Sunday, 28 October 2007

AIA - North West Rebellion

Despite a few problems this Ancestors in the Attic episode, attempting to verify a family legend about the involvement of a man from B Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery in capturing Chief Big Bear during the 1885 North West Rebellion, was interesting.

Contrary to the information given, the CPR was not complete at the time of the Rebellion. This meant that soldiers from eastern Canada had to bridge four gaps in the line north of the upper Great Lakes on foot or in sleighs on their journey west.

Contrary to the impression given, The Library of Parliament is available to the public only in exceptional circumstances, if no other option for viewing the material exists. A television crew gains access where no ordinary researcher can. Fortunately there's a much easier, if less picturesque option to view Sessional Papers for the period. They are freely available through the Early Official Publications project of Early Canadiana Online - here.

Contrary to the impression given there is no big mystery about whether Chief Big Bear was involved in the Battle of Cut Knife Hill. Virtually any book on the Rebellion will confirm he was not.

If you're researching the Rebellion check out BIFHSGO's database containing information on 5,189 men who served in 1885. It's a transcription of a compilation by Charles Arkell Boulton, each record providing the soldier's name, company, and unit. Also provided are the individual's rank, regiment and company and notes regarding fatalities and injuries.

1 comment:

GW said...

Your observations on this episode are right on. There seems to be an effort to make the research more difficult than it is. You are correct to point out that ordinary researchers can access Sessional Papers thru "Early Canadiana" or on microfilm in many public libraries. The episode also suggested that the North-West Canada medal was something unique -- over 5600 were distributed. The young woman might have been asked about the medal -- is it still held by the family; if not, what happened to it? This would have added an element of mystery to the episode, certainly more mysterious than the whereabouts of Big Bear. Lots of possibilities with the subject matter, but once again marred by less than great research and a tendency to complicate matters for dramatic effect (at least I hope that is the reason).