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

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

Immigration and Citizenship records at LAC: Did your ancestor arrive in Canada between 1865 and 1935?

This second article of a series depicting Immigration and Citizenship sources held at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), explains how to find arrivals between 1865 and 1935. Passenger lists reveal details such as the country your ancestor came from, his or her occupation and the intended destination in Canada.

Key resources*:

The Passenger Lists for the Port of Quebec City (1865-1900) database provides 967,017 references to names found on this list. As an example, Laura Muntz Lyall, the Canadian artist who painted Interesting Story, arrived in Canada from England in 1870. A search in the database yields a reference and a link to the image for the arrival of  Laura Muntz and her family on 27 June 1870 aboard the SS Scandinavian.

Arrivals in Canada are also found in the Passenger Lists, 1865-1922 database where documents can be searched by name of ship, date, and place of arrival.

From 1919 to 1924, a form for individuals called Form 30A was used instead of the large sheet manifests of all passengers on a ship. The microfilms of these records have been digitized and can be consulted online. First locate the number of the microfilm, then consult the digitized microfilms of Ocean Arrivals, Form 30a, 1919-1924.

For ancestors who arrived between 1925 and 1935, you first consult the Passenger Lists and Border Entries, 1925-1935 database. As an example, let’s search for Johannes Nisula. He arrived aboard the Montrose at Quebec City on May 26, 1926. Click on “Search” in the left menu, type in his information, and click the “Submit” button. Looking at the result, it’s important to note all the details: name, ship, port of arrival, the volume, page number (189), and microfilm reel number (T-14722). Then navigate to the microform digitization page, select “Passenger Lists: Quebec City (1925-1935)” and click on the reel number (T-14722). Page number refers to the paper sheets, so you will have to look for the page number in the top right of the image. In our example, page 189 of the pages appears on page 335 of the microfilm. 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 Manitoba, 1870 – now available online

Library and Archives Canada is pleased to announce that Canadians can now access the Census of Manitoba, 1870 online. This census was taken shortly after Manitoba joined Confederation.

This census provides the names of more than 12,200 individuals living in Manitoba at that time and contains information such as age, marital status, place of birth, religion, race and name of the father.

Census of Lower Canada, 1825 now available online

Library and Archives Canada is pleased to announce that Canadians can now access the Census of Lower Canada, 1825 online. The Census of Lower Canada, 1825 is partly nominal and therefore only contains the names of heads of family, their occupation, and the number of residents for each family.

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

Release of a new version of the Census of Canada, 1891 database

Library and Archives Canada is pleased to announce the release of a new version of the Census of Canada, 1891 database. This third general census covered the seven provinces and one territory that were then part of Confederation: British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories.

The new version includes suggestions for corrections that were received from users in recent months, as well as revised district and sub-district information.

Release of a new version of the Census of Canada, 1901 database

Library and Archives Canada is pleased to announce the release of a new version of the 1901 Census of Canada database. This fourth general census covered the seven provinces and the territory that were then part of Confederation: British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the Territories.

The new version includes suggestions for corrections that were received from users in recent months, as well as revised district and sub-district information.