A big part of my search for Joseph has been learning to navigate the official hospital and government records. I’m a trained historian and it’s been tricky and intimidating at times, so I can only imagine what it’s like for former patients or people trying to track down what happened to their loved ones.
I’ve been keeping notes about my process, like breadcrumbs, so I’ve got a sense of how to do this work. My plan all along was to then share a ‘how-to guide’ so all of you out there could have the tools to do it too (and not have to make my mistakes and fall into my research holes).
We’re all fortunate that someone else was thinking along the same lines and got there faster. Melissa Cardinal, a nurse in Edmonton, decided for her MA project to focus on this. And she’s come up with a really great, easy-to-understand website.
One thing she highlights that is a huge boon to all of us trying to figure out these things is that the Province of Alberta has made its vital statistics (birth and death records, etc) available and searchable ONLINE! For deaths, this is just for anything fifty years old or more (so, May 16, 1967 and older, as I write this) for privacy/legal reasons. But still, this will help so many people doing research far away from Edmonton.
Melissa also has a great interactive map on her site to help you figure out if its likely you or your loved one was a patient at the hospital (versus one of the other two dozen or so Indian Hospitals in Canada).
As Melissa says on her site, I’m working on a ‘how-to guide’ for people who have checked at the Provincial and local level and want to see what might be available at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. Off I go!