Ghost towns, roads less travelled, and even lesser known places—how to find them, how to research them

By Marthe Séguin-Muntz

With the summer season here, many of us anticipate road trips, family reunions or exploring areas of interest—some destinations may be quite secluded while others are better known.

Are you wondering about that old mill, church or schoolhouse on the recreational trail that you recently discovered? Perhaps your daily commute takes you by a vacant old house, or maybe a small hamlet on your way to the cottage piques your curiosity. Or are you trying to locate the residence where your ancestor lived in 1905, but have been unable to find it?

A black-and-white photograph showing a boarded-up church with construction material scattered around it

A boarded and abandoned St. Andrew’s Church, 1901, Dawson City, Yukon Territory—a reminder of the Klondike Gold Rush (MIKAN 3407583)

Ghost towns are villages, towns or cities that experience a considerable population decrease and show signs of abandonment and decay. One might think of ghost towns as “geographical ancestors”—predecessors that no longer exist.

A black-and-white photograph showing a river with a heavy current, trees on both sides, and an old mill to the left in the background

Habitant series: the old mill at Val-Jalbert (MIKAN 3349504)

Where to begin?

Library and Archives Canada holds many archival resources and publications to help you find out more about that lesser-known place.

Census records list the residents of a location and in many cases provide details such as the year of birth, occupation and religious denomination of the residents. You can find more information about Canadian provinces and territories on our Places page. The Post Offices and Postmasters database documents the establishment and closing of post offices and gives helpful timeline information. The Search Help pages accompanying each database will help you understand the records and how to search them.

A black-and-white photograph showing a long wooden dock by the shore and grain elevators in the background

Depot Harbour, Ontario (MIKAN 3309998)

Discover what has been written about ghost towns (such as Val-Jalbert or Depot Harbour) and abandoned places using the Library Search function in our AMICUS library catalogue to research a specific area using the location’s name, or subject keywords such as “ghost town” or “abandoned.”

A black-and-white photograph showing two small abandoned buildings, one possibly a school, behind a white picket fence

Abandoned mission at [Fort] Norman, N.W.T. (MIKAN 3327910)

Photographs, illustrations and information in archival fonds

Our archival collections may contain some photos or illustrations of former communities. Consult our blog articles on how to find photographs online and how to find photographs that are not yet available online.

Safe travels and happy discoveries on your road trip!

A black-and-white photograph of an abandoned wooden church

The Presbyterian Church on the shores of Lake Bennett, B.C. (MIKAN 3383929)

 


Marthe Séguin-Muntz is a Project Officer in the Private Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

The XXI Summer Olympic Games opened July 17, 1976 in Montréal

By Dalton Campbell

A colour photograph depicts two young people standing on a raised platform in a crowded stadium. They each have a hand on a torch which they are holding aloft. Beside them is a large ceremonial cauldron that is lit with a flame.

The Olympic cauldron is lit during the opening ceremonies of the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 17, 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Montréal, Quebec was awarded the games in the second round of voting by Olympic delegates in 1970. After the first ballot, Moscow was leading Montréal 28 votes to 25, resulting in third-place Los Angeles being automatically eliminated. The Montréal bid received most of the Los Angeles support and was selected as host city.

A colour photograph depicts the inside of Olympic Stadium, Montréal. The athletes of the competing nations assemble on the infield of the stadium. The flags of the competing nations hang from the rafters.

The delegations of participating countries gather during the opening ceremonies for the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 17, 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Construction of the Olympic facilities was slow due to complicated architectural designs, the rapid inflation rate and governments reluctant to commit to funding. Exceptionally cold weather halted construction in January 1976. When the games started, 19 of the 21 facilities were finished; however the Olympic Stadium, the centrepiece, was not completed when the games began.

Nadia Comaneci, a 14-year-old gymnast from Romania, was perhaps the biggest star of the Montréal games. In the opening days of the Olympics, she earned an unprecedented perfect 10.00 for her routine on the uneven bars. However, as the score board was equipped with only three digits, the judges—in uncharted territory—displayed scores of “1.00.”

A colour photograph depicts a young woman standing on the podium waving to the crowd. She is wearing a white track suit with “Romania” written on it. Behind her on the floor are two other young women.

Romania’s Nadia Comaneci (centre) waves to the crowd after her gold medal win in the uneven bars during the gymnastics competition at the XXI Summer Olympic Games. She went on to earn five medals, including three gold. The silver medal is awarded to Teodora Ungureanu of Romania (left) and the bronze to Márta Egervári of Hungary (right). Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Apparently at a meeting before the 1976 Olympics, there had been a discussion to use score clocks with four digits. The decision was to use three-digit clocks because a perfect ten was impossible.

Michel Vaillancourt, riding his horse Branch County, was the first Canadian to earn an individual equestrian medal at the Olympics. Born northeast of Montréal, he was performing in front of his hometown crowd when he won a silver medal in individual show jumping.

Colour photograph of a man riding a horse as they complete a jump over a fence in the equestrian competition. The audience is seated in the background.

Canada’s Michel Vaillancourt rides Branch County in an equestrian event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

On the last day of the games, the high jump competition was held in the rain. The world record holder, Dwight Stones of the United States, had been favoured to win. After an interview in which he appeared to criticize the facilities and the hosts, he was booed by the crowd. Stones, who disliked jumping in wet conditions, struck the bar and was eliminated. The next athlete, Canada’s Greg Joy, cleared the bar, bringing the crowd of almost 70,000 to their feet in a standing ovation. Joy would finish with the silver medal, ceding the gold to Jacek Wszola of Poland.

Colour photograph of a man competing in the high jump event. The photo depicts him in the air approaching the bar. Behind the mat are photographers. The crowd is seated in the background.

Canada’s Greg Joy competes in the high jump event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Although no Canadian earned a gold medal at the 1976 games, Greg Joy was cheered and honoured as if he had. He was named flag bearer for the closing ceremonies. Later that year he received the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s male athlete of the year, beating out jockey Sandy Hawley and hockey superstar Guy Lafleur. For many years afterwards, his jump and celebration were replayed nightly across the county; it was the second-last clip in the O Canada video shown on CBC television immediately before the network signed off for the night.

Colour photograph of a man, dressed in shorts and sleeveless t-shirt, standing with his arms raised in the air. In the background are people dressed in rain gear.

Greg Joy after winning the high jump event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

The closing ceremonies were held on August 1, 1976. Canada finished the games with five silver and six bronze medals—more than double the number of medals won by Canada in 1968 or 1972.

Additional Resources


Dalton Campbell is an archivist in the Science, Environment and Economy Section of the Private Archives Division.

 

Anne of Green Gables podcast images now on Flickr

Few Canadian authors have achieved the universal appeal of Lucy Maud Montgomery, whose iconic series “Anne of Green Gables” continues to resonate with book lovers of all ages.

Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “Kindred Spirits After All”

Library and Archives Canada is releasing its latest podcast episode, “Kindred Spirits After All.”

Few Canadian authors have achieved the universal appeal of Lucy Maud Montgomery, whose iconic series “Anne of Green Gables” continues to resonate with book lovers of all ages. In this episode, we speak with inveterate book collector Ronald I. Cohen who donated his entire Lucy Maud Montgomery collection to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) between 1999 and 2003. Mr. Cohen speaks to us about his relentless pursuit of a Lucy Maud Montgomery collection that would be unmatched the world over, and his gracious decision to donate it all to LAC.

LAC Special Collections Librarian, Meaghan Scanlon, took the opportunity to interview Mr. Cohen about his generous donation, and gave him a tour of the vault where the Lucy Maud Montgomery collection now resides.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS or iTunes, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at bac.balados-podcasts.lac@canada.ca.

Anne in the library: introducing the Cohen Collection

By Meaghan Scanlon

In five accessions between 1999 and 2003, Canadian lawyer, film producer, and bibliographer Ronald I. Cohen donated his extensive Lucy Maud Montgomery collection to Library and Archives Canada. (See AMICUS 44572655 for a description of the collection.) The collection contains materials related to adaptations of Montgomery’s work, as well as anthologies and periodicals in which Montgomery is featured. But the bulk of the collection consists of various editions of Montgomery’s published novels, including, of course, her most famous book, Anne of Green Gables.

Among the approximately 420 items in the Cohen Collection are no fewer than 46 copies of Anne of Green Gables. Three of these are in Japanese, two in French, and one each in Korean, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The other 37 are in English.

Why, you might ask, would anyone need 37 English-language copies of Anne of Green Gables? Isn’t the story the same every time? The answer is that for book collectors, it’s often not about the story told in the text. Rather, collecting is an opportunity to discover the story of the book itself, its publication, and the way it has been marketed and received. Many book collectors set out to document the history of an author or title as completely as possible through their collections. For some, this means amassing many copies of the same title.

The Cohen Collection traces the spread of Anne of Green Gables across the English-speaking world through its inclusion of early American, British, Australian, and Canadian editions. The novel was originally published in Boston in April 1908 (AMICUS 9802890). This first edition was extraordinarily popular and Montgomery’s publisher, L. C. Page, reprinted it at least 12 times before the end of 1909. The Cohen Collection contains copies of the sixth (November 1908) and eleventh (August 1909) printings.

Copyright page of the Cohen Collection copy of the sixth printing of the first edition of Anne of Green Gables

Copyright page of the Cohen Collection copy of the sixth printing of the first edition of Anne of Green Gables (AMICUS 9802890, copy 5). “Impression” is another word for printing.

The first British edition of Anne of Green Gables was also published in 1908 (AMICUS 21173240). Anne then made her way to Australia in 1925 (AMICUS 26942864). Interestingly, despite the iconic status of Montgomery and her work in Canada, the first Canadian edition of Anne of Green Gables (AMICUS 1706899) did not appear until 1942. This edition, too, went through several printings; the earliest copy in the Cohen Collection dates from 1948.

Although the story remains the same in each edition, the depiction of its heroine, Anne Shirley, on the books’ covers does not. Audiences in different places and time periods have encountered different representations of Anne, from the mature-looking woman on the first edition to the sometimes cartoonish drawings on later versions. The Cohen Collection’s copies of Anne of Green Gables document the visual history of the character through their illustrations, cover art, and dust jackets.

In fact, when Ronald I. Cohen started collecting L. M. Montgomery’s books, finding copies with dust jackets was one of his main goals. Historically, dust jackets were often discarded by readers (and libraries!) and early examples can be extremely hard to find. The numerous rare dust jackets in the Cohen Collection are therefore a highly valuable resource for researchers looking at the history of one of Canada’s most beloved literary classics.

To learn more about the Ronald I. Cohen Collection of Works by L. M. Montgomery, listen to the latest episode of Library and Archives Canada’s podcast, Kindred spirits after all!


Meaghan Scanlon is the Special Collections Librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

More frequently asked genealogy questions

We receive many interesting questions from our clients at the genealogy desk at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Here are more frequently asked questions.

How do I start my genealogy search?

The first step is to ask questions (such as “who,” “what,” “where”) and start writing down information. Find out which details in your family tree you are missing.

Some family members might not remember exact dates, but they might remember events (a great aunt may not know the exact year of her grandmother’s death, but she may remember that her grandmother died when she was in high school, and they drove to Toronto for the funeral). This narrows down the years and the province where the death certificate was issued. It also may give you a clue in which newspaper to find the obituary.

You can learn more on our website on how to begin your genealogy search.

Why does LAC have census records but no birth certificates?

The division of power between the federal government and the provinces dictates which government records are part of the LAC collection. We house federal documents such as census returns, military records and passenger lists. The records pertaining to births, marriages and deaths are a provincial jurisdiction and are thus found in provincial and territorial archives. A lot of vital statistic indexes and records can now be found online, but you should also consult the provincial archive for up to date information about its collections.

I want to search the 1871 Canadian Census for Gimli, Manitoba, but I can’t find it in the LAC database. Why isn’t it there?

Not all areas in Canada were enumerated in early census returns. Each census return database on the LAC website has a list of the districts and sub-districts that were enumerated (see Ancestors Search). If the exact town for which you are searching was not enumerated at that time, you may find that the township/county/region may have been enumerated earlier. For example, the answer to this question would be that the earliest Gimli (former county of Lisgar) was enumerated was 1891, but Lisgar was enumerated in 1881.

We hope that you have found this information helpful. Contact us if you have any additional genealogy questions or visit us in-person at the genealogy desk!

Empire Marketing Board

By Judith Enright

More than 800 posters and poster designs were produced by the Empire Marketing Board (EMB) in the early part of the 20th century. Library and Archives Canada is custodian to 379 of these posters which represent a unique sampling from this bold and beautiful British marketing campaign.

Started in 1926 by Secretary of State for the Colonies Leopold Amery, the Board’s mandate was straightforward—to encourage and promote trade without tariffs between Great Britain and her colonies, and to lead the British population away from the purchase of foreign goods and support buying and consuming all things British.

A colour print showing two men sawing a tree trunk on the left and three men planting trees on the right, with the caption, “Timber in Canada.”

Timber in Canada (MIKAN 2845125)

Colour print of a metal crane and two men loading a trailer, with the caption “Our Steel for Australia”

Our Steel for Australia (MIKAN 2845006)

Through newspaper advertising campaigns, pamphlets, hand bills, films, radio programs, and poster displays, the EMB set out to achieve its goal of “Bringing the Empire Alive” to Britain and its colonies. For its poster displays, the EMB commissioned some of the most reputable and notable artists and designers of the time, including Manitoba-born poster artist Austin Cooper.

A black-and-white photo of a man in an evening suit standing beside a poster on the wall.

Photo of Austin Cooper by Sydney Carter (MIKAN 3245241)

Using bold lettering and vibrant colours, the EMB posters were meant to be dynamic and eye-catching. Some of the posters were also gender-specific, depicting men as “Empire builders” and women as consumers. In Britain, the posters were placed on specially designed billboards and in shop windows in over 450 towns and cities. In the colonies, where the advertising campaign was less aggressive, posters could be found on the walls of many high-traffic areas such as stores and factories. Although some posters were meant to be seen as a single image, other posters were designed to tell their story through a sequence of three to five images, an approach often compared to reading a comic strip.

A colour print of a grocery store with signs advertising that many of the products are Canadian. In the front of the store, a woman is having a discussion with the grocer. The poster has the caption, “The Wise Shopkeeper and the Good Housewife.”

The Wise Shopkeeper and the Good Housewife (MIKAN 2844979)

A colour print of a woman wearing a long dress and holding a cup of tea, standing beside a side table with a tea tray, with the caption, “Drinking Empire-Grown Tea.”

Drinking Empire-Grown Tea (MIKAN 2844932)

The posters held by Library and Archives Canada were received between 1926 and 1933 and form a sub-series of the Canadian Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce fonds. The majority of these posters are dedicated to Canadian themes and goods, however products from other colonies are represented as well.

A colour print of a man walking in front of a well-lit grocery store with advertisements for Empire products. Men and women are going in and out the shop.

Far-left panel of the advertisement, “John Bull, Sons and Daughters” (MIKAN 2845188)

A colour print of men loading wooden barrels on a boat, with the caption, “Canadian Apples for the United Kingdom.”

Canadian Apples for the United Kingdom (MIKAN 2844965)

In 1932, Ottawa hosted the British Empire Economic Conference held to discuss the economic repercussions of the Great Depression. It was here that the practice of “Imperial Preference” was inaugurated, resulting in restricted tariffs within the British Empire and raised tariffs for countries outside the Empire. As a consequence, the Board was no longer necessary and was dissolved in 1933.

A colour print of a tiger and underneath is the caption, “Buy Singapore Pineapples in Tins.”

Buy Singapore Pineapples in Tins (MIKAN 2845035)

A colour print showing the crests of India, South Africa and Canada, with the caption, “Smoke Empire Tobacco.”

Smoke Empire Tobacco (MIKAN 2844917)

To view these posters, visit the Flickr set or explore the Empire Marketing Board by looking through the lower-level descriptions.


Judith Enright is an archival assistant in the Aboriginal and Social Affairs Section of the Private Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Visit the new webpage dedicated to the Carignan-Salières Regiment

Hear ye! Hear ye! Interested in the history of New France? Visit our new webpage dedicated to the Carignan-Salières Regiment, where you can access all of our resources related to this important unit in the history of New France.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Jean-François Lozier, Curator of French North American history at the Canadian Museum of History, and ask him some questions about the regiment. You can listen to the audio recording of his responses.

Images of Swimming and Pools now on Flickr

Swimming is an important survival skill. However, it wasn’t considered a sport or leisure activity until organized competitions were held in countries like Japan in the 1600s, and eventually in Europe in the 1800s. Men’s swimming was included in the 1896 Olympic Games, and women competed in the 1912 competitions, cementing its place as a sport. Various associations around the world were created to support and promote swimming as a leisure activity and sport. Canada was no different, in this regard.

Over time, a variety of pool facilities appeared across Canada, near natural bodies of water and purpose-built ones in more populated urban centres. Examples include in Vancouver near English Bay, Toronto’s Lakeshore Drive, and Montreal’s Bain Maisonneuve and Bain Généreux. Swimming and its facilities eventually evolved into places of fitness, hygiene, leisure and community gathering.

From Bolsheviks to birds: the fascinating life of Louise de Kiriline Lawrence

By Judith Enright

The Louise de Kiriline Lawrence fonds housed at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), is rich in content and diverse in media. It was donated to LAC in the 1980s by Mrs. Louise de Kiriline Lawrence and details a life that any researcher would be hard-pressed to categorize.

Louise de Kiriline Lawrence (neé Flach) was born in Sweden in 1894 into a wealthy and well connected family. She was extremely well educated and fluent in five languages. She chose nursing as a profession and joined the Red Cross to work in Denmark at a prisoner-of-war exchange camp. It was here that she nursed back to health then married Gleb de Kiriline, a wounded Russian officer. The two then moved to live and work in northern Russia. Gleb de Kiriline went missing after the Bolshevik revolution and Louise spent four years in a futile search to find him.

A black-and-white photograph showing a couple standing in front of a wooden building. She may be in a nurse’s uniform and he is wearing a Russian military uniform.

Louise and Gleb de Kiriline (MIKAN 3722648)

In 1927, Louise immigrated to Canada where she worked as a Red Cross nurse in Northern Ontario. She became the head nurse to the Dionne quintuplets and played a crucial role in their survival during the first year of their lives. Due to the notoriety of the Quints, Louise wrote a series of articles for Chatelaine magazine chronicling her experiences with the children and their family. She retired from nursing in 1935.

Louise married Leonard Lawrence in 1939. While her new husband was overseas during World War II, Louise devoted herself exclusively to nature studies and nature writing, particularly ornithology.

De Kiriline Lawrence conducted the majority of her nature studies and nature writing from her property on Pimisi Bay, in Northern Ontario. It was here, while living in a log cabin, that she began banding birds, keeping diaries, creating sketchbooks and writing hundreds of articles for various nature publications along with several books including her autobiography entitled Another Winter, Another Spring: A Love Remembered.

A black-and-white photograph showing three women outdoors under a tree. The woman on the right is seated and smiling at the photographer, the one in the middle is also seated but engrossed in her book, and the one on the left is lying down and looking at the photographer.

Louise (on the right) with friends (MIKAN 3951807)

LAC is now the guardian of the Louise de Kiriline Lawrence fonds. It includes material pertaining to wildlife studies, bird data and illustrations along with ornithological reports, correspondence both personal and professional, book and periodical notes and manuscripts along with family papers. Also included are over one hundred drawings, over 700 photographs, audio material, award medals, wood blocks and a few lithographs as well as material regarding her life in Sweden and Russia.

Louise de Kiriline Lawrence died in 1992.


Judith Enright is an archival assistant in the Aboriginal and Social Affairs Section of the Private Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.