Getting the Most Benefit From a Research Trip to an Archive


I visited the Peel County Archives in Brampton on Friday, 1 November 2019. Sometimes visits to archives are exercises in finding what doesn’t exist but not this time. I did a “mini” happy dance because I found Bolton and Brett family materials, unsourced, but with a lot of hints as to where I should research next. I also came home with half a dozen valuable newspaper obits.

Kudos to archivist Jacob and his team. I was welcomed, shown the potential resources that Jacob thought would be valuable for me to check, and offered help with the microfilm reader [up to date equipment!] This visit ranks in the top three of all the archival visits I have made over the years.

How did I prepare for this visit? I checked the website and found that a Brett Family File existed. I emailed the archives asking about the contents of the file and gave information about my Brett and Bolton connections. Jacob advised me that it would appear that the file would be of value but could not promise me how much value. The comment made sense since I am the one who is steeped in their history. I let Jacob know that I would contact him in the future.

Once camping season was over and our RV unit readied for winter storage the time was ripe for a visit to the archives. I again contacted Jacob to set up an appointment [no drop ins as space is limited in the archives]. He requested my research interests again and I complied with a more detailed listing of what would be of value to me.

When I arrived at Peel Art Gallery and Museum I was welcomed at the front desk. They had been informed that I was coming and directed me to the archives.

Family Files
Once I was set up at table, Jacob sat with me and talked about the materials in the collection that he felt would be of the most value for me to check. He had found a Boulton Family file as well as the Brett Family file. Both were microfilmed which made it easy to take scans of the documents for use at home. There was no charge for the scans which was a change as some repositories do charge a small amount per scan.

Microfilmed Newspapers
The next source was microfilms of three newspapers that served the area, The Bolton Enterprise, The Orangeville Sun and the Brampton Conservator. Indexes for each of these newspapers made the work of finding particular obituaries much easier. To make the job easier for me I had taken the information about these newspapers and the indexes and laid out in order by year of death the names of the people for whom I wanted obituaries. That way I was less likely to miss one. I was allowed to get the microfilm from the storage cabinet and then place them atop the cabinet for refiling by the archivist. I had the option of saving scans as pdfs or jpegs so I chose the latter in order to be able to easily enlarge them on my computer screen at home.

Archival Files
The last source that Jacob had for me was three archival files related to Bolton and the Boltons. This is where I found a lot of unsourced material. The bonus though was that the person creating the family trees and recording information about people was interviewing members of the family who had also conducted genealogical research. My last blog post noted one of the pieces of information that I found in this file regarding Grace Bolton who died of influenza and pneumonia in England after she had served as a nurse and ambulance driver on the European front in WW I. One of the interviews was with a nephew of one of the Boltons who I tracked into the United States.

Should you decide to contact Jacob about a visit to the Peel Archives check out this link to an explanatory blog, “What’s it Like to Visit the Archives? This second link is to information about the collection.

I strongly recommend that you go off-line to investigate the good sources to be found in archival repositories. I am glad I made this trip to the Peel Archives!

Alan Campbell
Ontario Ancestors
© 2019


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