Newly transcribed finding aids

To help users find material more easily, Library and Archives Canada has transcribed some paper-based finding aids that were previously available only in the Reference Room at 395 Wellington Street. Highlighted below are a few of the finding aids that are now available online. If you want to learn more about finding aids, see this three-part series, Discover finding aids!

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Administrative Records

  • Finding Aid 18-16—Volumes 2511-2647
    Created between 1868 and 1878, these records deal with the administrative expenses of the Frontier and Dominion Police and include some applications for the proposed Mounted Force for the North-West Territories.
  • Finding Aid 18-29—Accession 1985-86/574 boxes 1-32
    This accession consists of registry records pertaining to the administration of the RCMP for the years 1940 to 1970. One group of files concerns the organization, procedures and functions of the Force including headquarters, Criminal Investigation Branch, “S” Directorate, marine and aviation divisions as well as the various divisions across Canada. Another group of records deals with the communications system ranging from the use of car radios to telex equipment. Other subjects include the filing system, RCMP reserves, and management studies. Also included are nine service files for special constables and regular members.
  • Finding Aid 18-30—Accession 1985-86/612 boxes 1-42
    The files deal with the inter-departmental committee on the Marin Commission recommendations, study groups on police associations and sovereignty control, the RCMP College, the Museum, policing in the provinces, northern patrols, memorials and cairns as well as assistance to publishers. Created between 1939 and 1980, most of the files concern routine administrative matters such as personnel, training, courses, supplies, and the band.

Supreme Court Case Files

  • Finding Aid 125-3—Volumes 3009-4067, 4294-4295
    These case files contain the collection of records created by the appellants, the respondents, the Court’s staff and the Justices for all cases brought before the Court. The finding aid is a file list that indicates volume number, case number, name of appellant, name of respondent, and the year in which the case was filed by the Court. Over 6,000 additional file descriptions for 1980–1990 case files have been added to our database.

Canadian Hydrographic Service

  • Registry files—Finding Aid 139-1—Volumes 1-29
    These files were created between 1938 and 1965 and pertain to Canadian Notices to Mariners. The Canadian Hydrographic Service was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Mines and Resources (1936–1948) and the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys (1949–1966) at the time of the creation of these files. The content of these Notices to Mariners include changes made to hydrographic charts; correspondence concerning surveys conducted in different parts of the country; reports, various committees, hydrographic instruments and equipment, and liaison with international organizations on matters concerning oceanography; monthly reports from various vessels of the service, tidal station documentation, and current surveys.
  • Ships Logs—Finding Aid 139-1—Volumes 33-66 (MIKAN 181475)
    These files relate to ships’ logs of various vessels designated for hydrographic operations under the Marine Branch of the Department of Marine and Fisheries (1905–1910, 1922–1936), the Department of Naval Services (1910–1922), the Department of Mines and Resources (1936–1948), the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys (1949–1966) and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources (1966–1967). The logs contain a diurnal record of activities and observations aboard these vessels. The earlier logs provide succinct four- to eight-line descriptions of weather conditions and ship maintenance. The information in the later logs, for the 1950s and 1960s, pertains to weather, ship maintenance activities, the day’s itinerary, the vessels’ compass course, periodic positions expressed in longitude and latitude, swell and wind conditions, barometric pressure, atmospheric temperature, and visibility. Few details of actual hydrographic work are recorded.

Self-serve photography

It used to be that the only way of getting copies of archival documents was a bit of a tedious process. Flagging the pages you wanted copied, filling out the form, handing in the information to the Consultation staff, and then waiting the 30 business days for the copies to be made. If you were not someone who was from the Ottawa-Gatineau area, you would then have to wait for the copies to be mailed out to you. If you were in the National Capital Region, but not a regular visitor, you might have to make a special trip to 395 Wellington Street to pick up your copies. Now the process can be much quicker if you choose. If you have a camera or a smartphone, you can now take digital images of our collection, rights and restrictions permitting. Once you have the material you wish to copy, simply check in with the Consultation staff, who will provide you with a quick form to fill out. You will need to provide the full reference number for the box or volume, along with your user card number and your name. The staff will verify restrictions of the documents and provide you with a green copy of the approved form. Here are some of the key points to remember about what is required from a technical standpoint of your camera or smartphone.

  • You must have a wrist strap, neck strap or tripod.
  • No flash can be used.
  • Photos cannot be taken before permission is given.
  • Your green permission slip must be visible at all times.
  • You can request a weight or book wedges to help you photograph larger items instead of forcing the items open.

There are also a few tripods available with either a camera mount or a smartphone mount, but they are loaned out on a first-come, first-served basis. You can see the Consultation staff for these as well. If you cannot come in during service hours and still wish to take photos, you can either fax in your filled out form (613-992-5921) or scan and email it to the following address:, indicating your date of visit and which lockers have been assigned to you. You can get a copy of the form in person during service hours or by contacting the Consultation staff at the above mentioned email address. This service is also available in Genealogy and Reference Services during their service hours.

Ordering documents: what numbers do I need?

Trying to find the right reference number when you want to request documents from the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collection can be a little daunting to a newcomer and sometimes even to the seasoned researcher. With titles such as Item ID number, archival reference no., former archival reference no., related control no., and other system control no., it can be difficult to know which number is required to place your request.

In general, the complete archival reference information that you need to request documents for consultation (or reproduction) can be found in the Reference field in the “Record Information – Brief” section of the online description for files, items and accessions, etc, available through our Collection Search database.

In the case where some information is missing from the reference field, it is always worth looking at the “Ordering and Viewing Options” section.

A sample record description in the Library and Archives Canada Collection Search database. Note the Reference field near the top of the page and the Conditions of access at the bottom of the page.

You will need to make note of the following information (if available), in the order indicated (1 to 6), in addition to the document title (located at the top of the description page):

  1. Archival Reference number – e.g., R112
  2. Former archival reference no. – e.g., RG, MG, LMS, MUS. It is also important to transcribe all of the information that follows the letter identification.
  3. An accession or BAN number – e.g., 2003-00459-9
  4. A volume or box number—without a volume or box number, nothing can be ordered.
  5. File no. (creator) or Item no. (creator)
  6. File title

It is important to note that the Item ID number found in Collection Search (formerly known as Mikan number) is not an accepted reference number. This number is a system number for Collection Search. It refers to the descriptive record, not the document itself. While useful for searching online, this number, unlike complete references, will likely change

That said, for the preceding example the following information would be needed for document retrieval:

RG24-C-1-c, Volume 32619, File no. 5902-33/47-302

Here are other examples of reference numbers and titles organized by media type.

Please note that the “Conditions of access” field, available under the header “Ordering and Viewing Options” also contains important information on access restrictions (identified by an access code) that apply to the records described and that indicate whether documents may or may not be freely consulted for research and reproduction purposes. For more information about access codes, please consult the following blog posts: Introduction and Part II.

Important considerations:

  • Retrieval times for archival documents are between 36 and 48 hours as the documents are kept offsite and must be brought to 395 Wellington for viewing.
  • Pay close attention to the restriction codes on the documents, which may require you to provide additional information if the files happen to be restricted.
  • Some documents have already been microfilmed and are available for immediate viewing in the consultation room. If you see a record with a microfilm reel number, you can go directly to the microfilm room and pull the reel from the shelf for viewing.
  • In addition, some microfilm reels starting with the letters C-, T- and H-, have been digitized through our collaboration with Canadiana and are available on the Héritage website.

If all else fails, feel free to ask the Orientation or Consultation staff for help to find the correct reference number, or complete the Ask Us a Question form.