13 November 2009

Historical Canada Gazette searchable online

One of the strange attributes of Library and Archives Canada is its reluctance to publicize its achievements.

Dig down into the section of the LAC website called "A Nation's Chronicle:The Canada Gazette" at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/canada-gazette/index-e.html and you'll read that "as of August 2009, the database now contains over 80% of all issues of the Canada Gazette."

What's available? These components:

  • 1841-1869 (Province of Canada)
  • 1867-1946 (Dominion of Canada)
  • Part I (1947-1997)
  • Part II (1947-1997)
  • Part III (1974-1997)
LAC claim that the accuracy rate of keyword searching on this database is about 90% which, considering the quality of some of the page images I viewed, is remarkable.

From the navigation bar in the left hand column at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/canada-gazette/index-e.html you can do a keyword search, advanced keyword search, search the Consolidated Regulations of Canada, find an specific issue, get help on search, and make a comment.

A test search on the Dominion of Canada (1867-1946) database found 95 items with keyword Northwood. You can view each item as either a gif image, which comes up quickly, or a pdf which takes a bit more time.

The keyword isn't automatically highlighted in either format, but you can search the pdf for the keyword (or any other word). One hit on the keyword is highlighted on the pdf at a time; you need to move forward to the next hit if any. It's the same procedure as implemented on the French-Canadian newspaper database, There's room for improvement.

What can you find? The Northwood search gave 95 hits on both English and French language pages. Several were for a location named Northwood, others for people by that name forming a joint stock company and giving notice about land, and many reporting appointments, promotions and retirements from the military. There was little military coverage during WW1, except an award of a Military Cross was included; more during WW2. Several times a notice was for a promotion of someone vice Northwood.

I took a look at the issue for my date of birth. It contains notices mentioning names for bankruptcy, military appointments, promotions and retirements, application to Parliament for divorce, company notices, notice of candidacy for election, military decorations, granting of letters patent. You can view, and even download or print complete issues.

Searches can be completed with "and" "or" and wildcard "*". The search help page is helpful if you need assistance.


DWP said...

Very useful and interesting,- on just one surname of interest (to me) I found over 20 hits in English. There is much of interest about the Civil Service of Canada (as it used to be called). For example, there was a job title in 1928 "Pigeon Loft Manager" in the Department of Defence, Ottawa. I leave it to others to conjecture what could be the job titles of the persons, if any, whom this manager managed, and also what this job implied about the state of National Defence communications in 1928.
Reference: The Canada Gazette, 1867-1946, Dominion of Canada, Vol.62 No. 11, 15 Sep 1928, P. 48, printed p. 798.

Anonymous said...

The Canada Gazette web resource is very welcome but the search engine is a very blunt instrument for such a massive dataset, and the results screen is immensely uninformative, simply the page references - many searches generating hundreds of them. How one would love to see the keywords in context as a way of deciding what hits are relevant. It would also be better if the results came up in chronological order rather than the jumble that appears at present. The keywords don't come up highlighted on the pages, and given the size of the type and long lists often generated, this is to be regretted. I have also had trouble with pages not appearing to include the search terms requested. It would also be nice to have an introduction that explains in greater detail what sort of content is included, when various components (such as the results of civil service exams, patent applications, divorces, etc.) begin and end.