Saturday, 17 March 2018

Immigrant Ancestors: The Canadian Naturalization Records

Immigration records can be tough. There are so many variables to consider. What country did they come from? When did they come? How old were they when they came? What port would they have come through?

If your ancestor came from a country outside the British Commonwealth, you do have one avenue open to you to help answer some of those questions. Library Archives Canada has digitized lists of citizens naturalized 1915-1951. Before we get to the lists, here's a bit of background information.

The Canadian policy on immigration has evolved over the years. The "open-door" policy of the 19th century evolved into stringent requirements which at specific time periods restricted immigration based on ethnicity. This again evolved into less emphasis on ethnicity and more on the skills and education of the prospective immigrant. From 1971 to now, Canada's official policy has circled back to the attitude of the 19th century, with an emphasis on multiculturalism. You can see a more complete timeline of Canada's immigration guidelines on the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21's website here,

The Immigration Act of 1914 brought stringent regulations on who could apply for naturalization:

  • Must have been a resident of Canada for 5 years
  • Must have knowledge of French or English
  • Must show "good moral character"

Each year from 1919 to 1951, the government published annual lists of naturalized citizens in either the Sessional Papers or the Canada Gazette. The year 1919 shows lists that go back to 1915. Library and Archives Canada has these lists digitized online here. There are two sets in the collection.

Search Database by Name, 1915-1946
This set has been indexed by Surname, Given Name and Country. I decided to use "Zwicker" a non Commonwealth surname from my own tree. My Zwickers came in the 1700's, as part of the Lunenburg settlers, so I did not expect to find anyone directly related to me. I got 4 results:

I clicked on the last one, Yetta Zwicker/Herscovitch. Here's what came up when I clicked on the PDF of the page:

From looking at the page we now know:
  • She also used the surname Herscovitch as some point. A maiden name perhaps?
  • She was the wife of Morris Zwicker, who came from Austria
  • She was naturalized In July 1941
  • The certificate is dated August 5 1941
  • Morris was a tailor that lived in Montreal, Que
  • The record number is 32594E. Looking at the top of the page, series "E" certificates are given to people naturalized before the Immigration Act.
The main page of the LAC collection says that women were usually naturalized under their husbands application. If they decided to apply on their own afterward, they sometimes showed up under series E certificates. This would lead us to believe that Yetta was previously naturalized through her husband before 1941, and then applied in her own name afterwards.

Search Database by Date, 1947-1951
The second set of records have not been indexed for individual entries. I used the year 1950. Typing in a year will then give you a PDF for each month. I clicked on March, and got several other PDF options, as each one is a page for that particular month. The people are listed alphabetically, so you'll have to look at a few to get to the letter you need. The page I selected had surnames starting with M, N, and O. Looking at the top of the N surnames, I looked at the listing for Fukuji Nakamoto:

Fukuji was naturalized in March 1950. His certificate was dated March 24 1950. He was a cook in Grand Forks, BC, and was previously a Japanese citizen. His record number is 62643A. We know from the main page of the collection that A certificates were granted to "Aliens". 

How to Obtain the Records
Now these lists have some good information, but the actual application can tell you more. The applications are not online, but you can obtain copies.

First you will need to fill out an Access to Information Request Form, which you can find here. The request will cost you $5.00, in cheque made out to to the Receiver General of Canada. Only a Canadian citizen or resident can apply. If you are not one, LAC does provide a list of freelance researchers who can make the request on your behalf here. Please keep in mind that you may have to pay an additional amount to the researcher for their work on your behalf.

If the person whose records you are requesting is still alive, you need their written consent. If they are deceased, you will have to supply proof of death. Keep in mind that they have to have been deceased for at least 20 years. This can be a copy of a death registration, a newspaper obitutary, or a picture of a headstone with name and date of death. The only exception to supplying either of these is if the person' birth date is over 110 years ago.

Make sure that in your request you give at least the following information on your immigrant ancestor:

  • Surname
  • Given name
  • Date of Birth
  • Place of Birth
  • Number of the Naturalization certificate. Make sure to include the series letter as well. Also indicate if the record is in French. The digitized lists will tell you if this is the case.
  • State that you would like copies of the original records

Applications and supporting documents must be mailed to

Citizen and Immigration Canada'
Access to Information and Privacy Division
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Ontario Ancestors: Happy Birthday Toronto!

This week marked Toronto's 184th birthday. Known as "Toronto the Good" in world wide circles, the rest of Canada tends to have a love/hate relationship with our largest city. I myself was born in Toronto, and lived there until my early teens, Though it's been many years since I lived there, I still have close ties to it. My paternal side has ties to Toronto for at least 4 generations.

In honour of Toronto's birthday, this week's post highlights some Toronto genealogy resources. But first a little history.

There has been archaeological evidence that settlement here goes back to the First Nations over 1,000 years ago. The name Toronto itself has evolved from an a Mohawk word, "tkaronto", which means "where the trees are standing in the water".

Europeans first started inhabiting the area in the 1600's and 1700's, when fur traders started setting up posts. It wasn't until 1793, when John Graves Simcoe established York, that the first permanent European settlement was established. He established the naval base and garrison to keep an eye on the boundary between the province of Upper Canada and the new United States.

York was burned twice by the Americans during the War of 1812. Fort York, which still stands in the heart of Toronto, is a National Historic site.

Toronto as a city was incorporated in 1834. Through the 1800's and the first half of the 20th century, Toronto grew larger. It's location made it a gateway to both Western and Northern Ontario. As a result, it became both a financial and industrial powerhouse. By 1967, Toronto consisted of the city of Toronto, and the five boroughs of Scarborough, Etobicoke, York, North York, and East York. Each of the six areas had their own municipal governments. In 1998, it became the megacity of Toronto, and the six separate municipal governments became one.

Today the Greater Toronto Area consists of Toronto and four surrounding regions: Halton, Peel, Durham and York. According to 2016 statistics, it has a population of over 6 million. Doesn't seem like a lot compared to cities in other countries. But when you realize that the newly incorporated city of Toronto in 1834 had only 9,000 people, you see just how fast it grew in less than 200 years.

If you'd like to see a more compete timeline of the city, check out these pages:

Now for the genealogy.

One of my goals the next time I get to Toronto is to visit the City of Toronto Archives. According to their website they have

  • Over 1 million photographs
  • Maps
  • City Directories
  • Assessment Rolls
  • Council Proceedings
  • Bylaws
  • Building Permits
  • Government Records
  • Non-Government Records
The search function of their holdings is fairly user friendly. They do have a very small amount of their collections online. There are some web exhibits, links to municipal sites, and some digitized photos. My absolute favourite though, is their collection of maps. In particular is the collection of fire insurance maps. The collection has the years 1880, 1884, 1890, 1894, 1899, 1903, 1913, and 1924. These maps are invaluable if you're trying to find a street that no longer exists. I ran into this problem myself, trying to track my great grandfather John Wellington McDonald. According to the 1932 Canada's Voter's Lists, he was living with my great mother and their children on Angus Place. That street no longer exists. By using the major streets around it, I was finally able to find it on the 1924 Insurance map. It was a small alley that is today a courtyard behind some apartment buildings. 

This very active branch of the OGS has a great website. The link above takes you their page on both online and offline research resources

If you can get to a branch, there are some great resources available. The link above will take you to their research guides on BMDs, British and Irish Genealogy, the Humber River area, and more. They also give free access to their Ancestry Library Edition. The Toronto Reference Library is part of this library system. 

Toronto Star's Pages of the Past and The Globe Archives
Many local libraries in Ontario offer access to these through ProQuest. Digitized editions going back to the 1800's are available. Some libraries even offer access through their own websites. Just enter in your library card number and you're good to go from the comfort of home.

Their website has some great tips and links to help you discover your Toronto Jewish ancestors. They also have contact lists to put in touch with researchers and translators.

Toronto Island Community
A web page devoted to genealogy and the history of the Toronto islands. 

The Toronto branch of the OGS worked in conjunction with FamilySearch to have the registers of the Toronto Trust Cemeteries digitized and indexed. You can read an earlier blog post I did on them here.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

British Columbia Ancestors: Victoria Police Department Charge Books

Some people get embarrassed when they find out there's an ancestor who has a criminal connection. Genealogists, on the other hand, tend to have the opposite reaction. We look at "black sheep" ancestors with delight, knowing there's a good story in there.

This week I found out about a great resource through social media. Gail Dever's Genealogy a la Carte had a post about Winnipeg Police Museum digitizing mug shots. She had posted a link to her blog post on her Genealogy a la Carte Facebook group. A lady named Bev had commented that the University of Victoria Libraries website had digitized the Victoria Police Department Charge Books.

This interesting collection was a collaboration between the Victoria Genealogical Society, the Victoria Police Historical Society, and the University of Victoria. There are 10 books from the Victoria Police Department in all:

  • Charge Book April- November 1875
  • Charge Book April 1873- August 1874
  • Charge Book April 1873 November 1874
  • Charge Book August 1874- June 1876
  • Charge Book December 1874- November 1876
  • Charge Book June 1875- October 1876
  • Complaint Report Book August 1911- September 1912 
  • Mugshot Book 01 1897-1904
  • Mugshot Book 02 1900's
  • Mugshot book 03 1898-1904

It is not indexed as of yet, but you can browse the collection. The link to the collection is just under the title at the top of the page:

Down near the bottom of the page, there is a warning that some may be offended by the terminology used in these charge books. They advise to keep in mind that when these books were filled out, the "attitudes and social norms" of this time period were different than today's. Anyone who has researched genealogy for some time is used to this. However, someone new to genealogy may not be accustomed to having government records using terms that we now find offensive. I remember how shocked I was the first time I saw the column "Infirm/Insane/Idiot" on a census record. I've seen worse in documents since then, and it no longer fazes me.

Charge Books
Clicking a particular charge book will let you browse its contents page by page. These books appear to be all handwritten, so you will have to use some paleography skills here. My suggestion is to look at all the entries of a page if you're stuck on a word. Sometimes by looking at how the person wrote "N", "n","r", "g", "y", etc. in other entries will help you to figure out what that hard to read word is.

Of the books I looked at, "drunk and disorderly" seems to be epidemic at the time. Some of the books also had notations about what happened after the person was arrested. Here's an extract of an entry from 6 April 1873:

April 6th: Thomas Sweeney, arrested by Constable Clarke and charged by Mr. Saunders
with stealing a cheese from his Store, of the value of $2. and upward.
                 Property .35 cts. Sheath knife & Pocket knife.          Horace A. Lafridge

          7th: Remanded for one day

          8th: Remanded for one week

In other entries I saw that there was mention of fines, bail, and discharge dates. I even saw an arrest for a "Debtor's Prisoner" by the name of Ah Chu. His bail was set at $142.50. Quite the sum of money back then.

Here's another entry from the same book:

Micheal Kaghan Pt. R. M. of H.M.S. "Yenedos" charged by Inspector Bowden, with being a Straggler from that Ship.    Horace A Lafridge
Ordered to be given over to his ship.

Complaint-Report Book
This is a book that records all calls to the Police Station. So, you might might find your ancestor in here calling the police, as opposed to being arrested by them. Some of the pages are handwritten, and some are typed. There's people calling about the usual theft, injured persons, and domestic disturbances. There's also some amusing ones. Here's an entry from 14 August 1911:

Mr. Morley of Porters Cabins reports that there is four men living in a cabin at Porters Cabins and who he believes are bad characters as they keep very late hours and do a great deal of drinking in their cabin and it is impossible for him to get any sleep on account of the noise that these men make.

Here's another one from 19 September 1911:

Mrs. Conder 1011 Collingson St telephoned that the Sidewalk near her house is blocked with lumber and the Street is all torn up and she is Unable to get in or out of the house and she wished the Police to get the lumber removed from the sidewalk. H.N. Sheppard

Anyone who has watched COPS (yes, I am revealing my age here), or Live PD can attest to the fact that community policing doesn't seem to have changed in the last hundred years on the types of calls they get!

Mugshot Book
If you love old pictures, as I do, you'll enjoy looking through these. Some have quite detailed information with the picture, while others have just a name. Mr. Harry Jensen had this written about him:

 "Arrested Oct 5 '95 charged passing counterfeit money committed for trial, and aquitted by the G Jury. was again arrested at the instance of P. Police charged housebreaking at Alberni by cons Moriat & McDonald. sentence of 6 months H.L.  at Nanaimo B.C. Again arrested by Cons Seeley of the P.P. on the West Coast on the 12 of April 97. charged with being in possession on liquor etc stolen from S. Clay's saloon Johnson St. also charged with stealing a Boat belonging to Mr. Turpel sentenced to 18 M. H.L. in both cases to run concurrently. Was again arrested by Cons McDonald on 31st July 97 charged with Breaking Gaol. Sentenced 6 M. H.L. Died whilst serving the latter sentence."

Sadly I saw a lot of pictures of children. The majority of pictures were of men, but there are some of women as well. The biggest difference I saw in these from the mug shots of today is the clothing. All the women I saw had big hats worthy of a trip to Buckingham Palace. Even some of the men had quite dapper looking hats and suits on.

On the main screen of the Collection, down near the bottom are links to other digitized collections the University of Victoria Libraries was involved in. The only two that seem to still work are good ones:

Thank you to Bev for pointing out this resource!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

New Brunswick Ancestors: The Genealogical Files of Mgr Robichaud

If you have north eastern New Brunswick ancestors, as I do, then you'll want to check out the Mgr Donat Robichaud Genealogical and Historical Research Collection at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. This collection is the product of many years work.

Monseigneur Robichaud was a Catholic Priest who was born in Shippegan, New Brunswick 24 October 1924. His main genealogical focus was the north east area of New Brunswick. He authored many books, helped found the Societe historique Nicholas-Denys, and was a active member of it until his death on 8 August 2009.

His collection at the Archives contains two databases: the Genealogical Files, and the L'Evangeline Database. What is impressive about this collection is the fact that the research was done long before we have the online tools we have today. He did it "the old fashioned way".

Genealogical Files
According to the Introduction, this section is a compilation of more than 3,000 pages of research on the families of this area of New Brunswick. It is also one of the best sourced collections I've ever seen. Among the source citations are churches, newspapers, wills, and deeds. Mgr Robichaud scoured several Archives of all kinds to find any documentation he could on these families. The collection is sorted alphabetically by surname. As you can see below, each set of PDF pages are grouped by letter. Though some of the entries are in English, the majority is in French. Copy and pasting into Google Translate can give you a pretty good translation of the entry. The basic setup for each surname is first some notations of the family surname as a whole. Then it lists first names in the family alphabetically, and lists all documentation relating to that person.

The nice thing about PDF files is that by pressing the F3 button, you should get a search box up in the top right. You can also press and hold the Ctrl button and press F. Type in your surname and it should take you to the right spot. My Grannie was Marie Anne MALLAIS. The MALLAIS, or MALLET, family were one of the founding families of the Shippegan area. I went to the PDF for the letters M to O, and searched for Mallais. Information on the Mallet/Mallais family starts on page 11 and goes to page 45! Here is what is listed for Jean MALLAIS, the "founding father" of the name in Shippegan:

Just look at the variety of sources and how well they are cited. Not all people listed will have as in depth a timeline, of course. But this is just an example of Mgr Robichaud's work. If your family surname from the area was not French, don't despair. There are many Anglo surnames in the collection as well.

L'Evangeline Database
This database consists of short summaries of articles from the newspaper L'Evangeline, and cover the years 1887-1957. In the explanation of the database, the PANB states that to see the orginal of the article, they are "...available on microfilm at a number of provincial institutions (libraries and archives)...". They also state that a search of Google's Newspaper Archives may get you results. Each summary has the date of the newspaper and the page the original article is found on.

You can search the database by People, by Place, or by Subject. As far as I could see, the summaries are all in French, which makes sense, as L'Evangeline is a French newspaper. Again, Google Translate will be your friend.

When searching by people, make sure you are looking at name variations. Continuing with the MALLAIS surname, I found these variations in spelling:

  • Maillait
  • Maillet
  • Malais
  • Mallais
  • Mallet
  • Mallette
  • Malley - Don't forget that over the years some French names became Anglicized. My own line of Mallais people have been in various government records as Malley.
remember to do the same when searching by place. Shippegan was listed as Shippagan, Shippagan Gully, and Shippagan, Ile de.

The subject index is a fun one. You can search by a subject, and then further search by a secondary subject. For instance, one of the subjects listed is Acadian. By clicking on the radio button Expand index by including secondary subjects, you can look at about 50 subsections. Included in the subsections are the headings "Grand Pre", Deportation", and several on the "Convention nationale acadienne". 

It's a huge blessing to those of us researching from distance that the PANB was able to gain permission to put Mgr Robichaud's work online. And that the Monseigneur gave it. He was a truly generous man with all his research. Along with these databases, he is also the author of several books and articles. After his death, his body of research was donated to La Societe Historique Nicolas-Denys Inc.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Prince Edward Island Ancestors: The Island Register

If you have Prince Edward Island ancestors, then you need to bookmark The Island Register into your web browser. This site is a go-to site when researching PEI. Mainly transcriptions, it is still none the less a very good resource on tracing your ancestors.

Right on the home page you can see that there are over 4500 documents and over 1161 lineages on this site. For the purposes of this blog post, I'll be going down the sections on the home page. These can also be accessed from the links on the left side bar.

What's New!
The nice thing about this link is that once you've gone through the site a few times, you can then periodically check here for new updates. Scrolling down the page shows that they regularly update their section on death notices.

Featured Articles and Notices
This interesting section gives you links to other pages. It's rather an eclectic mix of Ham Radio, Maps, the history of the telephone on PEI, as well as more traditional genealogy items. There's also a page about rebuilding laptops for PEI children who might otherwise not have one.

PEI Lineages
One of the more popular sections of the site. Sorted alphabetically by surname, these are user submitted lineages. The section does come with a warning that there may be errors. Each lineage comes with the submitter's contact information. This is handy if it's one of your family lines and would like to see documentation, or submit a correction or addition.

Also on the page is a very good tutorial on the concepts of Consanguinity and Age of Majority in genealogical records. The tutorial also gives you a worksheet to help you with your own research along these lines.

The third handy tool here is the family relationship chart to help you figure out how two individuals can be related. Those of us who have had the headache of figuring out which degree of cousin two people are know how handy this chart can be.

Books CD's & More Index
This index can help you find books, CD's, and researchers relating to PEI history and genealogy. The Island Register itself has its own bookstore. Their focus is not only on PEI, but Acadian, Mi'kmaq, UK, and New England genealogy and history. 

Census, Maps, and Related Documents
As the section title says, there are links to historical maps and census here. But there is so much more. You'll also find:

  • Maps: There's maps of the island both as an English possession, as well as when it was the French island of Ile Saint John. It also includes a map of Acadia as a whole, and a Scottish clan map.
  • Census and Census Extracts: A huge sub section. There's not only information relating to Canadian Census years, but it goes back farther than that. Here you can find Acadian Census and Rolls covering various years from 1728-1754. After the Expulsion, you can also look at pre Confederation Censuses. If your ancestor left PEI and settled in a different part of Canada or the United States, you might find them in the extracts that have been done from Census records in those areas.
  • P.E.I. Directories and Atlas Indexes: You can find the Hutchinson's, Lovell's , and MacAlpine's Directories, as well as some historical atlases. There's also a neat chart of PEI directories and when you can find them. You can also find some unique extracts relating to the "Lot" System of land records that is unique to Prince Edward Island.
  • Telephone Directories: They have transcribed names, residences and exchanges from the 1889/1990, 1922,1928, and 1935 telephone books.
  • Rent Rolls: The Rent rolls of the Northern Portion of Lot 23. There's rents listed from the years 1826-1853.
  • Church Records: Indexes and extracts from various churches in PEI. They also have extracts of names of people who died in Murray Harbour. This was taken from the diary of Lauretta (Machon) Brooks. Another link from this page also lists the dates of fires. Beside the date is the structure that burnt. For instance, on 31 July 1931 it says that "Both Hazen Moore and John Robert Bull lost their barns to fire on the same night".
  • Muster Rolls: Muster Rolls from 1784 and 1785 for disbanded, discharged and Loyalist soldiers that arrived in Prince Edward Island.

Noteworthy Documents Index
A hodge podge of interesting transcriptions. 
  • U.K. Records: There's records for Bradworthy Parish, and transcriptions from Scoor Cemetery in Mull. A nest one is a selection of transcribed letters between Prince Edward Islanders and people back in the UK.
  • Miscellaneous P.E.I. Records: Here you can find aids for Islanders who lived in New England. There's also BMD information from newspapers, and information on those employed by the government or in civil services.
  • Parliamentary/Government Records: Records not only of the Lot Proprietors, but a neat one containing mini genealogies of Government members in 1885 and 1887. They even have a transcription of the P.E.I. budgets for 1866 and 1893.
  • Information on P.E.I. Churches: Information on the Methodist and Bible Christian Church in Prince Edward Island.

Our Databases
Some really neat links to databases here.
  • Surname List
  • Postmaster Database
  • Rural Placenames
  • Postal Database
  • Letters and Stamps
  • Bible Database
  • Land Record Database
  • Wills Database
  • Ships Arrivals/Departures

P.E.I. Resources/ Info Pages
Whether your ancestor was Acadian or British, here are links to take you to other sites to help further your research. There's also a link to Lord Selkirk Park, and news about P.E.I. Events.

P.E.I. Ship Information

If your ancestor was involved in the Maritime trade, you'll want to look at this collection of links. Along with passenger lists, there's information on Mariners and Ship Building. There's also information on various ships with a PEI connection. As well, there's a handy glossary of ship terminology.

Other Register Feature Pages
Another big section covering everything and anything. Here'a list of the subsections

  • The P.E.I. Railway/Postal Articles
  • Locating P.E.I. Communities
  • Obituary and Stray Books
  • P.E.I. Scrapbooks and Clippings
  • Cemeteries
  • Miscellany
  • Links to Other Web Resources
Each subsection has enough links to keep you busy for awhile.

Diaries, Family Histories, Memoires, Etc
I found an impressive list of information taken from diaries, journals and day books. There'a also local histories and written memories of people and places. I even saw transcriptions from autograph books.

Services, Guides and Other Helpers
Here are some good reference pages for researching PEI. Maps, Postal information, railway info, and common PEI surnames are a few of the things I found listed. I also saw information for PARO, Family History Centers, and newspaper repositories. If you need a researcher, you can find a list of researchers for hire.

Institutional Links
Another page that's worth the visit. ere are links to various government, institutions, museums, and archives. You can also find links to educational institutions, maps, and even media sites.

Our Main Links Page
Another good one. There's a quick link menu that will take you to another page of links. Here's the subject links:
  • ALTA
  • BC
  • NB
  • NFLD
  • NS
  • NWT
  • ONT
  • PEI
  • MAN
  • QUE
  • SASK
  • YUK
  • Acadian
  • Adoption/Home Children
  • Canada General
  • Canadian Listservers
  • General Resources
  • Home Page Construction
  • Maps
  • Mi'kmaq
  • PEI Newspapers
  • Software and Gene. Programs
  • Funereal Homes

The Island Register Queries Page
Have a query that the users might be able to answer. You can submit queries here, or look through past ones to see if your question has already been asked and answered.

Receive Free Notification
If you would like to sign up for The Island Register's Newsletter, then you can subscribe here. The newsletter gives updates to the site, news items on PEI research, and other little tid bits of interest.

On a final note, the nice thing about the general genealogy community is that we are willing to help others. This site is another great example of genealogists paying it forward. So remember on this or any other free site: If they help with your research, let them know. A lot of work goes into these, and the people who run them deserve a thanks.  

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Newfoundland Ancestors: Newfoundland's Grand Banks

Newfoundland and Labrador can be one of the more challenging provinces to research. Joining Canada in 1949, it is our newest province (Nunavut was created in 1999, but is a Territory). Because of this, you are not going to look at the traditional Census and other government records that we rely on for the rest of Canada.

Thanks to the Newfoundland's Grand Banks website, researching from a distance is a whole lot easier. Run by volunteers, this site has an incredible amount of transcribed information. In an email exchange with Don Tate, I found out that there are over 100,000 files of information, and that the site gets around 1800 visits per day. Even on their home page you can get lost with all the links to the individual databases. They are also available along the tab bar, which has everything separated to into categories. For the purpose of the blog, I'm going to concentrate on the tab bar.

Hovering over this tab gives you four options:

  • Cemetery Transcriptions
Divided first by district, and then by community. You can then look at individual cemeteries. Beside each cemetery it tells you how complete the transcriptions are, and whether there are accompanying photos of headstones.
If you're not sure of where your ancestor might be buried, at the bottom of the district list is a link to the Stonepics Database index. Arranged alphabetically by surname, each name gives you a town code of where that person's name has appeared on a headstone, war memorial or monuments. There is a code index as well, to help you determine the town name. They've also provided the link to the StonePics Database website. Here you can purchase CDs arranged by community that have the photos and transcriptions.

  • Parish Records
These transcriptions are grouped by district, then by church. The year range is different for each church, but I saw records from the 1700's to the 1970's. There is also an Other Countries section that lists miscellaneous records of those with Newfoundland ties in Nova Scotia, Quebec, England, and Ireland.

  • Vital Statistics
This section contain transcriptions that predate 1891, when civil registration commenced in Newfoundland. Grouped first by region and then by church. There are 3 other sections titled USA, Canada, and Foreign. These are civil registration transcriptions from outside of Newfoundland for people with a Newfoundland connection.

  • Wills Indexes
As the title suggests, here you can find indexes and transcriptions of wills and estate files found both in Newfoundland and outside of it. Also among the collection are two section that contain miscellaneous court records and deeds. It's a good idea to check these out as well. Remember that a lot of families didn't register a will or estate file in the usual manner, and instead used land registries to record a will. It was often cheaper and faster to do it this way, as well as making sure land passed down to those named in the will. As well, I noticed in the indexes Power of Attorney, Marriage Certificate, and Licence entries. Don't forget to check out the additional information section, to learn how to obtain copies of wills.

Official Lists
Here you can find various Government records, as well as Business Directories

  • Newfoundland Census Records
Here are Census transcriptions that range from John Berry's 1675 Census, to the 1945 Newfoundland Census. This is a great resource, since Newfoundland doesn't become part of the Canadian Census Collection until after 1949.

  • US Census Records
This little gem gives you information on Newfoundlanders living in Essex County, MA in 1870, and various parts of the US in 1880. They also have Newfoundlanders enumerated as crews on vessels in the 1930 Census.

  • Census of Canada Records
This is where you can find Canadian with a Newfoundland connection from 1871 to 1911. As well, they have Labrador transcriptions for 1911.

  • British Census Records
Covering the 1841-1911 census years, this collection highlights people in England with a Newfoundland connection.

  • Crown Lands
A really interesting section. Make sure you look at the subsection Registry Volumes. It gives a bit of history of the Crown Lands Grants. It also mentions that the Great St. John's Fire of 1892 destroyed many of the books. The 20 volumes lost in the fire have been partially reconstructed from land owner copies and sources from other collections. 

  • Court Records
This section has court records from Ferryland, Harbour Grace, Placentia & St. Mary's,and Trinity Bay. It also has an indenture agreement from 1817. The majority of the Court records I looked at dealt with civil law, but I did notice a criminal law entry here and there as well.

  • Early Fishing Rooms/ Planters
here you can find specialized censuses and reports of the Fishing Rooms, and lists of Planters. These go back to the 1700's and early 1800's. I did notice some entries that cover the later 1800's as well.

  • Business Directories
The amount of transcribing work done here is amazing. Covering the years 1864-1941, for Newfoundland, there is also the 1867 British Mercantile List. Some of the years not only have the names transcribed, but also the information pages that appear at the front of directories. I can only imagine how many hours of work went into this.

  • Voter's Lists
Separated by region, this section is a collection of voter's list covering a variety of years before Newfoundland became part of Canada. Some areas have only one year represented, while clicking on others gives you a few different years.

Other Lists
There are several options to choose from here as well.

  • Maps
Maps are a good resource that people don't always use. Here you'll find maps of Bonavists Bay, Carbonear, St. John's, Lance Cove, and and Port de Grace.

  • Newspaper Transcriptions
This is another one that boggles the mind on how many hours went into this. There are Government Publications, and local and provincial newspapers. You'll also find extracts from newspapers from across Canada. They also have some from the US and the UK. There's even a section of obituaries from internet sites. Looking through this section made me wish I had a Newfoundland connection in my own tree.

  • Passenger and Immigrant Lists
A collection of not only ship's passenger lists, but trains as well. At the bottom is a miscellanoues section of Immigrants located in other source material such as church records, newspapers, and wills. The entries list rather specific source citations, so you can go find the original source.

  • Telephone Directories
There are transcriptions of telephone directories for Habour Main, St. John's, and St. George's. 

  • Road Reports
Sounds mundane, but what an interesting source of information! I was expecting to see a list of roads and bridges in certain areas. While some of them are, I also found lists of men doing road work. I even found an 1846 list of names that was "...for the Relief of Sufferers by the Gale"

  • Community Names
A handy chart that gives you community names. You also get their Latitude and Longitude. The best part though is that it also gives you what district they were in for the 1921, 1935, and 1940 Censuses.

  • Community Name Changes
Here you can find names of communities that had their name changed. It will also tell you where some of the communities were relocated to after the Resettlement in the 1950's 1960's and 1970's. 

  • Church Society Reports
These are reports of donors to churches throughout Newfoundland. The donations were to the British North American Society for Educating the Poor. It was one of the first school systems in Newfoundland.

  • Information from Other Countries
here you'll find a hodge podge of information relating to records outside Newfoundland. Those listed had Newfoundland connection. There's everything from Australian Convicts to the American Civil War, to English Apprenticeship Records.

each District of Newfoundland is named. Clicking on the district will give you links to what's available on the website for that area. it also has links to outside sites to help further your research. Down at the bottom you can access a map showing all the districts

Yet another section that had a lot of work put into it.
  • Colonial Office Records
Transcriptions of records from mainly the 1700's, you'll find an eclectic mix. There's letters and lists, but also petitions. I also found a verdict of the trial of George Rider in 1774, and a medical report by Dr. Henry Stabb, a surgeon.

  • House of Assembly Records
Another eclectic mix of records. I saw entries dealing with Land records, pauper applications, coroner's reports, and school inspections. There's also entires from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada.

  • Historical Information
Divided by District, here you can find excerpts from publications and collections dealing with that particular district. The entries run the gamut in historical and genealogical context. You can even find an entry on how the fish was cured before it was sent back to England.

  • Newfoundland Disasters
Listed according to type of Disaster, clicking on the individual entries gives you an account of the tragedy. The information is very well sourced and can include interviews, newspaper accounts, church records and vital statistic information. There's even a list of newfoundlanders lost in the Halifax Explosion.

  • Newfoundland Military Records
This section has military information on Newfoundlanders in WW I and WW II. There's also a bibliography, in case you want to check out their sources.

  • Treasury of Newfoundland Stories
An entertaining section. These are stories transcribed from the book The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories. It include both fiction and non-fiction.

Separated by district, you can find photos of not only buildings and people but geography as well. They also have a section of unidentified photos. If you recognize anyone in the photos, you can go to the bottom of the page and click on the "Contact Us" link to let them know.

  • Available Research Sources
A collection of churches, archives, museums and libraries. You can also get contact information for Crown Lands and the Vital Statistics Office.

  • Available Genealogy Resources
Links to genealogy sites, churches, government sites, and books. You can also find Census information, finding aids, and lists of Methodist ministers.

  • NGB Research Interest Forum
Grouped by surname, here you can find contact information for other researchers interested in a particular surname.

  • Personal Web pages
A great collection of not only personal pages, but also general genealogy pages targeting specific groups. Among those listed are ones relating to the Acadians, military, and the Newfoundland Forestry Group.

  • Family Bibles
There's 21 bibles listed here, with extracts of entries from each.

  • Vital Family Records
This collection has records from 8 families., These were submitted as missing records to the government for early Vital Statistic information. They are found in The Rooms in the Delayed Births section.

  • Newfoundland Genealogy Mailing Lists
There are several mailing lists that you can join that focus on Newfoundland research. Keep in mind though that some of these are Rootsweb, and therefore won't be functioning properly.

  • Message Board
The volunteers who run this site will not do research for you. I cannot stress this enough. So please do not contact them with research requests. However, if you do have questions,you can post a message here to see if another visitor can answer. It is an active board, as I saw discussion topics from 2017 and one from 2018 in there.

  • Contact NGB
By right clicking on Don Tate's name, you can copy his email address into your email to send him a message. He also stresses here that they do not offer research services.

Here you can find out how to submit information to be posted on the site. They also have a list of contributors. You can also find information about the website, and new additions. In fact, just this week they've added new information on wills, cemeteries, and photos. 

A final note:

The work put into this website is absolutely phenomenal. I am still in awe of the amount of information available. A huge thanks goes to all the people who have put their time into it. The information here is copyrighted, but they have given permission for reproductions of it for personal use. I received permission from Don Tate to include screen shots from the site for this blog post. 

Now, even though I don't have Newfoundland roots, I have a friend who does. I think I'm going to start doing a little digging on their behalf....


Saturday, 27 January 2018

St. Distaff's Day and Our Textile Ancestors

This week's blog post will appeal to those of you who are trivia and history buffs, but there is a genealogy connection. On January 6 I attended the St. Distaff's Day celebration at the Fort St.John North Peace Museum. The North Peace Spinners and Weavers Guild were there to show visitors the ancient art of spinning wool. I tried it out myself and let me tell you, it is quite labour intensive! You take the wool and wind it onto the drop spindle. Bit by bit, you stretch (draft) the unspun wool out and twist it as thin as possible. Then you wind it around your drop spindle and continue the process. When your piece of batting is finished you twist the end onto another piece of batting and continue the process of thinning it and twisting it. It took a bit of coordination to keep the unspun wool from getting tangled up into the newly spun wool. Needless to say my spun wool was full of lumps and bumps, and no one will be using it to knit or crochet. But it was actually a lot of fun to try. The ladies there were all very enthusiastic and patient teaching everyone. I was assured that for a first attempt I actually didn't do too badly.

Now for the history part. Spinning wool has been documented back to Egyptian times. It was one of the most important roles of women. Not only were clothes made from the wool and other fibers spun, but sails, aprons, hats and blankets as well. To spin enough for clothing would take weeks. Enough for a single sail could take months. This was a job that women of all classes did. It doesn't matter if your female ancestor came from a poor or wealthy family. She would have been spinning wool regardless.

The spinning wheel greatly reduced the time involved. Though no one is positive of the actual origin of the spinning wheel, some believe it was invented in India. It came to Europe in the middle ages when explorers brought it back with them from the Middle East. Even with a spinning wheel, it was still not a quick process. There were a few spinning wheels on display at the demonstration. One of them comes from Quebec, and I was told it dates back to the early 1800's.

St. Distaff's Day (January 7) was the day when women would resume this work after the twelve days of Christmas. It signaled a return to the normal everyday duties. There is actually no St. Distaff. The word distaff refers to the stick or spindle that holds the unspun wool. It gives the ability for the hand spinner to have what is essentially a third hand. Men would not resume work until the following Monday (called Plough Monday). Since men were still idle on St. Distaff's Day, it has been documented that they would play pranks on the women trying to resume the work of spinning. A favourite one was apparently to try and set fire to the piles of flax waiting to be spun!

Now for the trivia and genealogy connection. Today we have terms and phrases that seem to have no context in our modern world. Have you sometimes wondered where they come from? Because of the importance of spinning in our ancestor's lives pre industrial age, some of these words made it into popular language and are still used today:

  • Spinster: Because of the labour and time involved, the majority of spinning usually fell to girls and unmarried women. This is why we also see the term "spinster" on marriage documents. Even today the phrase is used, though it has developed into a more derogatory term to refer to an older woman who has never been married.

  • Distaff Side: Sometimes in the more scholarly genealogy writing, you will see a reference to the "distaff side" of a person's family lines. This is referring to what we now call the maternal line. 
Over the years, many occupations arose out of spinning and weaving. If your ancestor was listed in any of the occupations, they were involved in textiles in some way. This list also includes occupations from the industrial era in textiles. It was extracted from the site Hall Genealogy Site Old Occupation Names. This is in no way a complete list, it's just a sampling.

  • Alnager/Aulnager: The official who examined woolen goods and gave them a stamp of approval

  • Antigropelos Maker: A maker of waterproof leggings

  • Archil Maker: One who made purple dye from lichen, to be used in textiles

  • Back Tenter: Someone who worked behind the weaving looms, clearing out the debris by ducking under the big industrial looms. Because of their smaller size, this was a job mostly done by children.

  • Back Washer: The person who cleaned wool in the process for worsted wool (a higher quality wool yarn).

  • Bat Maker: Made the wadding used in quilts and mattresses

  • Bayweaver: Made baize. This is the fabric that today you would see on pool tables.

  • Beamer: The person who set up the yarn for looms

  • Cambric Maker: Made a fine linen fabric called Cambric

  • Carder: Combed the wool or cotton

  • Card Maker: Made the combs for carding wool

  • Card Nailer: Maintained the teeth on the carding machine

  • Cemmer: A person who hand combed yarn before weaving

  • Danter: Female overseer in a silk winding room

  • Delaine Weaver: Made a light wool cloth called Delaine

  • Deviller: Ran the machine that tore rags- a "devil"

  • Doffer: Replaced empty bobbins on the loom

  • Doubler: Twisted the yarn in mills

  • Fear- Naught Maker: made a thick woollen cloth that provided a protective layer 

  • Fettler: Cleaned the mill machinery

  • First Hand: Silk weaver who owned their own loom

  • Flax Dresser: The person who prepares the flax for the spinner

  • Flowering Muslin: Did embroidery

  • Gaunter: Glove Maker

  • Grey Cloth Dealer: Sold greycloth, which was the finished products of the looms before bleaching and dyeing

  • Hackler: Combed the flax before linen making

  • Hairweaver: Wove with horsehair

There are Guilds right across Canada that are keeping the tradition of spinning alive. Along with my local group, a quick google search gave me some others:

  • Camilla Valley Farm has an extensive list of Guilds from Canada, the U.S., the UK, Australia and New Zealand