City Directories

by Eve Lazarus on July 22, 2010

Built in 1911 for William Lamont Tait

Glen Brae, 1690 Matthews 1925

If you’re in the early stages of researching your home’s history or your family’s genealogy it’s time to hit the directories. You’ll find city directories in most local libraries, archives, and if you’re really lucky, online. The Vancouver Public Library has posted directories in British Columbia from 1860 until 1915 at Vancouver Public Library.

If you’ve already dated your house start at that year. With luck, the name of a past resident will pop up. Look up his name, and it will be “his” until about 1934, when married women first rate a mention, and chances are you’ll get that person’s occupation. And, because you want to know everything about this person—what they did, whether they changed jobs, how long they lived in your house—you’ll need to go through every year. Make sure you get any initials and the name of the wife, because this will come in handy when you start to search vital statistics, census information and obituaries later.

Glen Brae: home of the Ku Klux Klan

Sometimes you can stumble over fascinating information. When I was researching Glen Brae—now Canuck Place, the hospice for terminally ill kids in Shaughnessy, for At Home with History, I found a completely unexpected history. The Queen Anne mansion was built in 1911 for a wealthy lumber and real estate tycoon, but when I looked up the address in the 1925 Vancouver city directory I was amazed to find out that it was the headquarters of the Kanadian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. While Vancouverites were a racist bunch back then, apparently living next to a mob of men wearing white robes and hoods and carrying fiery crosses through the tree-lined streets was over the top. Chuck Davis writes on his website that the KKK membership in Vancouver was supposed to be 8,000 at its peak. “This is likely an exaggeration. At any rate, a local bylaw was passed prohibiting mask-wearing and the number of Klan members dwindled to about 200. The sheeted twits were out of Glen Brae in less than a year, even though their rent was only $150 a month.”

 

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