You are about to
embark on one of the most fascinating of pastimes. You will become
something of a historian, certainly a logical and deductive thinker,
and a person anxious to reveal the role played by previous
generations in shaping the world today.
As an amateur
genealogist you will become a type of historical detective delving
into facts and figures until a true picture of your ancestor
You are joining
thousands who are taking part in what is said to be the world’s
third most popular hobby. Rapidly growing in popularity, genealogy
is only exceeded in participants as a pastime by coin and stamp
archives, genealogical societies and historical groups world-wide
have experienced a tremendous demand recently for information for
those searching out their family trees. In Canada, local
genealogical societies are expanding and the Public Archives in
Ottawa is handling an unprecedented number of requests, while in the
U.S. the pastime has created such interest that the Boy Scouts of
America has added basic genealogy to its list of merit badges and
more than 1,500 scouts earn the award each month.
So, despite the
fact that you are generally on your own in discovering your
particular family tree there are many other researchers doing the
same thing and consequently a growing number of specialized aids are
being developed to make your search successful.
Why Make the Search
searching out a family tree vary considerably. They range from
attempts to link up the family with a long lost inheritance, to
discover family relationships with important historical figures, to
prepare material for an authentic family history, or merely to
fulfill the urge to discover something of the hundreds of forebears
that have resulted in your family line and created the unique
individual that you are today.
of births, marriages and deaths started at different times in each
Canadian province. For Ontario 1869 was the official starting
point, while British Columbia’s official registration commenced in
1872. There are earlier records in many provinces though, with some
in Quebec’s churches going back to 1621.
records may generally be obtained by contacting: The Recorder,
Division of Vital Statistics, Department of Health and Social
Development, or, in some cases, The Registrar General, Department of
Health in the provincial capital. (See the listing at the end of
Canadian-born searcher who knows little of the family background,
this then is the starting point in tracing a family tree. A birth
certificate yields the name of your parents, your mother’s maiden
name, and the family residence at the time and often some additional
The next step is
to obtain a copy of your parents’ marriage certificate, for these
states their age at the time of their marriage. This also states
the names of your two grandfathers.
You are now on the
trail of your eight great-grandparents, sixteen great, and
great-grandparents and so on until the family line leaves Canada for
some other area.
Armed with the
birth and marriage certificates and additional information you have
gleaned from the family Bible, old newspaper clippings and diaries,
and the memories of relatives, you can now start completing the
basic genealogical form. (The Family Group Record)
Completing the Sheet
If you are
married, place your full name, not initials, on the line marked
“Husband” or “Wife”. Complete the necessary birth and marriage
place and dates and add the names of your father and mother. The
details of your spouse should be similarly completed.
Women should use
their maiden surname on genealogical forms, as these will be the
main family names they will be following.
“Christened” (Chr.) will not generally be used until a period prior
to the keeping of civil records.
You should now add
the names of your children, their sex, birth dates and other
details. Throughout all sheets relating to the family tree, dates
should be recorded as day, month, year, ex. 5 July, 1873.
completion of the column for “Information Sources” your first family
group record should be ready.
The next step is
to list yourself as a child on another family group record sheet
along with your brothers and sisters, with your parents heading the
sheet. For the unmarried this is the first sheet. At this stage
you may be able to also list your parents’ father and mother.
Complete a similar form for your husband or wife so that there are
now three forms-one showing you as a married couple and two showing
each of you as a child in your parent’s family group.
records may allow you to go one step further without too much
additional research-the completion of two sheets where your parents
are listed as children. This is the record of your grandparents and
should show your father or mother along with their brothers and
sisters (your aunts and uncles).
If the names and
details of your great grandparents are known to you then your
pedigree has already expanded at a rapid rate and it is time you
were mapping your progress on your pedigree chart.
Charting Your Pedigree
The Pedigree Chart
is a concise guide to your family line and does not carry all the
details of a Family Group Record. It is designed to show the
continuing ancestral line for each chart.
full name (maiden if a woman) is written into line one with if
married the name of husband or wife below. Your father’s name and
details should be placed on line two, while your mother’s maiden
name should appear on line three. Your father’s father (your
grandfather) should now appear on line four, and your father’s
mother (your grandmother) on line five.
mother’s parents will be placed on the lower lines. Her father
should appear on line six and her mother (listing her maiden name)
on line seven. Your Pedigree Chart has now been completed for three
Now the fourth
generation (your great grandparents) can be added to the remainder
of the chart. The basic rule to remember is that the male line
takes the top lines eight, ten, twelve, and fourteen, while the
female ancestors take the lower lines nine, eleven, thirteen, and
fifteen and are listed under their maiden names.
The Pedigree Chart
is now complete for a single person or one member of a married
couple. A similar Pedigree Chart should be completed for the
husband or wife. Both husband and wife of a family tree research
team can appear on the same Pedigree Chart if one of their children
is used as the first generation on line one. However, for
simplicity, it is often preferable to keep separate charts for each
side of the family.
Provision is made
on each chart for index numbers so that the ancestral line can be
continued accurately from a four-generation pedigree chart to
another, ex. Your great grandfather listed on line eight of the
chart number one will be re-listed on line one of a later pedigree
chart with the index notation stating the person on line one is the
same person as number eight on the chart number one. In this way
you can add to a particular line of your pedigree whenever the
information is available, whether it is next week or next year. It
is not uncommon for a well-researched pedigree to extend into twenty
or thirty charts.
It may be that you
have struck a problem or two in discovering some of the necessary
details, and then it is time to write a few letters.
especially the older ones who may have access to records, should be
contacted; residents and former neighbors in the old hometown may be
able to help. A well-written letter to the editor of a small town
newspaper can sometimes start local amateur historians researching
for you. Writing to similar family names found in directories can
also be useful. A visit to the cemetery of the one-time family
hometown may also reveal important data on the long forgotten
If you have access
to a library equipped with microfilm readers, copies of early
Canadian newspapers can be examined for advertisement and
obituaries. Any local library possessing microfilm readers and
participating in the interlibrary loan arrangement can also make
available to you much of the holdings of the Public Archives of
Census records for
many provinces for the years 1851, 1861, and 1871 can greatly assist
in finding a complete family unit if a former place of residence is
known and a time period estimated. Land records and county atlases
also exist for many provinces and can be used to discover early
effort is a common problem with many beginning genealogists. Unless
an accurate recording is kept of the various steps taken to discover
forebears, somewhere, sometime in the future, some of the work will
be done again.
genealogists use various types of systems to ensure each step in
tracing a family line is recorded along with the results achieved.
Three forms have
been developed to assist the beginning genealogist to set up an
easy, efficient record keeping system which serves not only to
record moves already made, but those planned in the future.
Although it is a
lengthy and difficult task to establish recognizable, and legal
titles to long unclaimed family fortunes. There are a growing
number of individuals who make it a profession to trace rightful
heirs to large estates and receive sizable percentages of them for
making the heirs aware of their inheritances. With a number of
estates of $100,000 or so going begging each year in Canada, the
work of this type of researcher, the forensic genealogist, is
The names of
accredited researchers can usually be obtained from local
Genealogical Societies or Branch Genealogical Libraries.
The various books
listed, and others you find in local libraries, could be the tools
needed to give you the extended study you need to professionalize
your research. Study with your own or borrowed books coupled with
actual research is the most effective way to increase your research
skills. However, membership of a Genealogical Society.
It is not really
easy this business of tracing a family tree. Ancestors can be very
elusive, tripping the researchers by naming a child after a brother
who died in infancy, changing the spelling of the family surname and
sometimes completely disappearing from the record for a time.
However, learning of the life and times of early ancestors can make
the search very rewarding.
scope of the search for ancestors and the gaining of formerly
unknown relatives in all walks of life become evident when one works
out the statistics of even a single family. Progressive doubling up
from the family of today gives two parents, four grandparents, eight
great-grandparents, sixteen great, and great-grandparents and so on.
reveals a possible million forebears in a mere twenty
generations-plenty of room for a pirate or two, an earl or even a
Where to Search First
Talk with: Old
family friends, family doctor, family lawyer, former neighbors,
cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc.
Search for: Old
letters, old certificates, military service records, citizenship
papers, legal documents such as wills, old passports, etc.
Occupational records such as union registration, apprenticeship
papers, membership documents for professional associations, etc.
Check records of:
Churches, youth groups, schools, service organizations, etc.
Look for: Old
photographs, scrapbooks, diaries and journals, newspaper clippings,
Search also for:
Family histories, biographies, existing genealogical records, etc.
Ontario Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 8346, Ottawa, ON, K1G 3H8
Ontario Genealogical Society, Box 66, Station Q, Toronto, ON, M4T
Genealogical Society of Quebec, 335 Place D’Armes, Montreal, PQ,
Genealogical Society of Alberta,
P.O. Box 3151, Station A,
Genealogical Society of British Columbia, P.O. Box 94371, Richmond,
Genealogical Society of Saskatchewan,
P.O. Box 1894, Regina, SK, S4P 3E1
Although some vital
statistics were recorded as far back as 1621, most civil
registrations in Canada commenced in the late 19th century. The
amount of information varies according to the period, but the
following data is generally given:
Births: Name, date
and place of birth, parents’ names, ages, residence and occupation.
Deaths: Name, date
and place of birth, date and place of death, occupation name
and residence of the deceased, date and place of burial,
cause of death, Parents’ names, place of birth.
date and place of marriage, sometimes age, witnesses, person who
performed ceremony, name of parents, residence of couple.
Statistics Starting Dates
Complete records from 1898. Some births from 1853 and deaths form
registration from 1872 but serious gaps in early years.
Complete records from 1882.
Complete records exist from 1888 with some earlier births also
Civil registration commenced in 1892.
Although civil registration began in 1864, only marriages were
July 1st 1869 was the stating date.
Island: Civil records
officially date from 1906. Some marriage records
Civil registration complete from 1926. Church records go back to
Incomplete records from 1878. Complete records from 1920.
Some births recorded from 1895 but complete records began in 1898.
Territories: Few records
exist prior to 1927.
Where to Write for
Division of Vital Statistics, Texaco Building,
10130-112th St., Edmonton, AB,
Columbia: Division of Vital
Statistics, 818 Fort St., Victoria, BC, V8W 1H8
Division of Vital Statistics, Dept. of Health,
401 York Ave., Winnipeg, MB,
Registrar General of Vital Statistics, Centennial Building,
Fredericton, NB, E3B 5H1
Division of Vital Statistics, Dept. of Health, P.O. Box 8700, St.
Division of Vital Statistics, Dept. of Health, Provincial Building,
NS, B3J 2M9
Office of the Registrar General, Macdonald Block, Queen’s Park,
ON, M7A 1Y5
Island: Director of Vital
Statistics, Dept. of Health, Box 2000,
Charlottetown, PE, C1A 7N8
Population Registrar, Dept. of Social Affairs, 1279 Boul. Charest
Quebec, G1N 2C9
Director of Vital Statistics, Dept. of Public Health, 3475 Albert
SK, S4S 6X6
Dept. of Territorial Secretary & Registrar General, Box 2703,
General of Vital Statistics, P.O. Box 1320,
Yellowknife, NT, X0E 1N0
Office, Postal Applications, Room 9, Smedley Hydro,
Rd., Southport, Merseyside, England PR8 2HH
Office, New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland,
General’s Office, Custom House, Dublin
records are valuable sources of family records. Although not all
have been preserved, those listed are generally available from the
Public Archives, Ottawa, or any library equipped with microfilm
readers and operating an inter-library loan system with the Public
Archives of Canada.
1842, 1848, and 1850 returns list heads of families only. 1848 and
1850 records are incomplete.
1851, 1861, and 1871 returns
enumerate complete families with some information concerning age,
country of birth, religion, occupation, marital status and racial
1796, 1806, 1813, 1823, and 1824
censuses for Augusta Township (HF) are also on microfilm.
1666, 1667, 1681, 1851, 1861, and 1871 returns cover complete
families with varying information as to age, country of birth,
religion, occupation, marital status, racial origin and education.
1825, 1831, and 1842 returns list heads of families only.
returns for 1881 also have recently been released for public use.
ISLAND: 1798 census (HF) has
not yet been microfilmed but is published in Duncan Campbell’s
“History of Prince Edward Island.”
1841 and 1861 returns list heads
1770, 1773, 1775, and 1787 returns list heads of families only (not
microfilmed); are located in the Nova Scotia Archives.
1817 (incomplete), 1827, 1838 and
1861 censuses list heads of families only. 1871 lists all persons.
On microfilm also are Cape Breton returns, 1811 and 1818; City of
Halifax, Halifax County and King’s County, 1851; City of Halifax
1691 and 1693 returns list each individual and some information
regarding age, sex, country of birth, etc. 1704 census lists heads
of families only.
Census records for Plaisance only
are available for the years of 1671, 1673, (all persons), 1698, 1706
and 1711 (HF).
1851, 1861 and 1871 census returns list each individual along with
age, sex, country of birth, religion, racial origin, occupation, and
1832, 1834, 1835, 1840, 1843, 1846 and 1849 enumeration lists heads
of families with some details of size of family ad occupation. 1870
census lists each individual, sex, age, country or province of
birth, religion, occupation, racial origin, marital status, etc.
1856 census is incomplete and has not been microfilmed.
1671, 1686, 1693, 1698, 1701 and 1714 census return enumerates every
person. 1703, 1707 and 1739 censuses indicate heads of families
only and provide some details of family size.
1730, 1734 and 1735 returns (heads of families) are recorded for llE
St. Jean only. 1734 and 1753 (HF), 1741750 (all persons) are
microfilmed for llE Royal. 1741 Louisburg census lists landholders
only. 1717 and 1722 records for Port Toulouse lists heads of
families, while the 1717 and 1719 census of Port Dauphin lists
principal settlers only. 1739 census of Riviere S. Jean records the
heads of the families and 1761 enumeration of Gaspe to Baie Verte
(incomplete) covers inhabitants generally