Sunday, June 6, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – Week 21 – States Archives

Week 21 of Amy Coffin’s 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy is to examine the website of our state or provincial archives. To take time to push all the buttons and click all the links. I’m a week late in this challenge, but better late than never.

The Quebec Archives are called the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Quebec (BAnQ). It is a result of an amalgamation in 2005 of the Grande Bibliothèque du Quebec, the Bibliothèque nationale du Quebec and the Archives nationals du Quebec. The BAnQ is devoted to the acquisition and preservation of Quebec’s published, archival and film heritage. Because this is a joining of the Quebec archives and two libraries (bibliothèque is French for library), there is a whole lot more to it than just your regular archives.

A new building was built in 2005 and is called the Grand Bibliothèque. This serves as a lending library for reference material, non fiction as well as fiction and has everything that libraries would have, such as activities for youth, workshops, exhibitions, etc., and also serves as one of the archive centres.

Although they are in the process of digitizing a lot of the archives, not everything is available online yet and therefore requires a trip to one of the archives centres. The archives branch of Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Quebec offers its services throughout Quebec via a network of nine regional centres. If anyone is looking for a specific type of record, it is best to call to find out which centre to go to.

A few months back I found online the Lovell’s Montreal Directory, which lists the old Montreal municipal directories from 1842-1999. I had a great old time looking up addresses for my step-father’s family from the time they arrived in Montreal and then later directories from when we moved to Montreal from Saskatchewan after my mom married my step-dad. Because they have their own website, I had no idea at the time that these records were part of the digital collection of the Quebec Archives. I only discovered this a couple of weeks ago when I found the BAnQ’s website while trying to locate archived records of the old Montreal Star newspaper.

Part of the collections available is a section devoted to genealogy. There are online research tools, but it also lists resources available in the research rooms. I must make mention here that all the records in the archives are strictly related to Quebec. You will not find any census records for any of the other provinces.

As I mentioned above, a couple of weeks ago I was trying to find where the archives for the Montreal Star newspaper were located as I was looking for an obituary from 1927. In looking around BAnQ’s website, I discovered that they are held at the Quebec Archives (I know that seems logical, but there was also a chance that they would be located at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa!), but they have not been digitized yet. As there are two archive centres in Montreal, I called to find out which one the newspaper archives would be located (it’s a good thing I did call as they are not located in centre that I thought they would be in). All the newspaper archives (for both of Montreal’s two English newspapers) are on microfilm and are located at the Grand Bibliothèque in downtown Montreal, which being, a library, is open on weekends! So two Saturday’s ago I hopped on the Metro (absolutely no parking available downtown) and decided to make a day of it. I have to say here, this place is huge. It’s so big that they give guided tours twice a month, and there is a boutique and a restaurant!

Now don’t laugh, but this is the first time in 27 years that I have used a microfilm reader! They have changed considerably since 1983. After I was shown how to load and use the machine, there was no stopping me. It took me awhile to find what I was looking for because I kept getting distracted reading the old newspapers! However, I eventually found the main obituary I was looking for as well as another one from 1917.

Although I thought I had only been there for about an hour, it turns out I had spent 3 ½ hours there. I defiantly have to go back soon, as I still have more newspaper obits that I want to look up. Maybe I will go on a day that they have a tour.

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