Ottawa Celebrates 150 Years!

by E.B. Lapointe

Ottawa, Ontario's Mayor Bob Chiarelli

"Mayor Bob Chiarelli reads the proclamation on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Ottawa's birthday, while Mr. Daniel Richer dit La Fleche, Ottawa-Gatineau's Town Crier, looks on."

Credit: M. Lapointe, CD

Ottawa, the capital city of Canada — located in the province of Ontario's scenic Ottawa Valley, across the Ottawa River from the neighbouring province of Quebec, and about an hour away from the Canada/U.S. border — kicked off a year of celebrations with the ringing of its church bells on New Year's Day, 01 January, 2005.

Formerly known as Bytown (and named after Colonel John By, who had overseen the building of the Rideau Canal), the town council requested Queen Victoria rename the city to Ottawa on the first day of 1855. The city has grown from a population base of 10,000 people from 1855, to over a million inhabitants today.

With nearby forests of timber to the north of the city, Ottawa began as a lumber town in the early 1800s, with exports to the United States and Europe leading to the growth of the city. In 1864, the city was already on its way with two hospitals, eight sawmills, three iron foundries, four breweries, four mills, and a tannery. The city also had 11 churches and four banks.


Some of the upcoming special events celebrating this special anniversary are listed under the umbrella of "Come and Celebrate with Us!", and include:

  • The launching of the Ottawa Stories Website - a bilingual website promoting the "city's fascinating history through the personal reflections or memories of residents." The site presents the history of the city by breaking it down into 150 years of history, and a timeline of critical events will be shown. Ottawans are also being asked to post their history on the website at <http://www.ottawastories.com>.
  • Heritage Day - On 21 February, 2005, the city will present items to be placed in a time capsule at city hall.
  • Heritage Exhibit - The months of June, July, and August will feature a heritage display at the art gallery at city hall, as well as exhibits in various other museums throughout the city, such as the Bytown Museum, the Billings Estate Museum, the Cumberland Historical Village, and the Watson's Mill Museum.
  • Mayor's Christmas Party - The fifth annual Mayor's Christmas Party will be held at city hall in December, 2005.
Ottawa is home to two genealogical societies: the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, and the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa.

The Ottawa Branch <http://www.ogsottawa.on.ca>, states as it's purpose "to encourage, assist and bring together all those interested in the pursuit of family history".

On the Ottawa Branch website are presented a number of projects such as the Places of Worship Project (PoW), in which a database of the churches of the Ottawa area are listed; the 1901 Census of Carleton County is being transcribed; and Cemeteries, in which over 200 cemeteries of Carleton, Lanark, Leeds, Russell, and Renfrew Counties—as well as the cemeteries of West Quebec—are located and indexed on the website. The Surname 2004 list is also on the website, so that research can be done instantly.

The provincial conference of the Ontario Genealogical Society will be held 18-20 May, 2007 in Ottawa.

Gene-O-Rama 2005, the annual conference of the Ottawa Branch, will be held from 8-9, April, 2005. Their program is on the website.

Over the past 25 years, over 200 publications have been published by the Ottawa Branch, and are available for purchase on the website. Meetings are held at the Library and Archives of Canada at 7:30 p.m. on the 3rd Thursday of every month except July and August.

The mailing address of the Ottawa Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society is: P.O. Box 8346, Ottawa, ON K1G 3H8. Various e-mail addresses are available on the website.

The British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) <http://www.bifhsgo.ca> gathers information on the families from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands, and Isle of Man who went to North America, and more specifically, to the Ottawa-West Quebec area.

BIFHSGO meets at 10:00 a.m. on the second Saturday of September to June at the Montgomery Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion at 330 Kent Street, Ottawa.

The society has the Home Children (http://www.genealogytoday.com/ca/connect/031202.html) as one of their projects, as well as the Ottawa Sharpshooters Project, where 53 volunteers of the Governor General's Foot Guards, Company of Sharpshooters, left their jobs and lives in Ottawa to help suppress the 1885 Northwest Rebellion.

Their annual convention is held in Ottawa on 23-25 September, 2005. The address is: P.O. Box 38026, Ottawa, ON K2C 3Y7. Their e-mail address is <queries@bifhsgo.ca>.

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