Wednesday, 21 June 2017

D-I-V-O-R-C-E Part 4 After 1968 in Western Canada

Source: http://pdpics.com/photo/2579-broken-heart-cut-paper/





This week we're finishing up by looking at Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.


Saskatchewan
As stated in Part 1, divorce was handled provincially beginning in 1920. It is handled by the Court of Queen's Bench. In 1994, a separate division of the court was created to deal solely with family law.

The Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan has divorce files up until 1930. These are listed under court records for the King's Bench (remember Queen Elizabeth had not ascended to the throne yet, so we still had a King). According to the section of court records on their website, they have docket books, or indexes, for most of their records. The majority are open to researchers, but you can only access on site. You can fill out a request form on their records here.

After 1930, you will have to go through the particular courthouse that handled the proceedings. The Courts have a pdf on access to records here. Scroll down to page 25 for access on Family Law cases.
The Courts of Saskatchewan website has the contact information of Queen's Bench Courthouses here.

Decisions of the court are public information. The Law Society of Saskatchewan has a database online of Court of Queen's Bench decisions on the CanLII (Canadian Legal Information Institute) website. You can find decisions from as early as 1900 right up to present day. Not all years are available. You can search by year, or you can search with specific terms. There are almost 4,000 cases with the keyword "divorce".  When I added the last name "McDonald" it shrunk down to 4 results.


Alberta
Like Saskatchewan, divorces were handled at the provincial level as of 1920. This is handled by the Court of Queen's Bench.

The Provincial Archives of Alberta has divorce files in their holdings from across the province. I used their search function with the keyword "divorce". I then narrowed it to "Government and Private Collections". There are 68 collections in their holdings. The years ranch from the early 1900's to 1979. The collections appear to be grouped by location. From what I could see, very little if any of them are microfilmed. As such, you will have to make an onsite visit.

After 1979, you will have to go through the particular courthouse. You can get contact information of the various courthouses through the Alberta Courts website here. According their pdf on public and media access, there are no mandatory restrictions on divorce cases.

You can search CanLII for Alberta Queen's Bench decisions here. The year range is 1912 to present day, with the year 1933 not available. There are over 3,000 decisions on the site with the keyword "divorce". Adding "McDonald" for a surname narrowed it down to just 2.


British Columbia
BC is one of those provinces where divorce has always fallen under provincial jurisdiction. These are handled by the Supreme Court. The BC Archives has an Introduction to Divorce Records pdf. Included in it is a history of divorce law in British Columbia, and resources you can use.

Records are routinely transferred to the BC Archives. They have put together a short pdf about court records in general in their holdings. This will give you an idea of what they have and access. Note under access that while the divorce orders and judgements are open access, the case files of the actual divorce proceedings are not. They have a research guide on divorce records themselves. According to the guide, they hold records up to 1983. these are not microfilmed that I could see, so you will only be able to access onsite.

After 1983 you will have to go through the courthouse that handled the divorce. The Courts of British Columbia has in interactive map of courthouse locations here. Click on a location and it will give you the contact information. According to page 21 the Courts of British Columbia's pdf on public access to records, only the party's involved and their lawyers can access the court files. You must otherwise obtain written permission from either the divorcing parties or their lawyers to gain access.

You can also search CanLII for judgements here. It covers the years 1912 to present day, with 1933 missing. The keyword "divorce" gave me over 9,000 results. Narrowing it to include "McDonald" gave me 10 results.


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

D-I-V-O-R-C-E Part 3 - After 1968 in Central Canada

Source: http://pdpics.com/photo/2579-broken-heart-cut-paper/


This week we'll be looking at divorce records in Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba

Quebec
As stated in Part 1, divorce was handled federally up to 1968. But, unlike other areas of Canada, a couple could become legally separated through the province's civil code. These were done by notaries. A notice of action had to be printed in the provincial version of the Canada Gazette, Quebec's Gazette officielle du Quebec. You can find a searchable database on BAnQ. You can download the pages as a pdf or print. The search function is only available in French. The resulting pages will either be in French only, or both French and English, depending on the issue. You will get the name of the petitioner (plaintiff), their spouse (defendant), the court name and district, and the cause number.

As for notarial records, these can also be searched on BAnQ, in their database Archives des Notaires du Quebec des origines a 1936. This also in French only, but is easy to figure out. You cannot search for a particular entry. What you want to do is narrow it down to a particular notary. If you already know who that is, then go through the alphabetical listings under the heading "Par nom". If you don't know who, then narrow down by the region, then district. Then, you can scroll through the images of the notary. These can be narrowed down in different ways, depending on which notary you are looking at. It will be time consuming, but pretty interesting stuff when you get into it.

The other place to look for notarial records is Ancestry's two databases Quebec Notarial Records (Drouin Collection), 1647-1942, and Quebec, Canada Notarial Records, 1626-1935 The first collection is indexed by notary name. The images may not the actual actes, but the indexes made by the notary themselves. It will give you the type of act, the persons involved, and the act number. These are arranged by year. With this information you can then seek the repositories to find the record. Gail Dever at Genealogy a la Carte has a great tutorial on the second database here.

The Superior Court of Quebec handled divorce cases once it fell under the jurisdiction of provincial courts. In order to obtain the records, you must justify your reason for requesting them. I could not find anything stating what restrictions there were to access the information.You will have to go through the courthouse that handled the divorce, and have proof of identity. You can access the contact information for the various courthouses on Justice Quebec's website here


Ontario
Divorce could be obtained provincially in Ontario from 1931. It is handled through the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice. Divorce files from 1931- 1980 are housed at the Archives of Ontario (AO). It is not so simple as just going there and asking to see them however. You need to have the file number, year of divorce, and the location (county or district) that the divorce took place. If you need to consult indexes to find this information, then you will have to go through some steps:

  • If the divorce was between 1931 and May 1949, the index could be at the AO, but it may not. Most of the indexes for this time period are held at the courthouse where the divorce was filed.
  • If the divorce was between June 1949 and before July 1968, the AO has province wide indexes on microfilm.
  • After July 1968, you must will have to look at the indexes compiled by the Supreme Court. These may be at the AO, or they may only be at the courthouse where the divorce was filed.
Once you have the information you need to give to the AO, you can then proceed to get the information on the divorce. If all you need is a copy of the Divorce Decree, you can request one. Since divorce records are stored offsite, it may take a couple of weeks for this to be ready for you. They will either mail it, or you can pick it up in person. The fee is $33.00. If you need to see the file itself, they you MUST call ahead to arrange for it to be there when you visit. They need a minimum of one business day. The AO has a fantastic research guide on divorce files here. It takes you step by step through the process, and at the end has all the contact information for the various courthouses in the province. If the divorce took place in York County however, there is a separate research guide for that here.

After 1980, you will have to contact the courthouse that handled the divorce proceedings. There does not seem to be restrictions on accessing the decisions of the court. You can also do a search of decisions on the Superior Court of Justice's webpage. When I typed in the search area the keywords "marriage divorce", I got over 4,000 different cases. Of course, you will want to narrow it further by name.

Manitoba
Divorce was handles provincially in Manitoba from 1920, though you may find some as early as 1917. They were handled by the Divorce Court of the Court of Queen's Bench up until 1984. Since then it has been handled by the Family Division of the Court of Queen's Bench. Records have no restrictions to access that I could find. 

The Archives of Manitoba has records from 1917-1983. These are divided by region. There are indexes on microfilm that can be viewed on site, or may be available for inter library loan. Check with the Archives on what's available for loan. The records themselves can only be viewed at the Archives. As they are stored off site, they will require two business days notice to have them there for you to view.

For post 1983 records, you will need to go to the courthouse that handled the divorce. the Queen's Court Bench has an online central registry that you can search here. Type in a name and make sure you tick the box "QB Family". It will give you a listing of court cases with that name. By clicking on the case number, it will give you all the file details you need, including the courthouse that handled the case. You can then contact the courthouse for access to the file. You can find locations and contact information of courthouses in the province here.

Next week we'll look at Western Canada.







Wednesday, 7 June 2017

D-I-V-O-R-C-E Part 2 - After 1968 in the Atlantic Provinces

Source: http://pdpics.com/photo/2579-broken-heart-cut-paper/


Last week we looked at divorce pre 1968. Now we'll look at how to find records once they were taken care of at the provincial level. There's a lot of information, so I've decided to break this up into Part 2 (Atlantic Canada), Part 3 (Central Canada), and Part 4 (Western Canada).

Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings
This is a national registry that was set up by the government, so that duplicate divorce proceedings did not take place. All divorces filed after 2 July 1968 are listed in the database. This can help if you're not sure where the divorce took place. You will not get documents pertaining to the divorce here. But an inquiry supplying the names of the divorcing parties will get you the number of the courthouse, the file number and the year. I have been told that you can get this information even if you are not one of the divorcing parties. But, the Department of Justice's web page seems to say that only the divorcing parties, or someone with their written permission and acting in a legal capacity can get this information. If you choose to use this route to try and narrow down if and where a divorce occurred, I would suggest calling first to see about access.

Newfoundland
As mentioned in Part 1, as of 1969, divorces were handled by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. Only the divorcing parties and their legal counsel have open access to the records. If you are not one of these people, then you will have to make a special application to a judge for access. If you are granted access, you are only able to access records at the court house, and under supervision of court staff.

Prince Edward Island
The Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island handled divorces from 1947 on wards. The Public Archives and Records Office holds records from 1835 to 1976. These are not online, and you will have to take a visit to access onsite. The rest of the records, as well as an index of divorces is held at:

Sir Louis Henry Davis Law Court
42 Water Street 
Charlottetown PEI C1A 1A4
(902)368-6000


New Brunswick
Divorces have always been handled provincially. It is handled by the Court of the Queen's Bench. Divorce proceedings do not seem to have as strict privacy laws as other vital statistics. I have not been able to find any restrictions to access on government websites. Divorce files are regularly transferred over to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. According to Library and Archives Canada, the PANB holds cases from 1847-1979. These are NOT online. On the website home page there is a link on the bottom right to email them. The mailing address and phone number are:

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
P.O. Box 6000
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5H1
(506) 453-2122

After 1979, I would contact Service New Brunswick or you can use the pdf download form for a request here. You can also try going through the courthouses themselves. A list of the locations of the Court of the Queen's Bench is here. Listed under each location is the address and phone numbers.


Nova Scotia
As with New Brunswick, divorces have always been handled at the provincial level. The Family Division of the Province's Supreme Court handles divorces for Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape breton Island. Other areas of the province are handled by the General Division of the Supreme Court. The Nova Scotia Archives has an index online called Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, 1759-1960. The name is a misnomer though. In the Archival Description it says that they go from 1759-1963. When I typed in one of my NS surnames "Boutilier", I got 25 hits that included the year 1962. The results give you the Reference number, case number, names of both parties, and the year. The records themselves can be viewed at the provincial archives in Halifax. 

After 1962, you will have to look at courthouses. It seems that divorces do not fall under privacy laws, and anyone can access divorce decisions. However, you may have to go through a process to view the actual court files. The government has a pdf file on public access to court records here. You'll have to scroll down for a bit regarding access to court files.

One great database I found was the Courts of Nova Scotia's website. They have a searchable database of court decisions. The page warns that it is not a complete listing. It also says that it goes from 2003 on wards, but when I typed "divorce" in the search box, I got hits from 1998. Also on their website is the locations of courthouses. Just click on a community name, and it will take you to a page with all the courthouse addresses and phone numbers in that community. 


In Part 3 we'll look at records for Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba





Wednesday, 31 May 2017

D-I-V-O-R-C-E Part 1 - Before 1968

We all like to think that our ancestors met, fell in love, married, and only parted through death. Truth is, divorce has always been around in Canada, although rare. According to The Canadian Encycolpedia:

"...while most Canadians married, divorce was extremely uncommon until after the Second World War. In fact, until that time, Canada had one of the lowest divorce rates in the Western world..."

Today getting a divorce is a fairly straight forward matter through the provincial courts, though if you've gone through one you may not think so. Up until the late 1960s though, the ability to obtain a divorce was extremely difficult. As a result, you may come across in your tree couples that just stop living together. In some cases they go on to have new families. I have one such example in my own family history.

Before 1968, your ancestor may have only been able to obtain a divorce through a Private Act of the Parliament of Canada. There are some exceptions, which I'll explain later on in the post. According to the Parliament of Canada's website,

"..A private bill could only be introduced by a Senator or a Member who is not a member of Cabinet..."

This was expensive and lengthy. First the petitioner would have to first put a "notice of intent" to petition the government for an Act of Divorce in the Canada Gazette. They also had to put notices in two newspapers local to where they live. This notice had to run for six months.

Then they would petition the government. The petition would have to include the following information:

  • names of the husband and wife
  • place of residence
  • date and place of marriage
  • details of the marriage breakdown
  • if the reason for divorce was adultery or bigamy, then you might find the name of the third person in the love triangle  

If the petition was allowed, then the Parliament would pass an Act of Divorce and nullify the marriage. A transcript of the Act of Divorce would be published in that year's publication of Statutes. The publication changed names several times from 1841- 1868:


  • 1841-1866 Statutes of the Province of Canada and Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada 
  • 1867-1872 Statutes of Canada
  • 1873-1951 Acts of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada (Statutes of Canada)
  • 1952-1963 Acts of the Parliament of Canada (Statutes of Canada)
  • 1963-1968 Journals of the Senate of Canada


As with most other research avenues when searching Canadian records, each province is different. For divorce, the two main questions are WHEN and WHERE.

Newfoundland
1949-1968: Required an Act of Divorce
1969 on wards: Handled by the Provincial Courts

Prince Edward Island
1867-1946: Required an Act of Divorce
1947 on wards: Handled by the Provincial Courts

New Brunswick
1867 on wards: Handled by the Provincial Courts

Nova Scotia
1867 on wards: Handled by the Provincial Courts

Quebec
1867-1968: Required an Act of Divorce
1969 on wards: Handled by the Provincial Courts

Ontario
1867-1930: Required an Act of Divorce
1931 on wards: Handled by the Provincial Courts

Manitoba
1867-1919: Required an Act of Divorce
1920 on wards: Handled by the Provincial Courts

Saskatchewan
1867-1919: Required an Act of Divorce
1920 on wards: Handled by the Provincial Courts

Alberta
1867-1919: Required an Act of Divorce
1920 on wards: Handled by the Provincial Courts

British Columbia
1867 on wards: Handled by the Provincial Courts

Searching for Acts of Divorce
So, if you're looking for a divorce requiring an Act of Divorce, you should look at newspapers, the Canada Gazette, and either the Statutes of Canada, or  Journals of the Senate of Canada. For newspapers, your ancestor needed to publish in two newspapers in the County or District they resided. If the area only had one newspaper, then check adjoining counties and districts for a notice to fill the required second newspaper.


Source: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/canada-gazette/093/001060-119.01-e.php?image_id_nbr=6005&document_id_nbr=2015&f=g&PHPSESSID=8i2g20bsfvmevairlhl5rhkci5


The Canada Gazette is commonly referred to as "the official newspaper of the Canadian Government". It's a fascinating read all by itself. I may have to devote a whole blog post to this in the future. It contains public notices of every shape and variety. It was published only in print from 1941 to 1998. From 1998 to 2014 there was both a print and online version. From 2014 on wards it is only available digitally. For divorces pre 1968 you'll want to go to Collections Canada's issues from 1841 to 1998. They have a searchable database. I typed "divorce McDonald' in the keyword search and there are 407 results. The earliest was in 1843. Now keep in mind though that the search will look for your search terms on a whole page, not just a specific notice. For instance, one of my page results had a notice for a petition to divorce, but the name "McDonald" had to do with a completely different notice on the same page that had nothing to do with divorce.

Now, if the Act of Divorce was granted, you'll next want to look for a transcript of the Act in the yearly Statutes publications. Thankfully Library and Archives Canada has a searchable index here. I typed in McDonald and got 10 hits. The index gives the following information:
  • Name of Petitioner
  • Name of Spouse
  • Which publication it's in
  • The year published
  • The reference number, or Act number
With this information, you can then get a copy of the Act. Check your local library to see if they have copies in their holdings. The link above to Library and Archives Canada's database also has links to help you find which libraries has copies of the publications. Internet Archive, my new best friend, also has digitized copies here. If you are unable to find it online or in your local library, you can apply to Library and Archives Canada for a copy. Information on reproduction requests can be found here.

Next post we'll take a look at sources from 1968 and later.





Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Where are the Archives?

Library and Archives Canada
source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_and_Archives_Canada



Nowadays, you can go a long way with your research from the comfort of your computer chair. But, remember, not everything is online. Also, not all have an online presence. Eventually, you're going to have to exchange your slippers for outdoor shoes and take a trip to an Archive. How can you find what archive might have the information you're looking for?

You should then turn to the Canadian Archival Information Network. This great resource lets you search for material by subject, by institution, or by place. I clicked on the search tab, then browse by place and their came a listing of over 21,000 different place names indexed. You can further narrow by the search box at the top. I scrolled through randomly and clicked on "Bell Island, Conception Bay NL". I got 9 different record sets that related directly to Bell Island. The first was a collection about the Anglican Parish of Bell Island. Along with the religious ceremony registers, there's also financial records and Minutes of meetings. They are held by the Archdeacon Buckle Memorial Archive in St. John's NL.
The second hit was the John Job photograph collection at the Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

When I clicked on browse by institution, There are 773 archives listed across Canada. You can further narrow down by location and institution type. When I narrowed by Saskatchewan, there are 44 results of archival institutions in the database.

Back on the main page beside the search tab is a tab called "Networks". This will take to the portal websites of individual provincial archive networks. I clicked on the link for New Brunswick. It took me to the Council Archives of New Brunswick's website. There are 27 institutions listed with the council.

Beside the Networks tab is one for virtual exhibits. There are links to online exhibits across Canada. I clicked on one with the interesting title "Claude and Mary Tidd: A Yukon Romance". It's a telling of the lives of  Claude and Mary in the Yukon, told by the Yukon Archives. It gives a snapshot of life in the Yukon between the end of the Gold Rush and the building of the Alaska Highway. If Claude and Mary were in your family tree, what a goldmine of information on them!

Next to virtual exhibits is the links tab. There are 724 links to various repositories. You can also find links to guides, bibliographies, transcriptions of records, and genealogical societies. Take note that this is a work in progress, and not all of the links work.

Next is the About Us tab is I think is rather self explanatory and needs no explanation.

Last is the Canadian Council of Archives tab. This one is more for those who have my dream job of working in an archival setting. Still some interesting reading.

Now this website is by no means a complete listing of Archives across Canada. But when you've already looked at the big Archives, this is a good start to finding the smaller ones.



Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Skeletons in the Closet

Source:http://domainfat.com/c2tlbGV0b24gY2xvc2V0IG1lbWU/#
 


This week's post is not about record sources. It's more of an opinion piece. It's been one I've been wanting to write about for awhile.

A few days ago, a genealogy friend and I were discussing the "less than upstanding citizens" in our respective trees. Actually, the conversation was less about the ancestors themselves, and more about our living relatives reactions to our ancestors' misdeeds. It got me to thinking back about some of the episodes of those genealogy shows, when someone is absolutely horrified by some of the things their ancestors have done. They immediately classify them as an evil person. I can sympathize on one level Sometimes reality can be a shock. I am also a little... annoyed as well. That's not quite the right word, but I'll explain.

First and foremost, your ancestor's decisions are not a reflection of YOU. Just as you didn't actually do the heroic deed they did, you didn't perform the "dastardly" deed either. We all remember the brouhaha a couple of years ago when a certain celebrity asked one of the genealogy shows to not air the fact that he had a slave owning ancestor. The show went with a different story from the celebrity's ancestry. Now whether this was because of the celebrity's request, or because they thought that the story they did use was more interesting, I personally do not know. Nor do I want to rehash the incident. I actually thought the one they used was more interesting than if they had gone with the slave owning ancestor, but that's just me. Just to be clear, I am NOT condoning slavery. It's one of the horrible parts of human history. But to shy away from it and pretend it didn't happen doesn't do any good either.

If you do genealogy long enough, you are going to come across an ancestor whose life choices don't measure up to your own code of ethics. Whether you consider them a "grey sheep" or a "black sheep" would depend on your viewpoint I guess. Most genealogists are delighted to find one of these people, as it adds a good story to your family history.

Let me give you some examples from my own family history:

  • The married guy who had two children with his servant girl, and ended up marrying her after his wife died and then had a couple more with her
  • The man who was a confirmed bigamist
  • The woman who was a suspected bigamist
  • The woman who had 3 illegitimate children and never married
  • The woman who was a prostitute for awhile
  • I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure at least one person in my tree might have supplemented their income through less than legal means
On the surface, these people don't look too good. But, do we know the whole story? Divorce has been around for a long time, but it has not always been easy to obtain, or cheap. It might have been easier and more economic for a couple just to go their separate ways, but legally they were still married. Did the woman who was a prostitute feel she had no other options to support herself? We feel sympathy for the medieval man who poached to feed his family. The social safety net that we have today is a relatively new thing, historically speaking. My ancestors with possible "shady dealings" might have been just trying to support their families.

Take a look at some of your relatives that you know personally. We all have that one older relative that has certain ideas and opinions that we don't share. It may be their opinions on gender equality, their views on another skin colour or religion, or sexual orientation. They may use terms that we consider derogatory today, but that people of their generation see nothing wrong with. How about that cousin that made some life choices you disagree with? Do you think these people are absolutely evil? Probably not. You may not like certain aspects about them, but they are not all bad are they?

Now take a look at some of the hard choices you've had to make in your own life. A couple of hundred years from now, your descendants are not going to know all the reasons why you've made that decision. If they only had part of the story, how would you look to them? 

What I'm trying to say is that no one is all good, and no one is all bad. We are all shades of grey. What was considered a social norm in your great grandparents' time may not be now. What is a social norm now may not be in our great grandchildren's time. We wouldn't want our entire life judged by a single action or decision. We should do the same with our ancestors. We only see snapshots into their lives. Unless we know the whole story, we should keep an open mind.



Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Finding Ancestors with the Federal Voter's Lists

Source: Ancestry.ca




Last post when I was talking about City Directories, I had mentioned about looking at the Federal Voter's Lists for my grandmother's family.

What are the voter's lists? These were directories of all persons eligible to vote, put together by Office of the Electoral Officer for Canada. They were broken down by province or territory, then further broken down alphabetically by electoral district.The federal voter's lists came into being in 1935. Before that municipal voter's lists were used in federal elections.

More rural areas tended to be broken down alphabetically by surname, with their postal address listed after their name. Urban areas were broken down by street address. Every person of voting age was listed at each particular address. Along with their name and address was their occupation. This can come in handy when you are looking at ancestors that tended to reuse the same first names over and over. Ages are not listed on these lists. Knowing that your "John Smith" was a carpenter will come in handy when when trying to figure out which of the 3 John Smiths that lived in that area is the John Smith you're looking for.

Federal Voter's Lists were not compiled on a regular basis. These were only done for election years. There can be a gap as little as 1 year, or as large as 5 years between lists. Publicly available are the following years:

  • 1935
  • 1940
  • 1945
  • 1949
  • 1953
  • 1957
  • 1958
  • 1962
  • 1963
  • 1965
  • 1968
  • 1972
  • 1974
  • 1979
  • 1980


If you are looking for female ancestors, keep in mind that most married women were listed as "Mrs. John Smith" in early directories. For instance, my grandmother Marie Anne Mallais was listed as Mrs. Henry Govereau from 1935 until the 1960's. As a sign of the times, in early directories a woman's marital status is listed, sometimes instead of an occupation. She was listed as either "spinster", "married woman" or "widow". Depending on the district, this went on for a lot of years.

As with any record, use variations on your ancestor's name. My French great grandfather Patrice Mallais is listed as Patrick Malley in the 1935 voter's list. As I had mentioned in my post on City Directories, also check under middle names and even nicknames. My great grandfather John Wellington McDonald was Jack McDonald in 1935, John McDonald in 1945, Jack Wellington McDonald in 1949, and back to John McDonald in 1958.

Here's where to find Federal Voter's Lists:


  • Library and Archives Canada has a great overview on the Federal Voter's Lists and how to determine your ancestor's electoral district. They have the lists available on microfilm. By clicking on each year, you will get a chart that lists Province, electoral district, the page numbers for that district and the microfilm number. As well, they also have microfilms for the federal By-election years 1937-1983. See their guide on inter libray loan if you are not able to access onsite.
  • Ancestry has the Federal Voter's Lists from 1935 to 1980, but not the By-election lists. 1935-1974 have been indexed, and the years 1979 and 1980 are browse only. Keep in mind that the indexed years were done by OCR software, not by a human indexing team, This means that there WILL be errors in spelling, as well as gaps on who has been indexed. In my own research, I've found a wife's name appearing on indexes, but not the husband's. I've also found whole segments of a page not showing up at all, so be prepared to have to use the browse function even for the indexed years.
  • Check your local and/or provincial archives. Since the Federal elections depended on municipal voting lists before 1935, many of these are in the custody of that province. Doing a quick search, I found voter's lists available at The Rooms in Newfoundland, BaNQ in Quebec, the Archives of Ontario, the Archives of Manitoba, and the Provincial Archives of Alberta. Check with them for years and areas available, and how to access the records.

One last tip. Keep in mind that the requirements to vote have changed through the years. If your ancestor does not show up at all, it could be because they did not meet the eligibility requirements for that particular year. In the historical background section on Ancestry of their Federal Voter's Lists collection, they said:


 "By 1935, the year of the earliest voting records in this database, the franchise had been extended to both men and women age 21 and over for federal elections in Canada. The last property qualifications were done away with in 1948, and exclusions for Inuit and Indians living on reserves were eliminated in 1950 and 1960. In 1970, the voting age was lowered to 18 and the franchise reserved for Canadian citizens, though some British subjects retained their right to vote until 1975."

For a more complete history of the vote in Canada take a look at Election Canada's website and at the Canadian Encyclopedia's page "Right to Vote in Canada".