The National Archives of Canada has conserved Canada's governmental, historical and cultural legacy since 1871. Our holdings, as of 2002, include over 146,685 linear metres of textual documents - which would paper the Trans Canada Highway, roughly, from Ottawa to Montreal. The National Archive, in addition, holds 3 million MB of electronic documents, 2.3 million maps & architectural plans, 21.2 million photographs, 341, 500 works of art (incl. paintings, watercolors, prints and drawings) & 341, 000 hours of film, video & sound recordings. In Oct. 2001, the National Archive helped launch CAIN (Canadian Archival Information Network) - which ties the holdings of 800 archives throughout Canada into one portal & catalogue - Negotiations are underway to extend this project to expand these record links into an integrated North American archival holings system.

      Should you be in Ottawa and want to visit us, here’s how it works. If it's a publicly advertised exhibition you'd like to see (just check our website : then come on down. Just see our hours below. Ample parking right next to the Supreme Court building, enter on Wellington. However, if you\re interested in historical material or access to government documents - you really must call or write first. This is quite important! The numbers & info. can be found below. Let me outline why:

      When you make your first contact with any archives, whether by letter or telephone or in person, state your research problem succinctly. Cite the sources which you know the archives has and which you wish to use or know more about. Ask what others possibly might be appropriate. It's important however to know what precisely it is you wish to use or see and arrange for its use ahead of time, as much of NA material is housed in the Gatineau Preservation site (a gigantic, multilevel, hermetically sealed, atmosphere controlled storage facility with 48 separate vaults, and a glass & steel protective exoskeleton). In other words, you can't just swing by and look at your great-great-grandmother's landing documents from when your family first stepped off the boat from the Old Country & landed in frontier Canada, at least not without calling us first. If your research is more involved, arrange a reference interivew to go over a consultation schedule and research strategy.

      The registration desk, reference office & consultation rooms are open 0830-1700hr, Mon. - Fri. (except statutory holidays). Now if you've done your homework you'll know precisely what you wnt to see & have arranged for its delivery at the reading room ahead of time by email or phone. Next you need to get a pass for on-site research tools and original records. A research pass may be obtained during regular office hours at the front desk, by filling out a registration form (name, address, telephone number, and area of research interest) and presenting a piece of photograph identification. The pass is valid for a period of one year from the date of issue and is not transferable. It will allow you to have access to the Reference, Reading and Consultation Rooms. You'll also have to check your coat, and anything other than say a laptop or small bag, and be preparded for these to be searched upon your exit.

      Obviously, no food or beverages of any kind, or ink pens in the reading room. So bring pencils and paper. Or a laptop. During your first visit, an archivist will explain various regulations including your responsibilities when handling archival material. Usually you will be asked to sign a statement indicating that you have been informed of these regulations and agree to comply with them, etc., and so forth.

      Much of what you see may not be available or in condition to duplicate - therefore be prepared to take notes and/or transcriptions. Some advice on archival research : your working notes should include the name of the archival institution, the record group or manuscript collection, series or file title, the exact identity of the item consulted and, finally, your content note for the information that interests you. Record precise titles as used by the archives for your first entry. This is extremely important if you intend to quote or reference the material in publication or scholarly work - you must be accurate to ensure others will be able to consult the same material. As a general rule of thumb, the first reference in a footnote is to the individual item and its particular title and identifer number. The series title, group, fonds name and the name of archival institution follow.

      The public research and consultation areas of the National Archives of Canada are located at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0N3 (National Library complex). The Reference Services Desk is located in the Reference Room on the Third Floor. For service by phone, the main number is (613) 995-5138 or toll free 1-866-578-7777 or by fax (613) 995-6274. There are also special inquiry numbers if you plan a research visit : Reference Services: 613-992-3884 / Genealogy Reference: 613-996-7458, or use the toll-free number. Finally, there is also a special branch for materials being requested under the Access to Information Act: Telephone: (613) 995-5493 Fax: (613) 992-9350 -E-mail:

      Some general things to keep in mind when writing your initial inquiries:
  1. Be as specific & succincent as possible. Include a full name of a person, detailed place name, event, geographic location and/or approximate dates, ex. "I am writing to request a search of the Soytown burial register for the period 1910-1912 for John Monkey, son of William Monkey and Jane Malarkey."
  2. Don't add unnecessary detail. While it may be intriguing from a local perspective that Mssrs. Bobbie Tam-tam died of complications arising from an accidental fall down the Old Town Well on the way home from the annual Puppy-Touching Festival, however this information will only muddle the archivist's search.
  3. If you have corresponded with the archives before, say so, giving the date of your last letter and any reference number which you may have been assigned. It is not necessary to go into detail about your previous correspondence.
  4. Type or print your letter legibly - please no calligraphy, no ancient Greek, no inexplicable abbreviations.
  5. Allow a reasonable length of time for a reply (from four to six weeks and possibly longer for some agencies). Remember that your request is not the only one archives staff have to deal with.
      The National Archive website is while the ArchiviaNet catalogue of holdings is Researchers can also receive assistance with research on-line through electronic inquiries at, or Much of the archives historical holdings have been microfilmed from conservation purposes, but this material can often be sent to an institutional archive or library near you through inter-library loan. Ask you local library to fill out the form on your behalf (though you will need to provide your local branch with the title & reel number of the material from ArchiviaNet (also, please note, National Archives microfilm reels should include the following prefixes: A, B, C, F, H, K, M, T).

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