Thursday, 20 July 2017

Focus on an Archive: Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, NWT

On my recent trip to the Northwest Territories, I made sure I made a visit to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (PWNHC). I'm very lucky in that my significant other is a history buff like me. He was all for taking a look with me. We made a point of planning our trip in such a way that we would be able to have lots of time to spend there.

Built in 1979, it is the Territorial Government's archive and museum.Now, unlike some of the Government Archives around the country, the PWNHC does not hold those usual records that we as genealogists crave, such as BMD's and land records. The reason for this is that these records are just too new to be publicly available. They are still held in the custody of the particular government department they belong to. Older records that don't fall under privacy legislation are most likely held in the Archives in the Prairie Provinces, all of which used to be part of the Northwest Territories.

The PWNHC instead focuses on a general history of the Territories. They do have some government records that relate more to the running of the Territory. They also have private collections of records from both individuals and businesses. There's an extensive photo collection, audio and visual files, and maps. You can also take a look at their collection of publications on the history of the Territory. For a more detailed explanation of their holdings, you can check their website here.

The jewel in the crown though is the museum. We spent a long time going through the building. I was very impressed with how interactive all the displays were. They have dioramas of all the various arctic animals. In front of each animal was a information stand, with statistics on the animal's size, habitat, etc. Many of them had pelts attached that you could touch. In a glass case beside each diorama were example of all the products that were made from that animal and tools. At the bottom of each case was the name of the animal in English, French, and several of the indigenous languages. You can also listen to audio files, some with elders talking about their experiences

There are also displays telling the history of the many different Native groups, and a general history of the Northwest Territories. There are displays of clothing, furniture, and an absolutely huge mooseskin boat. I learned a great deal in just a couple of hours.

Along with their permanent displays, the PWNHC have travelling exhibits available for NWT communities to display. They also have virtual exhibits online here.

The museum is open daily from 1030 a.m.-5 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. There's a cafe onsite that is open the same hours. The archive is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m.-12 noon and 1 p.m. to 430 p.m. If you have mobility problems, both levels are designed to accommodate.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

I'm on holidays!

Just a heads up that there will be no regular weekly blog post this week. I am in beautiful British Columbia at the moment, and will be leaving for a road trip today to the Northwest Territories. Internet and cell service will be sketchy. But rest assured I will be back next week!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

What's in a Name? A Look at Naming Patterns

Our ancestors seemed to have loved reusing names. For us, many many years later, it can be enough to yank your hair out to have discovered that you've traced back to yet another John, James, Mary, or Margaret. Middle names become very important. My own two middle names are from one paternal great grandmother, and one maternal great grandmother.

If you have a strong heritage to a particular country, your family may have followed a long standing naming tradition for first names. On the surface it may seem frustrating, but there are some great clues in these traditions that can help you establish another generation back.

French Canadian Naming Patterns
These can be confusing, without throwing in "dit" names. That's a whole blog post in itself. Usually a child would have three names

  • First name: Joseph or Marie, depending on the sex of the child
  • Second name: name of Godfather or Godmother, depending on the sex of the child
  • Third name: the name they were generally known by
On my maternal side, this has occurred right up until my mother's generation. The only deviation in my mom and her siblings is that there were only two names. It is their middle name that they go by. 

Scottish Naming Patterns
According to FindMyPast's blog post, they were actually two different traditional naming patterns people followed. They caution that not everyone used the naming traditions.

The first pattern for boys was:

  • First son: father's father
  • Second son: mother's father
  • Third son: father
  • Fourth son: father's eldest brother, or father's paternal grandfather
  • Fifth son: mother's eldest brother, or mother's paternal grandfather
For girls:
  • First daughter: mother's mother
  • Second daughter: father's mother
  • Third daughter: mother
  • Fourth daughter: mother's eldest sister, or mother's maternal grandmother
  • Fifth daughter: named after father's eldest sister, or father's maternal grandmother
See the link above for details on the second naming tradition.

English and Irish Naming Patterns
The traditional naming pattern of England is very similar to the Scottish. 

  • First son: father's father
  • Second son: mother's father
  • Third son: father
  • Fourth son: father's eldest brother
  • Fifth son: father's second eldest brother, or mother's eldest brother
  • First daughter: mother's mother
  • Second daughter: father's mother
  • Third daughter: mother
  • Fourth daughter: mother's eldest sister
  • Fifth daughter: mother's second eldest sister, or father's eldest sister
The British also tended to use maiden names as middle names. This can be extremely helpful with tracing your female ancestors. I once had a friend ask me to find out where the middle name "Steel" came from in her family line. It was a long standing tradition to give the first born son this as a middle name. It turned out it was the maiden name of her 3x great grandmother. It had traveled down through 5 generations of sons as a middle name. 

German Naming Patterns
Similar to French Canadians, Germans traditionally used a religious name first, and the name they went by was second. In my Lunenburg ancestors, I have a lot of "Johann" and "Anna" as first names. For the commonly used name, they usually followed the following pattern:

For boys:
  • First son: father's father
  • Second son: mother's father
  • Third son: father
  • Fourth son: father's paternal grandfather
  • Fifth son: mother's paternal grandfather
  • Sixth son: father's maternal grandfather
  • Seventh son: mother's maternal grandfather
For girls:
  • First daughter: mother's mother
  • Second daughter: father's mother
  • Third daughter: mother
  • Fourth daughter: father's paternal grandmother
  • Fifth daughter: mother's paternal grandmother
  • Sixth daughter: father's maternal grandmother
  • Seventh daughter: mother's maternal grandmother
Ukranian Naming Patterns
The Canadian West in particular has strong Ukranian roots. A traditional Ukranian name would follow the following:

For boys:
  • First name: name they are called by
  • Middle name: (father's name) with the suffix "ovych" or "yovych"
For girls:
  • First name: name they are called by
  • Middle name: (father's name) with the suffix "ivna" or "yivna" 
So if the father's name was Ivan, then the son's middle name would be "Ivanovich". His daughter's middle name would be "Ivanivna".

Now keep in mind that not everyone stuck to ethnic naming patterns. Some families tended to have their own unique versions. I've seen traditions where a son's middle name was a father's first name. But if you're lucky enough to see a pattern develop, it can give you some great clues on getting another generation back.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

My Canada 150 Ancestors



Patricia Greber at My Genealogy Life has challenged Canadian bloggers to list their ancestors who were here in 1867, our country's year of Confederation. We are supposed to list our ancestor, their year of arrival and where they settled. Now, my ancestral lines that were here in 1867 actually came in the 1600's and 1700's. Because of this, those alive in 1867 were born here. I'm also only going to concentrate on my direct line ancestors, because otherwise it would be next Canada Day before I was able to finish listing them all! Here's my list of ancestors confirmed alive in 1867:

Name                                                 Born                                  Where they were in 1867

James Edward Johnson  Jr.               1864                                   Halifax County NS

James Edward Johnson Sr.               1841                                   Halifax County NS

Jacob Johnson                                   1792                                   Halifax County NS

Catherine Boutilier                            1811                                   Halifax County NS

Deborah Covey                                 1844                                   Halifax County NS

John Covey                                       abt. 1814                             Halifax County NS

Maria Anna Hubly                            abt. 1811                             Halifax County NS

Anna Maria Kohler                          1774                                     Halifax County NS

William J Boutilier                           1834                                    Halifax County NS

Martha Eisenhauer                           1840                                     Halifax County NS

Micheal Eisenhauer                         1803                                     Halifax County NS

Sophia Lantz                                    1812                                     Halifax County NS

Johann Jacob Lantz                          1787                                     Lunenburg NS

Regina Magdelene Ernst                  1785                                     Lunenburg NS

Mary Govereau                                1855                                  Northumberland Cnty NB

Honore Govereau  (aka Germain Deneau) 1812                    Northumberland County NB

Appoline Savoie                              abt. 1823                        Northumberland County NB

Helene Breau                                   abt 1790                         Northumberland County NB

Jean Julian Mallais                          1847                                      Gloucester County NB

Joseph Jules Mallais                        1818                                      Gloucester County NB

Marie Aylward                                 1822                                      Gloucester County NB

Marie Victorine Ferguson                1846                                      Gloucester County NB

Francois David Ferguson                 1811                                      Gloucester County NB

Jean McLaughlin                             abt 1857                                 Gloucester County NB

Jacques James McLaughlin             1821                                       Gloucester County NB

Jean McLaughlin                             1795                                       Gloucester County NB

Isabelle Saulnier                               abt 1790                                Gloucester County NB

Elizabeth Robinson                          1824                                      Gloucester County NB

Mary Louise Elizabeth Fournier      abt. 1858                                Gloucester County NB

Guillaume Fournier                          1832                                       Gloucester County NB

Marie Anne Brideau                        1829                                       Gloucester County NB

Louis Brideau                                  1799                                       Gloucester County NB

Josephette McLaughlin                   1802                                        Gloucester County NB

I hope next year to possibly add in my Douglas line. My great grandfather James Henry Douglas was born after Confederation. There's conflicting evidence on his birth. Some documents say Ontario, while others say England.

You may have noticed no McDonald names in the list. This ironically is my biggest brick wall line. My great grandfather was born about 1894 in Ontario. His parents were John Angus McDonald and Mildred Murphy. He states on his marriage certificate from 1956 (he and my great grandmother were together for over 30 years before they got married) that his parents were born in Ireland. I have not found a birth for John Wellington, or any records on John Angus or Mildred.

Was your family here in 1867? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Library and Archives Canada Microfilms on Heritage Website

One of the problems when you don't live close to the LAC is that making a trip there to see items they haven't digitized on their site difficult. For many of us, it's not going to be a day trip. What is little advertised though is that some of the microfilms are digitized on the website Canadiana in their Heritage collection. I stumbled onto this just recently. Then a couple of days later, it came up in a Canadian genealogy chat session I was logged onto. It's like the universe was telling me to write about it.

The past couple of weeks I was looking into home children records for a friend on Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Way down near the bottom of the page describing their collection of Home Children records, it explained under accessing and obtaining copies that certain microfilms have been digitized on the Heritage website.

Now I haven't used Heritage very much before. I find it very difficult to use, and there are no instructions on the site to help you. For example, if you type in "Home children" into the search box, there are 446 results. The results have rather ambiguous names like [Governor General] numbered files T-1482 or Canadian Lutheran World Relief Fonds. Also, nothing is indexed, so you will have to wade through the images on each microfilm. [Governor General] numbered files T-1482 has 2086 images. Canadian Lutheran World Relief Fonds has 22 reels. I didn't click on all of them to see how many images, but the ones I did ranged from 800- 1300 for each reel. Now, sometimes we have to do a lot of browsing in genealogy to find the one little bit of information, but this borders on insanity. But I recently learned that if you search by microfilm number, you can find out so much information, without making you want to beat your head against a wall.

What you want to take note of in the search results on LAC is the microfilm number. Here's a screen shot of the home child I was looking into:


Now, if you look at the comments section, it says to "See also reel T-528 (manifest index) and RG76, Central Registry Files, volume 64, file 3081, part 1, reel C-4732". Ok, so I went over to Heritage and put "T-528" in the search box. First result that comes up is Index to Passengers Lists, 1900-1908: T-528. After clicking on that, I was taken to image 1 of the reel.

By going to image 2, I find out it starts with ships that arrived in July of 1907. Since I know from the screenshot above he arrived 2 August 1907, I started jumping ahead in the images by using the drop down menu in the top left. I then found him on image 360 in the middle of the page.

So then went back to the main screen and typed in the second microfilm mentioned in the comments section "C-4732". Once I got the results and clicked on Immigration Program : Headquarters Central Registry Files : C-4732, I then did the same thing I did with the first roll I looked at. From the LAC information, I knew I was looking for Volume 64, File 3081, part 1. So I  jumped back and forth through the images, At the bottom of the page it shows the file number and part. When I got to file 3081 part 1, I soon realized it was in chronological order. So I was able to keep flipping forward until I came to what I was looking for. Not only did I find a manifest with his name, but a copy of a medical certificate with the name of the doctor who gave 73 children a clean bill of health to travel (Wilfred is listed on the next page):


I also found a letter stating that Mr. Merry, the man who brought Wilfred's group over, was paid 2 dollars per child. While I found it interesting, I also found it sad.

Now, not all home children microfilms are on here. I also put a microfilm reel for one of my own home children "Dugal Herd" in the search box, and it wasn't in the Heritage Collection.

You can also find microfilm reels from other collections on here. I randomly started going through different LAC collections and typing in microfilm numbers that I found. Here's the collections that I found microfilms on Heritage. Take note that I didn't try every microfilm listed in the collections below, just a few from each one:

  • Land Grants of Western Canada, 1870-1930
  • Placide Gaudet Fonds (Acadian Research)
  • Sir Frederick Haldimand Papers (Loyalist Research)
  • Vladimir Julian Kaye fonds (Ukranian Research)
  • Report on deportation of Germans from South Africa C-10596
  • Deportation of insane person 1925-1930 C-7843

As you can see from my sampling above, you can find microfilm reels from many different categories. I also found many where the microfilm wasn't there. So play around with it. The lack of search capabilities on the microfilm reel itself is a bit tedious. But, if making a trip to LAC is not in the cards for you, a little tedium at your computer screen is worth it.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

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


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

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.

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


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

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

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.

Update June 25: Look to the comments section below for the comment from Yithio. Divorce files up to 1985 are at the AO. And, as I suspected in my section on the Central Registry in Part 2, privacy laws dictate that only those involved in the divorce proceedings can use this resource.

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


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.

Update June 25: I received a comment from Yithio in Part 3 of the series that confirmed my suspicion that only those involved in the divorce proceedings can use this resource.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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


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


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".

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Getting Lost in City Directories

This post is a little later in the week than normal. That's because I finally broke a major brick wall in my family history research by using city directories.

I took a day trip to the Archives of Ontario on April 19th with members of the Kawartha Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. My purpose was to look at the Toronto City Directories on microfilm to track my great grandparents John W McDonald and Edna Johnson. On a whim I decided to try and look for my grandmother Madelynn Douglas' family. I never met my grandmother, and the only information I had on her was that she had a brother Marshall and a sister Irene. I did not know her parents' names, or even a date of birth. Well, by looking at the directory for 1948 I found her! I took note of the address (600 Roselawn Avenue) and then looked through the rest of the Douglas names in the directory. I found the following people also at that address:

Jas H Douglas
Lawrence J Douglas
Marshall Douglas

By looking at other years I was also able to find an Irene Douglas living at this address as well. Using the information I gleaned from the directories, I've managed to find and track the family through the voter's lists on Ancestry back to 1935. I've determined that James H Douglas and his wife Mary are my great grandparents. Lawrence and Irene are of voting age in the early 1940's, which means they are over 21 (the voting age at the time). This means that they were born before 1921. I managed to find a Douglas family in Toronto in the 1921 census that has a Lawrence and Irene listed as children. They are at a different address than 600 Roselawn. Thanks to inter library loan between the AO and my local library, I've been bringing in a few years of city directories microfilms at a time to track the family back from 1935 to 1921, to try and determine if the 1921 family belongs to me.

If you haven't looked at city directories, then you are missing out. I can't believe I didn't think to go this route before for my Douglas family. They contain a wealth of information on an individual:

  • occupation
  • place of employment
  • home address
  • whether they owned or rented their home
  • others living with them
  • In the Toronto directories I looked at for the WWII years, those in active service had "act ser" next to their names. This gives you another avenue of research for your ancestor. 
The directories are usually broken up into 3 sections. There will be a business directory, a surname directory, and the last is a street directory. The street directory is helpful for you to see who your ancestor's neighbours are, and how the neighbourhood looked. Was there a church close by? Perhaps they worshiped there. Who's their next door neighbour? Perhaps that person was a witness to a marriage or baptism.

In the beginning of the directory are all kinds on information about the area. You can see names and addresses of churches, commuity groups, and government institutions. If your ancestor held public office, then they'll be listed in the front pages. You can lose yourself looking at ads for area businesses. There's also usually statistical data about the area. For instance, in the 1926 Toronto directory:
  • The population of Toronto proper was 650, 055. The surrounding suburbs' population was 95,181. 
  • In 1925 The Toronto Hydro Electric system served 143, 648 customers
  • There were 333 churches
  • There were 167 schools
  • 60% of the population were home owners

I've compiled a list of places to look for city directories:

General Sites

  • Internet Archive has many city directories in their database. These are free to view and free to download. You can download either the whole directory, or just a page by right clicking on the image of the page, and saving as a picture. In the search box, use the key words "City directories" and the name of the area you are looking for to see if it has been uploaded to the site.
  • Ancestry has a database called Canada, City and Area Directories, 1819-1906. They cover various cities across Canada. 
  • Check the local library of the area you are researching. Many libraries have collections of directories, either originals or on microfilm. If you live in a bigger city, check to see if your local library has other cities on microfilm. For instance, the Toronto Public Library system has directories for British Columbia and Quebec as well. 
  • Our Roots have digital images of city directories among their many local histories. Use their search function to see what's available. 
  • Library and Archives Canada has directories from different parts across the country. They come in print, microfilm , and digital forms.
  • FamilySearch has many directories available on microfilm. Check out the wiki for what they have and microfilm numbers.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Prince Edward Island

  • The Island Register has a great chart listing various directories and where to find them. Some have been transcribed on their site.
  • The University of Prince Edward Island's Robertson Library has some city directories in their holdings. They can only be viewed onsite.

Nova Scotia
  • Nova Scotia Archives has the 1907-1908 directory online. Onsite, they have both print and microfilm of various years. Contact the Archives for availability.
  • City of Halifax Archives has directories in their holdings for both Halifax and Dartmouth.
New Brunswick
  • BAnQ has city directories for both Quebec City and Montreal. They cove various years from 1822-2010, and are available online.
  • Don's List has various Montreal directories online. You should also take a look at the Ottawa directories they have. The Ottawa directories also include Hull.
  • The Archives of Ontario has not only Toronto directories on microfilm. They have city and county directories from all over the province, going back to the 1800's. As I mentioned above, they do inter library loan if you aren't able to look at them onsite.
  • Queen's University has some directories in their holdings. Contact them for rules of access.
British Columbia
The Territories

A few final reminders when researching city directories:
  • Always read the front few pages to see who's been included. For instance, in the 1926 Toronto directory, these people weren't included:
  1. Maids, domestic servants, and employed young girls under the age of 18
  2. Married women and female relatives over 18 that are unemployed
  3. Young girls living at home and not employed
  4. Students in all levels of schooling, including colleges and universities
  5. Office and messenger boys, and boys working in factories under 18 years of age
  6. Children under school age
  7. Inmates of hospitals, asylums, convents, orphan's homes, and institutions
  8. "Foreigners" from China, Russia, Balkans, and Central Europe. 
  9. Transients living in hotels, boarding houses, and rooming houses
  • Also check for the index to abbreviations. Checking this can save you a lot of grief trying to figure out what that occupation is supposed to be, or what an asterisk beside their name means.
  • Due to printing deadlines, the information may not be the most current. If your ancestor moved to the area in 1921, then they may not show up until 1922.
  • A lot of directories have an "Addendum". This is an alphabetical list of people and businesses that were added too late to be inserted into the regular directory. 
  • As with census records, check variations for your ancestor's name. In my recent research, Madelynn Douglas was listed as "Madeline". Also check under middle names. Through researching voter's lists later, I realized that though Madelynn's brother was listed as "Marshall Douglas" in city directories, in voter's lists he is "George M Douglas". Even her father switched between "James H" and "Henry J"in the directories.

Well, back down the rabbit hole for me. I have more searching to do in directories.....

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Religious Records Part 7 - The Territories

To wrap up the series on religious records, we are in this post looking at the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia entry on the Yukon, 50 percent of the people had no religious affiliation, 46 percent claimed Christian denominations, and 1 percent claimed Native spirituality. There was nothing else listed for the remaining 3 percent. There is a a rather interesting 1990 paper prepared for the Yukon Government on the history of the church in the Yukon. The link to it is here.

The Yukon Archives does have some church records in their holdings. I typed "church records" in the archival descriptions database and got several hits. The collections I clicked on did not have much in the way of actual baptisms, marriages and burials. But, there were photographs, session minutes and journals, among other things in the fonds. They are worth taking a look at too. You never know if your ancestor will be named somewhere, or if you might get lucky and find a photograph.

They have also compiled a pdf of researching genealogy at their Archives. It's 90 pages long but an incredible source of information for them. The link to the pdf is here. The religious records section is on page 25.

The Yukon GenWeb has contact information on their website for Catholic and Anglican church Archives.

The Dawson City Museum does have some church records in their holdings. The link list their collections. Though none state church records specifically, if you click on the each fond, you will find descriptions of each individual collection. I went through and there are three or four collections that include church related records.

Northwest Territories
According to the Wikipedia page, in 2001 most residents identified themselves as Catholic. The protestant sects were the next largest, and 17 percent stated no religious affiliation. The Virtual Museum has a good overview of the missionary work in the North.

Because the Northwest Territories once included parts of many of the provinces, you may have to look at these provinces to find the records you are looking for. As far as the current boundaries of NWT, there is not much available outside of the Church Archives themselves.

The FamilySearch wiki has contact information for the United and Presbyterian Church Archives that pertain to the Northwest Territories.

The Northwest Territories Public Library has some reference guides available to help you search for records for this area. By enetering "church records" into their online search, I got seven hits, all guides and indexes.

The Hudson's Bay Archives (through the Archives of Manitoba) has a couple of collections related to church records here.

According the the New World Encyclopedia, the majority of residents are Anglican, Catholic,  and "Born again Christianity". As with Yukon and the Northwest Territories, there is a history of missionary work here. Click on the link above in the Northwest Territories section for an overview.

Nunavut is a new area, being established in 1999. Before this it was a part of the Northwest Territories, so you will most likely find what you need by looking at NWT genealogy resources.