Thursday, 28 December 2017

Yukon Ancestors:

If you're lucky enough to have an ancestor that spent time in the Territories, it's a double edged sword. You know they're probably going to have the kind of life story that we as genealogists crave. But you also know that genealogy in Canada's North doesn't come as easy as in the South. If you have a Yukon ancestor though, then you're in luck. Yukon Genealogy is a government funded website to give research on that adventurous ancestor a jump start.

You can get right to searching three ways on the home page: Yukon Genealogy Archives, Specialty (Deaths, professions, etc.), or Dawson City Museum Pan for Gold.

Just for fun, I entered "McDonald" with no filters. I got hundreds of results, broken down first by the three main databases, then by specific source. The range of source material is incredible. It would take me years to go through them all, so I scrolled way back to the top and filtered to just Yukon Archives Genealogy results.

As you can see in the picture, the database has

  • Name
  • Home Town
  • Call Number
  • Occupation
  • Yukon Location
  • Nationality
  • Notes
Now, the Call Number is the location of the record at the Yukon Archives. If you see where I've circled above, there is a link there that says Source. Click that and a pop up window gives a brief explanation of the records they've created the database from. At the bottom of that is a link that says View the Sources. Clicking on that link will not only give you an itemized list of all the sources used (and there are a lot), but also the matching call numbers. Now you know exactly what record you should be looking at to see the original. You also have the option of printing all the results near the top of the results section. That can come in handy if you ever make it to the Archives. You'll notice in my results that the list starts out with 2 ladies who married McDonald men, and a man by the name of Chisholm applying for a liquor licence for McDonald and Aurora Hotels. The results will not only give you a McDonald surname, but anywhere McDonald is found. 

I checked the Yukon Archives' main website, and they do offer reproduction services. You can check out the information on their service here.

Next I decided to use the Specialty (Deaths, Professions, etc.) filter. You also have the option of filtering this one even further to a specific record set
  • Francophone Yukoners
  • Sourdough Air Display, 1971-2006
  • Yukon Barristers Roll
  • Pioneer Cemetery,1900-1965
  • Yukon River Basin, Deaths and Burials, 1887-2007
  • Grey Mountain Cemetery,1960-1976
  • Yukon News Obituary Index, 1966-2005
  • Missing in the Klondike, 1898-1958
  • Yukon Businesses
  • Census 1891 & 1901: First Nations Communities
  • Whitehorse Star Weddings, Births & Deaths, 1964-1965
Even if you don't filter even farther, the results are broken down by record set. It will even tell you if nothing was found in a particular collection.

Each record set has different headings, and by clicking Source beside the Title, you can find out more about each one. The majority of them were taken from archival material at the Yukon Archives. I found it a little amusing that under Yukon Businesses, almost all the McDonalds listed ran bars, saloons, hotels, and roadhouses. Apparently customer service runs in the McDonald genes.

The last main filter, Dawson City Museum Pan for Gold, is a great database if your ancestor had anything to do with the Gold Rush. Just look at the individual record sets:

One set I found interesting was the Dawson City Mortuary Records,1898-1938. The notes contain a great deal of information. This was the entry for a Daniel H. McDonald:

MACDONALD H. Daniel, 48 years (McDonald); crushed by caterpillar tractor, Bear Creek; March 4, 1933, Dr. Nunn; St. Paul's Church, Hillside Cemetery; IOOF; teamster

Not bad. In one entry we know when, where and how he died. We have the doctor's name who was in attendance.We know where he's buried. We know an approximate birth year (1933-48=1885). He was a member of the I.O.O.F and a teamster. Just that one entry gives us a few avenues of research. Here's another one for a Finlay McDonald:

MCDONALD Finlay, 59 years; ptomaine poisoning, St. Mary's Hospital; May 30, 1919, Culbertson & LaChapelle; funeral at St. Andrew's Church; Yukon Gold Company; paint man.

Here we know when, where, and how he died. We can put his birth around 1860. We know where his funeral was and which funeral home handled it. We know he was a paint man for the Yukon Gold Company. We can look at church records, funeral home records, hospital records, and employment records to find out more about him. In case you were wondering, ptomaine poisoning is food poisoning from bacterial contamination of food.

Going along the tab bar at the top are these headings:

Here you can access sets of links by clicking on highlighted text. First is websites and contact emails for government organizations, historical sites and societies, churches, universities, and genealogy webpages. Quite a few of the links don't work any more, but a quick google search should be able to take you to the updated link.

The next highlighted text will take you to Yukon specific sites. There's City and Territorial Government contact info, churches, and fraternal organizations. You can also get info for Historical organizations and info to contact the various First Nations. There's also info on newspapers.

Lastly is the contact information and website link to the Yukon Archives. There's a link to a handy 90 page PDF on researching there. It's free to download and will give you everything you need to prepare for a visit to the Archives.

Tips for Family Research
This page is a general tip page on beginning family history research. But if you scroll down to the bottom, they have provided forms to print off to help you keep organized:

  • Family History Worksheet
  • Family Homes
  • Family Tree
  • Family Records by Generation
  • Family Records Vital Statistics
  • Military Records
  • Oral histories
  • Schools and Graduations
  • Employment History
  • Immigration Records
  • Research Log
Everyone keeps records differently, but you're sure to find at least one form that works for you.

Maintained by the Yukon Archives, the site had funding from both the Yukon Government and the Canadian Government.. Links to the Archive and the government departments that provided funding is here.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

British Columbia Ancestors: viHistory

If your ancestor resided on Vancouver Island, then you should check out viHistory, a website that teamed the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University. There are over 100,000 records on the site, and it was last updated in 2015. The majority of the site is transcription, and not original digital documents. However, it is well sourced, so you can follow back to the original document to verify.

This page will take you right to the search fields of the following specific record sets:
  • Census
  • Directories
  • Tax Assessment Rolls
You can also search by other unique ways:
  • Global Name Search- allows you to search for a name in all three of the above record sets at once
  • Site Search- allows you to search through the other information on the site using key words. It intentionally filters out anything from the census, directory and tax rolls. I tried using words such as "McDonald", "factory", "carpenter", "miner", and "insurance", and got no results. When I typed in "maps" it took me to their map page.
  • Annotation Search- This will let you search for user submitted notes. I typed in "McDonald" and got two hits. One was a family researcher adding in additional information about the family of Albert McDonald in the 1891 census. The second was a note that Kate McDonald was transcribed as a house hold servant in the 1891 census, but on the "manuscript census" she was enumerated as a housemaid.
  • Other Search Options: Here you can search for occupations and religions in the census. Or you can search for occupations or employer names in the city directories. You can also search for a specific Indian Band name in the 1881 census of Vancouver Island here. Lastly, if you wanted to find out about the census districts and sub districts of Vancouver Island's 1881 and 1891 censuses, this is where you can look them up.

This tab will let you look at various census transcriptions for Vancouver Island from 1871-1911. You can search all the census records available at once by name, occupation, or religion. Or you can search specific census sets:
  • 1871 Victoria Municipal Census: Only heads of household are named, but everyone is counted. An interesting side note to this one is that people were also counted by race (White, Chinese, Native or Coloured)
  • 1881 Vancouver Island Census
  • 1891 Vancouver Island Census
  • 1891 Victoria Municipal Check Census: This is a rather interesting one. The civic leaders of Victoria were positive that this area was under counted in the federal census of April 1891. So they did another census of the area in September 1891, and came out with about 7,000 more people. The federal government did not accept the new numbers, but if you have a Victoria ancestor in 1891, it's a unique record set that people don't usually have.
  • 1901 City of Victoria and Vancouver Island Census
  • 1911 City of Victoria Census
  • 1911 Alberni and Port Alberni Census
Now, I tried several times to use "McDonald" in the general census search function, and it kept giving me error messages. Those of us with McDonald heritage know that you can find a McDonald in just about any Canadian record set. We're everywhere. So I went census by census, and found McDonalds in each one. Do take note though that you will have to use "fuzzy search" and name variations. I had to type in "MacDonald" to get hits in some years.The transcriptions are pretty good, including information that you don't usually see in indexes and transcriptions. As well, you can get general information on each census if you click on an individual census year. 

Here you can do a general search of all directories by name, occupation, or employer. You can also search by specific directory sets:
  • 1882 Directories for Nanaimo and Victoria
  • 1892 Directories for Nanaimo and Victoria
  • 1902 Victoria Directory
  • British Columbia City Directories 1860-1940
Set up the same way as the census section, you will get transcriptions of the first three groups. They show name, residence, occupation, employer, and employer address. Not all entries have all information, only what is taken from that particular directory

The last set of British Columbia City Directories is supposed to take you to digital images of them through the Vancouver Public Library. However, I got the dreaded "404" error when I clicked on it.

This is an interesting one. You can search the tax assessments of Nanaimo (1881,1891) or Victoria (1901). Here you'll get the location and dimensions of a particular owner's property. The nice thing is that if your ancestor owned more than one property, then all of them will come up on a name search. In Nanaimo in 1881, there were 8 properties owned by a McDonald. Seven of the eight were owned by a WJ McDonald. He must have either passed away or fell on hard times though, because in 1891 he didn't own any. 

You can also search the Victoria Building Construction Documents, 1877-1921. This database documents building construction in Victoria. It takes information from building permits and historic newspapers. You can search by street name, applicant name, and/or permit year. I typed in McDonald and among the results, I found a J.T. McDonald that was rather industrious in 1912. In May he built a 1 story frame garage on McGregor Street for a cost of $250. In August he built 2 frame dwellings at Oak Bay and Verrinder Streets. They were both 1 1/2 stories, and a total of 14 rooms. They were built at a cost of $5,600. Then, in September, he built a brick building designed for stores and apartments. It also had a total of 14 rooms and cost $11,000.

This tab leads you an eclectic mix of record sets.

  • Biographies and Profiles c.1890
Biographical sketches of business men, factories and firms of both Victoria and Nanaimo. It's labelled as a work in progress so keep checking back if you don't find someone at first. There are source citations from the books they are taken from, so you will know what book to track down to see the original write up.
  • Population Figures
Here you can get a break down of population numbers for all of British Columbia in 1901. They are broken down by electoral district, federal district, ethnic origin, and nationality. The ethnic origin can also be further broken down. British origin is further broken down by English, Irish, Manx, Scottish, and Welsh.

Next they've broken down Chinese, Japanese, and Indians by district.

A fun one is sexes and conjugal condition. 52 males were listed as divorced, but only 37 females. 

The next one shows polling information from the 1900 elections, broken down by electoral division.

Lastly, there are breakdowns on religion. There is a huge range of religions listed here. As to be expected, the largest numbers are from Church of England, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic. But I did notice that 3 people identified as fire worshipers, and 1 person stated that they were a Reincarnationalist.
  • Divisions and Boundaries of Victoria
Here you can follow the growth of Victoria through By Laws and Acts from 1873 to 1892.
  • Changes to Street names in Early 20th Century
This one will come in handy. There are two tables. The first is the current name of  a street, and then its previous name, location, and neighbourhood name. They also have included extra notes if the name has changed more than once. For instance, part of Dowler used to be called Second, and part of that section is now the Blanshard Elemntary School grounds.  The second table shows the old street name first, then the new name.

This tab will take you to links to explore maps of Victoria, Nanaimo, and Vancouver Island that cover the years 1884-1953. However, there is a warning at the top of the page that they are having technical difficulties with the map display system. I tried varous ones and couldn't get any that I clicked on to work. Hopefully they get it fixed soon, because it looks like a fun one to play with.

Here you can find links to various Archives' websites and Digital Newspapers. There's also a link to the BC GenWeb and some historical sites. I tried all of them and the only broken link was to the British Columbia City Directories I mentioned earlier.

This will take you to an information page giving you a brief background on the website, and the contributors. 

The last tab gives you detailed instructions on using the various databases. This is also where you can submit any annotations on information given. If you find any inconsistencies or errors, you can also notify those who maintain the site here.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Manitoba Ancestors: Hudson's Bay Company Archives

If you have an ancestor who worked in the Hudson's Bay Company or the Northwest Company, then you need to check out the Hudson's Bay Company Archives. This is a fantastic resource that can take you back to the early years of the company. Even if you don't have an ancestor, the resources will thrill a history buff. As part of the Archives of Manitoba, it is funded in part by the Hudson's Bay Company History Foundation. The Archive holdings 1670-1920 have been declared as part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, such is the importance of the Archive material about the early European history of the continent and the fur trade.

What my post focuses on is the online databases specific to the HBC Archives.

Biographical Sheets
This collection contains sheets that look like cue cards. They are listed alphabetically by surname. The details of of each employee's occupation(s) and time with the company is listed, with reference numbers to the Archive document where the information was found. You may also find birth and death dates, family members, where they immigrated from, and where they went when they retired. Not all employees have a sheet, and not all sheets have the same information. There's a link to explain the terms and coding here. I have a friend who we suspect his immigrating ancestor, John Ferguson, was an HBC employee. There is only one John Ferguson in the biographical sheets, and this is what is looks like:

As you can see, he worked for the HBC from 1829-1836. In 1836 he retired to the Red River Settlement, and between 1836 and 1843 he had two children. This corresponds to information we had gleaned from census records about our particular John Ferguson. By 1851 John had moved down to Port Credit, Ontario. Two of his children had listed their birthplace as Hudson's Bay. It will take further investigation to confirm that this is the John Ferguson we are looking for, but at first glance this looks promising.

Post Maps
Clicking on the link will take you to a general map that shows 494 of the 501 posts in Canada and parts of the United States. You can further narrow things down to province, territory, or the United States. Or, if you know the name of the post, you can search by the post name. Did you know that there was a post in Hawaii? I didn't, until I looked at this map. Continuing with our John Ferguson, you'll notice on our biographical sheet that he didn't have a specific post he was assigned to. However, it said that he worked in the Swan River district, which is in modern day Manitoba. When I entered "Swan River" in the search box, I got 3 possibilities, two in central Manitoba and one in Southern Saskatchewan. Now while you cannot access details of a particular post, it does give you its location on the map. This can give you an idea of where your ancestor would have been located, and where to search locally for records.

Name Indexes
This one is further divided into three categories: Hudson's Bay Company Records, Northwest Company Records, and Red River Settlement Records.

  • Hudson Bay Company Records
This is a set of three indexes regarding HBC employees. The first is Servant's Contracts (1780-c1926). This index contains over 9,000 names, and can tell you the year their contract started, age, posting, occupation, and the location number of the file. There is a heading called Origin that could be misleading. It is actually where the person signed up, and not necessarily their home country. The heading Miscellaneous has monetary notes for the most part. Even though the index has some information, the Archives does say that looking at the file itself can give you a lot more. Within the files you can also see reference letters, applications, photos, and academic certificates. There is a John Ferguson listed in the index:

Now if you look at the location code, it is a different code than the ones listed on his biographical sheet. This might be a different John Ferguson than the one in the biographical sheets, but much of the information matches.

The next index is Northern Department Servant's Engagement Registers (1823-1895). Set up the same way as the index above, you'll find the same sort of information. Looking at the file itself will give you additional information of wages, reaons for leaving the employ of the HBC, and terms of service. I found a John Ferguson that had location codes that match the biographical sheets.

The third index is Register Books of Wills and Administrations of Proprietors (1717-1903). This index has the names and dates of shareholders' wills. If you've looked at an ancestor's will before, then you know that they can give you information on family and friends, assets, and biographical information. Not to mention that in some cases, the deceased was rather free with their opinions on their extended family. It can be entertaining reading. There were no Fergusons in this index, but I did find 2 McDonald entries. It gave me the year range of the book, and the location code.

Original records can be viewed onsite. Some have been microfilmed, and can be ordered through inter library loan.

  • Northwest Company Records
There are 2 indexes here. The first is the Northwest Company Account Books (1795-1827). The index does not give you a lot of information. There's name, sometimes a date, and a location code. Looking at the original records though can give you the location they worked out of, and monetary information such as pay and cash advances.

The second index is Northwest Company Servants' Contracts (1787-1822). This one is set up similar to the previous index. You will need to look at the original record to glean information such as terms of service, equipment supplied, and winter posts.

One thing you should note though is that the majority of the names I looked at in both indexes French names. Those of us who have French ancestry in Canada know that you should always look for variations in spelling. This is especially true if the person writing the record was not French.

Like the HBC records, you can view these either on site, or if microfilmed, through inter library loan.

  • Red River Settlement Records
There is only one index for the Red River Settlement, but it's a good one. Extracts from registers of baptisms, marriages and burials in Rupert's Land sent to the Govenor and Committee (1821-1851) has over 6,000 pre civil registration records for the people who were part of the Red River Settlement. The index itself will give you the event date, type of event, parties involved and relatives, place of residence, place of burial, and/or ages. The original record can be found using the corresponding location codes. In the original record you can also get information such as occupations, location of the event, witnesses, and the names of the clergy.

As a bonus, these records have been digitized and can be viewed on line. Strangely enough, I found no Ferguson entries in the index. But here's a page from 1821:

The link to the complete set of registers is here. Scroll down the page to get the individual page images.

Other Information

If you'd like more general information on the Hudson's Bay Company and its employees, the Archives has some good reading on its Common Research Topics Page. Here you can learn more about artifacts, land sales done by the HBC, and even about the iconic HBC point blankets.

Lastly, by clicking here you can access the HBC Library Catalogue. It can only be accessed in the Research Room at the Archives of Manitoba, but I think it's worth making the trip for. It contains books, periodicals and articles relating to not only the HBC, but Indigenous Peoples as well. It also has items covering history of the US, the Arctic, and Western Canada. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017


My apologies on having no posts for the last two weeks. Sometimes as much as one would like to devote time to genealogy, life outside of it gets in the way. A lot of tying up loose ends at my house in Ontario had to be done in a very short time frame. It made for a very intense couple of weeks that left little time for sleeping, let alone time for anything fun like genealogy!

Next week I start a new "job that pays for genealogy". Along with a new location, I'll be starting a new career path in insurance. It's going to be a crazy few months learning a new job and a new career.

There will definitely be a blog post this week, and even with the new changes on the job front, the weekly posts should continue on schedule. Until my next post though, be sure to check out my tab on blogs to follow to get your genealogy and history fix.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Home Children: The British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association

One of the more controversial chapters in Canada's history is that of the Home Children. Between the late 1860's and the late 1930's, over 100,000 children from the UK were sent to Canada. It was part of an emigration scheme to combat the horrible poverty and conditions children were living in at the time.

It was started with I'm sure was the best of intentions, but through the years it became more of a profitable venture for a chosen few, and less about the welfare of these children. The official plan was to send orphaned or abandoned children to Canada. Unfortunately, due to Victorian attitudes of the time regarding the poor, children in poor houses whose parents had neither died nor abandoned them were also sent. It was believed that the farms and great homes of Canada would give these children a better life than they otherwise would have had. In many cases it was true. Some children ended up living much better lives than they would have on the streets and/or in the poor houses. Remember this was a time before the social welfare system that we know today was put in place. Sadly though, most of these children were abused, and were basically indentured servants. The lure of free labour brought just as many unscrupulous farmers and wealthy house holders as it did people who were honestly trying to give these children a better life. Though only children between 8 and 16 years of age were supposed to be sent, some records show they sent children as young as 4 years old.

Children were sent from any of the UK countries. I have 2 great uncles that were sent from the Quarriers home in Scotland in 1919. In a strange twist of fate that I'm still trying to figure out, they ended up being reunited with their mother in Canada by the 1921 census.

Children arrived in large groups from the UK, and then sent to one of several receiving homes. It was from these receiving homes that the children were placed onto farms or into wealthy houses. Boys were almost always farm labourers. Girls were mainly sent to service positions in large homes, but some girls were also sent to farms.

If you suspect you have a BHC ancestor, then you should check out the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association. It is a one-stop site to help you research and learn the history of the Home Children.

Park Lawn Monument
There is sadly not one, but two mass graves of Home Children at Park Lawn Cemetery in Etobicoke, Ontario. A monument to them was built just this year, and by clicking on the link you can find out about it. Also included is as much information as they could find on the 75 children buried here. There's short biographical sketches, as well as photos. Some children also have snippets from the Bernardo Home's quarterly publication Ups and Downs. Have tissues handy looking at these, for it is sad reading.

BHCARA Research Site
This link will take you to the British Home Children in Canada research page. Here you can look at videos, photos, and text guiding you through anything and everything to do with Home Children. They even have a page detailing the trunks that were sent with each child. I have a friend whose grandfather was a Home Child. Incredibly, we realized after looking at this page that the little trunk they have in their house was the trunk her grandfather was sent to Canada with. That trunk is now over 100 years old.

Fact Sheet
Here you can get quick answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Teachers Packages
If you are a teacher, especially for grades 6, 8, or 10, then you'll want to look at this. They give you links to videos and books, and activity ideas to help you bring the BHC experience to your class.

Here you can find links to both videos and articles from both sides of the Atlantic.

Here you can look at the Events calendar for the Association. I've never attended one of their presentations myself, but I hear they are very good. Check to see if they are coming near you. Just about all the ones listed take place around Ontario. However, they do say that they are willing to travel.

This amazing database is a work in progress, entering information on over 60,000 known home children. According to the registry home page, the site will be updated at least weekly, and they are entering the children in alphabetically. As of today (24 Nov/17), they presently have surnames from AA to HASK entered in and avaialable to view online.

They have set up each child's sheet with thought to the future. Since they are still in the initial phase of the database, the only information you can get from the registry at the moment is:

  • Name
  • Adopted Name (if applicable)
  • Birth date  (some of these entries will be an approximation)
  • Birth place
  • Gender
  • Sending Organization (i.e. Bernardo's)
  • Name and location of the Receiving Home in Canada
  • Age at emigration
  • Ship's name
  • Departure Port and Date
  • Arrival Port and Date

Information that they plan to add in the future include:

  • Death information (including cemetery and Find A Grave information)
  • Placement information
  • Census documentation
  • Marriage information (spouse's name, birth and death, and details of the marriage)
  • Birth, Marriage and Death Information of the biological parents 
  • Names of siblings and half siblings
  • Military Service 

At the top right of each child's page is the child's BHC registry number, and whether this child has been "claimed". By that they means that at least one person (who is most likely a relative) has provided their name and email for other researchers to contact them. They are not actively looking for people to claim a BHC as of yet. If you come across your ancestor and would like to claim them though, you can contact the registry with the form here.

Here you can track the Association's progress on getting an official apology from the federal Government of Canada to the Home Children. Apologies have come from Australia (another BHC destination) and Britain. The House of Commons has issued an apology. At the bottom of the page you can sign the open letter urging Prime Minister Trudeau to make an official apology. They are also urging that September 28th be recognized across Canada as British Home Child Day. The governments of Ontario and Nova Scotia have already recognized it in their respective provinces.

BHC Film
You can watch a You Tube video called British Home Children in Canada: Born of Good Intentions. Posted by Lori Oschefski (the CEO of the Association), it runs about 40 minutes.

Research Tips
This page is an absolute goldmine. Among the different links are:

  • Sending Organizations Websites
  • Facebook Groups
  • Links to records that can help you follow your Home Child in Canada (directories, land grants, miltary, etc.)
  • Contact information for some of the top researchers of Home Children 
  • Issues of Bernardo's Ups and Downs magazine
  • Mailing Lists and Socieites
  • Inspection Reports of Children once they were placed in their new homes. Sadly this wasn't done with any regularity if at all.
  • Receiving Homes in Canada indexes

You can find out more about Home Children at these sites:

The Canadian Encyclopedia

Library and Archives Canada

Canada's History Magazine

Friday, 17 November 2017

Ontario Ancestors: Toronto Trust Cemeteries Collection

All the various cemetery sites online are great for finding inscriptions and pictures of your ancestors' tombstones. But one resource that many people overlook are the registers for the cemetery. The reason for this is because it involves a little more of the old fashioned leg work and persistence. You are not going to find these online. You have to track down where the registers are kept, and then find out if you'll even have access to them. This will involve letters, emails, and/or phone calls. You may even have to make a personal visit, depending on the policy of the register holders. In our digital age of instant gratification, this may seem like too much trouble. You may think that since you have the tombstone information, then there's no point in trying to track down the register. You would be wrong though. The registers can hold any or all of the following information:
  • Full Name of the deceased
  • Birth date
  • Age at death
  • Death date
  • Death Place
  • Cause of death
  • Name of nearest relative
  • Marital status
  • Burial date
  • Owner of the plot. This could lead you to more family members.
If you have Toronto ancestors, you're in luck though. Thanks to the Toronto Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society and Family Search, you can look at the registers of the Toronto Trust Cemeteries Collection online, for free. This was a massive indexing project that took from 2009-2015 to complete. In all, over 360,000 names were indexed. Thanks to their efforts, researchers can look at the records of four major Toronto cemeteries:
  • York Burying Ground (Potter's Field) 1826-1855
  • Necropolis Cemetery 1849-1989
  • Mount Pleasant 1876-1988
  • Prospect Cemetery 1890-1985
Now take note that not all the images contain the burial register itself. From what I can see, more recent burials are index books only. Also note that not all years are on here. In the Mount Peasant Cemetery for instance, the volumes skip from 1933-1949. 

You can find links to this collection on Ancestry, but your best bet is to actually go to Family Search itself. The images on Ancestry takes you to Family Search anyway, so why not just go the source.

You can go to the search page of the collection here.
You have two options. You can search for a specific name, or you can browse by cemetery. 

Searching by Name
I have a great uncle named Garfield DOUGLAS. The poor little guy died just shy of three years old in 1923, of whooping cough. According to his death registration, he was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. So I entered his name and right at the top of the search results was his entry. Clicking on it gave me this information:

Now did you notice on the right underneath the image, it says that the information may contain more information than was indexed. So by clicking on the image it also had this extra information:
  • He died at the Hospital for Sick Children
  • His death date was 8 February 1923
  • Also listed on the grave location was "north grave" in brackets
  • The Medical Attendant's name was Stanley Copp
  • Rev. Broughall officiated the burial
  • B.D. Humphrey was the undertaker
Some of this information I knew from the death certificate. But if I did not have a death certificate, then I would now have information that would help me to seek one out. I found the "north grave" information interesting. I'm not sure if this means there are more than one internment here belonging to the Douglas family. It bears looking into. Also, there's the name of the reverend. By finding which church he belonged to, I could possibly be able to find church records for the family.

As a side note, I also noticed in the image an entry a few above him, for a Grant MACDONALD. This little guy was only 5 years old when he died of bronchial pneumonia. I do not think he belongs to my particular McDonald line. That wasn't what interested me. It was the fact that according to the register, he died 8 February 1923, "put into the vault" 10 February, and wasn't buried until 26 April. If you were looking for a church burial record for him, you would have to look not in February, but April in the church registers to find it. A little tidbit of information you wouldn't have gotten from his tombstone. 

Browse by Cemetery
Now let's look at a later burial. My great grandfather John McDonald died in 1964. I used the browse function for him because it's actually faster than wading through all the John McDonalds I know are going to come up using the search function. I knew he was buried in Prospect Cemetery. But, I've never been able to find him on any of the cemetery sites online. So, I clicked on Browse through 7,234 images, then Prospect Cemetery. I then clicked on Volume 5, 1963-1972. This particular volume is an index book. It is indexed by first letter of surname, and then by year. In a rare stroke of luck for me, there is only one John McDonald buried in prospect in 1964.

The index says that John is buried in 13-768B, and his entry is listed on page 106414. What's also interesting is that what looks like "acg" is written before the location. I used this information to email the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries, of which Prospect is now a part of. They were very prompt and helpful, replying back the next day. The information I was given was:

  • He was 69 years old and 7 months when he died
  • His next of kin listed was my great grandmother Edna
  • His birth place is listed as Kingston, ON
  • His death place was Newmarket, ON
  • He died of Myocardial Infarction
  • The "acg" stood for Adult Common Grave
I emailed the lady asking about the Adult Common Grave part, and she replied back explaining that it was a Social Services burial. This did not really surprise me, as the family had always been quite poor. One of the streets they lived on in the 1930's actually no longer exists, and was part of the "Toronto slums" in the first part of the twentieth century. There are actually 5 people buried in the plot, and unfortunately, there is no marker. She attached a couple of maps for the cemetery to the email, showing on them where his location is. I thought this was really kind of her to go the extra step that way. The fact that there was no marker explains why I have never been able to find him on Find-A-Grave, or any of the other sites. 

I've never seen a digital collection like this one. Hopefully, this will start a trend into bringing cemetery registers online. I have seen the odd transcription or compiled database put up here and there, but human error can always come into play with a transcription. Even with this collection, the indexing doesn't give you all the information that's available. 

If you know of any similar other digitized register collections in Canada, then let me know, and I'll feature them in a future post. 

Friday, 10 November 2017

Military Ancestors: Boer War Ancestors

Remembrance Day this year coincides with the centenary of the WWI battles of Vimy and Passchendale. There are some great blog posts from other bloggers showing you ways to search your WWI ancestors' details.

What I'd like to do this week is highlight a lesser known set of veterans, those who fought in the Boer War. Also called the South African War, this was the first time that Canadian troops were sent overseas. The War ran from 1899-1902, with Britain and her allies fighting against the Afrikaner republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The Afrikaners were of German, Swiss and Dutch descent. They were staunchly against becoming part of the British Empire. Compared to the World Wars, the Canadian contingent sent was small. Just over 7,000 troops went, and 12 nursing sisters. What should be noted is that the entire force volunteered to go. There was no conscription. Of the over 60,000 military and civilian lives lost, 270 were Canadian.

The issue of whether to not send troops was one of many in our country's history that have divided people along French and English lines. The French, never a proponent of British Imperialism to begin with, were very much against sending troops. English Canadians, on the other hand, were very much for sending troops. Loyalty to Britain was very strong. Don't forget that we only officially became a country 30 years or so before the war began.

Now to the records. Library and Archives Canada has a database online called South African War, 1899- 1902 - Service Files, Medals and Land Applications. You can search by name, regimental number, and/or by regiment.

I typed in "McDonald". Sometimes it's good having a common last name. You're sure to get hits. I also entered "John" in the given name box, just to narrow it down at least a little. This gave me 18 hits. The way that the results are set up, you'll get land applications results first, then services files, then medals. So make sure you flip through all the results, because your particular ancestor may be listed 3 separate times. So for John McDonald there were 10 under land applications, and 8 under the heading of service files.

Land Grants
I clicked on the first one under land grants, for a Daniel John McDonald, and this is what came up:

Now, these particular records are not digitized yet. Using the information on this index you can order a reproduction through the website here. The applications were two pages and includes name, place of residence, and a summary of their service.

If you have an Ancestry subscription though, then you're in luck. They have digitized some of the records in their database Canada, South African War Land Grants, 1908-1910. By putting in Daniel John McDonald into the search, I was able to see his application. Just remember that these are 2 page applications. Don't forget to flip to the next page in the images, so you get a look at both pages.

Service Files
Now for the service records. I clicked on Daniel John McDonald under the service file section. If he's an ancestor of yours, then good for you because it's 29 pages. Within it I found attestation papers, physical descriptions, and letters of reference. I also found notation of his application to the War Allowances Board.

One thing I should mention though is that these service files are extremely cumbersome to work with. This is especially true compared to working with the WWI services files that the LAC is digitizing. You cannot download the whole file at once. What you do is look at each image. Click on the image to enlarge it. Then right click on the image to save to your computer.

There were no John McDonalds listed as getting a medal, so I took away the "John" and just went with "McDonald". I skimmed through the 117 results until I found the medals section. It appears that there are no given names, just first initials. So I found a D. J. McDonald that had the same regiment number as our Daniel John above. The image is a chart of several names, detailing what medals each soldier was qualified for, where presented and by whom.

South African Constabulary
In 1901, around 1,200 Canadians traveled to South Africa to become part of the South African Constabulary to keep order in the area. If you cannot find your ancestor among the service files, then perhaps they were part of the Constabulary. Since they were not financed by the Canadian government, there is very little on this side of the Atlantic pertaining to them. According to the LAC, the service files of these individuals are held by the National Archives of South Africa. Contact information for both locations is listed on the main page of the collection (see link at the beginning of this post).

They also say that FamilySearch has microfilmed the service files. When I clicked on the link provided, it brought me to the Family History Library's catalog page. They have 32 rolls of microfilm pertaining to the Constabulary. Good news is that they have been digitized. Bad news is that they are not indexed.

So, click on the camera at the far right of the microfilm listing. This will take you to the images on the microfilm. They all show up at once as little thumbnails, but you can fix it so it only looks at one image at a time. Just look to the right under the + and - and you'll see what looks like a box within a box. Click on that and you'll be able to browse image by image. With 32 microfilms to browse through, this looks like a rainy day project.

British Units
If you cannot find your ancestor in the Canadian contingent, then perhaps they fought with a British unit. Both the National Archives in England and Find My Past have records relating to British Boer War soldiers.

Book of Remembrance
If your ancestor was one of the 270 Canadians who died in the war, there is a Book of Remembrance dedicated to them in Ottawa. You can search for their entry on Veteran's Affairs' website here.

For a more detailed history of the Boer War and Canada's involvement you can look at the following sites:

Wednesday, 1 November 2017



Today marks one year since I started this blog. It's a little hard to believe I've been doing this for an entire year! It's been a learning experience in more ways than one.

It had been years since I did any kind of writing other than filling out weekly reports for work. To say I was a bit rusty was an understatement. But, as the weeks went by, my writing has improved, and I've been more comfortable with it. I don't think I'm up to submitting anything to the NEHGS Register yet, but practice makes perfect.

A year ago, I was well versed in Maritime record sources. My knowledge of Ontario and Quebec records were good. My knowledge of anything west of Ontario though was rather lacking. But over the course of the past year, I've learned quite a bit about Western Canada resources. It's amazing what a little focused research can teach you. If any one is looking for a research goal, let FOCUS be your catchword. I'm all for a little "down the rabbit hole" research. You can stumble upon some great information that way. But sometimes you just have to sit down and not let the bright and shiny things distract you.

By the Numbers

Now for some numbers. Thanks to the Blogger platform, I've been able to look at some stats for my blog:

  • Top 10 Page Views by Country

  1. United States 11,815
  2. Canada 7,401
  3. Germany 464
  4. United Kingdom 312
  5. Poland 192
  6. Ireland 179
  7. France 148
  8. Ukraine 126
  9. Armenia 78
  10. Australia 60
I didn't find it strange that Americans and Canadians would be at the top of the list. The flow back and forth of our ancestors across the border would guarantee that many American researchers would be looking for Canadian resources. Since the provinces govern their own rules about privacy and access to most of the records a genealogist would look at, they tend to vary widely. Both an American and a Canadian researcher would find my posts helpful in trying to navigate the waters. What I did find surprising was the huge difference in the numbers between #1 and #2. I expected the numbers to be much closer.

  • Top 10 Blog Posts

It's nice to see a cross section of Canada as far as the top posts go. I have lots of ideas in the works for future posts. But if any of you have suggestions for future posts, then by all means drop me a line through the contact information on my contact page.

I'd Like to Thank the Academy....

Now here's where I get mushy. One of the reasons that I've had a great first year in my blog has been due to the support of other bloggers. The genealogy blogging community is very supportive of each other in general. I've been able to reach out to other bloggers with questions and they've been very kind in offering support. A few of my fellow bloggers have been kind enough to direct people to some of my blog posts, and I thank you all for mention. There's two bloggers who have been my biggest mentors and cheerleaders though. They have highlighted my blog regularly in their own blogs, and given me wonderful encouragement. I can't thank them enough. So a special thank you goes to Gail Dever of Genealogy a la carte and Penny Allen of UK to Canada Genealogy.

There's also another thank you I'd like to give to the Ontario Genealogical Society. They have also featured a few of my blog posts in their OGS eWeekly Update. One in particular they highlighted was my post on finding city directories. Thanks to the mention from them, the descendants of one of my grandmother's brothers contacted me. I've been able to take that branch of my tree 2 more generations back, and gain new cousins I never knew I had. So thank you OGS!

Last but certainly not least, I'd like to thank you the reader. As much as I enjoy blogging, it's because of the people reading this that I've had such a successful first year. So it's not only my blogiversary, but yours as well. Cheers and here's to a great first year of helping you find your Canadian story!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Quebec Ancestors: La Societe des Filles du roi et soldats du Carignan, Inc.

Those of us with French Canadian heritage most likely descend from either a Filles du Roi and/or a Soldat du Carignan. Even more likely is that you will descend from more than one of them.

The Filles du Roi, or King's daughters, were women of marriageable age that were sent from France to help colonize and grow the population of New France. Almost 800 women were sent between 1663 and 1673, with their passage paid for by King Louis XIV of France. A dowry of 50 livres was given to many upon their marriage to one of the unmarried male colonists.

The Soldats du Carignan were of the Carignan-Salieres Regiment. The Regiment were the first regular troops from France, arriving in the summer of 1665. Their presence in the colony was to mainly counter the Iroquois and Mohawk. The second part of the plan was to have the soldiers and officers settle in New France. Of the around 1200 soldiers and officers that came, over 450 decided to stay and make New France their home. Many of the married Filles du Roi.

If you think you have a Filles du Roi or a Soldat du Carignan, a good place to start your research is La Societe du Filles du roi et soldats du Carignan, Inc. You can become a member of the Society, but it is not necessary to view some of their online resources. If you are not a fluent French speaker, don't worry. As you can see in the screenshot above, there is an English version and a French version of the site.

Filles du Roi (King's Daughters)

Clicking under this tab gives you a brief history of of the Filles du Roi. At the bottom are two databases.

The first is an alphabetical listing of the Filles du Roi. Beside each name is their husband(s) and marriage date. The information was obtained through Yves Landry's  Les Filles du roi au xvii'eme siecle, and Rene Jette's Dictionnaires geneologiques des Familles du Quebec.

The second is an alphabetical listing of the Soldats du Carignan who married a Fille du Roi. Set up the same way as the first database, it lists the bride and marriage date. it also lists in brackets alternate spellings of the soldier's surname.


This section also has a brief history of the soldiers and officers of the Regiment. It also clarifies that this database concerns the military men who settled in the St' Lawrence region of New France. It does not include those who settled in Acadia. Among the quick links at the top of the page is a link to the database listing soldiers who married Filles du Roi.

Another quick link takes you to a page that gives information on the ships that brought the soldiers and officers. Set up in chart form, you get the following information on the ships:

  • Ship's Name
  • Tonnage
  • Captain's Name
  • Origin Port
  • Arrival date
  • Company

There is another quick link that takes to a page listing soldiers who married, but did not marry one of the Filles. It is set up the same as the two above, with bride's name and marriage date.

The first database is those who are confirmed soldiers and officers of the regiment. It is set up alphabetically in chart form. The headings are:

  • First name
  • Surname
  • Dit/ De Name
  • Surname variations
  • Rank
  • What Company they belonged to
At the end of the confirmed soldiers is the list of unconfirmed soldiers. These are ones that no definitive proof has been found so far to confirm the fact they were part of the Carignan Regiment.
The chart has the same headings as for the confirmed soldiers.

The last database is an alphabetical listing of those soldiers and officers who never married. Besde each name is a description of any information found on the soldier. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Flotard, unknown, dit de Lescure, lieutenant-unknown, Witnessed 7 baptisms, 3 marriages in Montreal in 1669-70, probably returned to France after August 1670
  2. Ménard, Gilles, soldier-Saint-Ours, listed as servant to Jesuits in 1667 and 1681 censuses, d. 2 April 1690-occupation frère donné (monk)
  3. Vincent, Jean, soldier-Monteil, confirmed 8 April 1670, contract of marriage on 31 Aug 1670 w/ Anne Riviere but they never married


This section is filled with links to Societies, web pages, and web sites to help you further your research. Please note though that not all the links are active. At the bottom of the page is a listing of books and book stores.


There are two types of membership in the Society. The first is a direct descendant's membership. It costs a one time fee of $20US for verification of your lineage, and then a $15US annual fee, for a total of $35US. Membership includes access to data and records, voting rights, and a certificate honoring your ancestry.  You also get their biannual newsletter.

The second is an associate membership, for those who do not have an ancestor who was either a Fille or Soldat, but have an interest in them. It is also good for those who are researching, but not have yet confirmed their lineage. Cost is $15US annually. An associate membership includes the biannual newsletter and the ability to exchange information with other members.

If you would like more information on the Filles du Roi check out these sites:

You can find more information on the Soldats du Carignan-Salieres here:

Friday, 20 October 2017

Prince Edward Island Ancestors: Island Newspapers

If you have been researching Prince Edward Island ancestors for a while, then you probably know about this site. But for those just starting out, you should bookmark Island Newspapers. The site is a partnership between the University of Prince Edward Island Robertson Library, the Guardian Newspaper, Island Archives, and Islandora.


On the home screen you can see that first there's a link to purchase 125 Years Through Our Eyes, a publication by the Guardian newspaper. Clinking on the image brought me to the dreaded 404 Not Found screen.

Next is the This Day in History link. here they feature a past issue of a newspaper. Today's issue is the 20 October 1917 issue of The Charlottetown Guardian. You will be able to see each individual page of the issue. Clicking on a particular page will take you to a new screen where you can zoom in and out. You also have the option of saving your zoomed in image by right clicking with the mouse. Most of the front page in this particular issue deals with war news of course, but there are some local news as well:

Next link is the Directory of Island Newspapers. Here you can access individual newspaper histories. I clicked on the Advertiser, and found out that it ran from 1946 to 1854. It was published by John T. Pippy, and was the amalgamation of the Semi-Weekly Advertiser and the Morning News. It was published semi weekly.

The rest of the home page right now is a feature on electoral coverage from 1900-1962. It shows the issues of the Guardian published the day after the general election. The banners above the top of each issue showing the year is either red for a Liberal win that election, or blue for a Conservative win. The front page is showing, but click on that issue, and you'll have the ability to look at each individual page of that particular issue.


Here you can browse individual newspapers. They are listed according to publication start year. In all there are 10 newspapers available for browsing. Some are actually two newspapers grouped together:

  • Royal Gazette (1830- )
  • British American (1832-1833)
  • Colonial Herald and Price Edward Island Advertiser (1837-1844)
  • Morning News and Semi Weekly Advertiser (1843-1846)
  • Haszard's Gazette (1851-1851)
  • Charlottetown Herald (1864-1923)
  • Summerside Journal  (1865-1951)
  • Guardian (1890- )
  • Cadre (1969-1977)
  • Gem (1983-1990)


Here you can search all available newspapers for specific terms. I typed "Aylward", which is surname in my family tree. Now my Aylwards left PEI in the early 1800's, so I did not expect to get anything actually relevant to my own research. I got 1,379 hits. On the left side of the results screen, I had the ability to narrow my results down. You can narrow by century, decade, year, month, date issued, and finally by page number. clicking on an individual result will let you zoom in and out and highlights your search term on the page. 


This handy feature shows the start dates on individual newspapers. A handy tool if you want to see which newspapers were around in a specific time period.


This is the same page that you are able to access from the link on the home page. The directory lists all newspapers. There are about 100 newspapers listed. If the newspaper is one of the ones digitized, there will be links to take you to it. If it is not digitized on the site, try contacting the Robertson Library or the Public Archives and Record Office to see if they are available on microfilm. Contact information for the Robertson Library is at the end of the post.


Because this site is a work in progress, they do not have anything to view in this tab.

Partners Tab

Another blank section.

User Guide

A blank page, like the above two tabs.


This will take you to section to provide feedback and donate to the project. If you have copies of old newspapers they would love to be able to digitize them. You can also provide a monentary donation.

If you would like to contact the Robertson Library of the University of Prince Edward Island, here is the contact information:

Robertson Library
University of Prince Edward Island
550 University Avenue
Charlottetown, PE
C1A 4P3

Specific phone numbers and email addresses are listed here.

Library hours change throughout the year. You can see the hours here.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Newfoundland and Labrador Ancestors: The Maritime History Archive Part 2

In Part 1, we looking at the catalog of the Maritime History Archive's holdings. In Part 2 we're looking at what else they have to offer.

Research Services

Staff can be hired to do research and provide scans of documents for a fee. Considering all they have in their holdings, the fees are not unreasonable. Research is done for $40/hour Canadian dollars, with a minimum charge of one hour's research time. Scans are an extra fee, the cost depending on what you are requesting. If you choose to go the snail mail route, there is a shipping charge. Depending on the size of the file, charges range from $2-$5 for shipping within Canada. Contact the Archive for shipping outside of Canada. Also note that a 15% HST tax is on top of the stated fees. A detailed breakdown of fees and how to make payment is on their website here. The page was last updated February 2017, so there should be no surprises.


The Archive has a few publications available for sale:

2018 Heritage Calendar:

Using images from the Archives, the calendar is $20.00 if you're local, or $25.75 if they're shipping it to you. Taxes are included.

Births, Deaths & Marriages in Newfoundland Newspapers 1810-1890:

This can be purchased as either a downloadable database, or as a CD. Cost for either is $57.44 with tax. Please note that neither is compatible with Mac operating systems.

Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada:

This is also a downloadable database that can be purchased as a CD. It is actually three databases. There's one of Certificates of Registry for ships from major ports in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI. It covers years from 1787-1936.

The second database contains crew agreements from St. John (NB), Yarmouth (NS), Windsor (NS), and Halifax (NS). Years covered are 1863-1914. The database has information on over 200,000 names.

The third database contains crew agreements from non Canadian vessels, and contains over 100,000 names. They state that this database is a sampling, and by no means a complete database.

Cost is $57.44 taxes included. This product is also not compatible with Mac systems.

Canadian Fisherman

This is a set of 9 reels of microfilm. The Canadian Fisherman was a monthly journal that dealt with the commercial fishing industry. You'll not only find articles on the Atlantic Canada fishing industry, but also the Pacific, the Great Lakes, and the Prairies. It ran from 1914-1970. Cost is $290. It does not say but I would assume taxes are extra, since they do not specifically say taxes are included.

To see more details of the publications and place an order, look here.

Virtual Exhibits

This section can give you an insight into everyday life of Newfoundland and Labrador. There's exhibits on the ferries (called the Alphabet Fleet), Coastal Women, and the Titanic. You'll also find links to some of the collections we discussed in Part 1. They also provide links to virtual exhibits on other sites. Among the more than 20 exhibits I found:

  • 6 different collections of digitized diaries
  • Photographs from the Grenfell Mission hospital
  • The Twillingate Sun, a newspaper that ran from 1880-1953
  • The Mercantile Navy List and Maritime Directory. Digitized are various years from 1868 to 1938
  • An exhibit detailing the sinking of the USS Pollox and the USS Truxtun in 1942

NL Heritage Web Site

This will take you to the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage website. Here you can browse articles relating to the history of the province. You can also access photos, sound recordings and videos. The sub categories on the main page include Aboriginal Peoples, the First World War, and Government, among others. As of writing this, their featured article right now is on the 1892 fire of St. John's. While there, check out the other resources on the main navigation bar. 

Photo Catalogue

Here you can search their photograph collection. A handy tool when you're looking for something specific. I typed in "Grenfell Mission" and got 426 photos. 

Crew Agreements

This is the gem of their collections. From this link you can access three different databases.

1881 Crew Lists Database

The database has names of over 300,000 seamen from British registered vessels. You can search in any of four ways: Last Name, First Name, Vessel Name, or Official Number. I typed "Greening" in the last name field and got four hits. Each hit took me to a digitized image of the crew lists. This is a work in progress, so if your ancestor is not showing up, then keep checking. As, well search with variations on the last name. My 2x great grandfather, Dougald McArthur, was a ship's steward from Glasgow. I tried both MCARTHUR and MACARTHUR, and got different results each time. Also try searching with an initial as opposed to a complete first name. You'll get more possible hits that way.

Newfoundland and Labrador Crew Lists Database

Set up the same way as the 1881 database, this one deals with only crew lists from Newfoundland and Labrador. Along with search terms above, you can also search by Voyage Year. There are lists from 1863-1942. The initial project is complete, but as they come across more of the documents, they will add to the database. 

Merchant Seamen - Commissioned Fleet Auxiliary, 1914-1920

This database deals solely with the crew agreements of the Sunhill. You can search by either Last Name or First Name. As with the other databases, your results page will include links to the digitized image. This one is also a work in progress, so keep checking back if you don't find anything at first.

Contact information for the Maritime History Archive is:

Maritime History Archive
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's NL
A1C 5S7


If you want to visit the Archive in person:

230 Elizabeth Avenue
St. John's NL
Henrietta Harvey (Mathematics) Building

Hours are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The contact page was last updated in July of 2017. The first rule of visiting an archive is to always call to confirm hours though. I broke this rule last spring when I tried to visit an Museum/Archive in Alberta. We drove 3 hours only to find out that they were closed that day because they were changing their exhibits in the Museum. It was a nice drive, but not how I would have picked to spend the day!