Friday, 8 December 2017

Finding Your Ancestors in BC and Alberta



Brief History

As early as 1847, British Columbia (B.C.) was 'granted' by the British government to the Hudson's Bay Company for settlement purposes. Some of the aboriginal communities affected by this influx of European settlers are the Haida, Coast Salish, Kwakwaka'wakw and Gitxsan people. In 1871 British Columbia became the sixth province of Canada with the seat of provincial government as Victoria, even though the City of Vancouver was developing as the centre of commerce. This most western province of Canada, B.C. was the last to be explored as it was a difficult terrain to traverse and up until 1885 when the railway was completed, travel was mostly by cart and portage(Compiled from the Canadian Encyclopedia)

In size B.C. is Canada’s third-largest province, it's main industries are forestry, fishing, mining as well as farming. The 'mainland' consists of the City of Vancouver with its suburbs of Burnaby, New Westminster, Port Coquitlam and a number of others. The 'Coast' can be said to include the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island as well as many of the inner islands and communities along the coast. Then there are the 'Interior', the 'Caribou' and the 'Kootenays'. Try the gazeteer to pinpoint your ancestor's town.  A few bits of trivia: Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway is found in Dawson Creek; Ucluelet ("people of the safe harbour" in the Nuu-chah-nulth language) is a beautiful place close to the Pacific Rim National Park. Emily Carr, well-known artist and friend to the indigenous peoples of B.C. is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria - her epitaph is taken from a Longhouse Birdhouse poem; 'Dear Mother Earth'.  

For Genealogists

These free websites should be your first stopping ground for British Columbia genealogy.
Cangenealogy British Columbia is a website created by Dave Obee with links to explore Canadian genealogy.  Library & Archives Canada - British Columbia the Government of Canada's British Columbia Genealogy Page. Family Search British Columbia is the Family Search wiki.

The Victoria Genealogical Society  recently celebrated their 40th anniversary and appear to be very busy. See their Events page for news about workshops. For example - Dec. 2 2017 -a workshop on English Poor Law & Workhouses. There is also a conference in March 2018. 

The B.C. Genealogical Society The BCGS Walter Draycott Library has free access (on-site) to the Family History Library's (Salt Lake, UT) collections. The BCGS is also a member of the British Columbia Historical Federation

Really should consider taking a look at the Rare Books and Special Collections department at the University of British Columbia. Use the Advanced Search to look for archival material.  Vancouver Courier article about the Collection.

The Okanagan Regional District Library  Every Thursday evening the Genealogist in Residence from the Kelowna and District Genealogical Society and a Reference Librarian from the Kelowna Branch will help with your Ancestry questions.

Family History - Cloverdale Library in Surrey, B.C.   They have some pretty awesome Provincial Genealogy Research Guides, free to download. Known as the biggest Library Genealogical Service in Western Canada. Very friendly approachable staff. 

British Columbia E-Resources:

Vancouver Public Library has a Local History Collections page.  Online features include: BC Saturday Sunset 1907-1915; British Columbia City Directories; British Columbia Historical Newspapers; British Columbia Index; Explore This Vancouver; Historical Photographs of B.C. and the Yukon; How to Find Your Vancouver House; This Vancouver.

Major Matthew's Early Vancouver  - Vancouver's first archivist shares history of the city.

City of Vancouver Archives : Search their collections  Cemeteries

B.C. Archives Naturalization Index, 1859 Description: Victoria court records which contain Oaths of Allegiance signed in 1859.

1901 BC Census Search - an index of the 1901 census specifically for B.C. - amassed by volunteers

BCGS School Photo Identification Project - photos are published in the society's journal: The British Columbia Genealogist

Kelowna and District Genealogical Society - although many of their resources are in print only, they have done a fabulous amount of work on cemetery listings. These publications not only include photos of gravestones, but interviews with local residents and local history information. For an Index of Names in the Central Okanagan; see their Burials page.

West Kootenay Family Historians Society -this website is from 2014 but it does have some interesting articles about West Kootenay family history research. Includes Castlegar, Trail and Nelson.

Trail History - Links to Resources in the Area

Greg Nesteroff article about Lost Kootenays Facebook page

UK Cdn Genealogy article about the West Kootenays

Archives Association of British Columbia Historical Photographs - amazing list of Online Photograph Databases and Online Photographic Galleries 

Print Resources

Imperial Vancouver Island Who Was Who, 1850-1950  J.F. Bosher

At Home With History : The Untold Secrets of Greater Vancouver's Heritage Homes by Eve Lazarus

Old Winfield Cemetery. Publisher: Kelowna and District Genealogical Society, 2012. I believe this is a transcription.

The search for a family history : how a search was conducted for ancestors in the early Northwest by Miranda Goodrie Willoughby. published 1972 About the Goodrie and Beaudry family. (Vancouver Public Library catalogue)

Genealogy and history of the Norfolk McCall family and associate descendants, 1796-1946 by D.T. McCall. pub.approx. 1946. (Vancouver Public Library catalogue)

Cumberland Cemetery, Cumberland B.C. Courtenay, B.C. : Comox Valley Family History Research Group, c2002 (Vancouver Public Library catalogue)

If your ancestors are from B.C. I would recommend searching the Vancouver Public Library catalogue for a family name. Amazing resource!

Okanagan Regional Libraries Genealogy Research Guide
Newspapers which are available on Microfilm at Okanagan Regional Libraries
Kelowna Daily Courier and predecessors (1904 - current), at the Kelowna Branch
Salmon Arm Observer (1907-2008), at the Salmon Arm Branch
 Canadian Genealogical Resources A Guide To The Material Held At Cloverdale Library

British Columbia Genealogists' Blogs

M Diane Rogers - Jane's Your Aunt  One Place Study-Newdale, Manitoba  One Name Study-SAGGERS

Andrea Eidinger  - Unwritten Histories - not particularly genealogically focused, but lots of great news about the history of B.C.

Eve Lazarus - Even though Eve does not offer genealogy research her history articles are really helpful : Every Place has a Story [esp where Vancouver is concerned]

Researchers Located in British Columbia

Su from Quesnel  I follow Su on Twitter and she is a researcher in the BC Interior

Candice McDonald - Fort St. John - Candice is not new to genealogy research, but is undertaking courses for accreditation and will soon be able to provide professional services

M. Diane Rogers  - Diane is very active in the BC Genealogical Society - Vancouver

Xenia Stanford - I met Xenia when we were members of the Alberta Family History Society. Her genealogical knowledge is astounding

GEN-FIND Research Associates, Inc. - included in this list because their address is Nanaimo, B.C. They have 'certified and accredited genealogists' to provide hourly and daily research for family history clients.

Brief History

Some information about the history of Alberta taken from - For hundreds of centuries, the area in western Canada now known as Alberta was inhabited by numerous First Nations peoples. They include: Blackfoot, Cree; Chipewyan, Dene; Sarcee; and Stoney. The Hudson's Bay Company and the Northwest Company, competitors for control in the west, opened the area by building forts or trading posts along the three largest rivers, the Athabasca, North Saskatchewan and the Peace Rivers. Eventually named the North West Territories, the area formed with the Dominion of Canada in 1870. 

After this process the area began to be inhabited by ranchers, some of whom immigrated from the United States. This influx of settlers harmed the First Nations very seriously first by disease then by decimating the thousands of buffalo which were their livelihood. Soon after, the North West Mounted Police (the N.W.M.P.) arrived to manage the ongoing relationships between the residents of this vast area. (Later renamed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.) The province was formerly introduced as the province of Alberta in 1905.

Alberta is well known for mining, oil production and farming or agricultural industry. There are many forests in the northern portion of the province and a good number of communities are situated along the border with the United States. Banff and Jasper are in Alberta, as are most of the Rocky Mountain ranges. Dinosaur remains are abundantly found in the Drumheller to Red Deer area also known as the Badlands. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is a well known repository of original dinosaur fossils of many types. Capital City: Edmonton. 

For Genealogists

These free websites should be your first stopping ground for Alberta genealogy.
Cangenealogy Alberta is a website created by Dave Obee with links to explore Canadian genealogy.  Library & Archives Canada - Alberta is the Government of Canada's Genealogy page.  Family Search Alberta is the Family Search wiki.

Search Your Ancestors at the Provincial Archives of Alberta

Cyndis List - loads of links for Alberta genealogy

Alberta Family History Society - resources available: Calgary Heritage; National Society Daughters of the American Revolution; Historical Society of Alberta; Calgary Branch United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada.
     I thought this was an interesting service offered by the AFHS: 'An overhead scanner and a scanner that can scan slides and negatives are also available at the library for member use. Contact to set up an appointment.'

Alberta Genealogical Society
Branches of the AGS: The Grande Prairie Branch are a very pro-active group of genealogists. They have a large collection of resources for Central and Northern Alberta resources.  The Lethbridge Branch is very helpful and knowledgeable about Southern Alberta genealogy resources. New website for Fort McMurray branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society

Genealogy at Edmonton Public Library

Banff Centre - Library and Archives - Digitized Photo Collection

The Heritage Triangle - resources available in Calgary - a partnership between The City of Calgary Archives, The Glenbow Library & Archives and The Calgary Public Library

Alberta E-Resources

Our Future Our Past  - Local History Books, Art, Calgary Stampede, Kainai Plants & Culture amongst many topics.    Candice Macdonald reviews Our Future Our Past quite thoroughly.

Alberta Family History Society - WWI Returned Soldier database from the Calgary Herald. Nov 1918 – Jun 1919, over 13,000 records

Edmonton Public Library - Search Edmonton Obituaries  Years covered - 1950 -1982

Edmonton Public Library - interviews conducted by EPL staff with old-timers and residents of Edmonton - EPL Canada150: Edmonton Stories -  includes: From Ukraine to Canada; Rutherford Seniors compilation and Gray's B&B. These are short videos/interviews posted on Vimeo.
Well done EPL!

Glenbow Archives, Calgary Alberta holds fabulous resources on Alberta history and genealogy, but especially on Metis genealogy, my personal favourite -the Charles Denney collection (41.3 m of textual records; approx. 3,800 photographs; 61 microfilm reels). This is a collection I have used numerous times to research my Red River ancestors - also particularly rich in Metis records.

University of Calgary Archives       Library - University of Calgary

Print Resources

Alberta Local History Books! The best genealogy resource ever! An alphabetical list/index can be found on this Lethbridge Genealogy Society page. The digitized books are found on the Our Future Our Past website. Print copies often found in libraries, especially copies written about the area. See Candice's article about Our Future Our Past under Alberta E-Resources on this page.

Alberta (formerly the Northwest Territories) : Index to registration of births, marriages & deaths 1870-1905, vol. 1 : Author Alberta Genealogical Society, Edmonton Branch. Published Edmonton, AB (Canada) 1985.

Peel's Bibliography of the Canadian Prairie to 1953 -

Pioneer Albertans 1912 : an index to the biographies of over 500 pioneer Albertans with cross references to 950 spouses & mothers. Compiled from "History of Alberta" by Archibald Oswald MacRae, Ph.D Published Nanaimo British Columbia : Nanaimo FHS, 1988

Town Life: Main Street and the Evolution of Small Town Alberta, 1880-1947 By Donald Grant Wetherell, Irene Kmet

Alberta Genealogists' Blogs

Wayne Shepheard - his blog - Discover Genealogy

Sir Leprechaun Rabbit His blog of the same name  - particularly about cemeteries and gravestones - contains an interesting article about the Innisfail Cemetery in Alberta @leprchaunrabbit  This is his genealogy blog  Your Roots Are Showing Dearie

Researchers Located in Alberta

Wendy M. Anctil  Who's Your Grandaddy  Contact Wendy

Shannon Cherkowski - Alberta Genealogy Research   alberta.research2@gmail. com
An article about the service Shannon offers to genealogists.

Patricia Greber   My Genealogy Life   @treesrch

Lyn Meehan - has a genealogy research business, but I also met her at the Edmonton Public Library

Colleen Murray Alberta Researcher  - -  'Everyone has a story'- - Edmonton genealogist unearths hidden histories - 'If you just dig deep enough, you'll find something'

Hello! I hope you have been making use of the various resources in these articles. The last in this series will be a review of Canada's North, the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut. If you have any comments or would like to see a vital resource added to this page, please do let me know. 

I have enjoyed compiling these pages and it has been interesting to try to ferret out information from a variety of sources. Not especially easy as quite a bit of the information is buried a little deeper in webpages on library and society websites. 

Many thanks for your endurance - getting to the bottom of this page!

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