Have you been to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) lately? The site has undergone a MAJOR upgrade. Here is my informal coffee chat exploring some of the site’s new features.
[Lightly edited from the video.]
Okay. Welcome, everyone, to my coffee chat.
The purpose of a coffee chat for me is to present information that I’m learning, but I haven’t quite worked up into a full scale webinar and so it’s very informal. It’s very work in progress. It’s also been small groups where people can ask and answer questions. Also I mentioned a few minutes ago, but I will repeat, that I’m recording this and I intend to write this up in a blog post with the attached video. And so if you’re signed up for my newsletter at past-presence.com, you will see a blog post about this In the next – well, I can’t promise – but in the next few weeks.
About me, I’m a fourth generation Chinese-Canadian, British Columbian, counting from three great grandparents, one of them the storied Yip Sang. I have written a couple of books, the main one being “Getting started in Chinese genealogy,” now in its second edition. I am a member of the Ancestry Board of Canadian genealogists, a whole bunch of societies, including the British Columbia Genealogical Society. And I am thrilled to announce that I have submitted my level one project for accreditation with the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists. And I’m now working on levels two and three for testing. So that’s exciting.
If you would like, please feel free to give your name and where you’re from in the chat. And you can pop your questions in the chat or you can just shout them out. We are a fairly small group.
Okay, we’re talking about Library and Archives Canada. So I was there. I haunt Library and Archives Canada and its sister organization, Héritage Canadiana. And I noticed that they’ve had a massive reorganization.
So in a nutshell, this is how I see LAC before. You went to Library Archives Canada’s site, and then you went to the siloed databases. Like if you wanted something “Immigrants before 1865,” you search there. And then if you wanted “Russian Immigrants,” you’d search there. For me, “Immigrants from China,” and then if I wanted something from the gazette I would have to go look for it. So it was extremely difficult to find anything at Library and Archives Canada. And what was missing was a central collection search.
Well, guess what, there is now a central collection search. And this really changes everything in terms of search functionality I find. So this is a small diagram with the collection search. And so you hit the collection search first, and it will search all of these siloed databases. Now, for an idea of just how many siloed databases there were, here’s a list of what you can specifically search. That’s a lot a lot, like “Orders-in-Council,” for example, we’ve got “Immigration and Citizenship” but I didn’t even realize that was a separate database, and “Military.” For those of us who look at First and Second World War there’s also – how is “Military” separate from “First World War” – but whatever. It is, so not a lot of the previous collections databases made sense so you didn’t know to go looking for them.
So that’s the end of my slide deck. And now I’m going to stop sharing my deck and I will start sharing Library and Archives Canada.
So here is the new Library and Archives Canada site. If you still have a link in any collected information that you might have – in my case websites – or you know you’ve been creating documents and research guides for yourself, you’ll notice that the URL is different: that it’s now “library-archives.Canada.ca” and then there will be in English and French. It used to be “BAC-” etc and
Currently, I’m noticing the URL is automatically forwarding to this new central site. But this means that all URLs that used to go to “bac-” etc, aren’t. Now they’re just going to go to the homepage for Library and Archives Canada.
Newly designed home page and old entry points gone
Now the home page has been reorganized to make it more user friendly, I read some of the comments that LAC was dealing with. And that was the number one that LAC was not intuitive or user friendly. And especially for us, genealogists, and historians: the Search Collection. Now, you can reach this several different ways through the site. But I really liked that the search function is right on on the main page.
Now, there are a number of caveats about the site, I did notice it’s still a little slow, it can take up to a minute or two. It can take up to a minute or two for the site to produce results. So just hang on, just wait. So that hasn’t improved a lot.
I do notice that the older entry points such as “Immigrants from China” are now gone.
I do recommend that you have a look at the other links on this site. And so we’re gonna go over the homepage. And then we’re going to go over what’s in Collections. And then I will do a few searches and show you what I saw.
Searching the Collections
So Searching the Collections gets you to this page. And the Collection Search, again is the same search function as was on the homepage but it’s got a lot more information. What I liked about this is that it also has the Catalogue and Search Other Institutions.
So let’s look at those three.
Collection search will take you to the homepage. But the difference between this and the other homepage is there’s the Advanced Search button.
Now, why would you need an advanced search button? Well, the guides in Library and Archives Canada help us now search for particular phrases using codes and identifiers and that I liked is actually in the guide. What I’d like to point out is if you just want to just search the previous database that you’re used to and comfortable searching, then you can isolate that in this. But for now, let’s go back to Library Catalogue.
Exploring the Library Catalogue
Library Catalogue are all the Canadian publications. And I have never used Bibliothèque et Archives before. And so when I did, these are, you know all the publications that LAC holds. But what I really liked is under Advanced…
So just to reiterate, we were in in Collections. Now we’re in Library and Archives Canada’s lookup database, Aurora under Advanced Search, and there’s this little tool here, Open Access. Frequently when we’re looking at library catalogues, we often only see things that are printed or only available at the library. When we are searching Aurora with open access, we find a dozen results that are potentially available online. Now I did some exploring through this and not everything that has access online is in fact accessible online, however quite a lot is. And so for example, “The politics of immigration in post-war Canada” is a freely accessible thesis that I found when I was exploring for this talk that I have never seen before. And it was very useful.
So there is a way to navigate the library portion of Library Archives Canada to find online searches.
Search Other Institutions (Voilá)
Okay, so now we went through Collections, we’ve been through Library Catalogue. Now we’re going to look at Search Other Institutions.
in the same way that the previous search for Library and Archives Canada’s library collection, this is Voilà. So this is basically like the WorldCat (or world catalog). Similarly, it has the same structure for advanced search. So clicking on Advanced Search and going down to the Open Access will bring you results from world catalog that are open access. So again, this was a really interesting way to find secondary source material for our people. Now, if your ancestor was famous, then go ahead and plunk their name into the search. If, like most of us, your ancestors, were not worthy of having a book written about them historically, then go ahead and use a subject searches.
Using Collection Search basic and advanced functions
Let’s do the Collection Search.
Okay, so you can use Advanced Search and you can use the Basic Search, we’ll do both.
I’m going to use my great grandfather.
Search results window
Now, if you haven’t seen a search results on Library and Canada, I’ll just go through it quickly.
On the left hand bar you have where it was collected, whether it was an archives or genealogy or the library, the dates, but not necessarily the dates the record was originally created. It could be the date that the library acquired it so I find the dates can be a little bit misleading. I rarely ever look at them. If you want them online, then no or yes. And that will take us down to only open source material.
Notice, even by searching only digital, I still have this result. So it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.
Now I’m really familiar with searching for my great grandfather’s records here at LAC. What I like about this collection search over the previous search is that previously, especially for us, spellings were a very big deal. And so in order to get a result for Yip Sang or maybe it’s spelled Y-I-P-P or Y-A-P or Y-E-P, I would literally have to put in each one of those spellings. And even worse than that, the searches I noticed I would have to type in “Sang Yip” because it didn’t give results for Yip Sang OR Sang Yip. The Collection Search at Library and Archives Canada now is different. Where it does give you exact spellings. Notice I did not use quotation marks, and then it gave it gives other sorting by relevance. So this was more like a collection search result that we would see, say in Google, or in Ancestry or other genealogy databases that we’re used to.
However, the new and very interesting thing that I found is that it also brings up results from the Canada Gazette. Never before have I seen results that both pulled from “Immigrants from China” and also the “Canada Gazette” but why you might be thinking would you need to see the Canada Gazette?
Because immigration. Because if your immigrant ancestor was approved for a visa, or had to have an Order-in-Council in order for them to come to Canada, their name is listed in the Canada Gazette and so first of all, we’re going to look at the Chinese immigration records and then we’re going to look at the Canada Gazette.
Search results: clicking image or link
If you click on the image, you get the image and I found this very annoying because I was looking for the download button. For the rest of the information, click on the blue link. If you click on the blue link, you get all the information for the record, I don’t know why there’s a double access point for that. But personally, I find this way more useful. Click on the blue link in the research. And you will get not only the image, which you can manipulate the same way as the image before, but also ways to print, download.
LAC and copyright materials
And, you know, if, for example, you want to download, be aware that Library and Archives Canada will only allow downloads to be used for research and private study. This means, for example, that we’re not supposed to put the stuff up on websites without permission. And then you click it. That is you saying, Yes, I attest that I will only use this for research and private study. And then you can download either the single file or if it’s a multi page documents, such as the Gazette all of the images. And so I’m not going to do that right now. So there’s the download.
This is the just take away all of the other images on the screen.
Record information page
At the record information, the record details now. I personally read all of this information just to find out you know, how Library Archives Canada organizes its information. Notice it says this is where it’s found. It’s in the genealogy section under Immigration and Citizenship under… etc.
I think, with the new collection search, this sort of hierarchy will be less necessary to know, whereas in the previous Library Archives iteration, or perhaps if you had a chance to even visit Ottawa, you would probably need to know this. What I did find, however, is this the item ID number.
The thing is when you’re looking at immigration records, such as this a Chinese immigration number nine certificate, it is Item ID number 117474. Immigrants often didn’t travel by themselves, they often traveled with family members. And so what if you wanted the next image? And so that’s what I will show you next.
Using the record ID number to find the next record in the set
I’m going to copy this. I’m going to go to Collection Search, and this time I want Advanced.
Under Database, I know this comes from “Immigrants from China,” and add the item ID number.
I’m going to paste in the previous record that I was looking at and change the number to 475. In other words, I want to see the next record in this collection. So Yip Que Sooon was a cousin of Yip Sang. And if I didn’t know this little trick, or have figured it out, I wouldn’t know that his was the next one. They did. Both traveled together on that particular trip. And I could keep doing this to see who else and who else and who else. And who else because adjacent records often are our family as well.
Use LAC’s permanent links
Finally, the last thing I would like to point out for Library Archives Canada, if you weren’t aware of this before, you should not use the URL at the top of the browser. Instead, you should use the permanent link. That’s what this is. If you don’t see it, it will be under record information. And often it will look like this. So show detail. It explains what this is. You copy it and that’s the URL that you use in your records to get right back to this particular record. The other one might work for a while, but it won’t work for the long term.
Using the Canada Gazette
Okay, so that was searching in Collections and searching using the item ID number. The next thing we’re going to look at: we’re going to look at Canada Gazette results, which were quite interesting.
So this is the collection search, which this time I’ve accessed from the homepage, instead of going down a couple of pages. And I am looking for the Canada Gazette. Now it says here, Yip Sang, 45, et cetera, et cetera.
Remember, clicking on the blue link takes you to the gazette.
Use the orange dot indicators
And this is what I would like to show you: objects with an orange circle contain terms from your search.
I missed that completely the first few times that I hit the gazette and I thought, where’s the search function? And it’s quite strange. I don’t yet know how you quickly find the orange dot. But eventually, let’s see now. I recall it was image 173 or something like that.
So that’s a little trick that Library and Archives Canada now uses to help you locate your term. So clicking on the dot in the film at the bottom will bring you to the actual image. Now, please note, the location of the dot is NOT where your search term occurs. It’s somewhere on this page. So you can see if it was a newspaper page, you would have to read the whole thing, but at least you didn’t have to read 457 other pages. I’m going to expand and see where my result is. Which I recall was… right here, number 1236: Wong Yip Sang. So that isn’t my family. But still, it was really interesting to see this result in the Canada Gazette.
I do have a gift for you here. From The Canada Gazette I excerpted five pages from this particular gazette, because I want to illustrate what the gazette could potentially have for our ancestors. And what I’ve done is I’ve taken the front page, the description page, and then three sample pages of the first middle and half to show you the reason why your ancestor might be in the Gazette. In this case, these are the “Regulations exempting certain persons from the application of the Immigration Act.” In other words, they were they had their visas approved outside of the Immigration Act. The Immigration Act applied to all Canadian subjects that were not pre approved. And so I noticed there were fifty pages in this particular list and I’m just showing three and so that’s an example of what you can find on a gazette.
Okay, that is me for right now. I’m going to stop recording and if anyone has questions please let me have them!
I run a monthly coffee chat exploring all things genealogy for members of the British Columbia Genealogical Society and my Facebook Group Genealogy for Asian Canadians. I’m sharing this chat video and transcript for all my fellow Canadians because LAC’s changes are substantial. Stay tuned because I will likely do this one again, covering a few more of the major changes, such as finding miltary records.
Canada, Privy Council, Canada Gazette 1841-1997, Canada Gazette Part II (1947-1997), Vol. 126, No. 14, item no. 14290, date 1 Jul 1992, SOR/DORS 92-390, pgs 2702, 2703, 2740, 2758, images online, Library and Archives Canada (accessed 6 Oct 2022 at http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.redirect?app=cangaz&id=14290&lang=eng).
Library and Archives Canada [English] home page, archives, Library and Archives Canada (accessed 6 Oct 2022 at https://library-archives.canada.ca/eng).
Thanks this week to the attendees of my coffee chats! An audience always makes it fun.