A few of my favorite databases

Kirsten Smith My Blog Leave a Comment

This is just a short post on some of the common sources I use to verify Canadian historical information.

Number 1 is The Dictionary of Canadian Biography. The database includes revision information for each entry which is helpful.

Source: Biographi.ca

Most folks have to be long dead to be included in the DCB, but exceptions are made for the very famous such as prime ministers. Pierre Trudeau, who died in 2000 is included. It is not the best place for celebrities. Ernie Coombs, aka Mr. Dressup, who died in 2001 is not there.  They have special collections related to a variety of topics such as the War of 1812, Acadians,  and the Fathers of Confederation

Does your subject have an Order of Canada or other award from the Governor General? Then check out the brief bios at some of the databases of recipients at the Governor General’s website. The database includes military awards, voluntary service honours and community awards like the Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals. Not every category includes biographical details, nor is there a standard form for proper names. See my fine example.

Source: GG.ca

Looking for a historic place/event tied to a person? Try the Canadian Register of Historic Places. It is a collaboration between the federal and provincial/territorial governments and currently has 13,000 entries in the database.

Was the person ever a Member of Parliament or Senator? Try Parlinfo, published by the Library of Parliament.

Of course, the Canadian Encyclopedia is on the list. (Disclaimer: I do fact checking for the TCE on a freelance basis).  I’m a sentimental gal because I still have my first edition from 1985.

Thanks Santa

It was a Christmas gift that year and no doubt set me on the path to be an information professional.  Just like the DCB, they tell you when the article was published and last revised. if the TCE has one weakness it is the search engine. You are better off using the site:thecanadianencyclopedia.ca command in your favourite search engine to find the person you are looking for than using their search bar.

Here’s a database I just discovered, while doing a fact check for The Canadian Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have any biographical information but I needed to verify some gold and platinum record sales for a few Canadian singers and wouldn’t you know the Recording Industry Association of America has a fantastic online resource.

Source: riaa.com

I was able to look up my singers in no time. Much faster than a phone call or email to their media relations people.

This is not a database per se but it is a standard search for me when backgrounding a historic Canadian. I do a search for my subject AND site:gc.ca. This search is great to find web content at Library and Archives Canada, and  Of course now I have to replicate the search with the site:canada.ca domain as well.

What is your “go-to” website for biographic information about famous Canadians?


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