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Was your ancestor arrested, rescued, or paid by the City?

10/08/2018

If you are doing genealogy or local history research in Ottawa, you won't want to overlook the City's Annual Reports and Minutes of Council.  Stay with me here - the titles are dry but the contents are fascinating.  Statistics in the Annual Reports paint a vivid pciture of life in Ottawa.  In 1902, for example, the Sanitary Inspector found 463 instances of 'filthy premises' in the city and 8 of 'piggeries too near dwelling or otherwise unsanitary".  Somewhat surprisingly, only 1 instance of a leaking roof was reported.  Police made a total of 958 arrests that year, including 301 for drunkenness, and a further 112 for being both drunk and disorderly.  2 arrests were made for "furious driving" (presumably of horses; speed not recorded).

Statistics are at a city-wide level, but there are also details on individuals.  The Police Department lists all police force personnel with name, rank, religion, age, weight, height, country of birth and marital status.  The Fire Department's table of fires responded to (over 250 in 1902) includes the address, homeowner's name, damages, insurance, and cause for each fire.  The Auditor's Report details all accounts payable, as well as names and salaries of city employees.

And then there's the Council Minutes, with a wealth of detail on everything from hospitals to street names to sewers (lots of sewers).  You'll also find a list of all claims against the city for damages.  I learned, for example, that in 1922 the City paid $15 to Mr. Chapman of 423 Bronson Ave., to compensate his son Albert for injuries received when he was struck by a toboggan at the Gladstone Ave. playground.  Mr. Ade of 51 Main St. was not so lucky - the City rejected his claim of $300 for his daughter Floris, hit by a falling tree limb on City property.

In short, if your ancestor was arrested, claimed damages, got a pension, worked for the City, had their property expropriated, or interacted with the municipal government in any other way, Council Minutes may provide you with fresh details about them.

The Ottawa Room at the Main Branch holds City of Ottawa Annual Reports from 1892, and Council Minutes from 1875.