About Our Roots


Have you ever wondered where you could find information about the history of your small town, rural area or large city, the Acadian migration to the Maritimes, Métis heroes, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Irish at Grosse Isle in a matter of seconds, in simple searches? Well, look no further than ourroots.ca, Canada’s Local Histories online, the website that brings Canada’s history to life.

This unique coast-to-coast-to-coast record makes for engaging reading and celebrates the breadth and depth of our nation’s heritage. Our Roots promotes greater understanding and communication among and within the cultural groups that have helped build Canada into the nation it is today. Currently, in June 2012, Our Roots has close to 5685 digital texts with 1.3 million pages of amazing facts about Canadians and Canada.

Our Roots preserves Canada’s unique identity for future generations through the use of digital technology. Books that are out of print or only available in distant collections are readily accessible via the internet. It provides universal access to materials for all ages and not just for reading. There are interactive educational resources in both French and English for younger students provided by partners Galileo Educational Network, iXmédia and the Alberta Online Consortium. Scholars, researchers, genealogists and life-long learners can also view entire books online and take advantage of easy cross collection searches for family, place names and events. New personalization features include saving your own collections and adding tags. A map of Canada allows you to target your search to a particular province.

A national network of libraries, universities, colleges, archives, historical associations, businesses and individuals have generously donated time and copyright permission to have their materials digitized.



Our Roots: Led by the University of Calgary and Université Laval, Canada’s Local Histories Online, www.ourroots.ca was made possible through generous contribution of the Canadian Culture Online program of Canadian Heritage and the support of partner institutions across Canada.

  • Alberta Online Consortium
  • Bibliothèque de l'Assemblée nationale du Québec
  • Bibliothèque nationale du Québec
  • Bibliothèque Paul-Émile-Boulet
  • British Columbia Archives
  • Calgary Exhibition and Stampede
  • Canadian Initiative on Digital Libraries/Initiative canadienne sur les bibliothèques numériques
  • Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions/Institut canadien de microreproductions historiques
  • Centre d'études acadiennes
  • Dalhousie University
  • Galileo Educational Network
  • Institut canadien de Québec
  • iXmédia
  • Library and Archives Canada/Bibliothèque et Archives Canada
  • Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Parcs Canada
  • Saskatchewan Provincial Library
  • Simon Fraser University
  • Université de Moncton
  • Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
  • University of Manitoba Libraries
  • University of Saskatchewan Library
  • University of Toronto Library
  • University of Victoria Library
  • University of Winnipeg Library
  • Vancouver Public Library
  • Numerous individuals, authors and publishers



  • Project will strive to create the most comprehensive collection of Canadian local histories possible.
  • Collection is compiled by subject specialists from across Canada.
  • No item is digitized without written consent of the copyright holder unless the item resides within the public domain. The cleanest copy of each item available is digitized. If marginalia is present, it will be digitized as well.
  • All local history pages within a book, even those that are blank, are digitized to ensure clients know that nothing has been left out or edited.
  • Page edges will be digitized to ensure clients know that nothing has been left out or edited.
  • Local histories included in this project are those that have been published or reproduced in print previously.



Totality: To establish academic rigor and credibility of the site content, only entire collections will be digitized where copyright permits. The site content will not be 'selected', e.g., some items will not be chosen over others by project participants as being more important to clientele.

The concept of totality assures an academic researcher that no material has been purposely left off of the site. While each local history may not be regarded as verifiably factual, taken as a whole collection, a student or researcher will be introduced to personal stories, opinions and event accounts that they would not be able to find elsewhere. In terms of Canadian research, the whole, in this case, may be greater than the sum of its parts. The only reasons that a known item will not be included on the site are that a copy cannot be located or because copyright permission to digitize cannot be obtained.

The Our Roots web site will be as transparent as possible. It will be made clear to clients using the site which organizations were involved in creating the site, and why content or collections were placed on the web site. While each partner and node may have a stand-alone site containing the items they have digitized, all items will be placed on a centralized Our Roots site to ensure coherence of the site in terms of look and feel, as well as technical and operating standards. This central site will list all partners, nodes and funders.


Technical Standards

Our Roots employs standards consistent with academic and industry practice for digitization of paper documents. The industry standard TIFF format with LZW compression is used for high-quality archival digital images. Documents are scanned at original size at 300 dpi in 8-bit greyscale mode to preserve as much of the original document information as possible. When documents are in colour, 24-bit RGB scans are made.

As the chosen standard for archiving generates large files, Our Roots uses 4 sizes to provide on-line delivery to the user: a 200x200 pixel thumbnail for quick reference, and three sizes (600 pixels high, 768 pixels high and 1000 pixels high) for more detailed examination and usage. On-line delivery files are created as JPG images at a medium compression level, balancing onscreen quality with overall size of download.

Our Roots uses a modified Dublin Core record as the basis of its descriptive metadata. The project has benefited from the work already done by librarians in the item-level cataloguing of the books that Our Roots has digitized. Where available, descriptive metadata is drawn from library catalogues such as the National Library of Canada, the University of Calgary library and the Laval University Library. Items without existing records are catalogued by trained cataloguers following AACR2 rules.

Each item in Our Roots has an index page that provides an interactive table of contents to that volume. A Dublin Core header will be added to each of these index pages to provide harvesting of each individual volume.

In addition to the descriptive metadata, administrative and structural metadata are also added to each item-record. One of the guiding principles for Our Roots is to provide a simple interface to the resources. Complex client-side scripting and the usage of plug-ins is avoided where possible. Pages are created using standard XHTML 1.0 Transitional code. The majority of the scripting and validation occurs at the server level.


Programming and Scripting Languages

Currently, Our Roots employs ASP.net 3.5 for its server side scripting. Cookies have been mainly avoided in the past over concerns of privacy and lack of support at the client side (whether by choice or because of incompatible clients).


Preservation and Records Management

Our Roots currently stores digital files for long term storage on two separate archival server systems and employs only standard file formats (TIFF, JPEG, PNG). Each archival server is located in separate facilities and uses RAID 5 storage to ensure sufficient redundancy.

The general principles that Our Roots employs to ensure the files are stable is to create CRC-32 and MD-5 values for individual files. Periodically each file is migrated to newer technology and the values generated for each file are used to ensure the integrity of the data. In addition to backing up the database information separately, Our Roots plans to save the meta data with the files in XML format in a digital asset management system.


Copyright and Conditions of Use

Our Roots reminds patrons of current usage policies (April 12, 2012)

  1. Every required and appropriate effort has been made to accquire copyright clearances for the material on the web site.
  2. Digital files on these sites are copyright protected by the original owners and made available with appropriate permissions. You may not download, reproduce, alter or transmit files/images without written permission from the copyright holder.
  3. This site and any files/images may not be used for commercial purposes.

The contents of our websites are based on documents created by others not affiliated with the University of Calgary. As such, the accuracy, veracity, or completeness of these materials are not known to or verified by us. The University of Calgary is not responsible for any loss or damage arising out of the use of the information or materials linked to or found on these sites.

If you are aware of errors or omissions, or if you have questions or comments, please fill in our feedback form .


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