Tag Archives: archives

“Genealogy, sex, …. and the place of archives.“

Archival Moment

January 16, 1888

newfoundland-bookIt has long been recognized that people are passionate about their family and their family origins, in fact genealogy is considered one of the most popular hobbies in the world.

Genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the U.S. after gardening, according to ABC News, and the second most visited category of websites, after pornography. It’s a billion-dollar industry that has spawned profitable websites, television shows, scores of books and — with the advent of over-the-counter genetictest kits — a cottage industry in DNA ancestry testing.

There was a time in Newfoundland when genealogists were frustrated; there were no official institutions in place to help them to build a family tree. One of the first residents of the colony (now province) to recognize this reality was James Murray a St. John’s, Water Street merchant.  In January 1888 Murray wrote to the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram:

“I cannot but express my regret; even at this late day, no effective steps have yet been taken in this colony by which genealogical records may be kept in a public, official and systematic way. As we may fairly assume that the colony has now a definite future before it, I think that no further time should be lost in supplying this lack of vital statistics, the last, but not least, distinguishing mark of civilization.”

Another decade was to pass before the recommendations of Murray were to be heeded. Civil registration started in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1891. Beginning at that time, all clergy were required to register with the government, all baptisms, marriages and burials conducted within their jurisdiction. Prior to 1891, no such central registry existed, so the only records of baptism, marriage or burial were the ones held by the churches.

It was not until 1956 that a grant from the Carnegie Foundation of New York allowed a group of academics at Memorial University of Newfoundland to begin to collect organize and describe various collections of historic government records which included marriage, birth and death registers.

In 1959 the Provincial Government of Newfoundland  passed the Historic Objects, Sites and Records Act which established the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL). At that point the records were transferred to PANL located in the Colonial Building on Military Road.

In 2005 the Provincial Archives Division was established in The Rooms.

It was ironic that Murray who was so passionate about keeping records in a “public, official and systematic way’ in the Great Fire of 1892, which razed much of St. John’s, lost all that was dear to him.  While the Murray premises were spared, the records (that he held so dear) were destroyed when the safe in which they were stored was opened too quickly after the conflagration.

Recommended Archives: Contact the Rooms Provincial Archives at (709) 757-8088  or archives@therooms.ca

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/genealogy-research

Recommended Reading:  Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland E.R. Seary (Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1976). Corrected edition by William J. Kirwin. (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1998

Basilica of St. John the Baptist declared a National Historic Site.

Archival Moment

August 10, 1984

Basilica of St. John the Baptist, St. John’s, Newfoundland, 1841

The Basilica-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s is the symbol of Roman Catholicism in Newfoundland. The structure is a testament to the faith and determination of the Irish-Catholic population of the province.

The project began under the leadership of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, who went through great pains to secure a grant of land to build the cathedral. After making five trips to England, Fleming acquired nine acres of land on which to build the church and related buildings. Work commenced with the fencing of the land in 1838, and on the May 21, 1841 the cornerstone was laid.

Sixteen years elapsed from the time excavation work began in 1839 until the cathedral was consecrated in 1855.

On August 10, 1984 the Basilica was designated a National Historic Site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

Recommended Archival Collection: Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s. http://rcsj.org/archives-research

Recommended Museum: The Basilica Cathedral Museum and Library has one of the largest collections of church related artifacts in the country and is home to one of the oldest collections of books in the province.  Tours are available during the summer season.

Recommended Reading: Fire Upon the Earth, the Life and Times of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, O.S.F. by J.B. Darcy, Creative Publishers, St. John’s, 2003.

Recommended Website:  From Cornerstone to Consecration:  http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/basilique-basilica/en/index.html

List of National Historic Sites in Newfoundland and Labrador: http://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/placestogo/nationalhistoricsites

 

 

 

12,000 residents of St. John’s homeless

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 9, 1846

St. John’s previous to the fire of June 9, 1846

The origin of the fire, which broke out on  June 9, 1846, in St. John’s, has generally been attributed to the carelessness of a cabinet maker who lived on George Street.

By 7:00 p.m., when the fire had finally run its course, over 2,000 buildings had been burned and about 12,000 people, or 57 per cent of the town’s total population, left homeless. The total amount of property loss was estimated at £888,356.   Altogether, there were three casualties: one soldier died as a result of the demolition ordered on Water Street; one citizen collapsed while attempting to carry his possessions to safety; and one prisoner died in his cell when the gaol burnt. A few days after, two labourers clearing away ruins were killed by a falling wall.

Homeless Seek Shelter

On June 10, 1846 many of the 12,000 refugees from the fire could be found in make shift tents in this neighborhood (Fort Townsend) now the site of The Rooms. Others found shelter on the grounds of the new R.C. Cathedral (now Basilica) that was under construction, others in the area now called Bannerman Park on Military Road.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type  Fire   in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Reading: The Great St. John’s Fire of 1846 by Melvin Baker (c)1983 Originally published in the Newfoundland Quarterly, vol. LXXIX, no. 1 (Summer 1983) http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~melbaker/1846fire.htm

Recommended Archival Collection at the Provincial Archives in the Rooms:  MG 50.2:  Map of St. John’s, Newfoundland, showing all the buildings erected since the fire of the 9th of June 1846 from actual survey (MG 50.2)

 

The foundation for The Rooms Provincial Archives

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 10, 1879

The Rooms – Home to the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labardor

The idea of an archive to house the history of this  province of Newfoundland and Labrador  (then a colony) was first suggested in March 1879.

On March 10, 1879 the editor of the St. John’s newspaper “The Temperance Journal” wrote

“let us have a bureau of history and statistics, where files of all our local newspapers shall be kept throughout the year for reference and then bound in yearly volumes. Where tables of our imports and exports, shipping, agriculture, and mines shall be kept, where meterorological registrations, and registers of births, marriages and deaths shall be kept.”

The Editor had some very definite ideas including suggesting a budget.  He wrote

“Cost not to exceed three hundred per annum, including office rent, and everything.”

He also had some very particular ideas about the salary of the person who would take on the position. The Editor wrote

“Application for any “rise” on the part of the incumbent to be equivalent to instant dismissal.”

It would be some time before the voice of this local newspaper Editor would be heard. The responsibility for the safekeeping of these records was not delegated until 1898 when responsibility was given to the Colonial Secretary.

It was not until 1956 that a grant from the Carnegie Foundation of New York allowed a group of academics at Memorial University of Newfoundland to begin to collect, organize and describe various collections of historic government records.

In 1959 the Provincial Government passed the Historic Objects, Sites and Records Act which established the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL). At that point the records were transferred to PANL  located in theColonialBuilding onMilitary Road.

In 2005 the Provincial Archives Division was established in The Rooms.

Recommended Arccival Collection: From the luxury of your home explore some of the archival collections that are held at The Rooms Provincial Archhives.  Read More:  http://www.therooms.ca/archives/  

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