Kingston Penitentiary: Home to Canada’s most notorious criminals

Canada’s oldest penitentiary opened on June 1, 1835, under the name “Provincial Penitentiary for Upper Canada.” Located in Portsmouth, now part of Kingston, this institution was designated for the incarceration of prisoners from both Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Kingston Pen, as it is commonly known, closed its doors on September 30, 2013.

Who were the inmates over the course of the penitentiary’s 178 years of existence? To discover their stories, consult the Kingston Penitentiary inmate history description ledgers, which have been digitized and can be viewed on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website.

The ledgers provide photographs (mug shots) of inmates and information such as name; alias; age; place of birth; physical description; occupation; crime committed; and date, place and length of sentence.

Sample page, Kingston Penitentiary inmate history description ledgers.

Sample page, Kingston Penitentiary inmate history description ledgers. (e011054572-v8)

To find the pictures of some of the inmates who were incarcerated at the Kingston Penitentiary, search for a person’s name in the Collection Search menu: type their name and add “RG73” and “Kingston” as keywords, then select “Collections and Fonds” in the dropdown menu. The list of results will show the photographs.

Where else to look

Census returns, the official record of the population of Canada, also list the inmates who were incarcerated at the time of the census enumeration. In addition, nominal indexes can be searched for a reference to an inmate’s name. Remember that spelling variations are common.

Search for books on the Kingston Penitentiary and other Canadian penitentiaries in AMICUS using the author’s name, the book title, or subject keywords such as Kingston (or name of the city), penitentiary, prisons and criminals.

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

Access to 15 Databases in One Stop!

Within the next few weeks, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will begin to deploy a series of 15 databases on Canadian census returns. This will be the only website where free online nominal indexes can be accessed for census returns from 1825 to 1916, comprising more than 32 million records.

LAC will be offering:

  • new databases such as those for census returns from 1851 and 1861
  • nominal indexes (instead of geographical indexes) for census returns from 1901, 1906, 1911 and 1916
  • revamped and updated versions of the indexes for census returns from 1871, 1881 and 1891
  • and much more…

Stay tuned to learn when these databases will be available and be sure to visit our census page to discover these incredible resources for tracing your family history!

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

Take a summer road trip and discover your ancestors

Did you head out to visit your family this summer? Whether you were attending a family reunion, a wedding or an informal get-together, the time spent with
family may have started you thinking about your family history. Did you know that you can discover exciting facts and details about your family by visiting
the Genealogy and Family History pages of the Library and Archives Canada website?

If family history research is new to you, we’re here to help

Begin your search by looking up the following Web pages and use these helpful tips when preparing your quest in family history:

Next, gather the information that you already have in your possession. An attestation paper from the First World War, a marriage certificate, even family pictures can reveal
information about your ancestors.

Talk to your family members and ask questions such as the names of the children in your parents or grandparents families. Did they come to Canada as
immigrants? If so, from which country did they originate? Passenger lists and
their list name indexes can sometimes provide surprising details about a family arriving in Canada.

Now that you have the basics, what else do you need?

A copy of the records in your possession, some writing material (whether in the form of pen and paper or a laptop computer) and a digital camera, will
assist you in documenting your discoveries. Maps of the area where your ancestor was living are also useful in your family history research. For instance,
knowing precisely where your ancestor was living in 1911 or in 1916 (for example, in what county or district) will enable you to find him or her in the Census returns, which contain information such as the profession, date of birth and the siblings living in a given household.

Are you visiting relatives in Ottawa?

If so, visit our Genealogy Services room, located at 395 Wellington Street.
Ensure successful research by watching the video Orientation Services for Clients at 395 Wellington before you
arrive.

Happy research and discoveries!

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

New France Census Records

Did you know that several nominal censuses dating from the early French colonial period have been digitized and are available on our website?  You will see that most of these census records list only the heads of the household. Here are a few examples (in French, only):

To find other censuses such as those mentioned above, simply enter the keywords “recensement nominatif”, “recensement habitants” or “recensement familles” in our “Collection Search” database  and select “Online: yes.”

Note that since the records are of French origin and have been written only in French you must use French keywords to search.

For more information on census records, we invite you to visit our Genealogy and Family History pages.

Happy hunting!

Census Search Tips and Tricks

Genealogists researching census records may encounter various challenges, including:

Spelling variations

  • Indexers may sometimes have trouble making out enumerators’ handwriting or interpreting records when they are in poor condition
  • Enumerators’ ability to spell and transcribe the information they received correctly may greatly influence search results
  • Enumerators occasionally translated names into their mother tongue or transcribed them phonetically. Accordingly, French-Canadian names like Jean-Baptiste or Marie-Anne might be translated as John Baptist or Mary Ann

Date variations

  • Many dates of birth may also be inaccurate. For example, our ancestors sometimes had trouble remembering their children’s exact date of birth and even their own

Inaccurate information

  • The household member interviewed by the enumerator might have provided incorrect information, which will also influence search results

Help is at hand!

Over the years, genealogists at Library and Archives Canada have come up with research tricks. Here are a few that are sure to help:

  • If you located your ancestor in the 1901 census, for example, but have trouble finding him or her in the 1911 census, just jot down the names of your ancestor’s neighbours from the 1901 census, then try to find them in the 1911 census. With luck, your ancestor will have stayed at the same address, and you will easily trace him or her
  • If you are having difficulty finding an ancestor, try limiting your search criteria; for example, if your ancestor has an uncommon name or surname, search for him or her using only that name
  • You may find information about your ancestor in a city directory if he or she lived in a large city. If this is the case, try searching the directory of the city your ancestor lived in to confirm his or her residence there. Read our blog post What Can Canadian Directories Do for You? to learn more
  • Our Genealogy and Family History section provides search tips and a list of abbreviations found in censuses

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