How to Search for Your Ancestor in our Genealogy Databases

Did you know that Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has an online Ancestors Search function that combs through many of our genealogical databases at once, simply by using your ancestor’s name?

The Ancestors Search page lists all of our genealogical databases. Those labelled with the letter “G” are included in the Ancestors Search results, while the others can be searched individually.

If you cannot find your ancestor’s name in the Ancestors Search results, try searching in one of our other databases, listed by topic.

The layout of each of our genealogy databases is similar and includes useful tabs on the left menu. For example, the “Search Help” section provides information that will:

  • help you understand the records we have indexed;
  • tell you how to interpret your search results;
  • explain how to consult or obtain copies of documents.

Did you know?

  • Databases can have indexing errors because of poor handwriting, poor legibility, or the fading of ink over time in the original records. If you find an error in the index, use the “Suggest a correction” feature.
  • Some databases allow for wildcard searching, that is, you can substitute a letter with a symbol to allow for more search results. For example, use “Sm*th” for Smith or Smyth, or “Fred*” for Frederick or Fredrich.
  • In the past, many names were written phonetically by the person recording them, such as the priest for a Parish Register or an enumerator for the Census. This resulted in various spellings of the same name.
  • Nicknames or middle names may have been used by your ancestor(s). For example, many French Canadians of the Catholic faith were baptized as Marie or Joseph, and as such, your ancestor(s) may have been registered under one of these names.
  • A woman may have been listed under her married or maiden name.
  • Sometimes individuals anglicized their names. For example, a branch of the “Boisvert” family became the “Greenwood” family. Many immigrants from Eastern European countries also anglicized their names, such as in a branch of the “Kowalchuck” family, which became the “Cowell” family.
  • Names or dates may be different than what you have in your records. Our ancestors did not have to identify themselves as we do today and they might not have known their exact date of birth or date of immigration.

Only a portion of LAC’s genealogical records have been indexed. Visit our Genealogy and Family History pages for more information about genealogy topics and other sources.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!