More frequently asked genealogy questions

We receive many interesting questions from our clients at the genealogy desk at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Here are more frequently asked questions.

How do I start my genealogy search?

The first step is to ask questions (such as “who,” “what,” “where”) and start writing down information. Find out which details in your family tree you are missing.

Some family members might not remember exact dates, but they might remember events (a great aunt may not know the exact year of her grandmother’s death, but she may remember that her grandmother died when she was in high school, and they drove to Toronto for the funeral). This narrows down the years and the province where the death certificate was issued. It also may give you a clue in which newspaper to find the obituary.

You can learn more on our website on how to begin your genealogy search.

Why does LAC have census records but no birth certificates?

The division of power between the federal government and the provinces dictates which government records are part of the LAC collection. We house federal documents such as census returns, military records and passenger lists. The records pertaining to births, marriages and deaths are a provincial jurisdiction and are thus found in provincial and territorial archives. A lot of vital statistic indexes and records can now be found online, but you should also consult the provincial archive for up to date information about its collections.

I want to search the 1871 Canadian Census for Gimli, Manitoba, but I can’t find it in the LAC database. Why isn’t it there?

Not all areas in Canada were enumerated in early census returns. Each census return database on the LAC website has a list of the districts and sub-districts that were enumerated (see Ancestors Search). If the exact town for which you are searching was not enumerated at that time, you may find that the township/county/region may have been enumerated earlier. For example, the answer to this question would be that the earliest Gimli (former county of Lisgar) was enumerated was 1891, but Lisgar was enumerated in 1881.

We hope that you have found this information helpful. Contact us if you have any additional genealogy questions or visit us in-person at the genealogy desk!

2 thoughts on “More frequently asked genealogy questions

  1. In 1871, Manitoba was still known as the postage stamp province because of the relatively small land which was included within provincial boundaries. Without looking to be certain, I am going out on a limb to offer the suggestion that the area around Gimli on Lake Winnipeg was still considered as ‘territories’, or even NWT. Sometimes Northwest Extension was the term used. Browse through the list of districts and subdistricts for the 1871 census to see what is given.

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