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Breathtaking historic photographs digitized to bring Canada's past to life

New collections contain more than 82,000 images and 668,000 historical records that paint a picture of life in post-Confederation Canada

  • Historic photo albums and Homestead grant records span period of nearly sixty years, ranging from 1872-1930
  • Photos include scenes of early Prairie life and images of well-known Canadian landmarks taken more than 100 years ago
  • Ancestry is offering free access to entire collection of Canadian records from 29th June – 3rd July to celebrate Canada Day weekend

A collection of more than 3,000 historic photographs of Canada, spanning 25 years from post-Confederation to the First World War, have been published online for the first time.

The photographs are part of two new historic Canadian collections made available today on Ancestry, the leader in family history and consumer genomics, to celebrate Canada Day. Canada, Photographic Albums of Settlement, 1892-1917 include thousands of photographs of villages, cities, vistas, landmarks, settlers and aboriginal Canadians from the Prairies to the Maritimes, capturing a glimpse of everyday life for Canadians during the earliest days of statehood.

The Canada, Homestead Grant Registers, 1872-1930 showcase Canada’s growth from small farms to towns and cities and detail demographic and biographic information of some of Canada’s earliest settlers. The collection includes historical records of homesteads in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, established under the Dominion Lands Act. Under this Act, Canadians across the Prairies were provided with 160 acres of land to develop and improve upon, for an average fee of only $10. 

With a combined 668,000 records and more than 82,000 images, these two collections provide fascinating insight into the true north as it was becoming a nation.

Canada Photographic Albums of Settlement 1892-1817 Collection

Compiled by the Department of the Interior, the Canada Photographic Albums of Settlement collection contains more than 3,300 photos from Library and Archives Canada

Found in this collection are images illustrating the hard work and labour that went into nation building, from the early stages of railroad construction that connected communities from coast to coast, to photos that bring to life the back-breaking work of the logging process. While the photos capture the gruelling and often dangerous work of cutting and chopping lumber from the treetops, they also show moments of joy, such as the local population dancing on the fresh tree stumps in celebration.

The collection also captures expansive ranches, vintage farming and fishing procedures used in some of the earliest days of Canada and show the establishment of systems that would continue to feed and transport Canadians for generations to come.

Snapshots in Time

Some of Canada’s top landmarks from 100 years ago feature in the photo albums, including:   

  • Niagara Falls – With more than 12 million visitors each year, Niagara Falls is one of Canada’s top destinations for visitors near and far. Surrounded by tourist attractions, the Niagara Falls we know today is in stark contrast to The Falls at the turn of the century. These black and white images show Niagara Falls before the illumination of the Falls began in 1925.
  • Canadian Rockies – Home to some of the most diverse wildlife and breathtaking views, the Canadian Rockies draw adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. This image shows some of the first Canadians enjoying Jasper National Park around the time the park was established, in 1907. Jasper Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, with 10,878 square kilometres of mountains.
  • Government Buildings – Built between 1907 and 1913, the Alberta Legislature Building is the meeting place of the Legislative Assembly and the Executive Council, and due to its Greek, Roman and Egyptian architectural influences, is a beautiful attraction for visitors. This image shows the drastic difference in city development compared to the city of Edmonton today.

Lesley Anderson, family historian and content specialist for Ancestry says: “This incredible collection of photographs is a real treasure trove that gives us insight into the hardships of everyday life and how simply people lived during those first years of our county’s existence. The images capture human experiences against the backdrop of the vast and - what was then - largely unknown landscape of Canada; the place that many of our ancestors called home

As we approach our 150th anniversary as a country next year, it is wonderful to see how far we have come by comparing what we see in these photographs to the Canada we know today.” 

Ancestry is providing free access to all of the site’s 269 million Canadian records – including the two new collections - from June 29 to July 3, 2016. Visit www.ancestry.ca to discover more.   

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