Accessing Oblate Records

alt text The Oblates of Mary Immaculate Fonds
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is a Roman Catholic religious order of priests. OMI missionaries first arrived in Montreal in 1841. In his letters to North America (1841-1850), OMI congregation founder, Eugene De Mazenod, wrote to Father Honorat in Montreal in February 1844, advising him to “take care to write an account of each mission so that there will be a record of it in the archives”. The OMI fonds at the Provincial Archives of Alberta provides a unique documentary perspective into the Oblate’s activities in the West from the 1840s to the present day.

Consisting of over 275 metres of text, the records include photographs, maps, architectural drawings, audiotapes, videos and films. Cumulatively, the records document OMI Lacombe Canada and its predecessor administrations in their many undertakings in western Canada. The records document Oblate work in various communities, including their role in the operation and administration of the residential school system in Canada. Some records and descriptions may contain language and content that some might consider offensive or derogatory. This language represents the historical time when the records were created. The Provincial Archives retains this language to preserve the historical context of the records.

How to access Oblate Records
The records are organized according to the Canadian standard for archival description, the Rules for Archival Description. This internationally recognized standard presents a way of describing archival records and the information they contain, based on the principle that each document is part of a larger group of documents and is linked to all other records in that fonds and, as well, reflects how the records were created, used and maintained.

The Oblates as an organization have been around for a long time, though their activities mostly remained the same since their founding. Within the OMI fonds, you will see there are several smaller collections of records created by Oblate administrations that pre-date OMI Lacombe Canada. These other collections include material from the Province of Alberta-Saskatchewan (1921-1986), the Vice-Provinces of Grouard (1967-1985) and MacKenzie (1967-1985), and Grandin Province (1986-2003).

Depending on your topic of interest, you may need to review more than one of these collections as each may contain similar record series. For example, you will find a “financial” record series in each; you will also find an “administration”, a “First Nations” and a “publications” series of records in each of these collections. Further, once you have identified the relevant record series, you will need to review the attached file list in AtoM that names the specific files and their contents.

To request a file, you will need the following information
• The file title: (e.g., “Meeting at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace”);
• The dates associated with the file: (e.g., “2012 – 2013”);
• The PAA number: (“PR2018.0050/8141”); and
• The box number (e.g., “Box 533”)

Accessing BMS Names Index and First Families in the West Cards
These index cards were created by the Oblates to document births, marriages and burials in their missions, and often note genealogical information of specific parishioners in various communities in Northern Alberta. To search the digitized copies of the Oblate BMS Names Index Cards (Birth, Marriage, Burial), click here. An index to symbols and abbreviations used in the BMS Names Index Cards is found in the first file. To search the First Families in the West Index Cards, click here.

Restricted Files
Although the Oblate fonds is not subject to the *Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act*, the PAA does apply the spirit of the legislation to the records in an effort to protect an individual’s personal information. As such, records that are less than 75 years old and contain significant amounts of collected personal information are restricted and may only be accessed by the individual whom the information is about and/or by the community from which the information comes. See the PAA Reference Archivist for more information on how to request a restricted record.

As part of the donation agreement with OMI Lacombe Canada, Personnel or Human Resource records are closed for 50 years following the death of the individual who is the subject of the file. As much as possible, the PAA will open these records if we can confirm they meet the access criteria.

If you have any questions, please contact the Sandra Thomson Reading Room.