Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Canadian Prairie Pioneer Questionnaires

The Saskatchewan Archives continue to surprise with unique online resources. This collection gives fabulous insight into day to day living on the prairies in the early days.
In the early 1950s the archives embarked on a survey of those individuals and characters who pioneered in the rural districts of Saskatchewan.

The answers reflect the period the people arrived in the community, often the late 1890s. Sometimes they provided a birthplace, parents' names, the name of the town they settled in,  their address at the time of the survey as well as the address they came from. These surveys were mailed and over 3,500 replies were sent back to the Saskatoon Archives office.

Please see below for a link to the list of people who filled out the questionnaires.

The online examples are limited to one respondent per topic. Many more of these 'interviews' which are not digitised will be held in the archive. It is not certain if the questionnaires were sent to individuals, organizations or simply as a bundle of questionnaires to the town or municipality offices who would then have distributed them. There is a link to the list of interviewees at the bottom of this article.

In one online example, the Excelsior Homemakers Club appointed three members to fill out the Pioneer Diet : one was Mrs. Geo. [George] ASKINS, from Arcola, Saskatchewan born in Heady or Keady, Ontario. Here a few questions from the 8 paged enquiry form.

1. Introductory Questions:

Q: What year did you start housekeeping in Western Canada?       A: 1893
Q: Where did you set up housekeeping?                  A: West Carlyle District
Q: Where had you been living before that?             A: Clare District "Now Arcola" 
Q: For how many people did you prepare meals?    A: 2
Q: How far was it to your nearest store?                  A: 10 miles
Q: How often could a visit be made to the store?     A: Once a week.
Q: What groceries did you usually buy in those earliest years?       A: tea, sugar, flour, oatmeal, salt, prunes, dried apples, syrup, soda, rice.

There are a total of 22 questions in the questionnaire. This is a sample of those questions in the 'Pioneer Diet' :

2. Flour and other grain products
3. Sugars and syrups
4. Dairy products
5. Meat and fish
6. Beverages
7. Vegetables and dried fruits
8. Preserving
9. Please fill in the following to the best of your memory:
         Food: Year you first remember seeing it in the store; eg: soda biscuits, macaroni, graham flour, brown sugar, molasses, table salt etc.
         How was it sold? - In bulk, 10 lb. sack, can, etc.; Amt. you usually bought at one time.; Price of this amount.

Eleven topics were covered in the questionnaires:
  1. Pioneer Diet (submitted by: The Excelsior Homemakers club) 
  2. General Pioneer Experiences (submitted by: Robert MILLS, Struan b: Dumfries, Scotland dob: 16th Feb 1885 Father: Robert), 
  3. Schools (submitted by: Mrs. Ellen HUBBARD, Grenfell, Saskatchewan)
  4. Churches (submitted by: Mrs. Eliza Jane HALES, Present Address: 218 - 12 Street, Brandon, Manitoba; Pioneer Address: Moose Mountain Post Office, Saskatchewan)
  5. Recreation and Social Life (submitted by: Mrs. D.A. MOORHOUSE, Present Address: Aneroid, Saskatchewan; Pioneer Address: Wallard, Saskatchewan) 
  6. Farming Experiences (submitted by: Samuel Henry McWILLIAMS, Present Address: 260 Athabasca West, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; Pioneer Address: Moose Jaw, N.W.T.)
  7. Folklore (submitted by: James D. TULLOCH, Arborfield, Box 1, Saskatchewan; lived in Manitoba before coming to Saskatchewan)
  8. Health (submitted by Mrs. Lila McDermid POPE; Present Address: Borden, Saskatchewan; Pioneer Address: Lovell P.O. [Post Office] Saskatchewan)
  9. Housing (submitted by: Robert Alexsander HILL, Present Address: MacRoric; Pioneer Addresses: Rudy and Westhope Saskatchewan)
  10. Local Government (submitted by: Alfred NORBURY, Present Address: Spiritwood; Pioneer Address: Norbury Saskatchewan)
  11. Christmas - this survey was especially sent to certain individuals - see Introduction (submitted by: W.H.S. GANGE, Red Deer Hill, Saskatchewan with the collaboration of  Mrs. Ruth GILES, 1041 River St West, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan)
    1. Introductory paragraph of the letter: We are gathering material for a radio program about Christmas in the old days, in the area that is now Saskatchewan. We want to tell about the real prairie Christmas of pioneer days as it was experienced by individuals who actually enjoyed it, either as men and women, or as children.
The questionnaires (PDF format) may be searched by the name of the pioneer, the nearest community, or the year of settlement in Saskatchewan. Please view the list of names of participants here - there are 22 pages with 66 lines = 1,452 names !

To access the questionnaires, please visit the archives in Saskatoon, or email them.
There is so much valuable information in these questionnaires!
**If your ancestor settled in Saskatchewan, perhaps you will find a little bit
of 'memory' to add to your project! Please let us know!**

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