Monday, 24 May 2021

I've Moved!

 For those of you who subscribe, I've moved the blog over to Wordpress. I've managed to bring over all my old posts as well. You can find the new blog location at

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Working for the Government: Federal Civil Service Lists on Canadiana

 The machinery of the federal government runs on more than just politicians. There are thousands of people in various government departments who don't make speeches and don't lobby for votes. I'm talking about people such as clerks, surveyors, light house keepers, toll agents, and inspectors. If your ancestor was a cog in the machine of the government, you'll want to hop over to Canadiana and check out the civil service lists available on there. There are various years available. The majority that I found fell between 1882 and 1918. I did however find one from 1871.

I love Canadiana. It has such a huge amount of digitized material. The amount of material does make searching a little difficult though. Putting civil service list of Canada resulted in over 16,000 results. And that's after limiting the results to English ones! Obviously, there aren't 16,000 civil service lists, as they only came out once a year. At the end of this post I've tried to wade through and provide the links to as many years as I could to help you out.

To give you an idea of just how many departments make up the federal government, here is the index of departments for the year 1910

These lists have some surprising information in them. Through the various issues, I found information such as

  • Department they worked for
  • Occupation
  • Salary
  • Date of current appointment for current position
  • Date of first appointment in Civil Service
  • Date of birth
The date of birth is especially exciting. It's an actual date, not just a year!

Here's the list of Registrars in the Northwest Territories in 1900. A Mr. R. F. Chisholm wore two hats, as he was also receiving an extra $500/year as a Dominion Land Agent for Battleford Saskatchewan.

Here's those employed in the Customs Department in Prince Edward Island in 1909

Here's a list of people working in the Ottawa and Kingston Division of the Post Office in 1908

This one from 1871 has different information. It shows Name/Origin/Creed/Position/Salary.

If you're worried about having to wade through hundreds of pages, there were name indexes in the issues I looked through. Here's a page from the 1886 issue

Below are the links to the individual years I could find. 

1882  1883  1885  1886  1887  1888  1889  1890

1891  1892  1893  1894  1895  1896  1897  1898  1899  1900

1901  1906  1907  1908  1909

1910  1912  1914  1915  1916  1917  1918 

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Newfoundland Ancestors: Newfoundland Methodist Church Conference

Do you have someone in your tree that was heavily involved with the Methodist Church in Newfoundland? Then you'll be pleased to know that Canadiana has recently digitized Minutes of the 2nd to 6th Annual Newfoundland Conferences of the Methodist Church. They cover the years 1875 to 1879. 

Now I know this doesn't sound like a very exciting resource if you're not a religious scholar. But there is good information to be found in this collection. For instance, did you lose track of what happened to Charles Pickles? Well according to the 1875 Conference, he left to become part of the Missionary Committee in London.

 If you're looking for names, the first half of the conference minutes is where you want to look. They were very thorough in listing who had become full fledged ministers, and who was working their way through the levels. Here in 1876 is the list of those who have been "admitted into full connexion", and those still hoping to attain it.

Deaths were also recorded. Here is one recorded in the minutes of the 1877 Conference. It gives so much information to follow up on in just one short paragraph!

If you're interested in the works and general details of the Methodist Church in Newfoundland, then the second section of the Minute Books will be of interest. In here is general information on the size of circuits, and the number of marriages and baptisms performed in each. Here's the total for the St. John's and Carbonear Districts in 1877.

There are also reports of Committees throughout the second half. Even in these you will find names scattered among the reports. Here in the disbursements of the Contingency Fund in 1879, Bros. Parkins and Bryant were given money for their "afflictions"

Here is a list of Examiners from the Sabbath School for the coming year of 1880

As a last example, here's a list of people who subscribed or donated to the Bona Vista Circuit in 1878.

While you're at it, also check out the Annual report of the Auxiliary Missionary Society of the Newfoundland Conference. These also have to do with the Methodist Church. There are 5 issues:

  • 1878/1879
  • 1879/1880
  • 1880/1881
  • 1881/1882
  • 1882/1883

Monday, 26 April 2021

New Brunswick Ancestors: The New Brunswick Irish Portal

When one thinks of the people who settled New Brunswick, there are three main groups that come to mind: The Acadians, The Loyalists, and the New England Planters. But there's a good chance that within your New Brunswick ancestors are another group that tend to be forgotten about: The Irish. Even my own maternal tree, which is 98 percent Acadian, has the odd Irish name in there.

The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB) created a web portal dedicated to the Irish immigrant experience in the province. They have several different categories of records you can look at, most of them containing digitized original records.

Saint John Almshouse Records

This section provides images of admission registers from two collections

  • Saint John City Almshouse fonds , Admittance Registers 1843-1897
  • Graeme Somerville collection, Saint John Alms House Records, 1843 - 1884

The digitized microfilms can be browsed page by page, or you can search. There is also a name index that can be accessed. Before you start, make sure you look at the pdf About the Records

Brennan Funeral Home Records

This section contains transcriptions of the confirmed Irish in Brenan's records. If ireland was not mentioned in the entry, they are not included. However, they will be in the main database on the PANB's website. There is a 50 year restriction on access to the records. Right now, you can access records from 1901-1971. Records for 1972 will be available after Jan 1 2022. You can search the indexes by
  • Surname of deceased
  • Surname of spouse
  • Surname of mother
  • Surname of father
  • Occupation
  • Cause of death
Even though these are not original images, the indexes do contain a lot of information. Here's an example for a Mr. John Robinson, who passed away in 1937

Fitzwilliam Estate Emigration Books 1847-1856

This section is a database of 295 names of people that emigrated from the Fitzwilliam Estate in County Wicklow. When you click on the database, it automatically sorts by surname. Howver, by clicking on one the headings, you can resort the names however you wish. I clicked on reference number, as this would sort by family groups. In reference 1, I got this family group

As you can see, Pat and Rose Waddock are now included with the Balance family. You now have a possible maiden name for John Balance's wife Anty, as well as her mother and brother's name. We also have their Townland and Civil Parish in Ireland. Anyone who has tried to research in Ireland knows these are very important pieces of information.

RS555 Provincial Secretary: Immigration Administration Records

This interesting section gives insight into immigration through new Brunswick's ports as a whole. Click on the finding aid, and then scroll to the table of contents to access individual documents of interest. These are digitized images. Though the majority is correspondence, there are some other gems. Here's a page from the 35 page set of documents called  List of Patients at Emigrants Hospital in Saint John; 1847-1849 (includes name of patient, age, county of birth, date of death or discharge, name of ship, point of sailing, when arrived)

Immigrant Letters

I think this might be my favourite section. In here are digitized letters from and to immigrants here and their family and friends all over the world. Along with the images are transcriptions. They are indexed by subject, place, and by the fonds these letters come from. You can also do a full text search. here is a snippet of a letter from John Jackson of Monaghan, Ireland to Lawrence Hughes of Saint John, New Brunswick

  "...Sir I received your letter of the 12th of December which gives us a great comfort to hear that you and
your wife and children are all in Good Health. Thank God we are all in the same. Tho this country is somuch afflicted with Disorders, thank God we all got free yet if God was pleased to visit the Old Man and
Michael Armstrong with sickness we had the pleasure of our neighbors about us. Michael Armstrong
died by alcoholic in 2 days illness. A sore leg with age was the Old Man’s complaint. You may let Rosey
know that her sister Catron husband is dead. That is Patt [Conoley]. Indeed she will not be very sorry for
that. Nor neather are we for her and her 4 children is far better wanting him but you may guess my
situation with the Old Woman and Margaret and her 3 children, Catron and her 4 children all depending
on me for to give them [seporte] you may guess yourself how I am ins there is no one I feel for so much
as the Olde Woman for at the Old Man’s death the(y) prompt him up to leave but very little in her
power. She is the one iye think of moste and will do all I can for her...."


This section runs a close second for being my favourite. It gives a great insight into the attitudes of the day regarding the big influx of immigrants in the province. You can search by subject, or by newspaper. You can also do a full text search. Along with the digital images are transcriptions of the articles. Here's an article about the 1847 quarantine of the passengers of the Eliza Liddell in Shippegan, where many generations of my maternal line lived, and still live.

Passenger Lists

This section is the bread and butter part of research into your immigrant ancestor. Even with over 10,000 entries, it is still only a fraction of the immigration numbers into the province. Look at this table they've included of the immigration numbers as a whole

You can search by vessel or by name. Each result give you an extract of the passenger, as well as the image of the passenger list they appeared on. I found ships that sailed from England among the list, as well as Ireland.

Teachers Petition Database

There's a good chance there's a teacher among your Irish immigrants. This section has images of the petitions, licenses, and/or certificates of these teachers. There are 509 records in the index. It comes up alphabetically by surname, but you can also sort the index in various ways by clicking on the headers. Here's part of the 1840 petition for Mr. Daniel O'Keefe. He taught in Caraquet, Gloucester.

Irish Immigrants in the New Brunswick Census of 1851 and 1861

This last section has extracted those of Irish birth from the 1851 and 1861 Census. If you search by name, you will get extracted information from both Census. If you click on other indexes, you also have the ability to search either Census by

  • County
  • Religion
  • Where from
  • Year Landed
Now keep in mind this information is only as good as what is available. It has been a source of frustration for me for over a decade that the 1851 Census for Gloucester County no longer survives. Anything pre 1861 for me has to rely on parish records.

As a final note, don't forget to look at the brief historical overviews in some of the sections. They give you a good basic understanding of the overall history. They are a good read by themselves, so I've included the individual links here:

Sunday, 18 April 2021

University Ancestors: The University of British Columbia Handbook

We tend to look at marriages, occupations, and other details of our ancestors' adult lives. The years between birth and marriage don't always get the attention they deserve. School yearbooks and handbooks are a fun resource for family history research. They give an insight into a part of your ancestor's life that is often glossed over. 

If you're ancestor attended the University of British Columbia from the 1920's and later, then check out the collection of UBC Handbooks digitized on the UBC Library website. These were published once a year, usually in December, and given to students. The UBC Library has various years from 1921 to 2019.

It is quite user friendly to use. Just scroll to the year you want (left click and hold to move the time line across. Underneath is a calendar and just click on the blue box showing the issue date.

Once you click on a publication, it will go to the image viewer. There are lots of great options in the image viewer. You can scroll through the pages either by the arrows, or by directly clicking on a page.

The icons in the red circle allow you to view transcriptions and download the image. In the blue circle are icons to zoom in and out, rotate the image, and go full screen. You can also zoom in and out using the icons in the black circle.

So what can you find? These handbooks covered all aspects of life at the campus. Here's a bylaw from 1927 about the university sweaters

Here's the members of the Student's Council in 1932

Here's some of the track and field record holders for the University as of the 1945 issue

Here's a list of some of the many clubs and societies in 1954. Some have a contact person listed

Publications like these rely on ad revenue from nearby businesses. Here's a page of ads from 1966

Unlike yearbooks, these handbooks don't have a lot of pictures, but there are a few. Here's some of the Student Council members from 1951

If you can't find your ancestor's name among the handbooks, don't be disappointed. These handbooks are still a great resource. They will give you a window into everyday academic life of your ancestor. Remember, family history research is more than just collecting names and dates.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Nova Scotia Ancestors: Civil Registration Gets a Makeover

Those of us with Nova Scotian ancestry are very excited that the Nova Scotia Archives recently redesigned their Civil Registration section on their website. We're ecstatic that downloads of records are now FREE. Now, downloads were quite reasonably priced before, but I know for myself that I only ordered records for my direct line. Collateral lines I only viewed the records, which were always free to view. But the old version's zoom function was clunky and the records could still be hard to see. I decided for this post to check the site out and see what I could find.

My first thought when going to the redesigned page is how clean and modern the site looks. The design also now aligns with the rest of the website in appearance. 

The History of Civil Registration in Nova Scotia

Though registration began in 1763 for marriages, mandatory registration for BMDs didn't happen until 1864. However, between 1877 and 1908, registration requirements lapsed for births and deaths. Because of this, there are a lot of gaps. Unfortunately for me, my great grandmother Edna Johnson's birth falls into this time period, and there is no record of her birth with NS Vital Statistics.

Don't lose hope though. Delayed registrations of births happened for many years after 1908. These delayed registrations can be a gold mine, because of the supporting documentation provided. Here's a good example among my collateral line of the surprises you can find. Edna's oldest son Burrell BOUTILIER was born in 1912. He falls outside the gap in birth records, but later in life he appears to have ran into problems as to his legal name. When I searched for his birth records, I found this

But then I also got these supporting documents

Not only do I have a copy of his baptism, but a legal affidavit signed by my great grandmother! I'm especially excited by it because the affidavit was signed less than a year before I was born.

As of this post, the NS Archives holds the records for births pre 1921, marriages pre 1946, and deaths pre 1971.


If you're wanting to search just by a last name, just enter it into the search field. This method of searching will result in a huge amount of results. For a more targeted search, click on the More Search Options

This will open up the search box to this

On your results screen, you can filter the results by births, marriages, or deaths.

My great grandmother Edna had a little sister listed in the 1911 Canadian Census transcribed as Lana. She was gone from the 1921 Census. I found this record when I was first starting out in genealogy research, so didn't know enough to question the transcription. I was also not as interested in collateral lines. Almost 15 years later, I'm much more proficient at reading handwriting. I've also learned the importance of looking at siblings. I looked at the record again. Analyzing the handwriting made me realize that her name wasn't Lana, it was Iona. I decided to see what happened to her. According to the Census she was born in 1910. So I did a search of an Iona Johnson in Halifax County. Only one result popped up, for a Nina Iona Johnson. When I clicked on the birth record, this is what popped up on the screen.

Now the big image you can zoom in and out of. It's the little one you want to click on though. This will open the image in a new window. Here you can also zoom in and out. Here is also where you can download the image to your computer by right clicking and using Save image as...

So I found her birth. But what about a marriage or death? I tried using Nina Johnson/ Johnston/ Johnstone and no results. I was stumped. I put it to rest and started looking at other collaterals. My great grandmother Edna had a child die quite young with her first husband Everard Boutilier named Wesley Boutilier. I decided to find Wesley's death registration. I found it, and lo and behold right next to it was Nina Iona's death registration. For some reason she was registered under Boutilier.

I really like the new and improved site. Once you get the hang of the changes in navigating it, the site is actually very user friendly. The fact that records are now free to download is a boon to those of us with large families having large families.  I am hoping that the NS Archives will eventually add the following features:

  • Search by first name only. Right now in order to search, you must enter a last name. If I had been able to search by first name, I might have been able to find Nina Iona's death registration. Instead I stumbled onto it.

  • The previous version allowed you to go back to the search results without having to do a new search. The only way you can do it on the new site is by clicking the back arrow to go back to the previous web page. 

  • I would really love it if they took a cue from the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick's Civil Registrations. On their website, they have indexed birth records by parents' names as well as the name of the registered person. 

  • A soundex option on the name search. Edna's grandmother was Martha Eisenhauer. Anyone who researches that name knows just how many variations of that name there are. Right now to search Eisenhauer, I need to search each variation separately.