Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Library and Archives Canada Microfilms on Heritage Website

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week we'll look at Western Canada.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

Sir Louis Henry Davis Law Court
42 Water Street 
Charlottetown PEI C1A 1A4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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