While researching your British ancestry, you might discover that some of your family may have decided to try for a ‘new life’ in other parts of the world. In this blog post, Penny Allen, a Canadian who works as a Librarian in Greenwich and specialises in Canadian genealogy, discusses Canadian immigration and what tools are available for researching your Canadian ancestors.
Canada is the second largest country in the world, with land mass of over 3,000 miles from the east to the west coast and almost 3,000 miles from the most northern point to the south. To give some perspective, it takes almost seven days of steady driving to travel from Vancouver to Toronto by car. Although a massive country, most of the population is centred along the U.S. / Canada border. This is mainly because of access to the transportation links used for moving people, goods and equipment.
This document, produced from a talk that John D. Reid presented at the Who Do You Think You Are Live 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.
Another great resource is the Library and Archives Canada (LAC), the central archive located in Ottawa, Ontario. Canada has 10 provinces and three territories. Each of these has separate government bodies located in the capital city. In each of the 13 provinces and territories there are separate ‘provincial Archives’ which hold civil registrations or vital statistics. They are also responsible for probate (wills) and land records. Scattered throughout each of these communities are pockets of local archives and record centres. It may require a little more heavy lifting than online research, but there are many opportunities such as these for practicing your creative searching skills in the pursuit of your Canadian ancestors.
If online research is more your forte, Ancestry can make the search for Canadian records easier. They have partnered with a number of these specialist archives, creating over 2,000 separate Canadian databases for everywhere from Alberta to Yukon. Specific records can be found by searching the Card Catalogue under the Search tab and limiting the records to Canada. Here you’ll find the likes of the Early Ontario Settlers 1785-1789, Canada City and Area Directories 1819-1906 and Border Crossings: From U.S. to Canada, 1908-1935.
Another great resource for family historians are Canada’s many Family History Societies, the biggest being the Ontario Genealogical Society which has many sub-societies of each of the counties in Ontario. This page gives a very simple list of the societies websites. These family history societies are often manned by enthusiastic genealogists who volunteer their time to build library collections, organise transcription projects, and host annual conferences. Some of the main webpages I use for starting points for Canadian genealogy are Genealogy A La Carte, CanGenealogy, OliveTreeGenealogy and the Alberta Genealogical Society.
Have any specific questions about researching your Canadian ancestry? Come and visit my stand at Who Do You Think You Are Live in Birmingham, 6-8th of April. Sponsored by the Ontario Genealogical Society, this is the first time that I have attended as an exhibitor and I will be available for all of your Canadian genealogy questions. See you there!