Administrative records, Archives, British Columbia history, Canada history, Historical documents, Historical research, Record keeping, Research, Vancouver history

Archival research – where to start?

directions

 

If you realize you’re at a point in your research that you need to use an archive the first thing you need to do is figure out which, if any archive, will hold the records you need.

Because archival collections are, strictly speaking, collections of one-of-a-kind, original documents (artefacts), it follows that they’ll only be found in one place (with a few exceptions of copied artefacts).

This post is the first one to help you figure out which archive to go to for your research,  starting with an overview of areas of responsibility between municipal, provincial, and federal jurisdictions in Canada. And since I’m most familiar with the archives in my home-town of Vancouver and my province of British Columbia (BC), I’ll be using many examples from these repositories.

I’ll try to make this as simple as I can 🙂

startledcat
Hang on – this stuff gets dense!

 

The majority of archives fall under the jurisdiction of some level of government – whether municipal, provincial, federal in Canada – or some other division of power in the country whose records you are seeking.

You’ll need to know which level of government is responsible for what in order to know which archive will hold the records you want to look at. 

For example, you’ll find the administrative documents that were used to run the various departments of the Vancouver’s city government from the date of incorporation (April 6, 1886) at the city of Vancouver archives. 

These will include records created by the city’s departments, committees, and councils including police, fire, planning, engineering, parks, city manager, etc.

At provincial-level archives you will find administrative documents that were used to run all the various councils, committees, and departments of the provincial government from the date of formation of that province.

In British Columbia the provincial archives is now officially called the British Columbia Archives and Records Service (BCCARS) .  

The records at BCCARS includes those created by departments that have carried out responsibilities that fall under BC provincial jurisdiction, as determined, with some exceptions, by federal law.

In a nutshell, here are the areas of responsibility of provincial governments in Canada. Bear in mind that division of responsibility have changed over time so you may need to do some preliminary research to ensure you are looking in the right archive for the time-period you are researching.

But here they are, currently;  with some exceptions depending on the jurisdiction (particularly Quebec)

  • internal constitution
  • taxation for provincial purposes
  • municipalities (in BC, Vancouver is its own legislative entity called the Vancouver Charter). Other municipalities in the province have their powers and responsibilities but these are legislated under the BC Municipal Act.
  • school boards
  • Hospitals
  • property and civil rights (their largest area of responsibility)
  • administration of civil and criminal justice
  • penalties for infraction of provincial statutes
  • Prisons
  • celebration of marriage, provincial civil service (aka vital stats)
  • local works and corporations with provincial objectives

For federal government records, on the other hand, you will need to consult with the National  Archives of Canada (officially called Library and Archives Canada) to find records that fall under Federal jurisdiction.

Here are the general areas that the Canadian federal government is currently responsible for:

  •  trade and commerce
  • direct and indirect taxation
  • currency
  • the postal service
  • census taking and statistics
  • national defence
  • the federal civil service
  • navigation
  • fisheries
  • banking
  • copyright
  • Aboriginals and Indian reserves
  • naturalization
  • marriage and divorce
  • criminal law
  • penitentiaries
  • interprovincial works and undertakings.

 

If you (brave researcher) want to delve further into this, here is the link to an article from the Canadian Encyclopedia about the division of power between the Canadian federal government and the provinces.

For countries other than Canada – comparable divisions apply but you will have to determine that from your own governmental websites.

Enough for now?

 

 

 

Vancouver history, Women, women's history

Emily Patterson – The Heroine of Moodyville

A couple of books have recently come out on two dynamic women in Vancouver’s history, Emily Patterson by Lisa Anne Smith and Julia Henshaw by Michael Kluckner.

I thought I’d shed a light on Emily Patterson because she, or a character based on her,  will have a part in the novel I’m writing which is set in early Vancouver.

Emily Patterson was a nurse and midwife here from the early 1870s at a time there were incredibly few other white women. She earned a reputation for being fearless, kind, and dedicated to helping settler families and others on both sides of Burrard Inlet. She is most vividly remembered for an episode one night when she traversed Burrard Inlet in a small boat to help someone in Point Atkinson  That act was later immortalized in a poem in which she earned the sobriquet, The Heroine of Moodyville (the settler name for what later became North Vancouver).

I’m not sure if I will portray Emily as herself in my story or if I will conjure up a character at least partially based on her.  I would love to put her in as herself, but since there will be some issues in the story – possibly an abortion and likely some discussion about birth control – that might be contentious, I don’t want to put her in a position where she will take a stand or give advice or assistance unless I can find out for sure that she would have supported these things.  A big challenge.

But I can use her life and experiences to give me a sense of how midwives worked here in the late 19th century, along with general early midwifery, abortion, and birth control history, and conjure up a character loosely based on Emily.

In any case, if you’re interested in Emily Patterson and the experience of an early white woman in this part of the world I recommend the book, Emily Patterson : the heroic life of a milltown nurse by Lisa Anne Smith.

The author will be speaking at the Vancouver Historical Society meeting this Thursday (May 24), 7:30 pm at the Vancouver museum – FREE.

Here’s a link for more info.

http://www.vancouver-historical-society.ca/index.html