Friday, 10 February 2017

Finding your Ancestors in Canada

The first steps in Canadian genealogy are the same as with all genealogy research 
- - start with what you know about your family - -
The content of this article is a review of the basics of researching family history in Canada. Some links are to posts I have written that give suggestions for your research. Other links provide an introduction to the basics, some are resources found on webpages of family history societies, archives, libraries, or other Canadian genealogists blogs.
© Penny Allen

The first place one should start Canadian genealogy is at Library and Archives Canada. Did you know that many of the Canadian genealogy records on Ancestry and Find My Past are from original documents in the Library and Archives Canada's collections?

To name a very few Canadian genealogists who provide good material to start your Canadian Genealogy Research.  CanGenealogy ;   Gail Dever's Genealogy Toolbox ;  John D. Reid ; Ontario Genealogical Society ;    Olive Tree Genealogy 

This document produced from a talk that John D. Reid presented at the Who Do You Think You Are show in 2016 is a very good introduction to the history of Canada and Canadian Genealogy. He gives some background to the size of the country, along with an indication of where to find resources. Useful comparisons to UK records.

If you are interested in reading short articles about the history of Canada, you really must take a look at Gail Dever's 'This week's crème de la crème' - a weekly list of all things Canadian genealogy.

New Canadian Blogger! Candice Macdonald is writing a series on Vital Statistics in Canada, province by province. on her blog, Finding Your Canadian Story, she really has done a lot of research into the details of who can apply, what you can find and how to access the records. What a great blog to follow!

The Family Search website provides good Canadian Genealogy resources - Family Search - Canada Genealogy data

BirthsBirth Marriage and Death records

If the person was born in Canada, the registrations are held in the provincial archives which are located in the capital city. The date coverage is different from province to province, as unlike the UK, there is not one set year of registration for all of Canada.

BMDs are known as Vital Statistics in Canada, and most of the provinces have a searchable database for historical records. For example, the index on the British Columbia webpage covers: births (1854-1903), marriages (1872-1940), deaths (1872-1995), colonial marriages (1859-1872) and baptisms (1836-1888).

If you are looking for information about births post-1900s, you may need to contact the archives staff of the province you are researching.

Marriages - Please carefully check the webpages on the link to Births, Marriages and Deaths indexes for updated information, as the date ranges may change as the archives add more indexes.

Deaths - Birth Marriage and Death records also via each Provincial Archives searchable index page.

A unique set of records that complement provincial archival indexes are the Drouin records, provided by the Drouin Genealogical Institute in Quebec. Investigate their databases for French and English speaking Births, Marriages and Deaths, especially as the Maritime Provinces have both French and English heritage. Genealogy Quebec -  and PRDH

Please note: Many Canadian genealogists have created similar pages to explain BMD indexes in Canada.

In Canada, the census was taken in 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1906 and 1911. The 1906 and 1916 census are 'prairie' census (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba). All of the censuses are available on Library and Archive Canada as well as commercial databases. Family Search also has a free comprehensive list of Censuses for Canada.
   A free website, (very easy to search) Automated Genealogy provides access to the 1851, 1901, 1906 and 1911 censuses. Families are linked across the 1901, 1906 and 1911 census where connections are found. The data was transcribed and checked by genealogists and is organized and provided by volunteers.
   From the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society Bulletin Vol.23, No. 2 (June 1992): p.65 "for those with research problems in the 1930s the prospect of a census to assist in solving a research problem remains remote. There are however, surrogates for census that might help the researcher. One such surrogate census is the collection of federal electoral rolls available from the National Archives of Canada." [sic] Communities in the constituency included not just Fairlight, but also such places as Alameda, Arcola, Bienfait, Carlyle, Carnduff, Estevan, Forget, Kipling, Manor, Oxbow, Redvers, Stoughton, and Wawota to name just a few. (Author: Ken Aitken)   


  1. Thanks for the mention of my blog. The Vital Statistics series was a lot of work to compile but it was worth it. I learned some new things too!

  2. You're very welcome Candice - it was a very well researched article. Glad to hear you're pursuing genealogy in a serious way! All the best.

  3. Given you aims, I wonder if you would like to know about a "private" Canadian company which has been providing Genealogical and Family History information for Canadians for the past 13 years?
    We are Archive CD Books Canada, and if that name sounds familiar, yes, we originated from the British Archive CD Books which went "off-line" back in 2007. We came "on-line" in 2003 and have been building a stock of digitized documents specifically aimed at providing valuable information to Canadian Genealogists and Family Historians, in digital format.
    Rather than go into long winded explanations could I suggest that you go to our website at where you will not only find our online Catalogue of ALL Archive CD Books Project products, but also a whole bunch of information about our aims, history and aspirations.
    Thank you for your attention. :)