Reference archivist Christine Charmbury gave the Prince Albert Branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society a great start to our year. She presented “Demystifying Archival Research: Introduction to Archives and the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan” on September 12, 2017.
Charmbury explained how archives are organized, how to find and access archival records, and how researchers can best prepare to conduct research at the Provincial Archives. She also detailed the various types of records available in the Permanent Collection, many of which are valuable sources of information for genealogical research.
Archival collections are made up of records of enduring administrative or historical value. They are unique primary sources. The text, photos, maps, audio/visual, financial records, newspapers, pamphlets, etc. remain in the archive’s controlled environment.
After an initial registration and reference interview, researchers may then sign in at either the Saskatoon or Regina Archive. With direction form the archivist, researchers complete retrieval slips to request records, and originals or copies are delivered to the reading room. Charmbury recommends researchers diligently record the reference codes and file numbers and take notes. Photocopying and digital scans can be made of records in the collection for a fee, and for in person researchers scanning from microfilm records to a personal USB key is free. Also, flash free photos are permitted in the reading rooms for no charge. Their fee schedule is online at http://saskarchives.com/using-archives/fee-schedule.
Researchers benefit from preparing specific research questions. Return to the archivists as you find and refine your questions or don’t find answers. Questions can also be answered from a distance by submitting an enquiry through the Provincial Archives website at https://saskarchives.com/emr/website-enquiry-form.
Charmbury also cautions that progress is typically slow because the resources can be “dense,” “elusive,” the Archives have limited hours and resources might have to be brought in from the other office or an off-site location.
Archives are not organized by subjects like libraries. They are organized by creators and creator organizations. For example, one of Charmbury’s favourite creator organizations is the Department of Natural Resources. Both offices of the Provincial Archives will have guides to their collections (also called finding aids) and a master index to all of the guides to help researchers find records.
The Saskatoon Archive has central to northern creators plus early government records. The Regina Archive has central to southern creators plus recent governments, court records, and more audio/visual. It is always best to check at which office records are located in advance of your visit. The hours, location and contact information is available here: http://saskarchives.com/locations.
For genealogists, Charmbury recommends exploring http://saskarchives.com/ first. Particularly the Family History Research page, in the Using the Archives section. Look for the link below at http://saskarchives.com/using-archives/family-history-research.
Descriptions of many of their records can also be searched on the webpage here: http://sab.minisisinc.com/sabmin/scripts/mwimain.dll/144/DESCRIPTION_COLL?DIRECTSEARCH.
Charmbury expanded on some of the types of resources available:
- Census records on microfilm shared out by the National Archives (Library and Archives Canada)
- United and Anglican Church records, other than births, deaths, and marriages.
- Prince Albert had 14 including a French language newspaper.
- Personal papers.
- Government records, mostly provincial but including some municipalities like the city of Prince Albert.
- Organizations and businesses. CCF is often researched but please prepared a specific question.
- Pioneer Questionnaires. Done in 1955, the questionnaires have different topics and are searchable by name or location on the website here: http://saskarchives.com/using-archives/family-history-research/pioneer-questionnaires.
- Local history books.
- One shows the river lots in Prince Albert.
- Photographs are searchable.
After thanking Charmbury for her first class presentation, there were many excited discussions while members and guests enjoyed coffee and homemade puffed wheat cake.