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Description found in Archives
Series consists of
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Series consists of records from the docket and letterbook system which was used in the receipt and generation of records generally predating 1893. The nucleus of the early Department of Agriculture was the Minister's office. This office, staffed by only a few officials and record clerks, was responsible for the coordination of information flowing to, from, and between the several multi-functional components of the Department. The docket and letterbook system was developed in order to perform this activity. It is useful to explain how this registry system worked. Every piece of incoming correspondence was docketed, or described and numbered individually in a register in the order in which it arrived in the department. Each item of correspondence was also filed in this sequence. An index to the register grouped the scattered incoming correspondence in alphabetical order by the name of the author of the correspondence. Each piece of correspondence was identified by its docket number in the index. The Department clerk or official could then locate a particular item in the register as well as all other scattered correspondence from any one individual. Outgoing correspondence from this registry system is found in letterbooks in the chronological order in which it was written. An outgoing letter was transcribed in the letterbook, sequentially numbered, and later indexed under the name of the addressee. To find a letter written in response to incoming correspondence, locate the individual's name in the nominal index after determining the date that the outgoing letter would have likely been written. This is normally a few days after the incoming correspondence was registered. Subject information was rarely classified and listed and information retrieval was consequently laborious. Since the chief responsibility of the Minister's office at this time was to collect, compile, and disseminate information about the agricultural, technical, cultural, and demographical affairs of the new Dominion, the limitations of the docket system often hindered the office's ability to serve as a centre of information. As immigration and colonization became increasingly important to the new Dominion government, the high volume of information flowing into and required from the Minister's office overwhelmed the docket system of record-keeping. By the mid-1890s, the Department began to create subject files, combining incoming and outgoing correspondence related to one subject together. Vestiges of the old system persisted however; the numbering of the subject files used the sequential pattern begun in 1865 and in some cases, the docket system was still used. As a result, by the mid-1890s, large subject files coexisted with the individual letter dockets of the earlier era. By the mid-1890s, the subject file concept was being adopted throughout federal government registry offices. Agriculture's subject file headings and registries were progressively refined as the Department's other responsibilities were transferred to other federal agencies between 1893 and 1919 and efforts could be directed towards the management of specialized agricultural information. The docket and letterbook record keeping system which was created in the 1860s and modified by the creation of subject files in the 1890s was discontinued in 1920.
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