The search for Joseph and my research into the Camsell Hospital has really picked up over the last few months.
Part of this is I found out I will be unexpectedly moving to Houston, Texas soon. This doesn’t mean I’ll be turning my back on the people and questions that have haunted me this year. In fact, the opposite is true. I accelerated my quest to find answers for Cathy and her mother, Louisa, and followed clues all over Edmonton. After chasing down some leads I found some of the information they wanted: when and where he died, and where he might be buried. One of my colleagues nicknamed me “CSI, Historian,” which I actually kind of like. Solving historical mysteries – especially when the stakes are so high and personal – is pretty much why I do what I do.
These small answers, of course, have raised many more question marks in our minds, and we are continuing the search for information about Joseph. But I hope by next year at least, Louisa will be able to visit her father’s gravesite, something she’s been waiting to do for over fifty years.
In the meantime, I’ve been madly making copies of records and publications at the City of Edmonton Archives and the Provincial Archives of Alberta and I will be carting them with me to Texas. So far this has meant a box full of photocopies and a hard-drive full of digital files – about 4000, to be exact. Nothing compared to the millions the TRC has had to wrestle with, but nothing to sneeze at for one lone researcher.
Camsell Patient Database?
One of the things I’ve realized as I’ve done this research, is that while the medical records may be sealed or lost or destroyed, I may be able to piece together a database of former patients in other ways. What I’ve been hearing from patients and their families – as well as from residential school Survivors – is that making this information available and accessible could be part of the reconciliation process. They can get information that used to be hidden. They can see their names and those of their loved ones in black and white. It proves they were there and gives weight to their claims.
In all my work I want to do more good than harm. So I ask these patients and their family members – what would be the best way to make this information accessible?
And I’d like to put the question out there to all of you. If I can get some funding and do this database of names and make it available, what should it be like?