Library and Archives Canada is one of if not the most important source for historians and genealogists. Having said that how then do we access information. Well there’s the rub. A huge amount of the material in the possession of the Archives is in microfiche and microfilm form not online.
The easiest would be to go to Ottawa and do the research there. Of course. not all of us can afford the expense and time to do this. Also, hours of operation have changed and one needs to keep track of the Archives accessibility. John D. Reid in his blog “Anglo-Celtic Connections” does a good job of keeping us informed of the goings on at the Archives.
Some of the collections are online http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/index-e.html , and you need time and the patience of Job to go through them. The Data bases are extensive and the following is a short list:
Art and Photography
Biography and People
Exploration and Settlement
Military and Peacekeeping: (For our purposes these include Soldiers of the South African and First World War. A good deal of this information is on Ancestry; however, I would not recommend you running out and getting a subscription for information that is free here. One thing Ancestry is useful for is for information on Canadians who for one reason or another served with British Forces. A first cousin of my grandfather and an uncle of mine both fall into this category. You could say that the Brits swiped them. The cousin from the Canadian Corps and my uncle from the R.C.A.F.)
Music and Performing Arts
Newspapers: (The Canada Gazette)
Other Topics: (Theses and Dissertations, Shipwrecks, Transportation, Printing and Publishing)
Philately and Postal History
Politics and Government: (Not something you will find me jumping to read)
Vital Statistics: (Mostly genealogical)
OK so how to access. There are regional offices maintained in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Halifax. That doesn’t help me here in London. Probably the best alternative is to through your library. There is an inter-library loan service available. Check first as there might be some of the records that you want already available in your Library’s Regional or Genealogy Center. If not, you need the microfilm reel number, and then request the item through your Library. Mind you for those of you in a university town problem somewhat solved. The University of Western Ontario in my hometown has a pretty good collection of the microfilms from Library and Archives Canada. Hooray for the History Department.