So Where is My Canadian Ancestor, Eh?

by E.B. Lapointe

To many researchers, Canada is a huge country in which to find one's ancestors. Physically, itís now the largest country in the world, with a relatively small population of 30 million, the majority (80%) of whom live within 100 miles of the 3,300 mile Canada/U.S. border.

Canada was officially instituted as a country in 1867, with the original provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Six other provinces and three territories were added on in later years. However, both the National Archives and the National Library, as the official keepers of the country's genealogy, heritage, and history, were not instituted until later.*

As a result, the country has played a bit of a 'catch-up' game since then with its records, and only over the past few years has the country's genealogy societies deemed it necessary to index the census returns, transcribe the cemeteries, publish church records, and microfilm land records to make them available to researchers. For many years, the only way to access some of these records was to actually come to the archives or library, or place a query in either a local newspaper or in the query section of the local genealogical societyís newsletter.

It is believed that the Internet has increased the interest in Canadian genealogy and in the documentation of its records, and some of these records are now on the Internet in searchable databases.

But, as in the past, the question remains. Where does one begin, and how does a researcher find their ancestor in such a large country?

To help answer these questions, the next five columns will center on the use of the country's census records, cemetery transcriptions, civil registrations, church records, and land records in researching your Canadian ancestor.

These columns will endeavor to explain the history of the record, where they can be found, how easily accessible they are, and how useful they can be to your research.

* The province of Manitoba joined Canada in 1870; British Columbia in 1871; Prince Edward Island in 1873; Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905; and Newfoundland in 1949. The territories of the Northwest Territories joined the country in 1870, as did both the territory of the Yukon in 1898, and Nunavut, a new territory, formerly a part of the Northwest Territories, in 1999.

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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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