Sunday, 26 May 2019

52 Ancestors: Week 21 - Canadian Naval Records

HMCS Haida

This Week's 52 Ancestors prompt is military. I've decided to focus on a branch of the Canadian military that often gets overlooked, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). The institution as we now know it was only founded in 1910. Before then, the country was under protection of the British Royal Navy.

If you're looking for more information on a Naval ancestor, then the first place you should look is the Government of Canada's page on Royal Canadian Navy history This site gives a great tutorial on just about anything you would like to know about the RCN:

  • History of the Naval Service of Canada from 1867 to 2010
  • Naval Leaders and Notable People
  • Canadian Submarine History
  • Naval Flags and Uniforms
  • Niobe Day - October 21 - annual celebration of the anniversary of the first Canadian warship to enter Canada's waters
  • Navy Centennial Image Gallery
  • Ship's Histories
  • Navy Historical Research
  • Naval Museums
  • Films

To research a specific ancestor, there isn't a lot online, and what is online is by no means complete. However, there are a few sites you can check out:

1. Library and Archives Canada has the collection Service Files of the Royal Canadian Navy, 1910-1941 - Ledger Sheets. The records themselves are not online. It is instead a searchable index of names. The main page of the collection gives details on how to obtain the records. They are also available to view onsite.

2. If your Naval ancestor died in World War II, check out the Service Files of the Second World War - War Dead, 1939-1947 database at the LAC. This database lists war dead from all branches of the Canadian Military. not all of the files are digitized on the LAC website, however all can be vied for free on Ancestry. Instructions on how to view them are on the collection's main page.

3. If your ancestor was an officer in the RCN or the Naval Reserves, take a look at the website Word War II unit histories. This is a private website that lists the birth and death dates, and naval history of officers. Some even have photographs.

4. The Nauticapedia is a website that holds biographies of Maritime and Naval personnel, as well as ship's histories. Though it primarily focuses on Western Canada, I did notice some people from Eastern Canada as well.

5. Veteran's Affairs Canada has the Merchant Navy War Dead Registry. It does not show digitized images. However, you will get a date of death, and the ship they were serving on. This information can help further your research. You can search by name or by ship.

6. There are several Naval Museums around Canada:

Some final tips:

  • If your ancestor served in Naval uniform before 1910, then look to British Naval Records. If they were colonial French, then look to naval records from France.
  • If your Naval ancestor survived World War II, or served in the years after up to 1998, then you will have to apply to Library and Archives Canada for their service record. Because of Canada's strict privacy laws, these records are not open access. You can find information about applying for access here

Sunday, 19 May 2019

52 Ancestors: Week 20: Ancestors in Natural Resources on Canadiana

Historical picture showing the squaring of white pine timber in Algonquin Park

This week's 52 Ancestors prompt in "Nature". Love it or hate it, Canada's economy has always been heavily entwined with our natural resources. You'd be hard pressed to find a Canadian family tree without at least one ancestor working in these industries. Hiking, hunting, and fishing are still a huge part of Canadian culture, even for those who don't work in the natural resource sector. I decided this week to compile a list of links on Canadiana to point you towards information on those ancestors who worked in natural resources.



Fishing, Hunting and Trapping


If your ancestor worked in natural resources and was employed by the government, then don't forget to look for them in the Civil Service Registries. These were annual lists published by the federal government. Click here to access the lists.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

52 Ancestors Week 19: The Nursing Sisters of Canada

Portrait of Miss Georgina Pope, head nurse of First Canadian Contingent during the Boer war. Possibly in her nurse's uniform from Bellevue Hospital, New York

This week's 52 Ancestors prompt is "Nurture". So this week I decided to take a look at the Nursing Sisters in Canada's Military.

The Nursing Sisters have a long history in Canada. Their history stretches back to 1885, when they were first put into field hospitals during the Northwest Rebellion. They journeyed with the Royal Canadian Dragoons to the Klondike, when the unit was sent to reinforce the Northwest Mounted Police during the Gold Rush. Nursing Sisters were with Canadian troops during the Boer War, both World Wars, Korea, and Canada's contributions to NATO missions.

If you have a Nursing Sister in your tree, you'll want to look at these collections:

 Veterans Affairs Canada has a page devoted to Military Nurses. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, they have a database of Nursing Sisters who died in the line of duty in World War I and II. Listed by year, then alphabetically, each woman's name is a hyperlink to a memorial page. They contain a surprising amount of information. Here is a screenshot of the first death of World War I, Mary Frances Elizabeth Munro:

Not included in the screenshot is the burial information of each woman, including a link to a map of the cemetery. At the bottom of the page are digital images relating to each particular Nursing Sister. Mary Munro's includes a picture of Mary, her attestation paper, the newspaper clipping about her death, and a picture of her memorial plaque. The public are invited to upload images of any of the Nursing Sisters listed.

Library and Archives Canada has a whole section devoted to the Nursing Sisters. The section includes links and microfilm numbers of a variety of resources connected to the Nursing sisters.
Of special note is the section "Biographies". It contains biographies of 6 Nursing Sisters, using excerpts from correspondence and diaries in their archives. There are digital images of the correspondence and diaries. There are even photographs. The women profiled are:
  1. Sophie Hoerner
  2. Dorothy Cotton
  3. Alice Isaacson
  4. Annie Ross
  5. Laura Gamble
  6. Ruby Peterkin

The LAC also has a collection of digitized war diaries from hospital units. You can access the collection by clicking here.

The Canadian Great War Project has a database of Nurses who served. This database contains over 2,000 names of women who served. Clicking on the name of a nurse gives you a chart of as much information as possible from their military files. Not all sections are complete.
The site also has an brief history of the Nursing Sisters, a list of military awards given to Nurses, and excepts from the book Our Bit : Memories of War Service By a Canadian Nursing Sister by Mabel B. Clint.

Internet Archive has several resources related to nursing sisters. A quick search brought some really interesting results:

Sunday, 5 May 2019

52 Ancestors: Week 18 - Digital Maps at Library and Archives Canada

This week's 52 Ancestors theme is Road Trip. A must have for any trip is a map. Map apps on your phone are great, but from experience I know they're useless if you go out of cell phone range.

I love old maps. Not only are they fun to look at, but they can help your genealogy research in so many ways. Library and Archives Canada has a huge collection of digitized maps on their website. To find them, you'll want to skip the databases and instead do an image search. First go to the main page of the Genealogy and Family History section of the website. Then you'll want to scroll down the page and click on Image Search.

If you type in "maps" in the search engine, there are over 13,000 images. You'll definitely want to narrow things down a bit. I've played with types of maps and below are some examples of the types of maps you can find.

Cadastral Maps
These types of maps show property ownership. A really useful tool in your research. Not only can you find the location of your ancestor's land, but you can also see their FAN network (friends, associates and neighbours). Here's one showing the parish of Notre Dame de Quebec in 1879

Here's another showing part of Wentworth County, Ontario in 1859.

Fire Insurance Maps
If your ancestor lived in a city or town, you'll want to look at fire insurance maps. While these rarely show individual names, they are great for locating businesses. Even if your ancestor didn't own a business, they are still useful. By locating the street your ancestor was on, you can find the closest schools and churches. Look at the types of businesses around them, and you can get a sense of the community they were part of. Here's one showing a neighbourhood in Selkirk, Manitoba in 1910.

Here's another showing a neighbourhood in Calgary, Alberta in 1913

Railway Maps
Trying to find the route your ancestors took by rail? Railway Maps can help you track them. here's one of Western Canada in 1913

Canal Maps
Before railways stretched across the continent, people traveled via canal routes. Here's a canal map for the Great Lakes and St.Lawrence in 1871.

Boundary Maps
As our country has grown and evolved, the provincial and territorial boundaries have as well. This is also true of counties, townships and other levels of municipal government. If you have an ancestor that seems to have disappeared out of government record collections, try looking at boundary maps. Depending on how close they lived to a border, they may have become part of another municipality.
Here's one showing the district of St. Francis, Canada East in 1863

Electoral Maps
One way to help find your ancestor in Voter's List is to look at maps of Electoral Districts. These can change several times over the years. Here's one from 1924 for Kings County, Prince Edward Island.

Industry Maps
Lastly, there are some specialized industry maps in their collection. If your ancestor was part of the mining industry, you might like to look at one like this from 1897 in British Columbia

Or this one from 1928 showing timber lands in Nova Scotia

The nice thing is that by right clicking on your mouse, you can download the images to your computer. As far as zooming in on sections, what I did was to click on the browser settings and zoom the whole screen. A word of warning though, some of the images become fuzzy if you zoom too close. You can also play with it once you've downloaded it to your computer. Take some time to explore their collection. They have everything from hand drawn to professional maps covering every corner of Canada and every time period

Saturday, 4 May 2019

52 Ancestors: Week 17 - Parish Registers on Canadiana

Digital images of church records can be hard to find in Canada, especially if your ancestor wasn't Catholic. It's even harder to find free records. Thankfully, thanks to Canadiana, you can look at literally hundreds of reels of microfilm for FREE.

When I typed "parish registers", "church" and "religion" into the search engines for Heritage, Early Canadiana Online, and Canadiana, I got literally thousands of hits. I've compiled a short list of links below for ones with multiple reels or issues. In the interest of space, I haven't included descriptions of the record sets.

This is just a small sampling of what can be found. Try a variety of search words, and you will get different results every time. And don't forget to look at books as well. Here's a few I found: