Alberta Ancestors: The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project

If you have Alberta ancestors, then you\’ll want to check out the website Our Future, Our Past: The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project. The non profit project ran from 1999 to 2010, digitizing various media relating to Alberta\’s history and culture. It\’s the impressive collaboration between:

  •  University of Calgary
  •  University of Alberta
  •  Glenbow Museum
  •  Nickle Arts Museum
  •  Provincial Archives of Alberta
  •  Galileo Educational Network Association
  •  Historical Society of Alberta
From the main page, you can see they sorted their collection into 12 categories:

This is a collection of art from the Nickle Museum and the University of Calgary. Unfortunately, when I tried both the browse and search functions. I could not access anything. It kept asking for login credentials.
Calgary Stampede History

Clicking on this one will take you to the University of Calgary\’s webpage on the Calgary Stampede. By looking to the right of the page you\’ll see the link to access the Calgary Stampede Archives.
Now, if you scroll to the bottom of the page, you\’ll see you can browse by topic. There\’s thousands of photos, posters, postcards, Alberta Cattle Breeders catalogues, corporate records, dinner menus, prize lists, programs, and media guides. On a whim I looked at the Alberta Cattle Breeders Catalogues. On the inside cover of the 1902 cover was a list of officers for the Association 1901-1902:
If your ancestor was a part of running the Stampede, you might find their names in the corporate reports. For instance, in 1932 the secretary was Miss. A. E. Hall, and Robert Spencer was the Grounds Superintendent. 
Early Alberta Newspapers

Now this is a must see collection. You can browse by year or by place. There are 41 communities listed, and papers run from 1885 to 2001. Not all places have all years. For example, Banff had the Craig and Canyon newspaper, which ran from 1900 to 1959. Everything is easy to navigate, and narrow down to specific issues. You\’ll be rewarded with digital images of the newspaper. I found out that in the 8 May 1902 edition, Mr. W. Rather of the Bow River Boathouse had just received a consignment of Peterborough Canoes, and that both Miss Galletly and Miss S. Bell Irving had come down with \”la grippe\”.
Educational Modules

This will take you to some educational resources for teachers relating to Alberta history and culture.
Grande Prairie Photographs

This one is kind of a misnomer. It has the Isabel Campbell Photographic Collection, which is a collection of over 1000 historic photographs of the Grande Prairie area and its citizens. But it also has a link to the Grande Prairie Newspaper Collection. Here you will be able to access digital images of The Frontier Signal (1914-1916), the Grande Prairie Herald (1913-1938), the Grande Prairie Herald-Tribune (1939-1942), the Herald Tribune (1939-1948), and the Northern Tribune (1932-1939).
Southern Alberta Folklore

Here you\’ll find a collection of over 1000 items relating to Alberta local history and stories. Included are biographies, photos, obituaries, diaries, government documents, periodicals, and personal memories. There\’s also works of fiction, essays and speeches. You can browse by author, genre, place name, subject, contributor, source publication, or by title. I clicked under biographies the interesting title \”Jack DuBois: cattle thief or good neighbour?\”. It is actually a newspaper clipping detailing how in 1907 Mr. DuBois, a well known and respected rancher, was under investigation for stealing other ranchers\’ cattle.
Do you know the poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee? Well, the obituary for the real Sam McGee is in the obituaries section!
Local Histories

A sections of books dealing with both provincial and local history. The search function is not available at this time but you can still browse. Browsing is done alphabetically by either title, author, or subject. Click on a letter, narrow further by letter combination, and then a list of publications will appear. I tried browsing for books on Lethbridge. I used \”title\”, letter \”L\”, combination \”LE\”, and got 10 results. Six of these had lethbridge in the title. When I used \”subject\”, \”L\”, and \”LE\”, I got 5 different results. I tried some other combinations for places. I kept running into \”run time errors\” for some of the links to take me to the digitized images of the books. Some worked though. You\’ll have to play around with it to see what works for you.
Medical History

This sections allows you to explore the medical history of Alberta through photos, journals, periodicals, and biographies of those involved with medicine. It doesn\’t only cover Alberta either. I found titles involving Ontario and British Columbia as well. It is set up the same way as the Local Histories section above. Also like above, the search capability has been disabled, and I ran into a lot of \”run time errors\”.
Multicultural Alberta

This section lets you look at media relating to the different cultural groups of the province. You can search for specific items, or browse by ethnicity. You can also browse by media type: books, periodicals, or videos. Under Cultural Group there is:
  • Chinese
  • Finnish
  • German
  • Hungarian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Jewish
  • Macedonian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Ruthenian
  • Slovenian
  • South Asian
  • Ukranian
  • Other
Browsing through the book titles, I found books covering Ontario, and Canada as a whole, as well as Alberta. Also, while the majority are written in English, I did find books and periodicals written in German. I also found many Ukranian periodicals.
Historical Airphotos

Here is collection of over 30,000 digitized air photos covering the years 1922-1956. These are actual aerial photos, not maps. If you know a location where your ancestor lived, you could then see what the land looked like when they lived there.
Nitsitapiisinni: Kainai Plants and Culture

This section deals with resources relating to the Nitsitapiisinni, or Blackfoot. You can look at digitized books, pictures, and videos of their history and culture. There\’s also a really interesting map of the Blackfoot Confederacy Territory.
Alberta\’s Legislative History

This last section is actually divided into two parts: Alberta Law Collection, and Municipal Bylaws.
The Alberta Law Collection has documents relating to the Alberta Legislature. The Search function is disabled, but you can browse. Unlike the other sections above, all the links I tried worked. The documents you can view are: 
  • Alberta Gazette (1905-1990)
  • Bills of the Alberta Legislature (1906-1990)
  • Debates of the Alberta Legislature (Hansards) (1972-1993)
  • Journals of the Alberta Legislature (1906-1989)
  • Ordinances of the Northwest Territories (1877-1905)
  • Revised Statutes of Alberta (1922, 1942, 1955, 1970, 1980)
  • Statutes of Alberta (1906-1990)
Municipal Bylaws have digitized bylaws for communities across the province and for various years. You cannot search (it\’s been disabled) but you can browse either by year or by community. I tried Canmore and they have the bylaws and rescinded bylaws covering from 1965 to 2009. This section may not have direct genealogical significance, unless your ancestor was involved with the town council in some way. But if you were looking for background information on something like property taxation, then you might make use of these. Most of us know that sometimes research will take you down some pretty strange avenues.
Funding for \”Our Future, Our Past\” came through a variety of sources. If you find information on your ancestors here, you can thank:
  • Alberta Community Development, Community Initiatives Program
  • The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation
  • The Alberta Knowledge Network
  • The Alberta Library
  • The Alberta Law Foundation
  • The Alberta Medical Foundation
  • Canada\’s Digital Collections
  • The Calgary Foundation
  • Calgary Exhibition & Stampede
  • Industry Canada
  • Information Resources, University of Calgary

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