From the Lowy Room: A Scroll of Serendipity

By Michael Kent

One of the most exciting aspects of working with rare books is the story of the individual items in our collections. The life an item had before finding its way to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) can be fascinating, and is sometimes as interesting as the content of the work itself. In some cases, the story of an item can share amazing parallels with the work itself. One such example is a scroll containing the Biblical Book of Esther. This scroll is now housed in LAC’s Jacob M. Lowy Collection.

A colour photograph of a handwritten Hebrew manuscript on parchment completely rolled out across a table, approximately seven feet in length. Also on the table is the protective metal casing that originally housed the manuscript.

The Megillah of Esther unrolled in the Jacob M. Lowy Room, located at 395 Wellington, in Ottawa, Ontario. Photo credit: Library and Archives Canada

This scroll is handwritten in Hebrew in a format suited for ritual use as part of the Jewish holiday of Purim. The story of how it ended up at Library and Archives Canada was passed down to me through an oral history from previous curators of the Jacob M. Lowy Collection. It is a story too good not to share.

When I show the scroll to visitors, they are instantly struck by its damaged metal case. People often exclaim that it looks like it has gone through a war, and in fact it has. As the story goes, a British soldier found this case sticking out of the rubble of a bombed-out building in continental Europe at the end of the Second World War. Upon discovering that the case contained a scroll, the soldier decided to keep the item as a war souvenir. Later in life, that soldier would move to Canada and bring the scroll with him.

The next chapter in the story of the scroll took place after this soldier passed away. As it has been recounted to me, the soldier had no children, and his neighbours volunteered to clean out his apartment. Through that process, they discovered the scroll, recalling that he had previously shown it to them. Recognizing it was an item of value, they decided to find a home for it. As chance would have it, these neighbours had a relative who worked at the then-National Archives. They sent the scroll to this relative, who passed it off to an archivist. Several years later, the Jacob M. Lowy Collection of rare Judaica was donated to the National Library of Canada. The decision was made to transfer the scroll to that collection so that it would be housed with other Judaica.

So why do I feel that the story of the physical scroll mirrors the story contained within? The answer comes from a unique aspect of the Biblical Book of Esther as one of the two books from the Hebrew Scriptures that does not mention God. The traditional rabbinic explanation to textual oddity is that the name of God was left out of the book to highlight the hidden nature of the miracle contained within the story. It is a story of a series of small and unlikely worldly events that culminate in the survival of the Jewish people.

When I look at the scroll, I too see an item that survived through a series of small and unlikely event. That the original owner would house it in a strong protective material. That the item would survive a bombing. That it would end up in a visible place. That a soldier would stop to investigate it and decide it was worth saving. That his neighbours would volunteer to clear out his apartment after his death. That those volunteers would carefully examine the apartment’s contents and seek a proper home for the scroll. That they would have a connection at the National Archives. These unlikely occurrences come together to form a powerful story of survival and a fantastic journey for this scroll that brought it to LAC.

While I am in no place to offer spiritual reflections on the survival of this scroll, the serendipity is remarkable. This story, and others like it, highlight the powerful past the items in our collections have. These stories go far beyond the written word, and I am always humbled to learn and share them.


Michael Kent is curator of the Jacob M. Lowy Collection at Library and Archives Canada.

An update from Kigali!

By Alison Harding-Hlady

In February 2020, my colleague Karl-Xavier Thomas and I arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, where we are both guests of the Rwanda Archives and Library Services Authority (RALSA). As we approach the end of our second week in Kigali, it is hard to believe that our time is almost half over! After months of preparation, we have packed so much into the first two weeks. RALSA invited us to train their staff of three librarians and four archivists in best practices and international professional standards. A small but mighty staff, they are keenly aware of their responsibilities and obligations as the national library and archives, and anxious to implement the best standards they can, not only to properly manage and describe their own collection, but also to provide guidance and assistance to other memory institutions across Rwanda. Representing the library side, I have been focusing on cataloguing (my own specialty), but I am also answering questions and helping them to develop policies on everything from administering the national ISBN program to digital rights management to generating the library’s social media content. It has been interesting for me, coming from a large institution where different aspects of our collection and services are managed by different sections and large teams, to see a handful of people striving to do it all here. They are ambitious and incredibly hard-working, and every day I admire and respect them even more for what they are trying to accomplish.

A colour photograph of archival materials on bookshelves.

Part of RALSA’s archival collection. Photo credit: Karl-Xavier Thomas

As part of our work here, RALSA has also invited librarians and archivists from across Rwanda to attend a four-day conference in Kigali, where Karl-Xavier and I will be giving the same training we have delivered over the last two weeks to a bigger audience. It is an opportunity for us to meet and make connections with many of the professionals working in the field in this country, and for them to learn and develop their skills so they can better serve their clients and collections. Although I have always felt that my work has value and have always been proud of what I do, it is special to be able to see the immediate impact of my knowledge and expertise. I really do feel that I am making a difference here, helping professionals across Rwanda learn to better describe and provide access to their collections. These are lessons that they will be able to continue using long after I have returned to Canada.

Another interesting activity that was part of the cultural exchange was participating in Umuganda, the countrywide community clean-up day. This takes place on the last Saturday of every month and is mandatory for all citizens between the ages of 16 and 65. People gather in their villages and neighbourhoods to work on a project that improves their local community. The idea is to make things a little bit better each month than they were the month before. The day that we joined in, people were clearing brush from around newly planted trees, and digging out a drainage canal that was overgrown with weeds. Following the work, the members of the village gathered for a meeting where news and reminders were shared, and members of the community were able to raise issues of concern. I was struck by how respectful the tone of the meeting was, how all members felt free to stand and express themselves, and how they listened to each other and reached solutions together.

I feel that what we are accomplishing here is in the spirit of Umuganda, in a small way. We too are bringing what we have to share, contributing it to the community, and leaving things a little bit better than they were before.

A colour photograph of an office building.

RALSA is moving to a custom-built facility next year, but it currently operates out of several rooms on the top floor of this office building in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo credit: Alison Harding-Hlady


Alison Harding-Hlady is the Senior Cataloguing Librarian responsible for rare books and special collections in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

 

The Freedom to Read

By Liane Belway

A colour photograph showing the spines of a stack of books against a black background.

A sample of the variety of books held in the Library and Archives Canada collection, which have been challenged.  Photo credit: Tom Thompson

In Canada, we enjoy the freedom to read what we choose, so much so that we may not always consider how important this right is, or whether it could be interfered with in a country such as ours. After all, our intellectual freedom is guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yet, freedom to read can never be taken for granted.  Even in Canada, books and magazines are frequently challenged in libraries and schools, and these pressures affect the right of Canadians to decide for themselves what they should or should not read. Freedom to Read Week encourages Canadians to talk about and celebrate our intellectual freedom. Each year, Canada’s Book and Periodical Council ensures that this event raises awareness of Canada’s often little-known history of censorship and book banning, and the battles fought to keep books on the shelves of schools and libraries. Nationwide events throughout this week help raise awareness about the importance of protecting our right to read.

The right to intellectual freedom means that each person has the right to choose what to read, within the limits of Canadian law. Challenging a book’s right to be on a shelf and available to readers involves more than a personal expression of taste or the choice not to participate in a conversation about controversial issues. It is an attempt to limit public access to the works in schools, libraries, or bookstores, often for political or moral reasons, and prevent others from reading them. Libraries have a core responsibility to protect the freedom to read and are required to have library policies reflect this duty.

Each case is different, and libraries respond differently, according to their mandate and their responsibilities to users. Most public libraries have intellectual freedom policies in place to deal with individual concerns while protecting the collective right to read, for example by shelving according to age appropriateness, while the mandate of many school libraries is mainly to support the curriculum for the school’s relevant age group. At Library and Archives Canada, our mandate is to acquire, describe, and make accessible all Canadian publications to readers and researchers from Canada and around the world.

Not all challenged books wind up being banned. When a famous author like Margaret Atwood has a book like The Handmaid’s Tale challenged, the result is often greater media attention, increased sales, and more readers. Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women was challenged decades before she won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

However, the process of trying to ban a book can have a more insidious effect, especially in school and public libraries. A children’s book with a controversial reputation can simply be dropped from reading lists and curricula to avoid confrontation. When books with themes like that of Maxine’s Tree, a picture book with an environmentally friendly message, are challenged, sometimes the challenge is denied, as in this case from 1992, where the book was allowed to remain in elementary schools. Today, we take for granted picture books that teach kids about the environment, or same-sex families, or different religious views, or any number of topics, but this was not always the case.

Who knows how many such books were not purchased (or not written) over the decades because of a culture of banning? We like to think that, today, we are more open to the views of others. Nevertheless, as Canadians, we should remain aware at all times of how valuable our right to read is and should protect this right for ourselves as well as for other readers.


Liane Belway is a librarian in the Acquisitions section of Published Heritage at Library and Archives Canada.

For more information, check out Freedom to Read Week online.

Ready for Rwanda!

By Alison Harding-Hlady

In a few days, I’ll be leaving Canada for a very special assignment in Kigali, Rwanda. A few months ago, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Rwanda Archives and Library Services Authority (RALSA) to provide training in professional activities, international standards and best practices. Along with Karl-Xavier Thomas, an archivist at LAC, I’ll spend a month living and working with the staff of RALSA.

I was honoured and thrilled to be chosen to represent the “library” side of LAC, and I’ve been hard at work for months preparing for the trip. I’ll be sharing expertise with RALSA’s librarians and have been asked to focus on bibliographic description—that is, cataloguing and classification. As a cataloguing librarian who has spent her entire career developing these skills (16 years at LAC and counting), I couldn’t agree more that these are the fundamental building blocks of librarianship. All other library activities—making acquisition decisions, serving researchers, answering reference questions, digitization projects, exhibitions, conservation, and more—depend on a well-organized catalogue with clear, detailed descriptions of every item in the collection. You have to know what you have and where it is before you can do anything else! Although it’s sometimes dismissed as boring, I would argue instead that cataloguing is often misunderstood. A fascinating, vibrant and ever-changing field, the work is always focused on the goal of providing the best possible access to the collection. Every day brings a new challenge, and new opportunity to learn, as every item that we catalogue requires research and thought, to understand how best to classify, describe and connect it to other parts of the collection. It’s this philosophy, and the tools needed to achieve it, that I hope to share with my library colleagues in Rwanda.

Over the four weeks that I’m in Kigali, I’ll be tackling such topics as the international standard for description (RDA), how to create and use name authorities, different classification systems, navigating the public and staff view of the integrated library system (ILS), and more. A lot of time will involve hands-on work, cataloguing books together and discussing the challenges and intricacies of each individual item. There’s always a challenge, even in what seems like the most straightforward book to catalogue! My goal is that at the end of the four weeks, RALSA will have all of the tools needed to provide access to their collection and to support all of the important and valuable work by RALSA in Rwanda. And even after I return to Canada, I’ll always be only an email away and can continue to act as a support and resource!

So the training materials are almost all prepared, the vaccination shots received, the tickets booked, the suitcase packed. There’s an enormous challenge before me, but it’s also the most exciting opportunity of my career so far. The pressure’s on, both in developing four weeks of curriculum and instruction, which is not part of my day-to-day job, and in the international travel (22 hours and three flights, here I come). But I’m confident that I can rise to the challenge and do LAC proud. The opportunity to share my expertise and passion for librarianship and cataloguing with new librarians in another country is an exciting and inspiring one

A colour photo of a woman with a suitcase outside a building.

The author with her suitcase, ready to go!


Alison Harding-Hlady is the Senior Cataloguing Librarian responsible for rare books and special collections in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Retrospective publications: better late than never

By Euphrasie Mujawamungu

Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) mandate includes the acquisition of all documents published in Canada, regardless of format, subject or language. This mandate also covers foreign works whose authors, publishers, translators, illustrators or performers are Canadian, or whose subject matter is related to Canada. We call these publications “Canadiana.”

The collection of retrospective Canadiana covers various types of documents published between 1867 and five years before the current year:

  • documents published before the establishment of legal deposit in 1953
  • documents published after legal deposit was adopted but that were not acquired at the time of publication
  • documents not subject to legal deposit, such as works published abroad by Canadian authors or on Canadian subjects

Since LAC aims to be a source of permanent knowledge accessible to all, it must have as comprehensive a collection as possible, to accomplish this mission.

Shaped by our past

The present is shaped by the past: each period has its history … a history that is as vast as it is rich in events. Consider, for example, the first Stanley Cup, the first French-Canadian prime minister, the Klondike Gold Rush, the first female MP, the winning of the right to vote by women, the two world wars, or the bestselling novel Anne of Green Gables by Prince Edward Island author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

The daily life of yesteryear has left its imprint on many areas: art, literature, fashion, transportation, cooking and more. This is reflected in the retrospective publications in LAC’s collection, which open windows to good times and bad times; they cover topics as varied as travel, our great-great-grandmothers’ recipes, epidemics, famines, trophies won and games lost.

As guardian of the past and our recent history, LAC is a vital resource for all Canadians. It makes it easier for Canadians to search its rich collection, helps them to discover the most relevant documents and provides access to these. That is the core of its mandate.

However, gaps in the national collection must be addressed, to ensure that no aspect of our history is overlooked or undervalued. And this is not a one-day job or a one-time activity. On the contrary, constant attention and vigilance are required to identify opportunities to enrich the collection.

Colour photo of a variety of hardcover and softcover books.

Some titles acquired retrospectively by LAC in the summer of 2019. Photo credit: David Knox

The tools

From near or far, history is always interesting, making the search for publications truly exciting. As a librarian, I have several resources to identify retrospective publications to be acquired:

  • used bookseller catalogues
  • antique dealer catalogues
  • websites specialized in selling used books
  • publications given to LAC (I then look through donations to find documents missing from the collection)

The acquisition of vintage publications is subject to strict conditions: each work must be an original edition and in good condition. There is a good reason for this requirement, since contaminated or mouldy publications will not only deteriorate, but they will also damage other publications.

In addition, for a work to retain its full value, it is important to preserve all of its original components, such as the cover, illustrations and edition statements.

If LAC does not acquire it, who will?

LAC collects and preserves Canada’s documentary heritage, with the ultimate goal of meeting the needs of its users.

From vintage to contemporary publications, this heritage is a legacy for current and future generations. And there is always room for more!

LAC is a true hub of knowledge, with skilled professionals who serve the public and are dedicated to the collection. Each treasure acquired by LAC is treated with the appropriate care, and our state-of-the-art facilities guarantee preservation under optimal conditions.

In addition, LAC is at the leading edge of technology, facilitating collaboration with other organizations as well as interactions with clients.

The job of a collections librarian is dynamic and rewarding; it requires considerable dedication. In line with the services offered to the community, the work evolves as the pace of our knowledge society changes. I can say that LAC, far from being a warehouse of random items, truly enriches our collective memory. Experienced researchers, students, music lovers, or simply curious and information‑hungry citizens: everyone will find a valuable resource in LAC.

Colour photo of a variety of paperback books.

Some titles acquired retrospectively by LAC in the fall of 2019. Photo credit: David Knox


Euphrasie Mujawamungu is a librarian with the legal deposit team in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

2019 Indigenous acquisitions: books for kids!

On the left of the graphic, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] in traditional regalia on horse. In the middle, Iggi and girl engaging in a “kunik”, a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide stands holding a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

By Sarah Potts

Here are a few titles to add to the holiday wish lists of budding readers

At Library and Archives Canada, we love books! Around the holidays, we often share ideas about gifts for our loved ones. Choosing good reads for our kids (or children at heart) can be tricky. This librarian’s solution? Check out our recent acquisitions of works by Indigenous authors or featuring Indigenous stories. I hope this list inspires you to grow your young (and older) readers’ collections!

Colour photograph of four books placed in a stack.

A sample of the variety of books held in the Library and Archives Canada collection. Photo credit: Tom Thompson

For younger readers

Nokum Is My Teacher, by David Bouchard, illustrated by Allen Sapp, music by Northern Cree Singers. OCLC 1080218454

Nokum Is My Teacher tells the story of a conversation between a boy and his Nokum (grandmother) about why he should learn to read. His Nokum knows the power of reading, but she also reminds him to respect his traditional knowledge. The story is in English and Cree, and it comes with downloadable music.

Una Huna: What Is This?, by Susan Aglukark, illustrated by Amanda Sandland and Danny Christopher. OCLC 1122616081

Ukpik loves to go camping in the North! One day, a captain comes to trade with her father, and she worries that everything is going to change. Ukpik speaks with her grandmother, who reminds her that while some things change, her love for family and camping never will.

You Hold Me Up, by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Danielle Daniel. OCLC 973043772

You Hold Me Up teaches children and their guardians about the importance of empathy and why we should consider the feelings of others in our everyday actions. It will help your littlest ones to develop an understanding of respect and empathy.

Nibi’s Water Song, by Sunshine Tenasco, illustrated by Chief Lady Bird. OCLC 1080643036 (French translation by Hélène Rioux: Nibi a soif, très soif, OCLC 1083095552)

In a child-friendly way, Nibi explains why it is so important for everyone to have clean water. Through beautiful illustrations, an unlikely character—her hair—explains Nibi’s feelings and journey! As the communities learn to listen and communicate with each other, they come together to ensure that all Canadians have access to clean, healthy water.

Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox, by Danielle Daniel. OCLC 1022939643 (French translation: Parfois je suis un renard, OCLC 989789937)

A beautiful introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals. Children explain in their own words why they feel connected to certain animals. For each chosen animal, there is an adorable illustrated image of the child as his or her totem animal.

A Children’s Guide to Arctic Butterflies, by Mia Pelletier, illustrated by Danny Christopher. OCLC 1004529871

If you thought that only polar bears and rabbits lived above the treeline, think again! Arctic butterflies are real, unlike mythical North American “house hippos.” This book is a fact-filled, beautifully illustrated journey into the world of the resilient butterflies of the North.

Colour photograph of six books placed in a stack.

A sample of the variety of books held in the Library and Archives Canada collection. Photo credit: Tom Thompson

The Gathering, by Theresa Meuse-Dallien, illustrated by Arthur Stevens. OCLC 966404621

Alex has never attended a spiritual gathering (mawiomi) and is feeling overwhelmed. Once she begins meeting Elders, she becomes more at ease; eventually, and most importantly, she finds her voice in a talking circle.

Mokatek et l’étoile disparue, by Dave Jenniss, illustrated by Claudie Côté Bergeron. (In French) OCLC 1080217733

Each night, to fall asleep, Mokatek loves to speak with the stars. He really enjoys telling his stories to the best and brightest star in the sky, the North Star! One day, his favourite star disappears, and he has to find it. In this book, the youngest of readers join Mokatek on a journey with his animal friends to find the brightest star and bring it back home.

Dragonfly Kites, by Thomson Highway, illustrated by Julie Flett. OCLC 1055555884

Dragonfly Kites is the second book in a magical trilogy by iconic author and playwright Thomson Highway. This bilingual book (English and Cree) is about two brothers who fly their kites during the day, but fly at night in their dreams. The brothers remind us about the beauty of using our imaginations!

Colour photograph of four books placed in a stack.

A sample of the variety of books held in the Library and Archives Canada collection. Photo credit: Tom Thompson

For pre-teens and teens

A Two-Spirit Journey: the Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder, by Ma-Nee Chacaby with Mary Louisa Plummer. OCLC 927382779 (French translation by Sophie M. Lavoie: Un parcours bispirituel : récit d’une aînée ojibwé-crie lesbienne, OCLC 1035313410) (Content warning: homophobia and transphobia)

This selection is a story of resilience and self-discovery. Ma-Nee Chacaby brings you on a journey through her life with humour, kindness and a willingness to accept oneself.

Trickster Drift, by Eden Robinson. OCLC 1035334241 (Content warning: drug use)

In Trickster Drift, the second book in a planned trilogy, we follow Jared, who has a knack for attracting trouble and magic. He moves to Vancouver for high school and discovers that just because you leave the magic behind, the magic does not leave you, especially when you are the son of a Trickster!

Voices from the Skeena: an Illustrated Oral History, by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd, illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers. OCLC 1107990291

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good history book, and if the book has pictures, even better! Take a trip along the Skeena River to meet those who have known this river since time immemorial, and those who came after them. This is the perfect book for the budding West Coast historian.

I hope that I have inspired you to explore what is available from Indigenous authors and their worlds this holiday season!


Sarah Potts is an acquisitions librarian in the Legal Deposit section of the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Top 5 topics addressed by our Reference Librarians

By Emily Dingwall

At Library and Archives Canada (LAC), reference librarians respond to requests on a wide variety of interesting topics from clients. This blog post outlines five types of reference questions librarians frequently handle and suggests resources to consult on these subjects.

The cover page from Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada with the title “Public Accounts of Canada, for the Fiscal Year ended 30th June, 1884.”

“Public Accounts of Canada” report found in Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, 1885, Vol. 1, No. 1. (OCLC 1007491677, image from Canadiana)

  1. Federal government documents

Annual departmental reports. Clients are often seeking annual departmental reports. Annual reports from Confederation in 1867 to 1925 are printed in the Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada. Learn more about the Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, 1867 to 1925. If you are in Ottawa, you can access the Sessional Papers at LAC by requesting them from staff in the 2nd floor reference room. They are also available through these websites:

Departmental reports post–1925 are published separately from other government documents in the Sessional Papers. You can request 1925–1930 annual reports from LAC staff or through the Internet Archive.

After 1930, search our library catalogue Aurora for annual reports by the name of the department as it was known  during that period.

Beginning with 1995, you can find annual reports at the Government of Canada’s Departmental Results Reports. For more recent years, you can search the specific government department website.

Parliamentary documents. We also receive many questions on searching parliamentary debates, journals and committee materials of the House of Commons and the Senate, such as for a speech made by a prime minister in the House. You can find these documents online:

A typewritten page with two columns of text, separated by a crest. The text on the left is in English and the text on the right is in French.

Front page of the Canada Gazette, Part II, Vol. 137, No. 23, November 5, 2003. (OCLC 1082716964, image from Canada Gazette)

  1. Legislative Research

Librarians frequently receive questions about legislation in print or legislation that can be found online through Justice Laws.

You can trace legislation through these main sources:

  • The Statutes of Canada include all acts and amendments to laws passed during each session of Parliament.
  • The Revised Statutes of Canada (R.S.C.) are consolidations of the Statutes of Canada incorporating amendments and acts that have been added since the last revision. The R.S.C have been published for the years 1886, 1906, 1927, 1952, 1970, and 1985.

The Statutes of Canada and the Revised Statutes of Canada are available in print format in our reference collection at LAC, as well as at many public and academic libraries. They are also accessible through the legal database LLMC Digital, which can be searched onsite at LAC.

To learn more about the Statutes and researching legislation, see the blog post Tracing Historical Legislation.

You can find official regulations and statutory instruments in Part II of the Canada Gazette, the official newspaper of the Government of Canada. Published in three parts, the Canada Gazette is searchable by keyword at these sites:

To learn more about the three parts of the Canada Gazette please see Canada Gazette publications.

Readings of bills, such as the First and Third readings, can be found by searching the library catalogue Aurora.

LEGISinfo, the Library of Parliament’s research tool, provides information on all bills considered by the Senate and the House of Commons since the start of the 37th Parliament in 2001.

An image of a four-column newspaper, Courrier canadien.

Courrier canadien, March 11, 1900. (OCLC 109270836)

  1. Newspaper Research

Librarians often assist clients in searching newspapers for information such as local histories, articles on individuals, or references to a past royal visit to Canada.

We hold newspapers in print and microfilm formats, which can be found through the Aurora library catalogue. We also subscribe to several newspaper databases.

The Geographical microform list names all the newspapers that we hold on microfilm (click on the OCLC number), as well as newspapers available online. The list is organized by province/territory, then alphabetically by location.

Major newspaper titles such as Le Devoir, the Montreal Gazette, and the Ottawa Citizen are available in our self-service microform reading room.

These newspaper databases can be accessed on the public workstations in our reference room: The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Paper of Record and Newspaper Archive.

Online newspaper resources include:

The cover page of “Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War.”

Cover page of Colonel C.P. Stacey’s Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Volume I: Six Years of War: The Army in Canada, Britain and the Pacific. (OCLC 317352934, image from Government of Canada publications)

  1. Military History Research

Librarians receive military history questions from clients looking for published histories of specific regiments/units, recruitment statistics per year, and locations of Canadian units in Europe during World War II.

Resources for military history research include:

An image of a Grand Trunk Railway timetable from 1922.

Timetable of the Ontario lines of the Grand Trunk Railway from 1922. (e011297622)

  1. Railway Histories

Many clients contact Reference Services about railway history research. Examples of questions we receive include the histories of specific train stations, the histories of railway companies (Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National Railways, Grand Trunk, etc.), and routes of particular railway lines.

We hold railway maps, as well as passenger and employee timetables in print format that can be located by searching Aurora. Many timetables are part of the Merrilees Transportation Collection, which contains about 5,000 publications including books, trade literature, technical manuals, timetables, broadsides, periodicals and pamphlets.

An Ontario railway historian has made rail timetables available on Charles Cooper’s Railway Pages.

Canadian Pacific Railway timetables from 1930–1985 are available through the Chung Collection at the University of British Columbia Library.

These are two excellent print publications to consult on railway history:

  • Andreae, C., & Matthews, G. Lines of Country: An Atlas of Railway and Waterway History in Canada. Erin, Ont.: Boston Mills Press, 1997. This publication is a comprehensive outline of railway and waterway history in Canada and includes maps of railways in Canada from early days to the present. It can be accessed in our reference room.
  • Ballantyne, B., and Bytown Railway Society. Canadian Railway Station Guide. Ottawa: Bytown Railway Society, 1998. This publication lists stations, plans and pictures.

 I hope that these resources will help you with your research on these subjects. Of course feel free to ask us a question on any topic, and a reference librarian will be happy to assist you!


Emily Dingwall is a Reference Librarian in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

New Books in the Genealogy Services Collection

By Emily Potter

A colour photograph of two shelves of multi-coloured hardcover books.

A sample of the variety of books held in the Genealogy Services Collection at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. Photo credit: Emily Potter

We’re excited to announce recently acquired genealogy publications, which you can consult in the Genealogy and Family History Room on the 3rd floor of the Library and Archives Canada building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa.

Check out the list below. After each title, you will find a call number, which will help you find the book on our shelves. The OCLC number links to the record in our new library catalogue Aurora providing additional information. First time using it? See Aurora help.

If you are just starting out in genealogy, visit the Genealogy and Family History section of our website on how to begin your research.

Also visit What’s new in the collection, for highlights of selected new acquisitions and archives now open for consultation.

Happy exploring!

Church, cemetery and newspaper indexes

Baptêmes et sépultures des quatre voisines de Saint-Clément de Beauharnois by Société du patrimoine de Sainte-Martine. CS88 QC43 B42 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032020299)

Flamborough Obituary Slips, 1883–1891 by the Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society. CS88 ON35 F53 1999b (OCLC Number: 62927324)

Massey, Ontario, Massey Grandview Protestant Cemetery by the Sudbury District Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society. CS88 ON31 M47 2016 (OCLC Number: 1082503187)

Massey, Ontario, Massey Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Cemetery by the Sudbury District Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society. CS88 ON31 M47 2016b (OCLC Number: 1082504357)

Family histories

Ainslie (Volumes 1 & 2) by John Stuart Ainslie. CS90 .A43 2016 (OCLC Number: 1103323498)

My Writings on the Audet-Lapointes by Guy Saint-Hilaire. CS90 A935 2017 (OCLC Number: 1019429805)

La famille Berthiaume: cent vingt-cinq ans d’histoire (1892–2016) by François-Xavier Simard. CS90 B4274 2016 (OCLC Number: 1032012228)

La famille Boily au XVIII : de Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes à la Baie Saint-Paul by Raymond Boily. CS90 B56 2013 (OCLC Number: 937871289)

The Bonhomme family, 1632 to 2015 by Joseph Bonhomme. CS90 B642 2017 (OCLC Number: 1082496422)

The Stalwart Brydons: from Scotland to Galt to Manitoba: a History of 100 Years in Canada by James Emerson Brydon, Dianne Brydon. CS90 B8 2016 (OCLC Number: 1082476540)

The Descendants of John Archelaus Carpenter of Weston, New Brunswick, Canada by Miles Ludlow Carpenter. CS90 C288 2016 (OCLC Number: 1018310137)

Famille Chatel by Charles G. Clermont. CS90 C476 2016 (OCLC Number: 947133998)

The Clark and Simonite Saga: Where Past and Present Meet by Carolyn Gillanders Loveless. CS90 C538 2016 (OCLC Number: 1036081812)

Angus MacLean: a Genealogy by Marleen MacDonald-Hubley. CS90 Mc69 2012 (OCLC Number: 907028372)

The Dickinson Men of Manotick by William and Georgina Tupper. CS90 D498 2015 (OCLC Number: 927183619)

The Grandmother & Grandfather’s Story: Lewis and Mary Fisher, Loyalists in the American Revolution and New Brunswick Settlers by Robert C. Fisher. CS90 F574 2017 (OCLC Number: 1082478346)

The Griersons of Torbolton Township by Doris Grierson Hope. CS90 G725 2016 (OCLC Number: 1036095475)

New France Descendants of Leduc Families: History and Genealogy Repertory by Adrienne Leduc. CS90 L44 2017 (OCLC Number: 1033521074)

Les Pellerin du Québec, 1722–1916 by Jacques Gagnon. CS90 P43 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032011484)

Pommainville d’Amérique : Henri Brault dit Pomainville et ses descendants by Edgar Pommainville. CS90 P63 2017 (OCLC Number: 976416112)

Antoine, first Theroux in Canada by Mary Jeannette Hounsome. CS90 T4869 2016 (OCLC Number: 1082503547)

Descendants of Johann Christian Schell and Johannes Schell by J.P. Schell. CS90 S4213 2004 (OCLC Number: 1082497015)

St-Cyr in North America, 1624–2016: the Descendants of Pierre Deshaies St-Cyr and Marguerite Guillet and Mathieu Rouillard St-Cyr and Jeanne Guillet by François St-Cyr. CS90 S233613 2016 (OCLC Number: 952211418)

Mountain Romantics: The Whytes of Banff by Chic Scott. CS90 W458 2014 (OCLC Number: 883939953)

Local Histories and Biographies

 Before Surveyors’ Line was Run: the History of Simon Orchard and Samuel Rowe, the First Settlers to Paisley, Ontario in the Queen’s Bush by Marguerite Ann Caldwell. CS88 ON32 P34 2013 (OCLC Number: 1036198843)

My Creignish Hills by Floyd MacDonald. CS88 NS69 C74 2015 (OCLC Number: 1019413004)

Cypress Hills Metis Hunting Brigade Petition of 1878 for a Metis Reserve: History of the Cypress Hills Hunting Brigade: Biographies of Petitioners by Lawrence Barkwell. E99 M47 B37 2015 (OCLC Number: 1032013125)

Les familles pionnières de la seigneurie de La Prairie, 1667 à 1687 by Stéphane Tremblay. CS88 QC43 R68 2017 (OCLC Number: 1033510580)

A Glance Backward by Ray Johnson. CS90 A715 1988 (OCLC Number: 1082475369)

Jewish Papineau: an Account of the People and Places of the Montreal Neighbourhood Known as “Papinyu” as Recounted by Philip Teitelbaum and Other Contributors by Peter Teitelbaum. CS88 QC42 M65 2015b (OCLC Number: 1007771024)

Prairie Pioneers: Schönthal Revisited by Mary Neufeld. CS88 MB274 A48 2016 (OCLC Number: 945781920)

La Reine: 100 ans d’histoire by Gérald Doré, Marie-Claire Piché-Doré and Victorin Doré. CS88 QC41 L35 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032010291)

Remember Me: Manitoulin Military by the Manitoulin Genealogy Club. CS88 O6 R46 2015 (OCLC Number: 919340193)

The Settlers of Monckton Township by Les Bowser. CS88 NB52 M66 2016 (OCLC Number: 962852120)

Visages estriens: hommage à nos gens by La Société de généalogie des Cantons de l’Est. CS88 QC46 A1 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032018896)


Emily Potter is a Genealogy Consultant in the Public Services Branch of Library and Archives Canada

How genealogists can use newspapers

By Emily Potter

Newspapers contain a wealth of information for historical researchers, but you may be surprised by how helpful they can be for genealogy research. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds an extensive collection of newspapers that are just waiting to be explored.

Here are a few of the ways that newspapers can come in handy when doing your genealogy.

Birth, marriage and death announcements

Birth, marriage and death records are among the most popular genealogy sources, but depending on the province, civil registration records can be restricted for up to 110 years. Researching birth, marriage and death announcements in newspapers allows you to access this information in openly available records. These announcements provide not only dates and locations for key moments in an ancestor’s life but also names of parents and other relatives.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • For an ancestor’s death, sometimes a short death notice will appear in a newspaper, but a much fuller obituary might appear a few days later in the same paper.
  • If you are looking for a more recent obituary, many newspapers publish their obituaries online. Try searching online with quotation marks around your ancestor’s name. Search using the city name and year, if known, e.g., “Brown, George” obituary Vancouver 2005.
  • Detailed birth announcements became popular only in the latter half of the twentieth century, while marriage and death announcements appeared earlier in newspapers.
  • Many newspaper announcements have been indexed in a published format. If you do not know the date of an event but think that there may have been an announcement in a local newspaper, you can search in LAC’s Library Catalogue, Aurora, to see if there is a published index. Search using keywords, such as: genealogy, index and the newspaper name.
Three columns of text from newspapers, with information about deaths and marriages.

“Died,” Montreal Gazette, May 10, 1830, p. 3 (OCLC 20173495)
“Mariage à la Basilique,” Le Droit [Ottawa], April 1, 1913, p. 4 (OCLC 18514296)
“Married,” The Palladium [Charlottetown], April 5, 1845, p. 163 (OCLC 18249106)
“Died,” The Palladium [Charlottetown], April 5, 1845, p. 163 (OCLC 18249106)

Accidents and crimes

Many researchers have family stories about ancestors involved in accidents, crimes or unusual events, but these stories can be hard to confirm. Fortunately, many of those types of events were covered in local newspapers. If you have an idea of when and where the event occurred, it may be worthwhile to peruse the area’s local newspaper. Some of these events are also referenced in published newspaper indexes.

Alt text: Two columns of text from newspapers, with the headings “Imprisonment for Libel” and “Killed by Lightning.”

“Imprisonment for Libel,” The Palladium [Charlottetown], February 22, 1845, p. 114 (OCLC 18249106)
“Killed by Lightning,” The Phoenix [Saskatoon], August 22, 1906, p. 6 (OCLC 16851731)

Ship arrivals

When did my ancestor arrive in Canada? This is a common genealogy question; fortunately, LAC holds passenger lists from 1865 to 1935. However, the majority of lists have not survived from prior to 1865, and it can be difficult to find immigration information for ancestors. Alternatively, most major newspapers, as well as those in coastal cities, recorded ship arrivals and departures. In rare cases, passenger names were included. The chance of finding a reference to your ancestor is higher if he or she was considered a person of importance. This information was often found in the business section of a newspaper, under Shipping News or Marine Intelligence.

The website The Ships List is a great resource for information about passenger ships and includes some lists of names found in newspapers.

A column of text from a newspaper, with the heading “Port of Quebec.”

“Port of Quebec,” Montreal Gazette, May 10, 1830, p. 3 (OCLC 20173495)

Social news

Many newspapers included news items about the local happenings in the town, sometimes describing when a resident had family visiting or had been travelling abroad. Although these notations do not always include genealogical information, it can be interesting to know what your ancestors were doing. Newspapers for larger cities would mainly focus on high-society individuals.

Two columns of text from newspapers, with the headings “Granby” and “Compton,” which provide information about residents of the towns.

“Granby,” Sherbrooke Daily Record, June 5, 1905, p. 3 (OCLC 12266676)
“Dans Les Cantons de L’Est : Compton,” La Tribune [Sherbrooke], May 25, 1910, p. 4  (OCLC 16390877)

If you are visiting LAC, use Aurora to search and order newspapers before your visit. You can also consult the geographical list of LAC’s newspapers on microfilm (some references include a note indicating they are available online). Our Places pages also include links to websites that include digitized newspapers. As well, you can inquire at your local library about borrowing newspapers for your research.


Emily Potter is a Genealogy Consultant in the Reference Services Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

A novel with soul (or at least half!)

By Kristen Ann Coulas

Part of our job at Library and Archives Canada is to keep up with the trends and changes in publishing. Of these trends, one of the most interesting has been crowd-funded publications.

Though admittedly representing a miniscule portion of what gets published overall, what crowd-funded publications lack in prevalence, they more than make up for in cultural capital. Works published via crowdfunding are done so at the patronage of their prospective audience; they are the direct result of their community.

Crowdfunding takes many forms, but perhaps the best known is Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website that hosts projects for everything from technology to theatrical performances and more. At the time of writing this blog post, Kickstarter offered the public the opportunity to back more than 44,000 publishing projects worldwide. One Canadian author and artist who has taken on this method of funding for her publications is Kelly Chen.

A coloured photograph of stacks of the graphic novel Halfsoul.

Stacks of the graphic novel Halfsoul. Photo credit: Kelly Chen

Kelly first started publishing her work on an open publishing platform called Tapas. The site allows users to publish and read the work there and aims to create and foster an online community. It is free to use the site and though tipping the creators is an option, it is not required.

In May 2018, after updating her webcomic, Halfsoul, on Tapas for over a year-and-a-half, Kelly created a Kickstarter project to fund turning her work into the first volume of what she envisions as a four-volume graphic novel series.

According to a 2017 CBC article on Canadian Kickstarter projects, those focused on the arts were most successful in reaching their funding goals. Of all Canadian Kickstarter projects between 2010 and 2016, comics enjoyed the second highest success rate with an average of 58.4%. This number may not seem impressive at first glance, but when you consider that only about a third of all Canadian Kickstarter projects are successfully funded, it is clear that crowdfunding is a very viable medium for graphic novel authors and artists. Kelly’s successful publication of Halfsoul is physical proof of that.

A black and white hand-drawn image of characters from the graphic novel Halfsoul

A page from the graphic novel Halfsoul. Photo credit: Kelly Chen

The graphic novel is set in a world where it’s possible to trade half of your soul to have a wish granted. But this turns you into a halfsoul, a being scorned by society. As it follows the journey of four halfsoul hunters, Halfsoul asks us to consider what it means to lose a part of yourself and if it is possible to reclaim the lost parts. Influenced by the author’s own experience with mental health, Kelly Chen explains that it is a story of vulnerability, mental illness and recovery:

While the graphic novel is based in a more fictional and metaphorical setting, it was written with mental health in mind. It was important to me that it wasn’t just another story about trauma that ended up in tragedy or ended up trivializing the struggle people go through. It was also important that hope for recovery could be found at the end. There’s not a single clear view of what recovery looks like, but I hope sharing a narrative informed by my own experiences struggling with PTSD will help others cope with their own battles with mental illness.

The Kickstarter campaign aimed to raise $7,000 to fund a 500-copy print run of the tale. It exceeded its goal in just 29 days. There is clearly something about the novel’s subject matter that strikes a chord with Kelly’s audience, so much so that they dedicated funds to support its very publication. This enthusiasm speaks to the cultural importance of Halfsoul itself. It is not simply a novel for an audience, it is a novel demanded by its audience. Kelly Chen clearly has a dedicated community of readers surrounding her work and we are very pleased and excited to be welcoming this fascinating new publication into our National Collection.

A multi-coloured pie chart demonstrating how much was spent on Kickstarter fees, comic printing, shipping and other rewards.

A graph depicting the breakdown in fees in Kelly Chen’s Kickstarter campaign. Photo credit: Kelly Chen.


Kristen Ann Coulas is an acquisitions librarian at Library and Archives Canada