Jump start your Canadian genealogy research and celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday! Here are tips for you to start your Canadian genealogy research. Already started? Take it to the next level with resources at Library and Archives Canada.
Canada is celebrating 150 years of nationhood in 2017! To join the party, I invited Claire Banton from Library and Archives Canada to the Genealogy Gems podcast episode 199. We had a great chat about Canada’s history and its planned year-long celebration. And of course, our conversation quickly turned to tips for exploring your Canadian roots at Library and Archives Canada.
Quick Tips for Canadian Genealogy Research
You can listen to our entire conversation for free in episode 199, but here are some quick take-away tips:
Claire Banton obtained her Masters of Library and Information Studies degree in 2006. She has worked in Reference Services at Library and Archives Canada for 10 years, where she has enjoyed learning something new every day. She is currently Chief, Orientation Services, where she works with an awesome team who help people search for information. She loves being an information detective and helping people overcome their research challenges.
1. Library and Archives Canada is very different from the average library.
It is both a national library (search the library catalog here) and a national archive (search the archival catalog here). And you don’t even have to have an account to search.
2. Start with the LAC website genealogy resources page whether you plan to visit in person or not.
You’ll find loads of free databases and some digitized records that haven’t been indexed yet, but are ripe for browsing. The topics page will tell you more about what is available for Canadian genealogy.
3. Familiarize yourself with the history of border crossings.
There was no border control from the US to Canada prior to 1908, so that means there are no Canadian records of earlier crossings. However, there is a database containing an index of aliens and citizens crossing into the U.S. from Canada via various ports of entry along the U.S.-Canadian border between 1895 and 1956 at FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com.
4. Call LAC directly for quick Canadian genealogy answers.
Schedule a Skype call with a genealogy expert to get a more in depth answer. (This is awesome – well done LAC!) Set the expert up for success and get the most out of your call by providing background information ahead of time.
Click here to explore (and join) Canada’s 150th birthday celebration!
More Canadian Genealogy Tips
Search Canadian Passenger Lists for FREE at Library and Archives Canada
Here’s Why Quebec Church Records are a Great Place to Look for Ancestors
Canadiana: Canadian Digital Archive and Portal to the Past
Search through new and updated genealogical records and histories galore. We are covering the world this week, reaching places we haven’t touched on before. Search records from familiar collections in Canada and the U.S., then check out what’s new in Russia and Ghana.
Canada – World War I
We know many of our readers have ancestry from Canada and we want to point your attention to the holdings at the Library and Archive Canada. This repository has many digital collections online and even includes a portrait portal with over 4 million images!
Today, we shine a light on just over 330,000 files now available online in the Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database.
The Soldiers of the First World War database is an index to the service files held by Library and Archives Canada for the soldiers, nurses, and chaplains who served with the CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force.) Each box of service files holds approximately 50 files and envelopes. The individual’s name and service number or rank, if an officer, is written on each envelope. This database was organized by entering the name and number found on the outside of each of these file envelopes.
When the attestation papers and enlistment forms were digitized from the Attestation Registers (RG 9, II B8, volumes 1 to 654,) the images were linked to the database. Tip: When searching by name, be sure to look for alternate spellings as well.
The original paper documents can no longer be consulted, so your only option is to view these records digitally. For those items not yet digitized, you can order a copy from the Archives. As we mentioned, not all the documents have been digitized, but are are being done so regularly. Check back often!
United States – State and Local Histories
Findmypast has updated their United States, State & Local Histories collection and now holds 332 digitized books of state and local histories in PDF format. These histories come from Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
You can narrow your specific search by publication year, title, county, and state, or search by keywords. These books often add clues and hints to the lives of our ancestors. You may also come across a biographical sketch of your ancestor which may hold key information you have been looking for.
Additionally, a sister collection titled United States, Family Histories may also prove fruitful. This collection contains over 930,000 images taken from 3,926 family histories and genealogies from all 50 states and several locations overseas. These PDF records can be searched by publication year, title, county, and state, page number, and key words. The publications emphasize tracing the descendants of the early, colonial immigrants to the United States. If you have a targeted ancestor that falls into that category, you will want to check these histories thoroughly.
United States – New York – Histories
The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record is the second oldest genealogical journal in the U.S. This week, Volume 27, Issue 2 (January 2016) of this publication is available at Findmypast. You can search or browse to find possible hints and clues to aid you in your research.
The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record is a quarterly publication, published since 1870. It publishes compiled genealogies that are documented, transcriptions of original records, and much more. To further learn about the NYG&B and their society, click here.
You might also be interested in the NYG&B’s quarterly review titled The New York Researcher. Formerly known as the NYG&B Newsletter, The New York Researcher has been published since 1970. Volume 147, Issue 2 (Summer 2016) of this publication is available now at Findmypast.
You will enjoy instructive articles on genealogical research techniques and New York resources, profiles of repositories, and profiles of genealogical societies across the State of New York.
Russia – Church Records
FamilySearch has digitized more than 2 million records in their collection titled Russia, Tatarstan Church Books, 1721-1939. Though these records are not indexed yet, you may find images of births and baptisms, marriages, deaths, and burials performed by priests of the Russian Orthodox Church in the republic of Tatarstan. These records were acquired from the state archive in that province.
Places are identified by their historical name and jurisdiction when it was part of the Russian Empire. If you are unsure of the history of your targeted location, remember what our Google Guru Lisa says…”Just Google It!”
The collection covers records from 1721 to 1939. These records are written in Russian, but remember that FamilySearch offers a helpful cheat sheet of common words and their translations!
There may be some restrictions on viewing these records. Whenever possible, FamilySearch makes images available for all users. However, rights to view images on their website are granted by the record custodians. In this case, the Russia, Tatarstan Church Books, 1721-1939 images can be only be viewed online at a Family History Center near you, or the Family History Library.
Ghana – Census
FamilySearch has also added the Ghana Census, 1984. This population census for Ghana is a complete enumeration of the 12.3 million people residing in Ghana as of midnight March 11, 1984. The census is divided into 56,170 localities. According to the government of Ghana, a locality is defined as any “nucleated and physically distinct settlement.” Localities may include a single house, a hamlet, a village, town or city. In some areas of the Upper West and Upper East Regions, these localities are based on kinship groups. Only those individuals, including foreign visitors, who were present in Ghana on March 11, 1984, were included in this census.
There have been some records lost in Ghana and so not all localities are available. Important: Be aware that the printed date on the census enumeration form usually says 1982, but this census was formally conducted in 1984.
The 1984 Ghana census may hold the following information:
- Detailed address of the house
- Name of town/village
- Full name of members present on census night
- Relationship to head of household
- Gender, age, birthpla
ce, and nationality of each individual
- Level of education
- Employment status
- Names of visitors on census night
- Names of members absent on census night
Originally published Fall 2008
Republished November 26, 2013
by Lisa Louise Cooke
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 8: Best Genealogy Websites, Part 2
In a follow up to last week’s episode about subscription genealogy records website, in my first segment our guest is Yvette Arts, Director of Content Partnerships at World Vital Records. She tells us about exciting developments at the website that have helped make it a success.
In our second segment we look at five organizations that provide free online access to genealogy records for those with North American roots: FamilySearch, the National Archives of the United States, Ellis Island Foundation, the National Archives of the United Kingdom, and Library and Archives Canada.
Now for some updates on these sites and MORE since the show first aired:
- FamilySearch.org is still free and growing exponentially. It captures records from all over the world, not just North America and the U.K. It is now home to over 3.5 billion names in searchable databases, with over 35 million new records added every month. In addition, they’ve added over 60,000 digital books to the site. The layout of the website has changed dramatically since I described it in the original show. Click on Search to get to their databases, then enter an ancestor’s name and, if you can, a life event (birth, marriage, residence or death). A significant portion of new online records are browsable but not yet indexed. So now, after you search for individuals in their databases, scroll down to the Browse section below the search fields. There you’ll be able to see what records you can browse for a locale (choose the international region, then you can choose more specific locations). You can still order microfilmed records at the Family History Library to a satellite FamilySearch library near you. From the Search screen, choose Catalog, and you can search for and order available records by location.
- The National Archives (U.S.), also known as the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) also offers more on its website now. The portal for genealogists looks a little different now but still helps you see how to search and use the site for genealogy. There’s a direct link to the 1940 census, with images, maps and descriptions. Remember that Footnote, the subscription site I mentioned that’s digitizing military records, is now Fold3, which we talked about in Episode 7.
- EllisIsland.org still offers free access to the passenger records of those who landed at Ellis Island. In addition, you can still look at ship information (click on Ships from the home page). The Immigrant Experience and timeline I mention can be found by clicking on the Ellis Island tab.
- The National Archives (U.K.) links from the home page to resources for ordering birth, marriage and death certificates for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Read about updating order information, including costs, at these sites. There is still a portal for genealogists from which you can learn all about the various record groups I mention in the podcast and more.
- Library and Archives Canada continues to add more valuable genealogical data to its site, including census data! Start from its Genealogy and Family History page. In addition to the features I mention in the show, they’ve improved their online indexes: scroll down on the above page and you’ll find the Ancestors Search (Databases) link to a main search engine and individual databases for vital records, censuses, immigration, land, military and several directories.
- Cyndi’s List and U.S. GenWeb are still fantastic online resources, but add to your list these ones as well:
- DeadFred, a photo identifying and sharing site;
- Google, for searching across the Internet for everything from individual ancestor’s names to maps and local histories (especially through Google Books at www.books.google.com);
- The Library of Congress family of websites, including the mega-newspaper site, Chronicling America;
- WorldCat, an enormous card catalog for more than 10,000 libraries worldwide.
- Find a Grave and Billion Graves, home to cemetery inscriptions for millions of tombstones.
- Of course, there are many, many more websites for genealogists, but these will certainly keep you busy to start!
If you have Canadian kin, you’ll be pleased to hear that the 1825 census of Lower Canada is now searchable online, and the 1921 census will soon be available online, too!
The 1825 census of Lower Canada counted nearly half a million people. Heads of household were actually named, with other members of the household counted by category. You can search by household name or geographic location.
The 1921 census counted 8.8 million people in thousands of communities across Canada. According to the Library and Archives Canada Blog, the population questionnaire had 35 questions. The census also collected data on “agriculture; animals, animal products, fruits not on farms; manufacturing and trading establishments; and [a] supplemental questionnaire for persons who were blind and deaf. This represents a total of 565 questions.” The census was released this past June 1 from the national Statistics office to the Library and Archives. That office is processing and scanning the nearly 200,000 images for public use. It hopes to have them posted soon.
Here’s a sample page from the 1921 census population schedule:
We think of Canada as a real melting pot today—or salad bowl, as they prefer. That wasn’t always the case. The 1825 census of Lower Canada counted mostly Europeans of French extraction. In 1901, 70% of Canadians claimed either British or French heritage. But in the first two decades of the 1900s, a huge immigration boom occurred that reached well beyond England and France. So the folks who show up on the 1921 census represented a newly multicultural Canada!
Start looking for your Canadian ancestors in the Library and Archives Canada’s popular Census Indexes, which include that 1825 census and a new version of the 1891 census, too. Watch the website for the 1921 census.
If your family arrived in Canada after the 1921 census, check out the website for The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, where a million immigrants landed between 1928-1971.