Friday, June 2, 2023

The 1931 Census of Canada! An Index for Kitchissippi

Ottawa Citizen, May 28, 1931

Yesterday, June 1st, 2023 marked a major milestone date for Canadian historians and genealogists! 

Library and Archives Canada after 92 years were finally legally allowed to release the Census pages as of yesterday, so they've been uploaded to the link below. However, for now, it is only raw page scans. Nothing is keyword searchable yet. That will take time, and will be accomplished through LAC partnerships with Ancestry and FamilySearch for indexing and searching. (When the 1921 release occurred, it took about three months for name and keyword searching to be released). 

Here is where you can go search:

And here is a link to some background info about the Census release:

In a few months time, we'll be able to just pop a name into a search engine and find the person in seconds. However, if you're like me, you probably just can't wait that long, and you want to look up a grandparent or other relative now! Or maybe you want to see the info on who was living in your house, since by 1931 many Kitchissippi houses were already built (this will be the first Census that many Wellington Village houses will appear for the first time, for instance!). Personally, this is an exciting day as it is the first Census my maternal grandparents will appear in, having been born in 1927 and 1930. 

I'm providing some helpful info so that you too can navigate through the files and hopefully find your ancestor quickly. Some of the info I'm sharing below will help you search generally, but I'm mainly including info that will help someone locate a person who lived in Ottawa and especially Kitchissippi.

The search function as of right now is basic, and pretty frustrating if you don't know what you're looking for. You need to enter a Province, District and Sub-district. Sounds easy enough, but it isn't. The sub-districts are just listed with vague township or ward names, and sometimes as many as a dozen or more with the same name. And there is no map or code that can help decipher.  

(If you've been reading some online websites and message boards, you may have heard recommended a website called ScholarsPortal that has a map tool that will tell you the 1931 Census district and sub-district if you enter an address. Don't use that tool, it's not accurate at all.)

It seems that for the 1931 Census, they simply used the electoral district boundaries, from the 1924 redistribution. This means that all of Kitchissippi is contained in Carleton County (which was divided basically where today's Somerset and Kitchissippi wards are split), which is also the Census district Carleton. Everything west of today's O-train line is Carleton district, everything east of it is Ottawa district.

(Source: LAC, G1116.F7 .C3 1924)

How to search for a Kitchissippi address:

So when you go to the Census page, select Province "Ontario", District "Carleton", and then for Sub-District, I've made an index in Excel listing every Census page for Kitchissippi, and which streets appear on each page. Many streets appear on multiple pages, and even in multiple sub-districts (if it's a long street), so you may have to look in a few spots. Note too that many street names have changed, so I've also added in the street name conversions at right for reference. 

Click here: Kitchissippi 1931 Census Index

Note also that in my Index, I've listed the page # meaning the actual census page # (the number written on the original copy page). You may get confused by the LAC website page numbering, which adds a title page for each sub-district. So if my index says you want page 5, then you want LAC website "item" 6. 

Still not finding your person/house?...

In about half the cases on the Census, the full civic address is listed (a street name with a house number), but in many cases, it's just a street name. Or even just simply "Nepean". Those will require a little extra digging. 

If it can be of any help, I've uploaded the entirety of the street listings for Might's City of Ottawa Directory for 1931, which shows all residents of each street, sorted by house number. It's a rather poor quality scan which I did quickly some time back at the City Archives, not intending to ever publish it, but at this point, it could be a handy tool so I thought worth uploading to share. You can save this document to your PC.

Click here: 1931 City Directory listing by street

Unfortunately, it is not an OCR scan, so you cannot keyword search it. This document will only help you if you already know what street you're looking at, and want to figure out what the house number is that's missing from the Census, or you're trying to pinpoint the location of a house on a street.  Or this could be handy if you think you know which street your relative lived on, and you want to verify that first before digging through the Census pages. 


How to search for a City of Ottawa address:

If you're looking for someone within the City limits of Ottawa, you'll want to search in District "Ottawa", but I'm afraid I don't have time to create an index for that. You're on your own to hunt through the individual pages. Perhaps these images below might be of help... it's the descriptors for the ward boundaries in the City at the time. This could help you narrow down your search area:


How to search for an Ottawa address that was once rural:

If you're searching for people who were living in what is now within Ottawa, but was in 1931 a suburb or rural area, and the Census sub-districts you're looking at show a township lot/concession as their descriptor, the best quick tool I can suggest to find a lot/concession for the address you're looking up is to do the following:

i) Go to

ii) Then at the top right, click on the icon that looks like 3 pieces of paper stacked (third icon from the left). It will open a new little menu beneath it.

iii) This is the "layers" menu. Click the fourth one in the submenu "Property parcels", first by checking the little box next to it, but then clicking the arrow to the left of the check box. When it expands, check the box next to "Township Lot Labels". This will add the old traditional lot/concession numbers to the map.

iv) Go to the search box at the top left of the page and enter the address you'd like to find. If you don't know the exact address but know a general street or intersection, enter that. It will center the page to your selection, and even add a red dot on the specific address if you've entered one.

v) Zoom out a little bit by clicking on the minus ("-") sign at the top left until you can see some of those "Con" and "Lot" numbers. The one closest to your address is your old concession/lot number. If you're close in between two, you may have to look up both. But at least now you should have a lot/concession number or two to narrow down which sub-district you're going to need to read through


I hope this information is helpful to some of you! Good luck with your searching!!! 

If you have any questions or are lost in your search, feel free to send me an email ( and I can try to help!

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Goodbye 26-32 Armstrong Street - A Profile

Everyone knows this big brick rowhouse. A classic Hintonburg structure, it has stood the test of time for 123 years. Its days are numbered, however, as the ML Devco Inc. (Magil Laurentian Realty Investments Company) will inevitably starting construction on their condo building at 979 Wellington Street West anytime now. 

I love this building, and though it seemingly has lived out its life as a tenant and boarding house for so long, it will be sad to see it go. As far as the style of building it is (an early 20th-century multi-unit brick rowhouse), there are fewer and fewer of the originals still standing in Hintonburg. In terms of its shape, it's one-of-a-kind. In terms of its life story, well, just like every house in Hintonburg, it too is one-of-a-kind.

If the walls could talk, it would share stories of Hintonburg going back to its first days as a part of the City of Ottawa. 

Carleton County Judge Christopher Armstrong owned a wide swath of the north-east corner of Hintonburg, and he built Carleton Lodge (aka Armstrong House) in 1845, which has stood directly across from 26-32 Armstrong for this past century and a quarter. 

In 1874, the Judge decided to subdivide part of his land, establishing builder lots (Carleton County Plan 57) on about three-quarters of his property, but keeping a large block for his stone house, and the surrounding lawns in front of it all the way to Wellington Street (then still called Richmond Road) and east to Bayview Road. But mere months after registering the plan, the Judge passed away suddenly.  His widow Mary Ann Armstrong continued to sell lots, and in 1884 amidst a hot real estate market in the west end village, decided to convert the sprawling front and side lawns into another new subdivision (Carleton County Plan 89) which created the lots directly to the north and east of the stone house.

Many of the lots took years to sell, and even though lot 11 was one of the largest (at about 85x100 feet), it took about 25 years to sell, and eventually it was Judge and Mary Ann Armstrong's daughter Caroline (for whom Armstrong Street was originally named - it was renamed to Armstrong in 1908 due to duplication), who finally sold the lot in two halves. Patrick J. Lacey, who had a flower shop at the northwest corner of Hilda and Wellington, bought the vacant east half of lot 11 for $350 sometime between 1905-1909 (giving him the full strip of land back to Armstrong), but I guess changed his mind, and agreed to sell the half-lot on January 10th, 1910, to Trefflé Lavigne for $700. 

Lavigne was a prominent Ottawa resident, having been Foreman of the power house for the Ottawa Electric Railway since the line first opened in 1891. He was a trustee on the separate school board (representing Victoria Ward) from 1907 to 1911, the last two of them as chairman. He had founded the St. Joseph's society in Hull in the 1880s, and was involved in other social organizations. He also owned several pieces of real estate across Ottawa, and must have seen this location in Hintonburg as a good investment opportunity.

Trefflé Lavigne, builder of 26-32 Armstrong
(Source: Ancestry, Suzanne Scharf)

Lavigne began construction on the building soon after he acquired the lot. He did not take out a mortgage, paying for its construction himself. The building appears to have been completed sometime by the fall or early winter of 1910. It was split into four separate units, with assigned civic numbers 26, 28, 30 and 32 Armstrong Street. 

26 Armstrong Street was the ground floor unit, which originally was commercial space. 28 was on the second floor above 26, while 30 and 32 were two-level rowhouses. 26/28 was an exceptionally long building, 19'8" wide by 83' long along Hilda, giving the building its unique L-shape. 

Perhaps one of the most unique features of the building is its exposed foundation, which, due to the downward slopes of both Hilda and especially Armstrong, gets to nearly six feet high at the southeast corner of the building, but only a little over two feet high on the west side. The building also fit the character of the typical builds of the era in Hintonburg with its flat roof, hand-stacked foundation and built right to the property line, with no yard or setback. 

The building looked mostly as it does today when it was first built, except there was a 2-storey cinder block addition at the south end of 26 along Hilda that was added just after construction, and which disappeared by the 1950s. There was also a thin 1-storey attached rear shed behind 30/32. 

When the building was finished, Trefflés brother Joseph Maxime Lavigne and his seven children moved in to the 26-28 half. Joseph and his 22-year old son Adolphe opened a grocery store out of 26 Armstrong, which would have been a handy addition to the neighbourhood. Meanwhile, 49-year old tinsmith Alfred Theriault and his wife and four children moved into 30 Armstrong, while 38-year old CPR brakeman John Lee moved in with his wife and two children into 32 Armstrong.

Sadly, just a few months after the house was completed, Trefflé Lavigne passed away. He died on April 24th, 1911, after a short bought of pneumonia. He was just 53 years old.

The building as it appears on the 1912 fire insurance
plan, just a year or so after it was built

The grocery store did not last long at 26 Armstrong, and in fact that unit was listed as being vacant from 1912 all the way to 1917. Very odd! 

In October of 1917, Trefflé's son Leopold Lavigne purchased the house from the estate (for $4,000) and moved into 26 Armstrong, which he converted to a residential unit. Leopold remained there for another 10 years before selling for a nice profit at $11,250 in 1927, just before the depression hit. It would remain under the ownership of George Hopper (1927-1947), E. Rosetta Leaver (1947-1963), Ivan J. Karlovcec (1963-1978), Karam and Renee Ayoub (1978-1994), and Antonio and Suzanne Bento (1994-?) (I only have access to free property registry info up until 1996). Note the entire building of all four units sold in 1994 for just $230,000.

During this time, the house was always tenanted, and at times apparently operated as a boarding house. It appears to have always had reputable tenants, as a search through old newspapers does not yield stories of drug-dealing, gangs, or other unsavoury issues related to this house. 

Ottawa Citizen, June 21, 1963

It has however, seemingly always looked a little worse for wear. As far back as 1964, the house appeared on the city's property standards list as part of its urban renewal project. It would have been identified as having significant structural or condition concerns to appear on that list. The owner at the time would have been required to perform improvements to the building or demolish it. Obviously, the renovations were done, as the building has survived another 59 years.

Here is a photo of the building from 1964 (and another from above in 1966). You can see the holes where the old cinder block addition had been, and the old chimney for the upstairs unit. I also love the old lines of laundry, Mom sitting on the little back stoop with the kids playing in the yard filled with old wood and garbage, and another little guy on a trike jealously looking in through the side fence. 

26-32 Armstrong - August 25, 1964
(City of Ottawa Archives, CA-24672)

View looking west down Armstrong at Hilda. April 1966.
26-32 Armstrong is visible on the southwest corner.
(City of Ottawa Archives, CA-09136)

Here is a recent view of the house during its final years as an occupied home:

June 2014 (Google Streetview)

Here are a few photos showing how the house the appears today. The condition of the house is poor, several windows are open and broken, as it has been boarded up since late 2020 or early 2021. No one here but a single squirrel hanging out in a quiet spot on the front porch. (All photos taken May 22, 2023 by Dave Allston):

Here is a close-up of that incredible stacked stone foundation that wraps the building. Still solidly in place 123 years later: 

Not only will this building be going, but everything on the block, including the houses at 36 and 40 Armstrong Street, as well as all of the buildings on the Wellington Street West side from 961 to 979 (all of which I profiled a couple of years ago - I won't get into the histories of 36/40 right now, maybe in a future post.

The development plan has gone through a few iterations. It started life back in 2017 as a 9-storey proposal only on the west side of the block (along Garland), that would not have touched Hilda or the 26-32 Armstrong building. ML Devco then purchased the adjoining lots in 2019-2020, so that they owned the entire block. In September 2020, a monstrous 23-storey, 304 units building was announced, which was roundly hated by all. The developer came back in April 2021 with a 12-storey proposal, with 252 residential units, essentially the plan that stands today. It remained contentious in the eyes of many, and creates a large sense of fear as a precedent-setter for the neighbourhood along Wellington Street West in the future, allowing high-rise buildings along a traditional main street, and this one is particularly disappointing as it is next to Somerset Square Park. 

View looking southwest from Armstrong
(Source: ML Devco website)

According to architect Roderick Lahey in the Cultural Impact Statement for the new build, it is noted that "material section along Armstrong and wrapping around the corner response to the Armstrong House and to the red brick building 26 Armstrong on the corner". Thus the stone and brick look, and grey and red colours of the new building is intentional, taking elements of Carleton Lodge (Armstrong House) and this old brick building that has stood here since 1910 to give some continuity to the site. 

The plan calls for three of the townhouse units to exist on the site of the current 26-32 Armstrong Street ("The ground floor of the building will be comprised of retail units fronting onto Wellington Street West with groundoriented townhouse dwelling units fronting onto Armstrong Street and wrapping around Garland Street. The townhouse units fronting onto Armstrong Street will be setback from the street, providing private front yards and at-grade amenity space in keeping with the residential character of the street.")

Some demolition took place last July and August of the buildings on Wellington. I'm not sure why there is a delay in the demolition of the Armstrong Street houses, but I believe the application to demolish was approved back in February, so it should happen any day. Thus bringing an end to the 123-year history of this unique Hintonburg building.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Interprovincial LRT that nearly was!

I love these kinds of stories! The "what if" scenario. Sometimes they are complete fantasy. Other times, it's something that very nearly almost was. And in my Kitchissippi Times column for May, it is one of those cases. 

Way back in 1898, west end residents grew tired of waiting for the Ottawa Electric Railway company to extend the streetcar lines to the west. False promises had been made since the first tracks were laid in central Ottawa in 1891. So several of the more affluent residents in the Westboro area got together and formed a company, The Ottawa Suburban Railway Company, and planned out an elaborate streetcar network that involved laying tracks to the west to Britannia and beyond, more tracks running south to Hog's Bank, and then on to a station downtown, and building a bridge near the Remic Rapids or Britannia to the Quebec side, with several spurs out to the rural areas of Quebec. 

The plan went all the way to the house of commons, and nearly succeeded. It became highly political, and in the end, of course it didn't happen, but it did make a big difference, and helped bring the streetcars through the west end. 

Read the whole story at the link below!

Ottawa Citizen
March 2, 1899

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Tunney's Pasture: The Past and Future at Jane's Walk 2023

I am very happy to announce that on Sunday May 7th, I will be co-leading a Jane's Walk at Tunney's Pasture! 

This will be an exciting opportunity to walk the grounds of Tunney's Pasture and talk about both the history of the property, and what is planned as part of the redevelopment plan. I'll be walking with Tara Ouchterlony of Neighbours for Tunney's, to tell stories of the past, and share plans for the future, including details on what community members are pushing for in our important ongoing role at the table as part of the Communities Perspectives Group. 

We'll start the walk just in behind the LRT station at 11 a.m. Sunday the 7th. The walk will take us in a circle of the grounds, down Goldenrod to the grassy area next to the parkway, then along to Parkdale Avenue, and then back up to the LRT station. We'll make 8-10 stops along the way to share a story and information.

I'm excited to talk about the former residential sections (both planned and actual inside the pasture), the shantytown at the north end, commercial businesses that have existed on the site, other early planned uses, the history of the government campus, including the nuclear reactor and animal testing facilities, and lots more. It will be a jam-packed two hour walk that also has the benefit of spending time outside and getting in a decent walk!

I've acquired the use of a speaker and microphone that will help in amplifying our voices during the talk. I expect a large crowd, so we'll do our best to ensure everyone can hear! 

To attend, it is recommended you sign up in advance. Please go to the link below and on the right, enter your information in the "Walker Sign-up" section. I look forward to seeing you there!

A (Hockey) League of Their Own: The Westboro Pets

I love this story! While researching something else a while back, I came across the story of the Westboro Pets, a women's hockey team from over a century ago. The more I researched, the more amazing the story became! 

You're likely familiar with the old Tom Hanks-Geena Davis movie "A League of Their Own", which brought to life the short-lived but significant popularity experienced by women's baseball during WWII. I was surprised to discover that similarly, during WWI when a large majority of young men were off fighting overseas in WWI, women's hockey experienced an explosion in popularity. And not only that, but one of Canada's top teams was located right here in Westboro! And this was back when Westboro had a population of around 5,000 people. 

So this became my subject for the April edition of the Kitchissppi Times.

It's an amazing story, and took a look of digging to pull up as many details as I could find. I also searched HARD for a photograph that I know exists somewhere out there, of the team in 1917. I know it exists because it ran in the December 1978 issue of Newswest. A few years ago I acquired the old archive of Newswest from the 70s/80s which contained copies of almost every issue and original photo from the paper in those days, but sadly (and frustratingly) the December 1978 issue is missing, and that team photo was not part of the archives (likely as it had been borrowed). The January 1979 issue made mention of the running of the photo, so I know it's out there somewhere. I have copies of photos of the Ottawa team (the Alerts), but not the Westboro Pets. So if anyone reading this has a copy of it (or miraculously a copy of the December 1978 issue of Newswest) please let me know!

For now though, please enjoy this article about the establishment of organized women's hockey in Canada, it's population surge during WWI, and how Westboro had a key role in all of it.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Holland Junction, the Huron-Byron streetcar yards and development

Holland Junction. Looking west from Holland Avenue up
Byron. May 15, 1951. (Source: David Knowles)

The March 2023 issue of the Kitchissippi Times had a really fun article to research. It was one of those articles that started off with one narrow subject, but as I researched it, multiple twists and turns emerged. 

I won't recap the entire article here, I encourage you to click the link below to read the whole thing at the Times website. However, I will share one extra story that got edited for space at the last minute.

You'll read in the article about how the Agudath Israel had intended to build where the Elmdale Tennis Club eventually did (at the southwest corner of Byron and Holland). And the article notes, correctly, that they instead moved into the old church on Rosemount.

However, what was left out, which I find kind of neat, was that when Agudath Israel agreed to sell the lots to the province to allow for the construction project of Fisher Park High School, as part of the deal they picked up a block of four adjoining, vacant lots fronting Holland and Huron, just north of Byron. These are the lots where 179-185 Huron Avenue North and 146-152 Holland Avenue now stand. This was plan B for where they were going to build their new synagogue and school. 

For whatever reason, Agudath Isreal decided not long after to abandon this plan, and instead move into the Rosemount Avenue church. They sold the lots to Aurele J. Henry, who, as mentioned in the article, built the nine mostly identical doubles.

How interesting to think that a Jewish synagogue and school could have been built either where the Elmdale Tennis Club exists today, or in the middle of the Holland-Huron blocks between Byron and Wellington!

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the story of the Holland Junction waiting room, the streetcar and city yards, and the rest of this great Kitchissippi history that is revealed in this article!

Early 1920s view of a streetcar heading past the
Holland Junction wait station. Looking northwest
at the corner of Holland Byron. (Source: Ottawa's Streetcars)

Saturday, April 8, 2023

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To my subscriber list, I apologies for the ongoing issues with the mail-out. I officially hate Blogger/Blogspot and the Mailchimp tool that works so inconsistently. I'm working on fixing all of these issues.

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