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© 2016 AFHS
27 June 2016



Family History Research at the Calgary Public Library

by Christine Hayes, Calgary Public Library
Updated June 2016

Many of the items in the genealogy collection are reference items. This means that they have to be used in the library. These items are marked by an R at the beginning of the call number or are in an alternate format (like microfilm or microfiche). Books without an R call number can be signed out.

Databases referred to can be found on the library homepage under E-Library –“Genealogy.” To access the databases, you must enter your Calgary Public Library card number. Some databases, such as Ancestry Library Edition, can only be used in the library.

Self-Help Handbooks

The Public Library has many guide books for helping with family history research. These are useful for those just starting out in genealogy or for those needing “how-to’s” of a more specific or advanced nature. These can be found in the library catalogue using the search terms genealogy handbooks

Atlases, Maps, Gazetteers

In genealogy, ‘where’ can be as important as ‘who’. Maps and gazetteers can help us to determine things like changes of place names, names of parishes or counties.

  • Post Offices of Canada 1755-1895 (383.4971 CAM in the Local History room)
  • Smith's Canadian Gazetteer, 1846 (R 917.13003 SMI)
  • Place Names of Ontario (R 917.13 CAR)
  • Historical County Atlases (in the R 911 area of the genealogy section and the regular reference section)
  • Cummins Rural Directory Maps, 1923 (Microfilm 61)

Biographical/ Heraldic Dictionaries

The library has both national and international biographical dictionaries.


  • Who's Who in Canada (R 920.071 WHO)
  • Canadian Who's Who (R 920.071 CAN)
  • Dictionary of Canadian Biography (R 920.071 DIC)

United States

  • Who's Who in America (R 920.073 WHO)
  • Who Was Who in America (R 920.073 WHO)

Great Britain

  • Who's Who (R 920.041 WHO)
  • Dictionary of National Biography (R 920.041 DIC)


  • Debrett's (R 929.72 DEB)
  • Burke's (R 929.72 BUR
  • Riestap's Armorial General (R 929.82 RIE)


Bibliographies are listings of books, usually books held by other libraries. CPL carries bibliographies specific to genealogy.

Some are for family histories:

  • Genealogies in the Library of Congress (R 929.1016 LIB)
  • The Annotated Bibliography of Genealogical Works in Canada (R 929.371 MEN)

Some are for local histories:

  • Local Histories of Alberta: an Annotated Bibliography (R 971.230016 ALB)
  • Alberta's Local Histories in the Historical Resources Library (R 971.23 PRO 1986)
  • Bibliography of Ontario History (R 971.30016 BIS)
  • Local Histories of Ontario Municipalities, 1951-1977: a Bibliography (R 971.30016 AIT)

Library catalogues (for example, The National Library of Canada or The Library of Congress) can now be checked via the Internet for local or family histories. The Our Future Our Past web site provides access to digitized Alberta local histories. As well, the Alberta Family Histories Society has compiled a place-name index to local histories that is available through their homepage. Many Canadian local histories have been digitized on the Our Roots website.

We have many local histories for Alberta and county histories for the central and eastern provinces. For example:

  • Botha Memories (R 971.233 BOT)
  • History of the County of Lennox & Addington (971.359 HER)
  • History of the County of Guysborough, Nova Scotia (971.621 HAR)


The Local History Room (see p.6) has older city directories and phone books. The collection also has many older corporate directories, for example Key Contacts Directory.

Older Henderson’s Directories for Calgary and other cities on the prairies can be accessed online through Peel’s Prairie Provinces.


Canadian census records to 1916 are available on microfilm on the 4th floor, Central Library.

Digital images of the Canada census can be found in the Canadian Genealogy Centre at Library and Archives Canada. In some cases these databases are image-only but many are searchable by name. Indexes are available through a variety of sources, some of which are listed at the above site. Check the CPL catalogue for print titles.

We have access to census records from Canada, the United States, the U.K and some other countries through Ancestry Library Edition, which is available on computers in the library. The U.S. Census is also available on HeritageQuest, which is accessible from home for members of the Calgary Public Library.

Land Records

CPL has the index to the Alberta Homestead Records (Micro film 62), Cummins Alberta Rural Directory Maps 1923 (Microfilm 61), the Ontario Archives Land Records Index (Microfiche R 929.3713 ARC), the Index to the Upper Canada Land Books (R 929.3713 IND) and Alphabetical Index to the Land Grants by the Crown in the Province of Quebec, from 1763 to 31st December 1890 (R 929.3714 ALP).

Some indexes are available via the Internet, for example, the index to the Alberta Homestead Records, the index to the Saskatchewan Homestead Records, the Western Land Grants and the Lower Canada Land Petitions and the New Brunswick original land grants.

Ships' Passenger Lists

Canadian Ships' passenger lists covering the years 1865 to 1919 are available on microfilm on the 4th floor of the Central Library. These lists are arranged by port of arrival and date. From 1919 many ports used Form 30A. These are also available on microfilm in the same department. The forms are in rough alphabetical order and cover the years 1919 – 1924. This series of microfilms also includes the Border Entry Records from the United States into Canada and The Board of Guardians Register covering child immigration.

Later passenger lists, from 1919-1935, have been digitized and are available through the Canadian Genealogy Centre.

Canadian passenger lists and border entry records are also available on Ancestry LE.

Information on passenger arrivals after 1935 must be obtained through the Department of Immigration.

The library also has Filby's Passenger and Immigration Lists Index R 929.373 PAS as well as many other books of passenger lists both for Canada and the United States.

Vital Statistics/Compiled Lists

The genealogy collection has many published lists of births, marriages and deaths that are often compiled from a previously published source, most often newspapers.

  • Death Notices of Ontario (R 929.3713 REI)
  • Index of English Immigrants Based on Obituaries and Death Notices in Prince Edward Island Newspapers, 1835-1910 (R 929.3717 GAL)
  • Index of Marriage & Death Notices from Manitoba (929.37127 IND)
  • Loyalist Lineages of Canada, 1783-1983, 3 Vol. (R 929.20971 LOY)
  • Nova Scotia Vital Statistics from Newspapers (R 929.3716 HOL)
  • Vital Statistics from New Brunswick Newspapers (R 929.3715 JOH)

Vital records indexes are appearing on the Internet; for example, British Columbia and Manitoba birth, marriage and death records and Saskatchewan birth records are searchable through the provincial vital statistics web sites.

Many cemetery lists can be found through the Internet, either through the genealogy associations or one of the web sites, such as Cyndi's List. As well, newspapers are now starting to list their obituaries online. These can also be found through genealogical associations’ links (many of these are accessible through the World GenWeb site.

Periodicals and Newspapers

The Public Library subscribes to various genealogical magazines. Most are kept in the Genealogy area on the 4th floor. All but the newest issues of Family Chronicle, Family Tree Magazine, Internet Genealogy and other general interest genealogy magazines may be borrowed. We also have genealogical society newsletters from most of the provinces of Canada. These do not circulate but are available for consultation in the genealogy area on the 4th floor.

The Central Library keeps back issues of the Calgary newspapers on microfilm on the 4th floor. Newspapers not subscribed to by the library can be borrowed on Interlibrary Loan though it is necessary to check their availability. There is also access to historical newspapers through our E-Library. Currently the library subscribes to ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Globe and Mail which covers from 1844 to 2009.

Local History Collection

The Local History Room is located 4th floor, Central Library. It is a special reference collection in which you will find material relating to all aspects of the history of Calgary, Alberta and Western Canada. Of particular interest to genealogists are Alberta local histories (971.233 and 971.234), Calgary city directories (917.123 HEN) and phone books (384.60971 CAL), Index to the Alberta Homestead Records (Micro film 62), and Alberta cemetery listings (929.509712). To find more material see the handout “Genealogy Sources in the Local History Room” or check the Local History web page.


The Calgary Public Library often offers programs of interest to genealogy and family history researchers. One of the most popular is Family History Coaching which is held on the last Saturday of the month from September to November, January to June. Genealogists can get one on one assistance from volunteer coaches from the Alberta Family Histories Society. Check the Calgary Public Library website ( or the program listings brochure to see what is on offer.

Genealogical Collections

There are several other organizations in Calgary and Alberta that have collections to assist you in your further research.