Canadian Family History
To many of us, the big attraction of using
the Internet is convenience. It is always "open" and is accessible from
home. And most of its resources are free!
I hope you will refer to this webpage when you are at home or in the library, so you can explore these links and experiment with them.
The records available tend to follow the pattern of settlement. The Hudson Bay Company Archives and Metis Scrip records can be helpful for research in the prairies in the 1800s.
Free sites accessible online from anywhere
a FREE service of RootsWeb http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/
Example: Eliza Auger, daughter of Augustin and Rosalie. Click on the underlined name of the database to search the database. Click on the pedigree chart icon to view the pedigree. Often, on the Pedigree screen you can click on "Download Gedcom" to download a copy of this database.
File and Pedigree
Resource Files in Genealogies at https://familysearch.org/
FamilySearch Family Tree can be accessed by signing in https://familysearch.org/ and clicking on the Family Tree link that appears. It is not intended primarily for research, but if you can access it, you can use it for research.
Web Pages can often be found using http://www.google.com
or any other really good Web Search Engine.
Example: "Watson family" Edwardsburgh Canada
Select the "Leeds & Grenville GenWeb - Family Web" link and scroll down to Watson and select it.
(Google can be used to find genealogical resources of all kinds, if you can clearly define what to look for, and don't mind searching through a "haystack" looking for a few good "needles".) An Advanced Google Search allows you to specify additional search criteria, which can be helpful.
Histories are often the best
source of the histories of families. One particularly good site for
Canadian local histories is the Our
Roots project by the universities of
Calgary and Laval. http://www.ourroots.ca/Check
the community where the family lived and also check surrounding
communities. For example, the local histories of Wetaskiwin, Alberta
have very little information about
families, but the surounding histories may be very helpful.
Example: Search for Freeway and West (or use this link http://www.ourroots.ca/e/toc.aspx?id=7594)
Search for the name Fiveland. Wow! Look at all of them. Let's select page 767.
Example: Grenville then select "History of Leeds and Grenville", by Leavitt, Thaddeus William Henry, 1879. Select "Memoir". During the American Revolution, Adiel Sherwood's father Thomas fled to Canada and became an officer in the Loyalist Rangers, and his uncles Adiel and Seth became officers in the Revolutionary Army. With cousins also fighting on both sides, it makes for very interesting family history! (See the lower part of the right-hand column.)
A sister site to Our Roots is Our Future, Our Past: The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project (AHDP) http://www.ourfutureourpast.ca/, where you can view some old Alberta newspapers and local histories and other historical documents. While the coverage of the province is incomplete, you may find stories that have a value far beyond money.
Hard Facts: Going to Official Sources
Compiled genealogies are prone to errors. (I spotted at least one in the examples above.) A few months ago I found a compiled genealogy that traced my great-great-grandfather back to the chiefs of Clan Buchanan in Scotland and eventually back to the kings of Ireland. However, I knew enough about g-g-grandfather to determine that more research was needed. We need to be cautious of accepting "wishful thinking", as real research. Still, compiled genealogies are usually based on serious research. How can you tell serious research from daydreams? Serious research needs to be supported by the best official sources available. Fortunately, more and more of these are available online for free.
The FamilySearch Wiki lists many useful resources for family history research in Canada. https://wiki.familysearch.org/
The first step in family history research is usually to ask
family members for indformation that allows you to get back far enough
in time to reach the censuses. Then you can search for birth, marriage,
and death records to fill in the blanks and further document your
Censuses of the "future Canada" start in 1851/1852 and have some major advantages where genealogy is concerned:
1. Unlike some official records, you didn't have to own property or be in jail or in the workhouse, to be counted.
2. Families are grouped together, and sometimes include members of the extended family living in the same household or nearby.
3. Ages are included. (The 1901 census gives an exact date of birth, and year of immigration.)
4. Place of birth is usually included.
5. They have been preserved intact in most cases, whereas certificates and family Bibles seldom survived.
6. They allow you to follow a family over a long period of time, as children are born, and either die young, or grow to leave the family home. Errors in one census can usually be noticed when comparing with earlier and later censuses.
1911 Census of Canada
free at this free site http://automatedgenealogy.com
(Click on Split Screen to see the scanned original page.)
1906 Special Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta http://automatedgenealogy.com
1901 Census of Canada http://automatedgenealogy.com (e.g. Search for John Buchanan aged 71 in Rosedale, Manitoba and click Split Screen, and look at all of the information provided on the original form!)
1891 Census of Canada is now available at Collections Canada for free. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/census-1891/index-e.html
1881 Census of Canada at FamilySearch.org http://www.familysearch.org
1871 Census of Canada http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/census-1871/001101-100.01-e.php
1851/1852 Census of Canada is partially available free from Automated Genealogy http://automatedgenealogy.com
At the Family History Centre we have access to all of the
Canadian censuses for 1851-1921 from Ancestry.com (1906 and 1916 are
for the prairie provinces only.)
Parish and Civil Records
Few government "civil" records exist for ordinary individuals before Confederation, but prior to this time churches of most denominations kept records of christenings, marriages and burials. The International Genealogical Index contains tens of thousands of parish registers. It can be found by clicking Search > Genealogies at https://familysearch.org/
So far five provinces have vital records indexes online. In
most cases you can get the basic information you need for free,
directly from the government. These are excellent official resources. I
have spent many hours with the Manitoba site and some time on the BC
New Brunswick Vital Statistics Search Engine http://archives.gnb.ca/APPS/GovRecs/VISSE/?L=EN
Nova Scotia Vital Records search https://www.novascotiagenealogy.com/
Manitoba Vital Statistics http://vitalstats.gov.mb.ca/Query.php
Example: Andrew Rasmussen's marriage should be recorded there. Wow! We find his first marriage to Sophia Sorenson and after her death, we find his marriage to his second wife Anna, and after his death, Anna's re-marriage! And the Manitoba marriage certificates would give the names of both parents of the brides and grooms at a minimal cost of $12.
Saskatchwan vital records http://genealogy.ehealthsask.ca/vsgs_srch.aspx
Free BMD information. Faster to use than Manitoba's, but so far they just have the births and deaths posted.
British Columbia Archives http://search-collections.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/GenealogyIn addition to these provincial governement vital record sites, FamilySearch.org also has Canadian vital records in Search > Records:
Ontario Birth Registrations http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~births/index.htm
Covers perhaps 5% of births, but useful if you connect.
Example: We will search for any Buchanans born in Elma Township, Perth County
Ontario Marriage Registrations 1800-1924 http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~maryc/thisisit.htm
Covers maybe 10% of the marriages, but has wonderful information - including the names of the bride's and groom's parents.
Example: Buchanan Perth Elma to find all Buchanans married in Elma Township, Perth County, Ontario
Wesleyan Methodist Baptisms in Ontario http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~wjmartin/wm-index.htm
Sometimes the Methodist circuit riders were the only clergy available and christened children of other denominations. So just because your ancestors were not Methodists doesn't mean they won't be found there. It includes the married names of the parents, birthdate and birthplace of the child.
Example: Lavina Atkin, born in Mornington Township, Perth County
subscription sites have
good records for Ontario and Quebec, going back in some cases as far as
The Canadian Genealogy Centre now provides a "single point of entry" to many of the government databases that were only available if you knew their specific addresses. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/genealogy/index-e.html Databases:
AVITUS; Births, marriages and deaths; Divorce in Canada (1841-1968) ; Upper and Lower Canada Marriage Bonds; Census Microfilm Reel numbers from 1666 to 1901; Census Index of Ontario, 1871; Census of Canada Images, 1901; Census of the Northwest Provinces Images, 1906; Census of Canada Images, 1911; Immigrants at Grosse-Île Quarantine Station between 1832 and 1937; Immigration Records (1925-1935); Home Children (1869-1930); Western Land Grants (1870-1930); Metis Scrip Records; Soldiers of the South African War (1899 - 1902); Soldiers of the First World War (1914-1918); Courts-Martial of the First World War; War Diaries of the First World War; 1915-1932 Canadian Naturalization; Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online; Post Offices and Postmasters; Canadian Directories: Who was Where; Project Naming (identifying Inuit in old photos); AMICUS WEB (contains references to local histories, church and cemetery indexes, family histories, city directories, genealogy society journals and more); ArchiviaNet online research tool; The Canadian Archival Information Network (CAIN) provides access to holdings of more than 800 archival institutions across Canada.
Canadian Soldiers of the First World War
See the original attestation (sign-up) papers and print your own copy of them!
Example: Search for Teale, Arthur and click the icon for the front of the page. Arthur paid the supreme sacrifice at Vimy Ridge, France leaving his wife with four tiny children and a farm in Saskatchewan to run.
Commonwealth War Graves http://www.cwgc.org
Example: Again we will Search for Arthur Teale. (He is the second Arthur Teale listed.)
Métis Scrip Records http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/02010507_e.html
Great for information on Canadian Métis families in the 1800s.
Example: Eliza Auger.
Hudson Bay Company Archives http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/ The archives are in Winnipeg but some information is available online.
e.g. Search the Biographical Sheet for Peter Fidler. (OK, so Fidler was kind of important ... but also check the bio for Antoine Augustin Auger, a native boatsman.)
Out-bound passengers from the UK http://www.findmypast.com/home.jsp Search > Immigration & Travel It seems to exclude troop transports and crews. The index is free and has useful information. (The transcriptions and images are free in the Portal at a Family History Center.)
Example: HIPPARD Charles 25 M 1928 Liverpool Canada Quebec
British "Home" Children brought
to Canada http://www.dcs.uwaterloo.ca/~marj/genealogy/homeadd.html
My maternal grandfather and my father-in-law were among tens of thousands of orphaned or impoverished children brought from Great Britain as farm or domestic help. For some it represented wonderful new opportunities, for others it was little better than slavery.
Example: Click the Archives page and search for Richard Ing then click on the page icon.
Online Maps can be vital to
narrowing-down searches by knowing the names of surrounding places.
Google Maps http://maps.google.com/
Bing Maps https://www.bing.com/mapspreview
Genealogy Message Boards
You may also find it useful to post messages on message boards, and to search through messages posted by other people. If you do so, please get yourself a free PERMANENT email address from somewhere such as http://mail.google.com http://www.hotmail.com, or http://www.yahoo.com and keep it active by checking the messages once a month. That way if someone replies to your messages 5 years from now, you will still be able to receive their reply. I occasionally find old postings that I made using an email address that has been dead for 8 years, and are now useless. Don't make the same mistake.
Ancestry/RootsWeb Message Boards http://boards.rootsweb.com/
(This is one of the FREE services of Ancestry.com)
GenForum Message Boards is the corresponding free service from Genealogy.com http://genforum.genealogy.com This site is no longer being developed, but old postings in the forums are still accessible. I posted a message about the Richard Martin family that I was unable to find in the 1851 census of Cornwall. I received the 1851 census information within a few days. And a reply a week later that gave me the 1841 census data. Many messages go unanswered, especially if they are vague. Give specific information if you want to get specific information.
Directories - The first BIG challenge is
to trace your family back 100 years, because most online resources
protect the privacy of living people. But this information is the most
available from your own extended family. How do you find these people,
assuming they are alive? Use an Internet telephone directory. Many are
available, including http://www.WhitePages.ca
I used them to find my "lost" Hamilton and McGillivray relatives and get a mountain of genealogy from them including old family photos and old family stories.
Mailing Lists - Postings by subscribers to mailing list are sent to all subscribers http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ These can be a useful way of sharing information with others who are researching a family you are researching or are researching families in the same geographic area. For example, I subscribe to a list for descendants of Andrew and Jane Buchanan who came from Omagh, County Tyrone, Ireland in 1847. Instead of having to send the information to 30 individuals, I send a message to the list and all subscribers receive it. When anyone else sends a message to the list, I receive a copy. There are many places that include mailing lists (listservs). Some are based on a surname, others are based on a locality. Most maintain an archive of old postings, but they don't all have a search engine, which means a lot more manual or semi-manual searching using Ctrl+F.
Aids may help you find a tombstone
inscription that gives the year of birth or the names of other family
Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid http://www.islandnet.com/ocfa/
BC Cemetery Finding Aid http://www.islandnet.com/bccfa/homepage.html
Find a Grave http://www.findagrave.com/ is international in scope, and is one of the most frequented web sites by genealogists.
Billion Graves http://billiongraves.com/ is an international site that is becoming very useful.
Obituaries - Usually only list deaths since 2000. Some only have obits for the current month. But if you find an obit, it may have three generations of information! You will usually find them using a search engine.
Internet Search Engines - These can be used to look for material that is not on the usual genealogy sites. http://www.google.ca http://www.yahoo.com and http://www.bing.com They can find personal genealogy websites, but also postings to message boards, government records, local histories, and so forth. But at least 95% of the webpages "found" will be totally unrelated to genealogy. Remember to use quotation marks to narrow the search. (Terms within quotation marks are treated as a single word.) Suppose you are looking for any information on a Watson family that had lived at Riding Mountain, Manitoba. Searching for "Riding Mountain" Watson - will find all webpages that contain the name "Watson" PLUS the term "Riding Mountain". The quotation marks should eliminate tens of thousands of false "hits" from pages that contain the words "Watson" and "Riding" and "Mountain" such as "Mr. Watson was riding his mule up the mountain when he spotted a huge grizzly bear." To further narrow down your search, you might try successively including the words Manitoba, Family, Born, Lived, Died, Married (one at a time, not all at once). Ideally, you should not have to search through more than 200 hits. If you find 25,000 references to your search terms, you have really found nothing.
Google Site Search - From the
Google website or Google search bar, you can search any
site by using these search criteria: search-terms site:URL
So if I didn't have a search engine on my website, you could still search it for George Watson by putting:
"George Watson" site:http://billbuchanan.byethost17.com
into the Google search box and clicking Search.
Out-of-Print Histories (and other books)
To Borrow - (it may be a long way from where you live, but available through inter-library loans) http://www.worldcat.org
To Buy - http://www.bookfinder.com/ http://www.addall.com/ http://www.abebooks.com/
To Read Online http://books.google.com The Advanced Search option allows you to specify only books where the full view is available.
Your Own Website - You may want to create your own free website to share your genealogy and invite other people to contact you to share their information with you. This is a topic for a whole other presentation, but my website has allowed cousins who have been "lost" for 60 years to find me and contact me.
Easy Personal Websites - Some sites will create a personal website for free, if you just register and upload a gedcom file. http://tribalpages.com/ http://www.geni.com/ http://www.wikitree.com/ and http://www.mytrees.comare examples of such places. Major sites like ancestry.com, familysearch.org and myheritage.com also allow you to upload a gedcom file, but some people feel more comfortable with the smaller sites.
Your Own Blog
- You can easily create a free blog at any of several sites.
Google's Blogger.com https://www.blogger.com
is perhaps the best known. Another popular free blog host is http://wordpress.com/ They
are very simple, you just write what you want and upload
photos. If you can send email messages you can create a blog! No
special software or technical knowledge is required.
Cyndi's List - Probably the biggest list of genealogy websites http://cyndislist.com/
Magazine - 101 Best Web Sites - http://www.familytreemagazine.com/article/101-best-websites-2016
Top 100 Genealogy Websites of 2016 - GenealogyInTime Magazine http://www.genealogyintime.com/articles/top-100-genealogy-websites-of-2016-page01.html
Dave Obee's Canadian Genealogy Site http://www.cangenealogy.com/
Mary's Treasures - A good list of online resources (Mary Tollstrup's Lethbridge FHC site) http://www.telusplanet.net/public/mtoll/
Resources Not Online but very
useful if you are in the Edmonton area:
Alberta Genealogical Society Master Name Index http://www.abgensoc.ca
Provincial Archives of Alberta have most of the local history books for Alberta, some Metis genealogies, wills, newspaper archives on microfilm, and much more. http://www.archivesalberta.org/
wish you joy and success in your research.
If you have questions or comments send me an email message firstname.lastname@example.org