I visited the Provincial Archives of Alberta (PAA) in Edmonton in August, 2018.
(This is #2 in my archive visit series. If you’d like to start at #1, here’s my trip to the BC archives.)
Getting ready to go
The PAA offes online indices of registration numbers for birth, marriage and death records. If you’ve never tried searching for a document, defintely spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with how they are organized before you jump in. It will save time and confusion.
I was looking for marriage records for a family named Michaud, no other information available. This proved to be time consuming, so worth doing just once. The marriage records are not centralized, or searchable, which means starting at the beginning of the file and reading through to the end.
It’s useful to capture your finds with screen snips. There are three files available for brides with last names beginning with “M” and first vowel “i”.
From the first index Mi (1877-1918), we see a marriage record for Michaud, Olina (left column, 10th row). Michaud, Olina, who married in Bonny Ville, registration #159, in 1918. These are the 4 pieces of information needed to request the record.
Excerpt – Index of Brides who married in 1918 in Alberta. Available at the Provincial Archives of Alberta at http://provincialarchives.alberta.ca/docs/how-to/find-birth-marriage-death-records/marriages/brides/m/brides-mi-1877-1918.pdf
The 5 pieces of information you need to request the record are:
- Registration No.: 159
- Event type: Marriage
- Event year: 1918
- Names associated with event: Michaud, Olina
- Event location: Bonny Ville
Select “pick up at PAA Reception.” Don’t forget to request them when you visit! If you’re not visiting in person, see below for ordering by mail.
As you can see from the sample above, only the brides are listed. If you don’t already know the last name for the groom, it’s tough to find the corroborating index. There are only two pieces of information provided – (i) year of marriage (1918); and (ii) registration number (#159). Because of the way the records are accessed, you will need at least a partial guess for the name, which in this case is Cretean (right side, 5th row).
Here is the record for Olina Michaud and Arthur Cretean, 1918. As you can see, there is a wealth of genealogical detail in these records.
In addition to marriage records, the PAA site offers:
- Death records:
- 1877-1950 (not text searchable);
- (1925-1968; text searchable);
- Indigenous deaths 1923-1945 (not searchable);
- Overseas deaths 1940-1948)(not searchable); and
- Stillbirths (1914-1943)
- Births (1853-1897)
If you go
The Archives are open every day, Tuesday to Saturday, 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, except Wednesdays when they’re open to 9:00 pm. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
If you’re planning to ask archivists to retrieve materials for you, avoid visiting over the lunch hour (11:30 – 1 pm) or after 3:30 pm.
There’s a basic eating area equipped with vending machines at the Archives. I like how you can bring snacks and store them in a locker. If you’re planning an all day visit, I recommend packing a lunch.
If it’s your first visit, you’ll need to fill in some forms, and you’ll be issued a researcher’s pass. Access to the archives, lockers for your use, and parking are free.
What can you find on site that you can’t find online?
Two words: a lot:
- Census records
- passenger lists
- city directories
- family histories
- homestead records
- divorce records
- probate files
When I visited at 9:00 am on a Saturday morning, I was the first one to arrive, so I explained my research question and the archivist took me on a tour of the entire collection. She had time to load me up with an armload of possible family history books before the next visitor arrived.
If you can’t visit in person: Save on shipping with bundled requests
In case it’s too small to read clearly in the example for Vital Statistics Requests above, the fine print says:
Vital Stats requests submitted on the same day by 3:30 PM MST will be processed as one order with one shipping & handling charge when mailed out. Due to the volume of requests that we receive, we are unable to bundle multiple requests received on different days. If you are making multiple requests, which must be made one at a time, we recommend you make them on the same day prior to 3:30 PM.
I put through 6 requests, one after the other, taking care to submit them after 5 pm. In this way, I had hours to get them all done, and they were all processed as one batch: six records @ $2.21, plus shipping @ $3.15, for a total of $5.36. Of course, I forgot one record, so paid $0.35 for the next record, plus $3.15 shipping for that one. It definitely pays to be organized.
Compare: Ancestry and Family Search
I thought it’d be an interesting experiment to see what I could find at (paid) Ancestry and (free) Family Search. You might recall my research question was How many marriages for the last name “Michaud” can I locate in Alberta?
If you have an Ancestry account, it saves a lot of time to hit Ancestry first.
On Ancestry, if you isolate the search to the database “Alberta, Canada, Marriages Index 1898-1942,” and enter “Michaud” as the last name, you’ll be able to find an index result showing Olina Michaud, Arthur Cretean, and the year 1918. After that, it’s easy to locate the registration number to make the record request (because I’m not sure you can make a record request without it).
I was unable to find this record on Family Search.
For my third post, I’ll be talking about visiting the archives of Saskatchewan.