Discover Finding Aids – Part Two

As we discussed in our first article “Discover Finding Aids”, finding aids are tools that provide information about the archival documents held in a fonds or a collection. One of the most common types of finding aid is the content list. It typically provides general file-level reference information. In Archives Search, a content-list finding aid for a fonds or a collection can appear in a number of ways:

  1. It can be attached to the fonds-level description as a portable document format (.pdf file). This is generally true for collections or materials acquired from private individuals (usually identified by collection codes beginning with “MSS”) as in the example below:
A two-column, black-and-white image of a search result in Archives Search. The left column displays the word “Finding aid.” The right column displays the result with a link to a pdf finding aid.

Mikan 103625

  1. It may also be accessed by clicking on the hyperlinked number found beside the “consists of” text. This is generally true for collections of materials acquired from government departments (usually identified by collection codes beginning with “RG”).
A two-column, black-and-white image of a search result in Archives Search. The left column displays the words “Series consists of.” The right column displays the words “7893 lower level description(s).”

Mikan 133700

  1. Sometimes the content list is only identified by a number in the text paragraph, which can be found beside the Finding aid field label in a fonds, collection, series or sub-series description.
A two-column, black-and-white image of a search result in Archives Search. The left column displays the words “Finding aid.” The right column displays a brief written description of the content list.

Mikan 106943

Content lists simply identified by number generally exist in paper format only and must be consulted in person (or copies must be obtained). Numbers beginning with MSS (e.g., MSS0211) most often refer to content lists for collections or materials acquired from private individuals. Finding aids composed of numbers separated by a hyphen (e.g., 12-13) usually refer to content lists for collections of materials acquired from government departments.

This concludes “Discover Finding Aids – Part Two.” You can now read the Archives Search results to help you locate the finding aids.

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

How to Search for Images Online

Did you know that you can search for images in our collection online, simply by using a “copy negative number”?

What is a copy negative number?

Copy negative numbers are used to identify a photograph or a work of art in our collection. They usually start with a C-, a PA-, or an e number, such as:

  • C-041979
  • PA-005001
  • e002505688

Copy negative numbers are usually included along with the image in the photo credit in books, articles or online.

So what do you do if you have found a copy negative number, in a book or online, and would like to know if Library and Archives Canada holds this image? How do you get to the image’s description in our database?

It’s simple, just follow these tips:

You can search Archives Search by copy negative number; however, there is a trick to it…

  • C- and PA- numbers must have six digits after the hyphen in order for our database to recognize them.
  • Zeros should be added at the beginning of a shorter number to create a number with six digits. For example, if you see PA-5001 you need to enter PA-005001.
  • Copy negatives starting with an “e” do not follow the six-digit rule (they do not require a hyphen either).
  • Look under the heading entitled “Conditions of Access” for the copy negative number starting with C- or PA-, or under “Terms of Use” for e numbers.
  • You will need the copy negative number to order a photographic reproduction or a digital image of a work of art.

For more information, read our blog post How to Find Photographs Online for other quick hints to help you search for photographs.

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

What Can Canadian Directories Do for You?

Canadian directories have long been a valuable resource at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and can be used for a variety of purposes. Before telephone books came into use, Canadian directories (sometimes simply referred to as city directories), were used as a tool for advertising and marketing within a community and were intended to facilitate communication between buyer and seller.

Our collection includes national, provincial/territorial, county and city directories from across Canada, primarily from the 19th and 20th centuries. Genealogists are frequent users of the directories as they provide opportunities to track a person within a given time period and place. An individual’s address, occupation and the names of other household members are only a few of the gems that lie ready to be discovered within their pages.

Canadian directories are a popular tool for genealogists but they aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this resource! These directories have many other excellent uses.

Canadian Directories can…

  • help determine the urban development of an area
  • be used to determine the history of a building
  • showcase advertisements from a certain time period that can be a valuable source of information about the services, products and entertainments available to Canadian society
  • provide information on the companies that were active during that time period
  • furnish a list of city officials
  • supply researchers with population statistics for that time period
  • offer the names and locations of important community institutions such as schools, churches, etc.

Useful Resources

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

How to Search for Birth, Marriage and Death Records

Did you know that there are two sources for finding birth, marriage and death records?

From early times to the present, baptisms, marriages and burials have been recorded in church parish registers. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, provincial and territorial governments introduced the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths.

As civil registration is not a federal jurisdiction, Library and Archives Canada does not hold copies of birth, marriage and death certificates, but….

…help is at hand!

To learn about how to find these records from other sources, visit our pages on vital statistics: births, marriages and deaths.

Many genealogical societies and individuals have indexed parish registers and published the result of their work. These publications are called “Church Indexes” (known as “répertoires” in French-Canadian genealogy).  Most of the volumes are for marriages but also exist for baptisms and burials.

We hold many of these indexes; here’s how to find them in our collection:

Use our AMICUS catalogue to search not only our collection, but the holdings of libraries across Canada.

1. On the Basic Search screen, select “Title Keyword” from the drop-down menu.  Enter your search terms, such as a place name (province, town, township or county) plus a term for the kind of information you are looking for.


  • Trois-Rivières marriages or Trois-Rivières
  • mariages Edmonton cemeteries
  • Collingwood deaths

2. On the Basic Search screen, select “Subject Keyword” from the drop-down menu.  Enter your search term, such as a place name (province, town, township or county) and the word genealogy or genealogies or registers. Note that subject headings for each publication are in English and French, so you may use the language of your choice.


  • Saskatchewan genealogy
  • Russell genealogies
  • Niagara registers

Did you know?

Published material, such as books, may often be borrowed via interlibrary loan*. Simply provide the bibliographic citation, along with the AMICUS number, to your librarian, and they may request it from LAC.

(*) 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!

Aboriginal Peoples: Guide to the Records of the Government of Canada (Revised version)

We are pleased to announce that the revised version of Aboriginal Peoples: Guide to the Records of the Government of Canada is now available.

Originally released in 1996, the revised online guide includes updated instructions on how to locate records from the Department of Indian Affairs (RG 10 / R216) and the Department of the Interior (RG 15 / R190) in Archives Search. The guide also explains how to search by finding aid number in Archives Search.

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

In Memoriam: Walter Zayachkowski (1930-2012)

Walter Zayachkowski passed away in Ottawa on Monday, February 27, 2012 at the age of 81 years.

Born on August 4, 1930 in Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan, Walter was a retired statistician with Statistics Canada and Indian and Inuit Affairs.  For many years, he came to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in Ottawa, on a regular basis, compiling names of Ukrainian immigrants from various sources.

As a member of the Ukrainian Genealogy Group of Ottawa, Walter knew the importance of sharing his knowledge and this is why he donated the results of his research to LAC; more than 14,500 names of Ukrainian immigrants who arrived in Canada between 1890 and 1930 will soon be available on our website.

How to Find Digitized Publications

Now, more than ever, you can access print publications online. The trick is finding them. So, our reference specialists at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) offer the following tips to help you discover published works that are just a click away!

Library Search

Get started with our Library Search tool. Just follow these easy steps to find Canadian published materials digitized by LAC and other libraries across the country.

  1. Go the Library Advanced Search screen.
  2. Select the Title Keyword search option and enter keywords from the title of a book that interests you.
  3. Search in: Canadian Libraries.
  4. From the Format dropdown menu, select Online.
  5. Click the Submit button. This will open a new page with your search results.
  6. Select any relevant search result to access the full record with the description of the book.
  7. Click on the link in the description to access the digitized version of the book.

Early Canadiana Online

Our reference specialists recommend the Early Canadiana Online (ECO) [] digital library as the go-to source for 19th century published material. Offering a vast online collection, ECO not only lets you search for specific works, but it also allows full-text searching. Some of the digitized content in ECO is only available to subscribing institutions, so ask your local library.

Here are a few tips for searching the ECO collection:

  1. Use the Advanced Search screen to narrow your search.
  2. To find specific titles, select the title option from the Search in drop-down menu.
  3. From the Find documents matching drop-down menu, select the option all terms in close proximity when searching the full-text of the digital library. This ensures that your search terms occur close together, not on separate pages of the full document.

Our next post on How to Find Digitized Publications will cover the following sources:

Also, stay tuned to find out about some regional digitization initiatives that provide access to provincial and local materials.

Do you have any sources you like to use? If so, share them with us!

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

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:


(Sousfonds – if it exists)


(Sub-series – if it exists)



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 (Archived)

Important Note: Interlibrary Loan Services are not offered at LAC. Please visit our website to see other consultation options.

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!

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