Sunday, 4 September 2016

Canadian parliamentary debates since 1901 online

A group at the University of Toronto have digitized the Canadian Hansard (or the transcripts of parliamentary debates) since 1901, now online at
It's worth a search for a location or topic of interest. A search for "genealogy" gives 105 hits.
The earliest is in a debate in 1902 about the hiring of a Mr. Washington when the Minister of Agriculture was asked whether the gentleman was a relative of George Washington and the Minister replied he never looked into his genealogy. The latest, in 2015, saw MP Mike Lake speaking on the transfer of records of historical and genealogical interest to Library and Archives Canada from Statistics Canada. It's one of many relating to the census.
It's not all bureaucracy. One of the more recent hits is a tribute to Moorshead Magazines founder Halvor Moorshead.

There there's this extract from a speech by Sheila Finestone in 1985:

The Archives is an important cultural depository for our country, something our ancestors realized when creating this wonderful institution in 1872. Let us just for a minute look at the value of census records. When an individual's life is touched every ten years the highs and lows of his life can be pinpointed. The few facts entered on a census schedule can bring an obscure name in a family bible back to life. For example, 1871 census documents show that in that year Jacob Levy, a 43 year old German Baptist, was living in a tiny Nova Scotia fishing village, working both the land and the sea. Sixteen years earlier his English wife, Susan, had her first child at age 13. Both were uneducated, but their toil provided for and fed six children, four boys and two girls. The younger four, age 7 to 13, attended school. No physical or mental infirmities were reported. We can trace this 10 years later to find that Jacob still lived in Tancook but his three oldest, two men and a woman now, had moved away. The two boys still at home considered themselves fishermen. This basic story was derived from only three hours spent at the Archives. I personaly handled those record books, with June 6, 1986 Archives of Canada their hand-written ledgers, carefully recorded in a writing style that reminds me of the beautiful calligraphy that we study and try so hard to achieve in today's society. It was a moving experience and I suggest that if you have already not done so, Mr. Speaker, you should look at those musty files and take joy in the kind of precise nature and care with which our information was documented. Through the Archives we are still uncovering vital pieces of our cultural and historical past. For example, everyone thought that our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was born in Glasgow on January 11, 1815. This is what is stated at page 10 of The Young Politician by Donald Creighton. But that has been proven wrong. He was actually born on January 10. How do we know? Because a few years ago the Archives discovered Sir John A. Macdonald's birth certificate and it gave the date of birth as January 10. What difference does one day make? Absolutely none in reality. It is just the principle of the accuracy of the historical record. It is a footnote to history. Many are aware of Sir John A.'s reputation as a drinking man. Many think that his favourite refreshment was brandy. That is not so. Particularly in his darkest hours, Macdonald preferred rum. How do the Archives know? It is simple. It has his old hotel bills which show that he ordered more rum than brandy. That is not world-shaking information, but it is an interesting detail that can be found in the documents when we produce the file on our heroes, not those of other countries. Back in the colonial days, when the Bank of Canada was investigating French currency, it found that when the French could not print money quickly enough to keep up with demand, they cut the corners of playing cards and used them instead.

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