Do you have Aboriginal ancestry? The census might tell you

Many individuals do genealogical research to determine whether they have an Aboriginal branch in their family tree. For some, this is simply to confirm or disprove a family story. For others, the research is connected to self-identity, empowerment, possible registration in Aboriginal organizations or funding connected to self-identification.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) cannot make any determination about whether you are Aboriginal, but our documents can assist in your research.

Sadly, sometimes, our family stories are just that—stories. Likewise, family photographs may lead us to make false assumptions. Are we seeing something that is not really there?

You might find the answer in census returns.

Identifying First Nation, Métis or Inuit in historical census returns

Seeking an understanding of Aboriginal identity through family histories and genealogical research can be a challenging task in Canada. Two systems of definitions exist—one based in law and legislation, the other in family tradition and community practice. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Jean Talon, Intendant of New France, 1665–1672

In the early 1660s, New France was facing many challenges. It had been weakened by 20 years of fighting against the Iroquois and the far-reaching powers of the governor. It was time to reorganize New France, and so Louis XIV, along with Jean-Baptiste Colbert, his minister responsible for the colonies, decided to take action. In 1663, New France became royal property. The governor’s powers were reduced, and the colony was reorganized administratively. An important role was given to the Intendant, as representative of the King, in the administration of justice, police and finances.

On March 23, 1665, Louis XIV appointed Jean Talon to the position of Intendant. Almost 40 years old at the time, Jean Talon had been educated by the Jesuits in Paris, and he had an excellent reputation as an administrator. He had held various administrative positions in the French military and had become the Intendant of the County of Hainaut in 1655.

Jean Talon held the position of Intendant from 1665 to 1668 and from 1670 to 1672, putting in place many initiatives that greatly improved conditions in the colony. First, he worked to increase the population by promoting immigration, encouraging and supporting large families, urging single people to marry, bringing over the filles du roi, motivating soldiers to settle in the colony after their military service, etc.

A watercolour of a domestic scene. A group of people are standing around a central character (Jean Talon). In the background we see a fireplace where a kettle is heating over an open fire, and a woman with a baby is seated next to it. An old man is sitting on a bench in the foreground.

Jean Talon visiting settlers, painted by Lawrence Batchelor in 1931 (MIKAN 2896077)

Talon encouraged people to settle permanently by making it easier to access land, but also by forcing them to live on the land. Added to concession contracts were specific clauses requiring settlers to clear the land and “keep hearth and home” within 12 months, and prohibiting them from selling the land until there was a house built on it and two acres had been cleared.

Talon also oversaw the reorganization of the legal system; he reduced the number of trials by fostering accommodations, promoting out-of-court settlements and asking that cases at the first level be brought before him directly.

In terms of the economy, Talon was a visionary: he dreamed of factories in New France producing textiles, rope, tar, potash, soap, etc. He conducted mineral exploration around Trois-Rivières, a prelude to the Forges du Saint-Maurice in the 18th century, worked toward creating a network of alliances for the fur trade, and built a brewery in Quebec City to produce local beer. By the time he left, the face of New France had changed dramatically!

Library and Archives Canada holds copies of many historical documents written by Jean Talon, including his memoirs and observations on the state of the colony, correspondence, and the censuses held in 1666 and 1667.

Major Update to the 1861 Census of Canada Database

Following the release of the 1861 Census of Canada database in 2013, a number of missing records and misplaced images were reported by Library and Archives Canada clients and staff. We corrected over 133,000 entries! Following is a list of improvements to the database.

Canada West and Canada East Issues

In Canada West, the records for the cities of Hamilton, Kingston, London, Ottawa and Toronto were previously reported missing but the records did exist. The five cities, although enumerated separately in 1861, were tucked away amongst their neighbouring rural districts. For example, the city of Ottawa was listed under the district of Carleton and the city of Kingston was listed under Frontenac. The five cities are now correctly identified as districts and their respective wards are identified as sub-districts.

Additionally in Canada West, the rural districts of Renfrew and Russell were also reported as missing. The records for those two districts and their sub-districts can now be searched. In the rural district of Kent, the sub-districts of Camden and Gore, the town of Chatham, and the district of Chatham have been correctly identified. The images in the districts of Brant and Dundas are now correctly linked.

In Canada East, several image linking errors were corrected, particularly in the districts of Argenteuil, Montcalm and St-Jean. Continue reading

Validating your ancestor’s arrival in Canada before 1865

So you have searched the immigration records prior to 1865, and still no trace of your ancestor? If you didn’t find your ancestor’s arrival before 1865, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has other genealogical resources that can assist in confirming an ancestor’s arrival in Canada.

Where did he or she settle?
Is he or she listed in census returns? LAC’s collection of census databases, which can be searched by a person’s name, can confirm an individual’s presence as early as 1825. Perhaps a reference exists for one of the parents (recorded as the head of the family) or for a sibling.

Many early settlers submitted petitions to obtain land where they could establish their family in Upper Canada or Lower Canada. LAC’s databases provide references to land transactions that give the person’s name, the date of the application and the county or township within a province.

Perhaps he served in the military?
Muster rolls, pay lists and various registers can reveal useful information when tracing former military personnel. Have a look at the Military page where many finding aids are searchable by name. For example, the RG8, C Series (British Military and Navy Records) includes records about Loyalist regiments, the War of 1812, and the Canadian militia. The documents for the RG8, C Series have been digitized and are searchable by name on our website. Refer to the Help pages for explanations of the records.

Life events in records
The date of arrival in Canada can be estimated by searching birth, marriage, and death records for first occurrences such as the birth of a child to confirm the presence of the family in a location. Consult our previous blog on how to search for Birth, Marriage and Death Records.

Published sources
Family histories, historical atlases and other published works can be searched in AMICUS, LAC’s online catalogue. It is also possible that your ancestor lived in a location that published a city directory.

The genealogical community
Many genealogical societies have resources specific to where your ancestor settled. Finding aids that describe a location are valuable tools when searching for ancestors.

Happy discoveries!

Mission Accomplished! Access to 15 Databases in One Stop!

On December 18, 2012, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announced the upcoming deployment of a series of 15 databases on Canadian census returns. Following the online publication of the 1861 Census returns database a few weeks ago, LAC is proud to report: mission accomplished!

Now, using the LAC website, it is possible to consult nominal indexes for census returns from 1825 to 1916. That is a total of more than 32 million documents. Moreover, all these indexes are available at no cost!

This massive undertaking required continuous cooperation from members of a number of LAC teams, as well as highly organized operations, over a number of
months. Continue reading

Census of 1861 now available online

Library and Archives Canada is pleased to announce that the Census of 1861 is now available online. Information was collected for people living in Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Canadians can search this new database by nominal information, such as the surname, given name(s) and age of an individual, as well as by geographical information such as district and sub-district names.

Release of a new version of the Census of 1851 database

Library and Archives Canada is pleased to announce the release of a new version of the Census of 1851 database.

The 1851 Census marked the second collection of statistics for the Province of Canada (consisting of Canada West and Canada East). Information was also collected for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

In addition to searching by geographical information such as province, district, and sub-district, users can now also search by nominal information such as name, given name(s) and age of an individual.

Censuses of Canada West and Canada East, 1842 now available online

Library and Archives Canada is pleased to announce that Canadians can now access the Census of Canada West, 1842 as well as the Census of Canada East, 1842 online. In 1841, Upper Canada was renamed Canada West, whereas Lower Canada became Canada East. These two jurisdictions are now known as the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Each census is partly nominal and contains the names of heads of family, their occupation and the number of residents for each family.

Users can search these new databases by the names of heads of family, as well as by geographical information such as district and sub-district names.