Chosen from over a century of legal proceedings, this section presents selected documents from a number of unusual and thought-provoking cases heard before Alberta's courts. Representing a tiny fraction of the total cases available, these civil, criminal, divorce, probate and other court actions highlight the history of women, aboriginal peoples, business and settlement in Alberta.
Civil cases involve the settlement of disputes involving contracts, debts, probate, divorce, negligence, copyright violations and other rights. The impact of the resolution of most civil disputes will diminish greatly over time, but the judgments in some civil cases set precedents that affect society forever.
This selection of civil cases illustrates aboriginal land claims, intellectual property rights, a worker’s right to arbitration, and an early dispute over money.
Criminal prosecutions determine whether a person is guilty of a behaviour, ranging from minor misdemeanors to murder. Whether documenting acquittals, punishments or even executions, Alberta’s court case files are evidence of those prosecutions and the fates of those accused.
The following selection of cases features famous and lesser-known criminals in Alberta’s history and includes crimes such as illegal fortune-telling, vagrancy, residential school abuse, and murder.
Divorce is the legal process used to dissolve a marriage. Until the early twentieth century, Canadians seeking a divorce usually required the passage of a bill in the Canadian Senate, a complicated process available only to the rich. Divorce became more widely available after 1919 when the Judicial Committee of Privy Council of the United Kingdom determined that provincial supreme courts had the necessary jurisdiction to grant divorces. Since 1968, a federal Divorce Act standardizes a similar process for all Canadians.
This section highlights a number of early divorce cases as well as a case illustrating the process after 1968.
Probate is the process of proving that a person’s last will and testament is authentic and distributing property after the person’s death. While probate is a regular business process for the courts, the files that result are immensely valuable for genealogists and other historians seeking information about family and social history.
This section provides a small sample of probate files, including those for a coal miner, a well-known police magistrate, a World War I soldier, and a local farmer.
The work of Alberta’s courts involves activity other than litigation. Prior to 1968, clerks of the court were responsible for registering chattel mortgages, partnerships, and naturalizations, activities which created documents that can be used for business, social and family history.
This section provides examples of partnership registers, naturalization documents, and typical debt instruments such as chattel mortgages that can be found in court records.