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.

My favorite sites depend whether or not I am in a Family History Centre.

Why? Because at the FHC I have access to extra resources for free in the online Portal. Why not use and other commercial sites if you have access to them? I love the way I can do a search for someone in with the name and birth info, and find all of the censuses that they are listed in ... all in one convenient place. What is not to like?

These subscription sites (and others in the Portal) can give access to census, passenger and immigration records, vital records, and more.

Free sites like  can be used to supplement the subscription sites (and in some cases replace them)

Free sites accessible online from anywhere

Compiled Genealogies

WorldConnect, a FREE service of RootsWeb
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.

Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource Files in Genealogies at

FamilySearch Family Tree can be accessed by signing in 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. 

Personal Web Pages can often be found using 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.

Local 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. 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
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), 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.


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 research.

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.

Free Canadian Censuses Online

1911 Census of Canada free at this free site (Click on Split Screen to see the scanned original page.)
1906 Special Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta
1901 Census of Canada (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.
1881 Census of Canada at
1871 Census of Canada
1851/1852 Census of Canada is partially available free from Automated Genealogy

At the Family History Centre we have access to all of the Canadian censuses for 1851-1921 from (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

Canadian Vital Records

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 site.

New Brunswick Vital Statistics Search Engine

Nova Scotia Vital Records search

Manitoba Vital Statistics
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
Free BMD information. Faster to use than Manitoba's, but so far they just have the births and deaths posted.

British Columbia Archives

In addition to these provincial governement vital record sites, also has Canadian vital records in Search > Records:
British Columbia Birth Registrations, 1854-1903- These are birth registrations, delayed birth registrations, and delayed registrations of Indian births - 38,340 Records as of 23 July 2010
British Columbia Marriage Registrations, 1859-1932- These are marriage registrations from British Columbia Vital Statistics, and microfilm at the FHL - 124,592 Records as of 27 April 2010
British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986- These are death registrations including overseas casualties, delayed death registrations, and delayed registrations of Indian deaths - 933,845 Records as of 24 May 2010
New Brunswick Births and Baptisms, 1819-1899- Index to selected New Brunswick births and baptisms. Only a few localities are included and the time period varies by locality. This collection contains 25,414 records after 27 April 2010
New Brunswick, Provincial Returns of Births and Late Registrations, 1810-1906 - Index and imagesof provincial returns of births, 1869-1905, and 1906 (only surnames beginning with letters A-Be); and also late registrations, 1810-1905 - 160, 214 Records from 164,227 images as of 12 August 2010
New Brunswick Provincial Deaths, 1815-1938 - Index and Imagesof death records - 80,397 Records from 81,680 images as of 13 Dec 2010
New Brunswick, Death Certificates, 1920-1934 - Browsable Images of death certificates from the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada - 76,812 images as of 29 July 2010
New Brunswick, Death Certificates, 1935-1938 - Browsable Images of death certificates from the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada - 16,806 images as of 29 July 2010
New Brunswick, Provincial Returns of Deaths, 1815-1919 - Browsable Images of Provincial Returns of Deaths from the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada - 80,741 images as of 29 July 2010
Newfoundland, Vital Records, 1840-1949 - Browsable images of births, delayed registrations of births, marriages, and deaths initially from the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland - 58,839 images as of 13 August 2010
Newfoundland, Vital Statistics, 1753-1893 - Browsable Images of church record transcripts. Contains baptisms, marriages, and some burials from many churches in the province - 14,649 images as of 4 August 2010
Nova Scotia Births and Baptisms, 1702-1896- Index to selected Nova Scotia births and baptisms. Only a few localities are included and the time period varies by locality - 125,791 records after 27 April 2010
Nova Scotia Marriages, 1711-1909- Index to selected Nova Scotia marriages. Only a few localities are included and the time period varies by locality. This collection contains 36,254 records as of 27 April 2010
Nova Scotia Antigonish Catholic Diocese 1823-1905- Index & data abstract to the Nova Scotia Antigonish Catholic Diocese - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish was originally known as the Diocese of Arichat and was established on September 22, 1844. Previously the diocese was part of the Diocese of Quebec. On August 23, 1886, the see was moved from Arichat to the town of Antigonish, and the diocese became the Diocese of Antigonish. The diocese covers seven counties in northeastern Nova Scotia: Richmond, Inverness, Victoria, Cape Breton, Antigonish, Pictou and Guysborough. Catholic records are traditionally kept on the parish level so the registers are usually found at the church where the event occurred. - This is a partner project with the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia to index digital-born images for this Catholic diocese. The images contain church records for some, but not all parishes in the diocese and include christenings, marriages and births. The data from this project will be used for family reconstruction prototype projects at GSU and shared with GANS. The original records are housed at Diocese of Antigonish, Antigonish, Nova Scotia - 91,875 records as of 20 May 2010
Ontario Births and Baptisms, 1779-1899- Index to selected Ontario births and baptisms. Only a few localities are included and the time period varies by locality. This collection contains 455,469 records after 27 April 2010
Ontario Births, 1869-1912- Index to birth records - 164,139 Records as of 5 November 2010
Ontario Marriages, 1800-1910- Index to selected Ontario marriages. Only a few localities are included and the time period varies by locality - 28,574 records after 27 April 2010
Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927- Index to marriage records from Ontario, Canada. Ontario Registrar General. Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927. Library and Archives Canada, Ottowa, Canada - 363,464 Records as of 14 January 2011
Ontario Deaths,1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947 - Name index of Ontario, Canada, death registration entries & registration entries for 1939-1947 are for overseas deaths only - 2,050,112 as of 28 January 2011
Prince Edward Island Baptism Card Index, 1721-1885 - Browsable imagesof index cards to baptismal records - 92,700 images as of 25 August 2010
Prince Edward Island Marriage Registers, 1832-1888 - Imagesof indexes and registers. Marriages took place in churches and before Justices of the Peace. Dates of indexes correspond to dates of marriages, and marriage records are arranged by date of registration so the dates of the indexes and the marriage records do not always match. Indexes are alphabetized by first letter of the surname only. In some indexes, the "Mc" and "Mac" names are indexed by the first letter after "Mc" or "Mac" - 3,428 images as of 31 August 2010
Prince Edward Island Death Card Index, 1721-1905 - Images of index cards. Information comes from various sources, newspapers, cemeteries, churches, etc. - 15,903 Index images as of 31 August 2010
Quebec Births and Baptisms, 1662-1898- Index to selected Quebec births and baptisms. Only a few localities are included and the time period varies by locality - 27,212 records after 27 April 2010
Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1900 - Images of Catholic parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials. Also includes some index entries for Montréal and Trois-Rivières - 79,936 records from 1,361,289 images as of 22 November 2010
Canada Births and Baptisms, 1661-1959- Name index to birth and baptism records from Canada. Microfilm copies of these records are available at the Family History Library and Family History Centers. This set contains 2,168,216 records after 27 April 2010.
Canada Marriages, 1661-1949 - Digitized Name index to marriages from Canada. Microfilm copies of these records are available at the Family History Library and Family History Centers. This set contains 268,014 records after 27 April 2010
Canada Deaths and Burials, 1664-1955- Name index to death and burial records from Canada. Microfilm copies of these records are available at the Family History Library and Family History Centers. This set contains 101,189 records as of 27 April 2010
Canada Census Mortality Schedules, 1871 - Index and imagesof mortality schedules for the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia , Ontario, and Quebec - 45,371 Records as of 20 January 2011

Ontario Birth Registrations
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 
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
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 1600s.]

Canadian Federal Government Records
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. 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 (1914-1918)
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
Example: Again we will Search for Arthur Teale. (He is the second Arthur Teale listed.)

Métis Scrip Records
Great for information on Canadian Métis families in the 1800s.
Example: Eliza Auger.

Hudson Bay Company Archives 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.)

Immigration Records

Out-bound passengers
from the UK  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
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
Bing Maps

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, or 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 and (This is one of the FREE services of 

GenForum Message Boards is the corresponding free service from 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.  

Internet Telephone 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 
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 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.

Cemetery Finding Aids may help you find a tombstone inscription that gives the year of birth or the names of other family members.
Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid
BC Cemetery Finding Aid
Find a Grave is international in scope, and is one of the most frequented web sites by genealogists.
Billion Graves 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. and 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:
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)

To Buy -

To Read Online 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. and  http://www.mytrees.comare examples of such places. Major sites like, and 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  is perhaps the best known. Another popular free blog host is 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.

Note that free webspace may disappear if you never update the information and no one visits your site.

Other Resources

Cyndi's List - Probably the biggest list of genealogy websites

Family Tree Magazine - 101 Best Web Sites -
Top 100 Genealogy Websites of 2016 - GenealogyInTime Magazine

Dave Obee's Canadian Genealogy Site

Mary's Treasures - A good list of online resources (Mary Tollstrup's Lethbridge FHC site)

Resources Not Online but very useful if you are in the Edmonton area:

Alberta Genealogical Society Master Name Index

Provincial Archives of Alberta have most of the local history books for Alberta, some Metis genealogies, wills, newspaper archives on microfilm, and much more.

I wish you joy and success in your research.
If you have questions or comments send me an email message

Bill Buchanan