Researching Aboriginal Ancestry
at the Library and Archives of Canada

by E.B. Lapointe

In February of this year, the Canadian Genealogy Centre <http://www.genealogy.gc.ca> published a guide for researching aboriginal ancestors in the Library and Archives of Canada. 

Their goal was to make sure that there were even more ways that people of Aboriginal ancestry could find genealogical sources at the Library and Archives of Canada. In the Constitution Act of 1982, Aboriginal is defined as Status Indians, Métis (those people of First Nations and European ancestry), and Inuit, the Aboriginal people who live in Canada's Far North.

Richard Collins—author of the guide, Researching Your Aboriginal Ancestry in Archival Records at Library and Archives Canada, and one of the aboriginal genealogy specialists at the Library and Archives of Canada—said that "the best part of this new tool is that it allows everyone to acquire the proper methodology to do effective genealogical research while avoiding numerous pitfalls."

To access this guide on the Canadian Genealogy Centre website, click onto the "How To" link at the top, and then go to "Guides" on the next page. It will bring you the guide in either PDF or HTML format. The link for this guide is <http://www.genealogy.gc.ca/02/020501a_e.html>.

As stated, the purpose of the guide is to give the researcher a set of tools they can use to search Aboriginal sources. "It is with pride that more and more Canadians are doing research to trace their Aboriginal roots in records found in various archives across Canada."

Part I of the guide is background information on how to conduct the research. References are given for sources of information, suggested reading is supplied, and links are given to various sources.

Part II of the guide is a "step-by-step" of ArchiviaNet, on which can be searched by various themes or type of documents one would wish to find.

The main holdings are records in the British Colonial Period (1760-1867), which cover Lower Canada and Upper Canada Land Records; British Military Records; and the Hudson's Bay Company Records.

After Canada became a country in 1876, there were a number of new registers and lists kept, and they are now available on an online Indian Register (from 1951 to 1984) which helps in finding the Aboriginal ancestor. Other available information includes Membership Registers and Lists; Census Returns; Registers and Records of Births, Marriages and Deaths; School Records; Land Records; Memberships; and Commutation Files.

There are also records of employees in the Canadian Military and of those who worked in the Federal Public Service from 1918.

One can also look at the Aboriginal Canada Portal at <http://www.aboriginalcanada.gc.ca>. The Hudson's Bay Company Archives, which was founded in 1690, has a guide and an inter-loan library on its website at <http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca>.

There is also the Federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs at <http://www.inac.gc.ca> and the Archives nationales du Quebec, a French-only website at <http://www.anq.gouv.qc.ca>.

Canada recognizes the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, and celebrates Aboriginal Day on June 21st of every year.

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    "A former newspaper reporter in Canada's capital, Ottawa, I became interested in writing about genealogy when researching my own ancestor, Andrew Barclay, an American Loyalist from Boston, Massachusetts, early in 1990. Quickly, my interest spread beyond my own family, and by 1994, I was editing a genealogy newsletter and by 1997, I was editing the Sourcing Canada series of books. Since then, I have gone on to write "My Ancestor Was French Canadian" and a series of booklets on Canadian genealogy. I love to travel the Canadian and American countryside looking for interesting people and places to photograph and to write about." - E.B. Lapointe

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