François-Hyacinthe Séguin’s storytelling: a Co-Lab challenge

A watercolour painting with two large trees and a large stone house in the foreground, and a town in the distance.

Terrebonne, 1810 (e000756681)

Genealogy serves many purposes; it can be a hobby or a way to connect with those who came before you. It can help to strengthen your identity within your community asyou learn about your ancestors and where they came from. Be warned, it can be addictive!

As enjoyable and meaningful as researching your family history can be, it can also be very frustrating. One of the challenges I encountered when answering inquiries from the public during my time with the Library and Archives Canada Genealogy team was that it is sometimes difficult to find contextual information about people in the past. It is reasonably easy to learn basic information about ancestors, such as their dates and places of birth or the names of the witnesses who signed the marriage record, but this does not tell you much about their day-to-day lives or what their communities were like.

For example, birth, marriage and death records usually contain information such as full name, year and place of birth, and name of parents. Census records contain a little more information, such as religious denomination, ethnic origin and occupation. This information is useful, but it does not complete the picture. An occupation title, such as labourer or domestic, is helpful, but does not tell you where the person worked, how long the days were, and what kind of life that person came home to in the evening. In my own research, I found that to understand why ancestors made the decisions they did, you need to see the bigger picture. This is why notary François-Hyacinthe Séguin’s journal of the Terrebonne area in Quebec was so valuable as a non-traditional genealogy resource in understanding Canadian history in the early to mid-1800s.

François-Hyacinthe Séguin received his notary commission on October 15, 1808, and he opened an office in Terrebonne, where he served the community for all of his life. Not only did he keep detailed notes of births, marriages and deaths in the small town, but he also recorded details of social, political and environmental activities in the area. The journal, written in French, spans February 7, 1831, to March 2, 1834, and is a fascinating account of religious and social life in Terrebonne. Séguin writes about a variety of subjects, such as charivaris after local weddings, the cholera epidemic in the community, a solar eclipse and the first thunderstorm of the year.

A handwritten page from a journal.

A page from Séguin’s journal, where he states that, as Antoine Collard and Louis Turgeon have died, even the doubters must now admit that there is a cholera outbreak in the community. He also gives a short—and judgmental—biography of the two men, which genealogists may find helpful. (e004158805)

Another important subject in Séguin’s journal is his account of the Patriote movement. He diligently chronicles the history and politics of the day. His entries describe local politicians who were elected but not admitted into the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. He also writes about tensions during recent elections and the violence that people experienced while trying to vote.

Séguin’s journal also delves into local lives. He freely expresses his feelings about friends, neighbours and relatives in terms that are not always flattering. In one of the entries, he writes about how one of his students was recently arrested and that although he knew he should feel sympathy, he did not. In his entry noting the death of a local widow, he criticizes her frugal tendencies and her lack of social interactions. While noting the death of the priest from a neighbouring town, Séguin sneaks in a critique about the clergyman’s appearance.

A handwritten page from a journal.

A page from Séguin’s journal, where topics range from a winter thunderstorm to the deaths of local residents. (e004158841)

Do you want to know more about the good, the bad and the ugly in 1831 Terrebonne? Our Co-Lab challenge is dedicated to François-Hyacinthe Séguin’s fascinating French-language journal. Each page is filled with captivating and often critical observations, which help us to deepen our understanding of what it was like to live in a small town in Quebec in the mid-1800s. You can help to transcribe Séguin’s journal in the original French, or help to translate this no-holds-barred journal into English, so Anglophones can relish Séguin’s storytelling.

Interested in learning about your own ancestors? Visit our Genealogy and family history pages.


Sara Chatfield is a project manager in the Exhibitions and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Your ancestor was a Canadian volunteer in the Spanish Civil War?

By Nicole Watier

One of the more complex questions that our Genealogy desk receives is “Where do I begin to find the service records of my relative who served in the Spanish Civil War?”

Canadians might know a little about the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) through Pablo Picasso’s painting of the destruction of the town of Guernica or from reading Ernest Hemingway’s popular novel For Whom the Bell TollsOr perhaps through watching one of the films about Dr. Norman Bethune showing his mobile blood transfusion unit and the Instituto Hispano Canadiense de Transfusión de Sangre.

A black and white photograph of a man and a woman standing in front of a truck whose back is marked with a white cross.

Canadian Blood Transfusion Unit operating during the Spanish Civil War. Dr. Norman Bethune is at right. (a117423)

The Spanish Civil War began on July 18, 1936, and Canada, like many other countries, did not officially intervene. Although the Canadian government made it illegal for Canadians to serve by passing the Foreign Enlistment Act, more than 1,400 Canadians volunteered to defend the Spanish government. Along with more than 40,000 volunteer combatants worldwide, they fought for the democratic Republican government (supported by the Soviet Union and Mexico) against the Spanish Army officers led by General Francisco Franco (supported by Germany and Italy). The Communist Party of Canada organized the recruitment campaign in Canada.

A variety of reasons make it difficult to determine the exact number of Canadian volunteers and to find trace of them after the war ended.
As more and more Canadian volunteers arrived in Spain, the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion was formed and named after Louis-Joseph Papineau and William Lyon Mackenzie, leaders of the Rebellions of 1837-1838. The battalion was also known as the “Mac-Paps.” Canadians also served amongst the other battalions of the International Brigades, such as the Abraham Lincoln Battalion and the Washington Battalion.

Many of those who wished to serve in Spain used various means to leave Canada. Many travelled to New York or other countries to board ships destined for Spain. Some used aliases. There is the usual issue of variations of the spelling of names in records, which always makes research more complicated. Since many of the Canadian volunteers originally came from Europe, some had changed or simplified their names. The lack of detailed recordkeeping on both sides in itself presents a huge research challenge.

To help you with your research, here are a few hints from Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) unique collection. You may be interested in looking at the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion collection (MG30-E-173), which contains material collected by the Friends of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, its veterans’ organization, and other individuals who worked to compile records. The collection contains a variety of records of Canadians who served in the International Brigades, correspondence with veterans, articles, backgrounders, reminiscences, lists of names, and photographs. This includes some individual photographs of the volunteers, such as Elias Aviezer, a Canadian in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion during the Spanish Civil War, 1936 to 1938, killed at Jarama. Some of these photos are digitized in Collection Search.

A black and white photograph of a man in a suit and tie staring towards the camera.

Elias Aviezer, a Canadian in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion during the Spanish Civil War, 1936 to 1938, killed at Jarama. (a066954-v8)

LAC also holds the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion fonds (MG10-K2). This fonds consists of copies of selected records on microfilm reels of the International Brigades from the Communist International, or Comintern. This was the Soviet-sponsored agency founded in 1919 to coordinate the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism worldwide. When the Republican forces were defeated and Soviet officials, the commissars, left Spain in 1939, they took their records, including the records of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. These records include a variety of administrative records, statistics, daily orders, various lists (nominal rolls, wounded, killed, deserted and repatriated), correspondence, and biographies. The original records and more are held by the Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of Records of Contemporary History, in Moscow, whose permission is required to copy any record.

Other archival records held at LAC that make mention of the Canadian volunteers can be found in a large variety of archival fonds, such as the repatriation of the volunteers starting in February 1939 and the Canadian prisoners of war that followed in the Department of External Affairs (RG25) and the Immigration Branch (RG76). Over 700 returned to Canada, many stayed in Europe, over 200 were killed in action, and some are missing in action.

Some of the volunteers had previously served in the First World War or subsequently served in the Second World War. For Elias Aviezer, killed in action in 1937, we can find his name in the Personnel Records of the First World War database, under the name Elias Achiezer, having previous service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Published sources available at Library and Archives Canada to trace the volunteers include The Daily Clarion, the Communist Party of Canada’s newspaper. It includes stories from foreign correspondent Jean Watts, one of the few women in the field. Newspapers all across Canada wrote about the volunteers, and some local newspapers wrote of their departure and their subsequent return to their communities.

In the September 5, 1938, issue of the The Montreal Gazette, page 9, the following article announces the return of James Wilson to Edmonton, and includes his future-telling comments.

A column of text from a newspaper, with the heading “Edmonton Man Returns.”

“Edmonton Man Returns,” The Montreal Gazette, September 5, 1938, p. 9. (OCLC 1035398537).

For further reading, you can search the Aurora catalogue to find books that list volunteers and provide context to events, including

  • Canadian Volunteers: Spain 1936-1939 by William C. Beaching (OCLC 19517663)
  • The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion: Canadian Participation in the Spanish Civil War by Victor Howard (OCLC 79017)
  • “Ukrainian Volunteers from Canada in the International Brigades, Spain, 1936-39: A Profile” by Myron Momryk in the Journal of Ukrainian Studies, volume 16, nos. 1-2 Summer-Winter, 1991 (OCLC 6744531)
  • Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War by Michael Petrou (OCLC 185078047 [Translation in French available at OCLC 1007098925])

Online indexes of Canadian volunteers and other information can be found at

For help on this subject, or other genealogical questions, feel free to contact the Genealogy team by completing the “Ask us a genealogy question” online form.


Nicole Watier is a genealogy consultant with the Public Services Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

New Books in the Genealogy Services Collection

By Emily Potter

A colour photograph of two shelves of multi-coloured hardcover books.

A sample of the variety of books held in the Genealogy Services Collection at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. Photo credit: Emily Potter

We’re excited to announce recently acquired genealogy publications, which you can consult in the Genealogy and Family History Room on the 3rd floor of the Library and Archives Canada building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa.

Check out the list below. After each title, you will find a call number, which will help you find the book on our shelves. The OCLC number links to the record in our new library catalogue Aurora providing additional information. First time using it? See Aurora help.

If you are just starting out in genealogy, visit the Genealogy and Family History section of our website on how to begin your research.

Also visit What’s new in the collection, for highlights of selected new acquisitions and archives now open for consultation.

Happy exploring!

Church, cemetery and newspaper indexes

Baptêmes et sépultures des quatre voisines de Saint-Clément de Beauharnois by Société du patrimoine de Sainte-Martine. CS88 QC43 B42 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032020299)

Flamborough Obituary Slips, 1883–1891 by the Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society. CS88 ON35 F53 1999b (OCLC Number: 62927324)

Massey, Ontario, Massey Grandview Protestant Cemetery by the Sudbury District Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society. CS88 ON31 M47 2016 (OCLC Number: 1082503187)

Massey, Ontario, Massey Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Cemetery by the Sudbury District Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society. CS88 ON31 M47 2016b (OCLC Number: 1082504357)

Family histories

Ainslie (Volumes 1 & 2) by John Stuart Ainslie. CS90 .A43 2016 (OCLC Number: 1103323498)

My Writings on the Audet-Lapointes by Guy Saint-Hilaire. CS90 A935 2017 (OCLC Number: 1019429805)

La famille Berthiaume: cent vingt-cinq ans d’histoire (1892–2016) by François-Xavier Simard. CS90 B4274 2016 (OCLC Number: 1032012228)

La famille Boily au XVIII : de Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes à la Baie Saint-Paul by Raymond Boily. CS90 B56 2013 (OCLC Number: 937871289)

The Bonhomme family, 1632 to 2015 by Joseph Bonhomme. CS90 B642 2017 (OCLC Number: 1082496422)

The Stalwart Brydons: from Scotland to Galt to Manitoba: a History of 100 Years in Canada by James Emerson Brydon, Dianne Brydon. CS90 B8 2016 (OCLC Number: 1082476540)

The Descendants of John Archelaus Carpenter of Weston, New Brunswick, Canada by Miles Ludlow Carpenter. CS90 C288 2016 (OCLC Number: 1018310137)

Famille Chatel by Charles G. Clermont. CS90 C476 2016 (OCLC Number: 947133998)

The Clark and Simonite Saga: Where Past and Present Meet by Carolyn Gillanders Loveless. CS90 C538 2016 (OCLC Number: 1036081812)

Angus MacLean: a Genealogy by Marleen MacDonald-Hubley. CS90 Mc69 2012 (OCLC Number: 907028372)

The Dickinson Men of Manotick by William and Georgina Tupper. CS90 D498 2015 (OCLC Number: 927183619)

The Grandmother & Grandfather’s Story: Lewis and Mary Fisher, Loyalists in the American Revolution and New Brunswick Settlers by Robert C. Fisher. CS90 F574 2017 (OCLC Number: 1082478346)

The Griersons of Torbolton Township by Doris Grierson Hope. CS90 G725 2016 (OCLC Number: 1036095475)

New France Descendants of Leduc Families: History and Genealogy Repertory by Adrienne Leduc. CS90 L44 2017 (OCLC Number: 1033521074)

Les Pellerin du Québec, 1722–1916 by Jacques Gagnon. CS90 P43 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032011484)

Pommainville d’Amérique : Henri Brault dit Pomainville et ses descendants by Edgar Pommainville. CS90 P63 2017 (OCLC Number: 976416112)

Antoine, first Theroux in Canada by Mary Jeannette Hounsome. CS90 T4869 2016 (OCLC Number: 1082503547)

Descendants of Johann Christian Schell and Johannes Schell by J.P. Schell. CS90 S4213 2004 (OCLC Number: 1082497015)

St-Cyr in North America, 1624–2016: the Descendants of Pierre Deshaies St-Cyr and Marguerite Guillet and Mathieu Rouillard St-Cyr and Jeanne Guillet by François St-Cyr. CS90 S233613 2016 (OCLC Number: 952211418)

Mountain Romantics: The Whytes of Banff by Chic Scott. CS90 W458 2014 (OCLC Number: 883939953)

Local Histories and Biographies

 Before Surveyors’ Line was Run: the History of Simon Orchard and Samuel Rowe, the First Settlers to Paisley, Ontario in the Queen’s Bush by Marguerite Ann Caldwell. CS88 ON32 P34 2013 (OCLC Number: 1036198843)

My Creignish Hills by Floyd MacDonald. CS88 NS69 C74 2015 (OCLC Number: 1019413004)

Cypress Hills Metis Hunting Brigade Petition of 1878 for a Metis Reserve: History of the Cypress Hills Hunting Brigade: Biographies of Petitioners by Lawrence Barkwell. E99 M47 B37 2015 (OCLC Number: 1032013125)

Les familles pionnières de la seigneurie de La Prairie, 1667 à 1687 by Stéphane Tremblay. CS88 QC43 R68 2017 (OCLC Number: 1033510580)

A Glance Backward by Ray Johnson. CS90 A715 1988 (OCLC Number: 1082475369)

Jewish Papineau: an Account of the People and Places of the Montreal Neighbourhood Known as “Papinyu” as Recounted by Philip Teitelbaum and Other Contributors by Peter Teitelbaum. CS88 QC42 M65 2015b (OCLC Number: 1007771024)

Prairie Pioneers: Schönthal Revisited by Mary Neufeld. CS88 MB274 A48 2016 (OCLC Number: 945781920)

La Reine: 100 ans d’histoire by Gérald Doré, Marie-Claire Piché-Doré and Victorin Doré. CS88 QC41 L35 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032010291)

Remember Me: Manitoulin Military by the Manitoulin Genealogy Club. CS88 O6 R46 2015 (OCLC Number: 919340193)

The Settlers of Monckton Township by Les Bowser. CS88 NB52 M66 2016 (OCLC Number: 962852120)

Visages estriens: hommage à nos gens by La Société de généalogie des Cantons de l’Est. CS88 QC46 A1 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032018896)


Emily Potter is a Genealogy Consultant in the Public Services Branch of Library and Archives Canada

Recognition and Remembrance: A Métis soldier in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1917–1918

On the left of the graphic, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] in traditional regalia on horse. In the middle, Iggi and girl engaging in a “kunik”, a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide stands holding a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

By David Horky

The Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) maintains a list of over 5,000 individuals whose names are engraved on the National Métis Veterans’ Memorial Monument in Batoche, Saskatchewan. Unveiled in 2014, the monument serves to recognize, remember and honour veterans from across the Métis Nation Homeland who have served Canada throughout history. The list of Métis veterans (PDF) provides the veteran’s name, service number, enlistment (the war or activity), and the location of their inscription on the monument (by column and row).

The GDI list has been invaluable for my own personal research about one of my distant relatives who fought and died in the First World War. I recently discovered Métis branches on my own family tree on the Métis Genealogy section of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website, and it was while doing this research that I found the digitized military service file of a distant relative, Private Arthur Carriere.

Searching the GDI list, I was proud to find an entry for a Private Arthur Carriere, confirming that he was indeed among the many names engraved on the National Métis Veterans’ Memorial Monument. I realized in the process that the service number on the GDI list—2293697—corresponded to the regimental number referring to the same soldier on the LAC website. This simple example demonstrates the great value of the GDI list to relatives and researchers interested in identifying Métis veterans from the 600,000 digitized service files in the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Being able to access a digital copy of Arthur’s First World War service file—a tangible record of his involvement in the war—was a very personal way for me to pay my respects to one of my kin in remembrance of his service and sacrifice to our country. Despite the brevity of much of the information recorded on the various forms and documents in the file, they collectively provide a story, impressionistic to be sure, about Arthur’s brief and tragic wartime experience.

A typed page with the title, Particulars of Recruit, Drafted under Military Service Act, 1917. There are also stamps and handwriting on the page.

The Attestation Paper from Arthur Carriere’s digitized service file. (Library and Archives Canada, CEF 2293697)

Although there weren’t any explicit references to Arthur’s Métis heritage recorded in the file, I thought I could detect traces or clues in some of the records, especially the Attestation Paper, which provides basic information about his background at the time of his enlistment—age, occupation, residence, name and address of next of kin, etc. Born in 1893 in St. Adolphe, Manitoba, Arthur was 24 years old, single, and a farmer living in St. Vital, Manitoba at the time of his enlistment. His next of kin is his mother, A. (Angèle) Carriere, of Ste. Rose, Manitoba. The communities in particular struck my attention—all are Franco-Manitoban with strong and continuing Métis roots. The next of kin information is often very useful to trace Métis roots, as ethnic origin is not usually stated in the file.

The Attestation Paper also indicates the circumstances of Arthur’s enlistment—the most obvious being that he did not volunteer, but was drafted under the provisions of the Military Service Act. He reported for medical examination on November 14, 1917 in Fort Frances, Ontario, and was called up on January 11, 1918 in Winnipeg for active service as a private with the Lord Strathcona Horse (Royal Canadians), a regiment of mounted rifles.

A typed and handwritten form with the title “Casualty Form—Active Service.” The regimental number, rank and name of the soldier is typed underneath in blue ink along with handwritten notations.

The casualty form from Arthur Carriere’s digitized service file. (Library and Archives Canada, CEF 2293697)

The Casualty Form—Active Service record provides us with a very brief outline of Arthur’s activities following his enlistment. Leaving Halifax on April 15, 1918 on the S.S. Melita, the Lord Strathcona Horse (Royal Canadians) arrived in Liverpool, England on April 28, 1918. On August 20, 1918, shortly after arriving in France), Arthur joined the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre where troops were held before being sent to reinforce existing units. A couple of weeks later on September 13, 1918, he was transferred to the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD), a regiment assigned to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade but that mainly played an infantry role throughout the war. Less than a month after joining the RCD, Arthur’s life was tragically cut short. On October 10, 1918, he is simply reported as “killed in action.” This is one month and a day short of the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 that ended the First World War.

A few more details about Arthur’s death is provided by another military record, the Circumstances of Death Registers, First World War, which the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF) used to report the cause of a soldier’s death, where and when it occurred, and the soldier’s final resting place. The entry for Private Arthur Carriere indicates that on October 10, 1918 “while acting as a medical orderly at Brigade Headquarters in Troisvilles, he was killed by an enemy shell.” The location of his final resting place is given as Grave 8, Plot 11, Row C in the Highland British Cemetery, recorded in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register as being one mile south of Le Coteau, France.

Too many to list here, there are other First World War records held at LAC, as well as external sources of information that can provide valuable additional details about WWI soldiers and the various CEF units serving overseas in France and Flanders.

An index card listing the regimental number, rank, surname, Christian name, unit, theatre of war, date of service, remarks and latest address of a soldier. In the top right corner the letters “B” and “V” are written, with a blue checkmark through them.

The medal card from Arthur Carriere’s digitized service file. (Library and Archives Canada, CEF 2293697)

An index card with the name “Carriere, Pte. Arthur,” “649-C25592” and a checkmark written at the top. There is also a large “M” written in blue ink.

The Memorial Cross card from Arthur Carriere’s digitized service file. (Library and Archives Canada, CEF 2293697)

Arthur’s story does not end simply with his death. The medals he garnered, such as the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, indicated by crossed-out capital letters “B” and “V” on the medal card along with the Memorial Cross, Scroll and Plaque, were dutifully given by a grateful nation to his mother in mourning.

The Franco-Manitoban Métis community of St. Norbert also felt the loss of Arthur’s death. Shortly after the end of war, they erected the St. Norbert War Memorial in recognition of the ultimate sacrifice paid by Arthur and 12 other local residents.

In this light, one can see in Arthur’s story a tradition of recognition and remembrance of the services rendered to Canada by veterans of Métis Nation communities that stretches back from the memorial erected in St. Norbert at the end of the Great War all the way to the present-day National Métis Veterans’ Memorial Monument in Batoche. The GDI acknowledges that there are probably many unknown Métis veterans who deserve our recognition and remembrance. Using the GDI form, you can submit the names and military service information of additional Métis veterans to engrave on the National Métis Veterans Historic Monument and ensure that they receive the recognition and honour due them from Canada and the Métis Nation.


David Horky is a senior archivist at Library and Archives Canada, Winnipeg office.

How genealogists can use newspapers

By Emily Potter

Newspapers contain a wealth of information for historical researchers, but you may be surprised by how helpful they can be for genealogy research. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds an extensive collection of newspapers that are just waiting to be explored.

Here are a few of the ways that newspapers can come in handy when doing your genealogy.

Birth, marriage and death announcements

Birth, marriage and death records are among the most popular genealogy sources, but depending on the province, civil registration records can be restricted for up to 110 years. Researching birth, marriage and death announcements in newspapers allows you to access this information in openly available records. These announcements provide not only dates and locations for key moments in an ancestor’s life but also names of parents and other relatives.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • For an ancestor’s death, sometimes a short death notice will appear in a newspaper, but a much fuller obituary might appear a few days later in the same paper.
  • If you are looking for a more recent obituary, many newspapers publish their obituaries online. Try searching online with quotation marks around your ancestor’s name. Search using the city name and year, if known, e.g., “Brown, George” obituary Vancouver 2005.
  • Detailed birth announcements became popular only in the latter half of the twentieth century, while marriage and death announcements appeared earlier in newspapers.
  • Many newspaper announcements have been indexed in a published format. If you do not know the date of an event but think that there may have been an announcement in a local newspaper, you can search in LAC’s Library Catalogue, Aurora, to see if there is a published index. Search using keywords, such as: genealogy, index and the newspaper name.
Three columns of text from newspapers, with information about deaths and marriages.

“Died,” Montreal Gazette, May 10, 1830, p. 3 (OCLC 20173495)
“Mariage à la Basilique,” Le Droit [Ottawa], April 1, 1913, p. 4 (OCLC 18514296)
“Married,” The Palladium [Charlottetown], April 5, 1845, p. 163 (OCLC 18249106)
“Died,” The Palladium [Charlottetown], April 5, 1845, p. 163 (OCLC 18249106)

Accidents and crimes

Many researchers have family stories about ancestors involved in accidents, crimes or unusual events, but these stories can be hard to confirm. Fortunately, many of those types of events were covered in local newspapers. If you have an idea of when and where the event occurred, it may be worthwhile to peruse the area’s local newspaper. Some of these events are also referenced in published newspaper indexes.

Alt text: Two columns of text from newspapers, with the headings “Imprisonment for Libel” and “Killed by Lightning.”

“Imprisonment for Libel,” The Palladium [Charlottetown], February 22, 1845, p. 114 (OCLC 18249106)
“Killed by Lightning,” The Phoenix [Saskatoon], August 22, 1906, p. 6 (OCLC 16851731)

Ship arrivals

When did my ancestor arrive in Canada? This is a common genealogy question; fortunately, LAC holds passenger lists from 1865 to 1935. However, the majority of lists have not survived from prior to 1865, and it can be difficult to find immigration information for ancestors. Alternatively, most major newspapers, as well as those in coastal cities, recorded ship arrivals and departures. In rare cases, passenger names were included. The chance of finding a reference to your ancestor is higher if he or she was considered a person of importance. This information was often found in the business section of a newspaper, under Shipping News or Marine Intelligence.

The website The Ships List is a great resource for information about passenger ships and includes some lists of names found in newspapers.

A column of text from a newspaper, with the heading “Port of Quebec.”

“Port of Quebec,” Montreal Gazette, May 10, 1830, p. 3 (OCLC 20173495)

Social news

Many newspapers included news items about the local happenings in the town, sometimes describing when a resident had family visiting or had been travelling abroad. Although these notations do not always include genealogical information, it can be interesting to know what your ancestors were doing. Newspapers for larger cities would mainly focus on high-society individuals.

Two columns of text from newspapers, with the headings “Granby” and “Compton,” which provide information about residents of the towns.

“Granby,” Sherbrooke Daily Record, June 5, 1905, p. 3 (OCLC 12266676)
“Dans Les Cantons de L’Est : Compton,” La Tribune [Sherbrooke], May 25, 1910, p. 4  (OCLC 16390877)

If you are visiting LAC, use Aurora to search and order newspapers before your visit. You can also consult the geographical list of LAC’s newspapers on microfilm (some references include a note indicating they are available online). Our Places pages also include links to websites that include digitized newspapers. As well, you can inquire at your local library about borrowing newspapers for your research.


Emily Potter is a Genealogy Consultant in the Reference Services Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Join us in celebrating our 1,000th blog post!

The Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Discover Blog has hit an important milestone! We have published 1,000 blog posts! For the past eight years, the blog has showcased our amazing documentary heritage collection, let researchers know what we are working on, and answered frequently asked questions.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, we are looking back at some of our most popular blog posts.

1940 National Registration File

A typed, two-column questionnaire titled “Dominion of Canada—National Registration Card for Women” with “For Information Only” written diagonally across the middle.

Sample of a questionnaire for women, courtesy of Statistics Canada.

Year after year, this early blog post has consistently been at the top of our list of views and comments. It is not surprising that a genealogy themed post took the top place; what is surprising is that the 1940 National Registration File is not held at LAC, but can be found at Statistics Canada. Either way, it is a great resource and very useful to genealogists across the country.

Want to read more blog posts about genealogy at LAC? Try the post, Top three genealogy questions.

Do you have Aboriginal ancestry? The census might tell you

A woman and a man sit in the grass with their two young children in front of a canvas tent.

Aboriginal man and woman [Alfred and Therese Billette] seated on the grass with two children [Rose and Gordon] outside their tent (e010999168).

Another popular post is the 2016 blog explaining how Canadian censuses could help you examine your past and research your unknown ancestral lineage to Indigenous heritage. Canadians might search for their Indigenous heritage to resolve questions of self-identity, or to know if they may participate with Indigenous organizations, or get Indigenous benefits.

Want to read more blog posts on how to research your Indigenous heritage? Try one of these posts, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development records: Estate files or The Inuit: Disc numbers and Project Surname.

The Grey Fox: Legendary train robber and prison escapee Bill Miner

Poster showing a photograph of Bill Miner, announcing a $500 reward for his recapture, listing details as to his escape, and describing his physical characteristics.

Reward notice for the recapture of Bill Miner that was sent to police departments, publications and private detective agencies (e011201060-210-v8).

This exciting post tells the story of Bill Miner, who was nicknamed “The Grey Fox” and “The Gentleman Bandit.” Bill Miner was a legendary criminal on both sides of the Canada–U.S. border. Although he committed dozens of robberies and escaped from multiple prisons, many saw him as a generous folk hero who targeted exploitative corporations only. LAC holds many documents, publications, sound and video recordings, and other materials relating to Miner, and hundreds of these documents are now available on our website as a Co-Lab crowdsourcing challenge.

Want to learn more about records from the B.C. Penitentiary system? Try the post, British Columbia Penitentiary’s Goose Island: Help is 20 km away, or 9 to 17 hours as the pigeon flies.

Samuel de Champlain’s General Maps of New France

: A black-and-white hand-drawn map depicting Quebec, the Maritime provinces and the eastern part of Ontario in 1613.

Carte geographique de la Nouelle Franse en son vray meridiein Faictte par le Sr. Champlain, Cappine. por le Roy en la marine—1613 (in french only) (e010764734).

This popular 2013 post combines two aspects of Canadian interest: cartography and explorers! This article gives an overview of Champlain’s maps of New France held in the LAC collection. Also included in the post is a “suggested reading list” so researchers can learn more about Champlain’s cartography and travels.

Want to read more about the history of New France? Try the post, Jean Talon, Intendant of New France, 1665-1672.

Journey to Red River 1821—Peter Rindisbacher

Painting depicting travellers walking single file while portaging their boats overland to avoid a waterfall.

Extremely wearisome journeys at the portages [1821] (e008299434).

This popular blog post describes the work of Peter Rindisbacher. Rindisbacher was 15 years old when he immigrated to Selkirk’s Red River settlement in 1821. Already an accomplished artist when he arrived in North America, he produced a series of watercolours documenting the voyage to Rupert’s Land and life in the settlement. His watercolours from the Red River area are among the earliest images of western Canada. Rindisbacher is considered the first pioneer artist of the Canadian and the American West.

Want to learn more about Peter Rindisbacher? Try the podcast, Peter Rindisbacher: Beauty by commission.

The Persons Case

Five women in gowns wearing corsages and one man in a tuxedo standing in front of a plaque.

Unveiling of a plaque commemorating the five Alberta women whose efforts resulted in the Persons Case, which established the rights of women to hold public office in Canada (c054523).

This blog post illuminates the history of women’s fight for political equality in Canada. The Persons Case, a constitutional ruling that established the right of women to be appointed to the Senate, began in 1916 when Emily F. Murphy was appointed as the first female police magistrate in the British Empire. Undermining her authority, lawyers challenged her position as illegal on the grounds that a woman was not considered to be a person under the British North America Act, and therefore she was unable to act as magistrate. Murphy enlisted the help of Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney, and Irene Marryat Parlby—now known as the “Famous Five”—who were engaged politically and championed equal rights for women.

Want to learn more about women’s rights throughout Canada’s history? Try the post, A greater sisterhood: the women’s rights struggle in Canada.

The Canadian Expeditionary Force Digitization Project is Complete!

A page from the service file of “Scotty” Davidson describing how he was killed in action in the field by a shell falling in the trench, and how he is buried in a grave with three other 2nd Battalion men.

A page from Allan “Scotty” Davidson’s digitized service file describes how he was killed in action (CEF 280738).

The last post on our list is an impressive one! The blog announcing the completion of LAC’s 5-year project to digitize all 622,290 files of soldiers who enlisted in the First World War was well-received by many researchers.

Want to learn more about how the Canadian Expeditionary Force digitization project started? Try the post, Current status of the digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel service files.

We hope you enjoyed our trip down memory lane. You may also be interested in blogs about Canada’s zombie army, the Polysar plant, LAC’s music collection, historical French measurement standards, or the iconic posters from the Empire Marketing Board.

Women in the War: The Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS)

We often receive reference requests for photographs of loved ones serving with the Canadian Forces. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds a vast photographic collection, over 30 million images, a substantial portion of which is found within the Department of National Defence fonds (RG24/R112). A project to survey accession 1967-052 “Canada. Dept. of National Defence collection” 1939–1953 and to index all photographs of servicewomen began in April 2018 and is well under way. I hope to see the work completed for all three arms of the service, Navy, Army and Air Force, by 2022. Representing all three branches of the armed forces and comprising over 500,000 photographs, this collection is one of my favourites and at the top of my list for review when a researcher requests photographs from the Second World War or the Korean War. It includes photographs from the home front and theatre of war, making it a rich, well-described collection.

My colleague’s post “75th Anniversary of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service ” published in 2017 serves as a perfect complement to this work and features many photographs, both colour and black and white, of servicewomen at work and play. To quote from the post, I want to highlight here that: “Those serving with the WRCNS were commonly called ‘Wrens,’ the nickname used by their British counterparts, who were members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS).” Throughout the captions, I found both terms “Wren” and “WRCNS” used to identify servicewomen.

A black-and-white photograph of two members of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service washing the front of a bus while their colleague sprays the side of the bus with a hose.

Personnel of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) washing a bus at H.M.C.S. CONESTOGA, Galt, Ontario, Canada, July 1943. (a108171)

The accession is broken down into prefixes, most often by location (such as base or city) or by ship. For example, the MAG prefix is comprised of photographs documenting “the HMCS Magnificent between 1948 and 1957.”

The finding aids for each prefix, also referred to as caption lists, are available for consultation in the second-floor reference room at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. They are also part of LAC’s initiative to digitize the majority of existing finding aids, ongoing until 2024.

A survey of the caption lists for each of the prefixes specific to naval photographs has been completed, and all those captions that mention servicewomen have been noted. The result is 2,652 photographs, or 1.3 percent.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman in a military uniform leaning across a counter to interview three women beside a sign that reads “Canadian Wives’ Bureau.”

Leading Wren Evelyn Kerr (right) of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) interviewing British wives of Canadian sailors, Canadian Wives’ Bureau, London, England, 30 November 1944. (a128179)

One of the pleasures of the project has been the exposure to the various trades and functions that the Wrens performed. From photographers and dieticians, to motor transport drivers and librarians, the servicewomen performed all sorts of valuable work at home and abroad to support the war effort. I also came across and included numerous images of Nursing Sisters.

A black-and-white photograph of a member of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service handing a man a tall stack of books beside a ship.

Leading Wren Ruth Church, Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS), delivering a supply of library books to Able Seaman Bill Swetman of the HMCS Petrolia, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, November 1944. (a189717)

How to Search for “Your” Servicewoman

You can write to us with information about “your” Wren or Nursing Sister to see if there are any indexed photographs that identify her by name. It would be helpful to know her maiden name, where and when she served, as this will help us narrow the search. Similarly, once you identify relevant records within a series, a review of those photographs by yourself or a freelance researcher may reveal additional photographs that did not identify her by name OR that did not indicate that any servicewomen were in the image. For example, many captions simply describe the photograph as “Christmas Dance” or “Holiday Party” and were not included.

To know more about “your” servicewoman’s time with the Canadian Forces, request a copy of her Military Service file.

A black-and-white photograph of a smiling member of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service carrying a large bag on her shoulder.

Leading Wren June Whiting of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) disembarking at Liverpool, England, April 1945 (a142415)

Please feel free to visit us at one of our public service points in Ottawa, Halifax, Winnipeg or Vancouver or write to us with questions about LAC’s holdings, both archival and published.


Rebecca Murray is an Archivist in the Reference Services Division.

Why is that written there? Insights into the Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 1926: Instructions to Commissioners and Enumerators

By Sara Chatfield

To glean the most information from a Canadian census return, start by reading the Instructions to Commissioners and Enumerators. At first glance, this publication may seem dry, but it is anything but! By informing themselves on what instructions were given to the commissioners and enumerators, genealogists can learn more about their ancestors, gather more clues, and understand why their ancestors responded as they did. Don’t forget that there will always be exceptions to the rules, as not all enumerators interpreted the instructions the same way.

Here are some of the highlights:

Column 3 – Names of each person in family, household or institution

Census chart titled “Dominion Bureau of Statistics: Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, June 1, 1926” with handwritten entries for each of 25 columns. The columns include such information as name and residence, personal description, place of birth, race and citizenship, language and education.

A page for St. Boniface, Manitoba, from the 1926 census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Note the entry for Jules Vinckier, who was enumerated as head of a household that included a domestic and a lodger. (e011228052)

The 1926 Census of Prairie Provinces lists “the names of every person whose usual place of abode on June 1, 1926 was with the family or in the dwelling house for which the enumeration is being made.” The key point in that sentence is that the person must call the home for which the enumeration is being made their “usual place of abode.” Genealogists should keep that in mind when searching for families with older children, as they may have struck out on their own by 1926. This also includes lodgers and those employed as domestic help or as a servant.
Dwelling houses could also be considered institutions, such as “hospitals, poorhouses, asylums for the insane, prisons, penitentiaries, schools of learning, military barracks, homes for the aged, homes of refuge, etc.”

Column 16 – Racial or tribal origin

Census chart titled “Dominion Bureau of Statistics: Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, June 1, 1926” with handwritten entries for each of 25 columns. The columns include such information as name and residence, personal description, place of birth, race and citizenship, language and education.

A page for Jackhead Indian Reserve, Manitoba, from the 1926 census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta (e011226423)

Racial or tribal origin is a column on the census chart that most genealogists find extremely helpful. While this information gives researchers valuable insight into where their ancestors originated, one needs to consider the enumerator instructions for deciphering the answer to this question. According to the publication, “The racial or tribal origin is usually traced through the Father, as in English, Scotch, Irish, Welsh, German, Italian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Bohemian, Ruthenian, Bukovinian, Galacian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Japanese, Polish, Jewish, etc. A person whose father is English but whose mother is Scotch, Irish, French or any other race will be considered in this connection as English, and so with any of the others.”
This line of thought did not hold true for Indigenous families. The instructions state “in the case of Indians, the origin is traced through the mother, and names of their tribes should be given, as ‘Chippewa,’ ‘Cree,’ etc.”

Column 17 – Year of immigration to Canada

 Census chart titled “Dominion Bureau of Statistics: Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, June 1, 1926” with handwritten entries for each of 25 columns. The columns include such information as name and residence, personal description, place of birth, race and citizenship, language and education.

A page for North Battleford, Saskatchewan, from the 1926 census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta (e011242806) Note the entry for Frank Madon and his wife, who appear to have been born in Canada, immigrated to the United States where they were naturalized, and then returned to Canada as immigrants in 1920.

A researcher might be surprised to see an immigration year for a Canadian-born ancestor. The reason for that notation may be that, according to enumerator instructions, column 17 “applies to all persons, irrespective of age or sex, who were born outside of Canada, and also to Canadian-born persons who had formerly become domiciled in a foreign country but have returned to their native soil.” The publication clarifies further “for those of Canadian birth, the year of their returning home to remain permanently should be given.”

Column 18 – Year of naturalization

Census chart titled “Dominion Bureau of Statistics: Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, June 1, 1926” with handwritten entries for each of 25 columns. The columns include such information as name and residence, personal description, place of birth, race and citizenship, language and education.

A page for Regina, Saskatchewan, from the 1926 census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Note the notation of “pa” in column 18 for Andrew Susylinski (e011245054)

The enumerator instructions state that a notation of “pa” in column 18 indicates that the “person has applied for papers but has not yet reached the full status of citizenship.” A notation of “pa” would signal to the researcher that more information about their ancestor may be found in naturalization records.

If you are curious about finding your ancestors in other census years, feel free to explore Library and Archives Canada’s Census page.


Sara Chatfield is a project manager in the Exhibitions and Online Content division at Library and Archives Canada.

 

Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development records: Estate files

On the left of the graphic, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] in traditional regalia on horse. In the middle, Iggi and girl engaging in a “kunik”, a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide stands holding a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

By Rebecca Murray

When researching First Nations genealogy, estate files can be a valuable source of information. Estate files are held at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) fonds, known as RG10.

What are estate files?

The Department, now known as Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada, continues to administer “the estates of deceased Indians” as per the Indian Act. The contents of estate files vary. These forms record vital information on the deceased, summaries of land and personal assets, summaries of debts, and vital information on heirs and next of kin.

The types of information found in these files can be very useful when conducting genealogical research. Before you begin researching, record the information you already have in a pedigree or family chart, both of which are available on our website. You can use any information you find in the estate files to fill in the blanks.

How do I identify estate files held at LAC?

The file title by the name of the deceased individual identifies estate titles held at LAC. Below are a few examples of complete references to estate files in our holdings:

RG10, 1996-97/816, box 91, file “Estate of Clifford Leonard – Kamloops,” 1928–1948.

RG10, volume 11266, file 37-2-8, “ESTATE NELSON, JOB,” 1928–1929.

2017-00390-5, box 4, file 411/37-2-179-48, part 1, “Estates – P. Meneweking – Spanish River,” 1946–1967.

These examples show the different title formats used by estate files. Researchers can search by family name, with or without the given name (first name). Sometimes the band name is included.

The department formerly known as DIAND has used various file classification systems throughout its history. The following file numbers indicate that a file is classified as an estate file:

Modified Duplex Numeric System (1950s–1980s): 37-2
Thousand Series: 16000
Block Numeric System: E5090

Aside from file classifications, this type of research is one of the few cases where searching by the name of an individual is the best method for identifying a relevant file. It is best to begin your search in our archival database, Archives Search. If you are unable to identify a file for an individual described in our database, do not worry. Many files are not described at the file level in our database.

To identify these files, try another search with keywords “estate” AND the name of the band or agency of the deceased individual. For example, complete a keyword search for “estate” AND “Sudbury” in two separate fields and submit. A long list of results can be filtered by hierarchical level on the left-hand side of the page; in this case, choose Accession.

One of the results, 2017-00390-5 “Estate Files of the Sudbury District Office,” 1900–1983, is an example of a set of 18 boxes of records comprised almost exclusively of estate files, with no descriptions at the file level. In these instances, check the Finding Aid section for information on how to access a file list. In this case, the finding aid (or file list) is not linked to the description, but it can be consulted in person at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, or you can write to us and ask that we check it for a specific name. Doing this extra step beyond the keyword search for the deceased individual’s name, and including your work in your written request, can help Reference Services staff triage and treat your request more efficiently.

How do I access estate files held at LAC?

You will find that access is restricted to most estate files held at LAC for privacy reasons. Please make an access request online. Some early files are open. Of those, some are available on digitized microfilm, for example: RG10, volume 2918, file 186,900, “CARADOC AGENCY – ESTATE OF THE LATE DOLLY NICHOLAS OF THE ONEIDA BAND,” 1897–1898.

If an open file is not available online, please request the original for Retrievals and Consultation.

A white page with black handwritten text.

The first of two pages of a letter from RG10, volume 2918, file 186,900 (e007575915)

A second white page with black handwritten text.

The second of two pages of a letter from RG10, volume 2918, file 186,900 (e007575916)

This information should help you to identify and access estate files held at LAC. To ask a question about estate files or on any other topic, please write to us!

This blog is part of a series related to the Indigenous Documentary Heritage Initiatives. Learn how Library and Archives Canada (LAC) increases access to First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation collections and supports communities in the preservation of Indigenous language recordings.

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Rebecca Murray is an archivist in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Researching early census records

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce the launch of an expanded version of one of our most popular research guides: Finding Aid 300: Other census and related documents (1640 to 1945).

This tool is a comprehensive guide to early census and related records found at LAC, with references mainly dating from 1640 to the 1800s. There are also some records from the 1900s, including Newfoundland and Labrador from 1921 to 1945.

New to this version of Finding Aid 300 are links to digitized images of most of the documents. Researchers can access numerous digitized records relating to Acadia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia.

We also invite you to visit our updated Censuses page, which includes links to our databases of census returns (1825 to 1921) and other resources.