Tuesday 11 December 2018

Local Genealogical Society Projects: AGS Medicine Hat Branch

Most family history societies have ongoing projects having to do with finding, compiling and publishing information about people in their region. Cemetery lists, with that all-important death information, are one of the most popular subjects many organizations work on. These days, the results of many of them are being put online where we can easily search them.

But there are many other subjects concerning the records of people in the past that societies find opportunities to get involved with. One I just found is an ongoing project being done by members of the Medicine Hat and District Genealogical Society, a branch the Alberta Genealogical Society. They are in the process of digitizing past Alberta Government Telephone books. These are the old printed books distributed before the era of the Internet and before the company was privatized and became Telus.

This is a description of the project on their website: https://mhdgs.ca/phonebooks.html

Alberta Government Telephones (AGT) was the telephone provider in most of Alberta from 1906 to 1991. It was formed by the Liberal government of Alexander Cameron Rutherford in 1906 following the acquisitions by the government of several independent telephone companies. In 1908, AGT acquired the Bell Telephone Company's Alberta operations for $675,000. It eventually served almost all telephone customers in Alberta outside of the Edmonton area, where telephone service was operated by the Edmonton municipal government.

       Alberta Government Telephones was directly managed by the province's Department of Public Works as a public utility until 1958, when it was transformed into the Alberta Government Telephones Commission, a crown corporation. From 1945 until 1960, AGT operated the province's educational radio station, CKUA.

      In 1969, AGT built what was then Edmonton's tallest skyscraper as its new headquarters, joined by a second tower in 1971; they are now called TELUShouse at ATB Place.

      In 1990, the Alberta government began the process of privatizing AGT, and formed Telus Communications as a holding company to facilitate the transfer. In 1991, the province of Alberta sold its remaining ownership interest in AGT to Telus for $870 million. Telus acquired Edmonton Telephones Corporation (Ed Tel) from the city of Edmonton in 1995; Ed Tel had been created only five years earlier. In 1996, the AGT and Ed Tel brands were retired in favour of the Telus name. Telus merged with BC Tel in 1999 to form the present-day Telus Corporation.

      Telus Yellow Pages were downsizing and 10 decades of old Alberta telephone books were given to the volunteer group Medicine Hat Telus Community Ambassators. The Ambassitors in turn donated the phone books and their shelving units to the Medicine Hat Genealogical Society to be scanned and stored as one unit. The project will be ongoing until complete.”

I recall when they started the work back in 2015, but had not followed up on the project to see what progress was being made. Clark Lang, the society member in charge of the project, informed me last month that they were now on phase 4 of the project. Phase 1 was the scanning of all Southern Alberta books to 1950. Phases 2 and 3 involved scanning through to 2001. They completed these much sooner than anticipated. Phase 4 is indexing the scanned images which is well along. They are currently receiving 400 to 500 hits on their website.
Clark Lang busy indexing images; Scanner at work on phone book
I was delighted to find the information online when I went looking for phone numbers of some family members. It was easy to access.

It is a great project and I am sure will be of interest to anyone looking for information about families in Alberta back to the early part of the 1900s.