-and-white map of the Electoral District of Carleton, New Brunswick, with boundaries indicated in a thick red line.

Map of the Electoral District of Carleton (N.B.) taken from the Electoral Atlas of the Dominion of Canada (1895) database. Original source is the Electoral atlas of the Dominion of Canada: according to the Redistribution Act of 1914 and the Amending Act of 1915 (OCLC 1004062506)

The second issue, the identification of those enumerated as living in the village of Royalton, should have been straightforward, but it quickly became evident that this also was going to be complicated. I went to the printed Volume I – Population of the Sixth Census of Canada, 1921, and found Table 8 – Population by Districts and Sub-districts. Under Victoria and Carleton, then Carleton County, I found Wicklow – population 1,689. However, there was no entry for Royalton under the heading Towns, nor was there a breakdown by sex. However, Table 16 – Population…classified by sex gave me the breakdown for Wicklow – 900 males and 789 females. This was definitely getting closer, but remember, Wicklow Parish has three sub-districts, of which no. 13 includes Royalton. I needed to get as close to the census numbers for the village as possible.

Results

My only option at this point was to consult the raw data collected for the census, which meant going to the digitized version of the 1921 Census on our website. A search by keywords Royalton and Province: New Brunswick gave zero results. However, Wicklow and Province: New Brunswick gave 1,600, which more or less tallied with the totals I had already found for the parish. The prospect of going through all those entries was daunting, to say the least.

Luckily, after opening a few pages and skipping around the document, I found a Title page for the enumerations of District 48, Sub-district 13, Wicklow Parish, pages 1-14. Success!

A handwritten title page in black ink, which reads: 1921, N.B. Dist. 48 Carleton, Sub. Dist. 13, Wicklow Parish. Pages 1–14.

Title page for the enumerations of Sub-district 13 – Wicklow Parish, District 48 – Carleton, New Brunswick, 1921 Census.

I still had the dilemma of the breakdown by sex, however. Even though the numbers would be smaller than for all of Wicklow Parish, it would still involve a fair amount of counting. Fortunately, the enumerator had tallied the numbers on the last page of the section for Sub-district 13, Wicklow:

Males – 340; Females – 316

Still hoping for the specific numbers for Royalton, I saw that column 5 on the form was titled “Municipality.” So, with happy expectations, I set out to do the smaller count.

Remember those trials and tribulations that dogged me previously? They hadn’t disappeared in my search for the specific Royalton population count. Royalton first appears on page 3, line 39 for Sub-district 13. The enumerator starts by indicating Royalton by name in the municipality column, but then crosses these entries out and replaces the name with Carleton, which, as we all know, is the county! Subsequently, and consistently, the enumerator enters Carleton as the municipality by page 4.

First page of Census of Canada, 1921 document showing the enumeration entries for Royalton.

Census of Canada, 1921, Province of New Brunswick, District no. 48, Sub-district no. 13. See column 5, Municipality for Royalton.

At this point, I conceded that I wasn’t going to find the number of males in Royalton and passed along the information to my client, who may have been able to further tease apart the specific information by family name.

For more information on searching the 1921 Census, have a look at the section entitled Issues about this census and the database. There are some very helpful tips about navigating from image to image.

Happy searching to all who may be on a quest to find their own Royalton!


Julia McIntosh is a Reference Librarian in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of laboratories now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of six women working on prototype boats at Dr. Alexander Graham Bell’s laboratory.

Women workers at Dr. Alexander Graham Bell’s laboratory, Beinn Bhreagh, Baddeck, Nova Scotia [MIKAN 3193548]

A laboratory is a place where scientific and technological experiments, as well as measurements, are performed. Different types of equipment and tools may be used in a laboratory depending on the field of study, such as science, engineering or pharmaceutics.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman testing synthetic rubber in the Polymer Rubber Corporation laboratory.

Laboratory worker Isobel Futcher of St. Thomas, Ontario, tests synthetic rubber in the Polymer Rubber Corporation laboratory, Sarnia, Ontario [MIKAN 3196991]

A black-and-white photograph of a woman filling 20-cc vials with penicillin at the Connaught Laboratory.

Worker Ruth Osborne fills 20-cc vials with penicillin at the Connaught Laboratory, Toronto, Ontario [MIKAN 3197854]

Early laboratories were small, sometimes even a single room in someone’s house. Dedicated facilities for laboratory research started to appear during the First World War. However, during the Second World War, Canada’s industrial war effort increased dramatically, which contributed to the growth of “big science.” Many laboratory settings became large industrial complexes employing significant numbers of people. Funding for large-scale research projects depended on government investment or consortium partnerships.

A colour photograph of a man in a chemical mixing laboratory preparing various fluids used in developing processes at the National Film Board of Canada.

Bert Hooper, head of the chemical mixing laboratory, supervises the preparation of various fluids for developing processes at the National Film Board of Canada building, Ville Saint-Laurent, Montréal, Quebec [MIKAN 4301640]

Canada has a variety of laboratory environments that range from small to large. Some are privately funded, while others rely on government funds. There is also a mix of co-operative funding between academic institutions, private organizations and public entities.

Visit the Flickr album now!

Come see our latest exhibition – Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada …

Web banner with the words: Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada showing a small picture of an otter fishing on the right

And keep an eye on this blog series…

There is something a bit different about Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) latest exhibition, opening at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, on April 24, 2018.

New exhibition showcases variety

Like other exhibitions, Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada showcases the great variety found in LAC’s collection. A few examples include a Chinese embroidery and a 1952–1953 replica of the original Stanley Cup.

An embroidered golden cloth of two dragons reaching for a pearl and flying amongst clouds with ocean waves rolling below them.

Design for Canada Post’s Year of the Dragon Stamp, Punchline Embroidery Centre, 1998 (e011202235) ©Canada Post. Selected by Emma Hamilton-Hobbs, Archivist, Government Archives.

A colour photograph of a copper silver-plated bowl engraved with “National Hockey League, Stanley Cup Winners, Season 1952–53.”

1952–1953 Stanley Cup souvenir bowl awarded to Montreal Canadiens Executive Vice-President William Northey, Roden Brothers Ltd., 1953 (e011202220). Selected by Normand Laplante, Senior Archivist, Social Life and Culture Private Archives.

New exhibition also showcases acquisitions expertise

However, this exhibition featuring LAC’s most recent acquisitions also celebrates the expertise of LAC’s acquisition specialists. Every one of the items featured in the exhibition was thoughtfully selected by one of LAC’s librarians or archivists. The same librarian or archivist also prepared the exhibition text for his or her own item, and each text is “signed” with the name and title of the specialist who prepared it. The Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Dr. Guy Berthiaume, even selected an item!

A colour photograph of an open book written in Hebrew.

Mivachar Ha-Peninim (Choice of Pearls) by Solomon Ibn Gabirol, 1484 (AMICUS 45283149). Acquired with the assistance of the Friends of Library and Archives Canada through the generous support of Ruth and Arnon Miller. Selected by Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada.

Whether donated, purchased, or assigned to LAC as part of established or evolving legal agreements, new acquisitions represent the lifeblood of Canada’s collection. Building a collection that captures Canada’s story is an essential part of LAC’s mandate.

Watercolour portraits of two young Inuit men wearing western-style clothing. One is captioned Augustus and the other, Junius.

Inuit interpreters from Churchill, Robert Hood, May 1821 (e011154367). Selected by Shane McCord, Art Archivist, Social Life and Culture Private Archives.

… and keep an eye on the Premiere blog series…

Through this blog series, which features in-depth articles on many of the items chosen for the exhibition, this emphasis on the importance of expertise in acquisitions is underlined. Each of the blog articles in this series will feature the work of one of LAC’s acquisition specialists. The blogs will be published once a month.

A colour photograph of a record label that reads “Improved Berliner Gram-O-Phone Record. Manufactured by [illegible] Montreal, Canada. Patented [illegible] 1897. Ye Banks and Braes. Played by The Kilties Band – Belleville, Ont.”

Ye Banks and Braes (Caledonian Hunt’s Delight), performed by the Kilties Band of Canada, released October 25, 1902, arranged by Bonniseau. Listen here! (AMICUS 31383290). Selected by Margaret Ashburner, Project Librarian, Retrospective Music, Published Heritage.

Look for new articles during the course of the exhibition, which closes on December 3, 2018.

And please visit the physical exhibition in Ottawa!

Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada opens on April 24, 2018, at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa and runs until December 3, 2018. Admission is free.

Introducing Co-Lab: your tool to collaborate on historical records

A turquoise banner with the words Co-Lab: Your collaboration tool Crowdsourcing has arrived at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). You can now transcribe, add keywords and image tags, translate content from an image or document and add descriptions to digitized images using Co-Lab and the new Collection SearchBETA.

Take on a challenge

To make it even more interesting, we will launch what we call “challenges”.  These challenges are content put together under a theme. For example one of our first challenges is on Rosemary Gilliat (Eaton)’s. Your challenge will be to transcribe her diary and describe her photographs from her Arctic travels. Or instead, try your hand at transcribing the love letters from Sir Wilfred Laurier to his sweetheart and future wife, Zoé – another challenge now available.

A screenshot of the Co-Lab Challenges page showing what challenges are available.Contribute using Collection SearchBETA

When you are conducting research using our new search tool and find images, you’ll see that you have the option to “enable this image for Co-Lab contributions”. After answering just a few short questions, you can enable an image found in Collection SearchBETA for Co-Lab use and transcribe/translate/tag/describe to your heart’s content. If an image has already been enabled for Co-Lab use, you’ll be able to add your own or edit the contributions of others’. If you create a user account, you will be able to keep track of your contribution history and be able to hear about new challenges and updates to Co-Lab.

A new way to view images

A screenshot of an excerpt of a handwritten letter in a window and on the right-hand side there’s a space to transcribe the letter and underneath is a box with the transcription status.

The launch of Co-Lab also introduces a new image viewer – which lets you scroll to zoom in on different parts of the image, or click and drag to move around the image itself. This is particularly useful when looking to transcribe or add keywords and image tags to describe small details!

What if something’s wrong?

It’s inevitable that mistakes will be made, especially when transcribing handwritten documents. Every image in Co-Lab is subject to review by other crowd members. If you see something written incorrectly, go ahead and edit it yourself, or mark it as “Needs review” for others to take a second, or third look.

The best thing about this new tool is that every contribution made by the public directly benefits fellow researchers and improves access. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata – which is searchable within 24 hours, helping LAC’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Transcription of textual material that was previously just digital images also becomes accessible to those who use text-to-speech machines or screen readers, and translation of transcribed documents opens the door to unilingual Canadians.

For more info and frequently asked questions, you can read the About Co-Lab page. If you’re ready to start contributing, give a hand to history and try Co-Lab now.

The case of the patent leather photograph: a Library and Archives Canada pannotype mystery

By Tania Passafiume, with assistance from Shannon Perry

While working on a census of over 300 cased objects in Library and Archives Canada’s photographic holdings, I discovered a hidden treasure. I noticed that one of the cased images looked a bit odd, as it did not resemble a daguerreotype, an ambrotype or a tintype, which you would typically find as the photograph in one of these small leather, paper or plastic cases.

A colour image of a paper case with red velvet. On the right-hand side, a black-and-white photograph in a brass mat of a man wearing a dark jacket.

A pannotype of an unknown sitter, in a paper case (e011200812_s15-v8)

The questions began: What is this? What photographic process was used to create this object? The first clue that I was dealing with something different came when I noticed that the item was unsealed, meaning that there was no original sealing tape. Historically, paper tape was used to seal the package found within the cased object, for various reasons. But there was no indication of any original tape, so with no tape to disturb, I decided to open the package.

The findings

Immediately after removing the package from the paper case, I noticed a piece of thick card attached to the back of the package. This card appeared to be a leftover piece of paper. Handwritten in pencil in the top-left quadrant were some words that were partially cut off: “hol” and “acid.” There was also some sort of damage along the top. From the discolouration, it had to be a liquid stain. At first, I did not think much about the card. Since there was no longer any original sealing tape, someone might have previously removed the tape and placed a piece of paper behind the photograph. This finding was not unexpected, as photographic plates were often taken out of cases and the cases switched. Only later did I realize that the text was indeed vital to understanding the nature of the photograph.

After I removed the card, I saw a piece of leather. I knew immediately what I was holding in my hands! The leather was not another layer that had been added behind the photographic plate. This was an actual photograph on leather! This photographic process is called pannotype (the prefix comes from the Latin pannos, which means cloth). I had read about pannotypes and seen modern recreations; however, it is very rare to find originals, let alone for them to be in good condition. I turned the object over and removed the brass mat with its cover glass. And there, under the deteriorated and soiled glass, was a glossy leather surface with, in excellent condition, the image of a man. The deteriorated glass had distracted me and made me question the type of photographic process. Now, through my careful analysis and with an added dash of serendipity, Library and Archives Canada has an identified 19th-century pannotype in its holdings!

The history behind the process

Pannotypes were a bit of a trend between 1853 and the early 1880s. They were made by a method similar to that for ambrotypes. But instead of glass, a piece of cloth or leather was used as a support. What is interesting is that pannotypes were made by placing drops of a dilute solution of nitric acid in alcohol onto an existing ambrotype. This was done to allow the photographer to remove the emulsion (which contained the actual image) from the glass support and place this emulsion onto a new support, such as a piece of leather. This brings me back to the handwritten partial words on the piece of paper that I found on the back of the leather, “hol” and “acid.” Could the words be alcohol and nitric acid: the very ingredients required to make a pannotype?

A colour image of a stained piece of paper with partial text “hol” and “acid” written on it.

The paper found at the back of the photograph, with the text “hol” and “acid” written in pencil. (e011200812_s25-v8)

A colour image of gloved hands holding a piece of leather that has been stained along the top and sides.

The leather back of the photograph. Photo credit: Carla Klück

A colour image of gloved hands holding a black-and-white portrait of a man, which is being peeled away from a brass mat with its cover glass.

The photograph (patent leather with emulsion) and the brass mat with its cover glass. Photo credit: Carla Klück

This pannotype photographic process was presented for the first time in 1853, to the French Academy of Sciences by the firm of Wulff & Co. Instructions for the process were made available for sale by that firm for 100 francs. Pannotypes soon became generally known, with many professional photographers making commercial use of them, as evidenced in surviving advertisements and journal articles. Customers were interested in the process at the time because pannotypes were believed to be more stable, since they could not break because they were not printed on glass like ambrotypes, nor could they be easily scratched like daguerreotypes or bent like tintypes. We know very little about how the pannotype process was developed and practiced here in Canada, but we do know that there were several prominent photographers using this process, including George Robinson Fardon (1807–1886) from Victoria, British Columbia. His images of “Portrait and Views on patent leather” were sent to the London International Exhibition, 1862, and they eventually became part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s holdings.

Here and now

Today, discovering a pannotype is rare, as their durability was very limited because of their inherently fragile qualities. However, the newly discovered pannotype is on patent leather and is in excellent condition. The only difficulty here is that the original glass in the brass mat had begun to deteriorate; however, following some conservation work, the problem has been fixed. Our next step is to share this information with the public, and perhaps to try and solve the next mystery: who is the man in the photograph, and who was the photographer? Stay tuned!


Tania Passafiume is the Head Conservator of Photographic Materials in the Care of Collection Division of the Digital Operations and Preservation Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Shannon Perry is a Photo Archivist in the Government Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

New additions to Rare Books album now on Flickr, 2018

Colour photograph of a row of books: left to right: Euclid’s Elementa, 1482; Milton’s Paradise Lost, 1758; Relation de ce qui s’est passé en la mission des pères de la Compagnie de Iésus …, 1651; Sophocleos Tragoediai, 1502; The Lower-Canada Watchman, 1829.

Row of books [left to right: Euclid’s Elementa, 1482; Milton’s Paradise Lost, 1758; Relation de ce qui s’est passé en la mission des pères de la Compagnie de Iésus …, 1651; Sophocleos Tragoediai, 1502; The Lower-Canada Watchman, 1829. [Filename IMG_3472]

The Rare Book Collection at Library and Archives Canada is one of the largest collections of rare Canadiana in the world. Canadiana is defined as works printed in Canada or printed outside of Canada but concerning Canada, written or illustrated by Canadians.

Visit the Flickr album now!

The Battle of Vimy Ridge

A banner that changes from a black-and-white photograph of a battle scene on the left to a colour photograph of the Vimy Memorial on the right.Everything was in place for the hour of the assault, 5:30 a.m. on April 9, 1917.

The preceding hours of darkness aided by cloud cover had permitted the infantry to file forward unobserved into their jumping-off positions, many of which were clearly observable to the enemy in daylight. Had this movement been witnessed, an enemy barrage might have broken up the assault wave with serious casualties; as it was, the positions were gained without notice.

In the half-light of zero hour under a cold overcast sky, when manoeuvring was still largely obscured from the enemy, the intense bombardment opened with sudden fury, and the advance of the infantry began. Continue reading

Images of Tartans and Kilts now on Flickr

A colour photograph of a smiling girl wearing a tam and tartan shoulder accessory.

Betty Chan at Scottish games, Winnipeg, Manitoba. [MIKAN 4302026]

Tartan is a multicoloured cloth pattern of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands. Traditionally, tartan is made with wool, but other kinds of materials may be used. Scotland and kilts in particular are associated with tartan patterns; however, the steady immigration of Scots to Canada created a special environment for tartan in this country. Cultural events, such as Highland games across Canada, showcase the various patterns seen in kilts, jackets, blankets and clothing accessories. For less traditional clothing, these patterns are often referred to as plaid. There are unique Canadian tartans, such as the provincial and territorial patterns, most of which are registered with the Court of the Lord Lyon. This court regulates Scottish heraldry, including tartan patterns. Canada’s green, gold, red and brown tartan, known as the “maple leaf,” became an official national symbol in 2011.

A black-and-white photograph of two women at a loom. The woman sitting on the left holds a shuttle. The woman standing on the right inspects the tartan pattern and weave.

Tartan being woven, St. Ann’s, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. [MIKAN 4948510]

A black-and-white photograph of two girls who are standing and wearing tams, matching jackets and kilts.

Two girls dressed in kilts at Highland games, Antigonish, Nova Scotia. [MIKAN 4315223]

Visit the Flickr album now!

Pre-Confederation Land Patents issued by the Registrar General

By Rebecca Murray

Reference Services frequently receives requests about land patents in Canada. Here, we will focus on pre-Confederation land documents. Be sure to refer also to Crown land patents: Indian land sales for more information. The next post on land patents will focus on post-Confederation land patents.

What is a Land Patent?

Land patents are issued by the Crown to grant or confirm title to a portion of land. They represent the first title to land, and serve as proof that the land no longer belongs to the Crown.

How Do I Find a Land Patent?

As this is a challenging request even for practiced archivists, this post will guide you through an example of how to approach this type of research from home or while onsite at Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

Step 1:

Start with the information you have: a date, a location, a person or organization (patentee). It is preferable to proceed with all three pieces of information (especially the date), but you can find the answer with one or more of the pieces of information.

Example:

  1. Date (specific or general): June 7, 1856
  2. Location (detailed or general): Lot 8, Range 3, east of Plank Road, Township of Seneca
  3. Patentee: David Patterson

Step 2:

With the patentee and date, or the date and location, you can look at the Indexes to Indian and Ordnance Land Patents (nominal [by name] and geographical indices) for the period 1845–1867 found in RG68, volume 911, microfilm reel M-1638. With the patentee and location, you can consult either the nominal or the geographical indices but without the date, you will have to perform a wider search using the General Index.

In this case, I found an entry for David Patterson in the Indexes to Indian and Ordnance Land Patents (RG68 volume 911, microfilm reel M-1638) and noted that the corresponding entry would be found in Liber EO (some libers are titled by letters rather than numbers), on folio 172.

Step 3:

Once you know the liber (register) and folio (page number), you need to find that liber within RG68 records. There are two options for continuing your search:

Web-Based Search

  1. Begin in Collection Search with the search string: RG68 68-2 land
  2. Select the Archives tab and then filter by date (left-hand menu)

Many records for this period are available on digitized microfilm. Search Héritage  to see if the reel has been digitized.

Onsite at LAC

When onsite at 395 Wellington St., you can use paper finding aid 68-2 to look up the liber number and find the corresponding volume and microfilm reel numbers. Microfilm reels are also available for self-serve consultation in room 354.

A black-and-white reproduction of an official Province of Canada document describing the exact location and size of the land grant.

Land patent confirming title to land granted to David Patterson in Haldimand County, dated June 8, 1856. (RG68 volume 231, file EO, page 172)

How to Use the Key to the General Index / the General Index

If your date does not fall in the 1845 to 1867 period, or you are unsure of the date, you can rely on the Key to the General Index for 1651–1867 to identify entries in the General Index related to the individual in question.

Paper copies of the Keys and General Indices for the pre-Confederation period are also available in the 2nd floor Reference Room of 395 Wellington St. Please keep in mind that the General Index applies to all types of documents produced by the Registrar General, not just land documents. Hence the importance of using the Key to the General Index to expedite your search.

For example, the Key to the General Index for the period 1841–1867 can be found in RG68 volume 896, which is available on microfilm reel C-2884. The Key to the General Index is organized by name. Find the individual in question and copy down each pair of numbers next to the name, as they will allow you to locate the relevant entries in the corresponding General Index. The pair of numbers is associated with two columns: the “No.” column indicating the “line number” and the “Folio” column indicating “page.” This allows you to jump directly to the correct page of the General Index and locate the corresponding entry. From this line, you get more information, namely the liber and folio numbers necessary to locate the patent itself. For example, in the image, take note of the first pair of numbers associated with the Rev. James Cochlan and wife: “4” and “680.”

A black-and-white reproduction of a nominal index with a few columns: Name, No., Folio, No., Folio, etc.

Excerpt from the Key to the General Index for 1651–1841 (RG68 volume 893), showing the liber (No.) and folio numbers associated with each name (RG 68, Volume 893 on Canadiana). Take note of the first pair of numbers associated with the Rev. James Cochlan and wife: “4” and “680.”

A black-and-white reproduction of a ledger with five columns: No., Lib, Folio, Date and Surrenders.

Excerpt from the General Index for (RG68 volumes 894 and 895), showing the entry on line 4 of page 680. The liber and folio for the document in question are “KM” and “6.”

After identifying the liber and folio numbers using the General Index you can review Step 3, from home or onsite, to determine the complete reference for the patent including the microfilm reel number.

It can be very challenging to navigate this research; please try it on your own, but do not hesitate to contact us if you need any assistance!


Rebecca Murray is a Reference Archivist in Reference Services at Library and Archives Canada.