If you find yourself researching ancestors who lived in Canada, don’t panic. Simply use this article as your guide to finding the best Internet available resources for doing Canadian genealogy. There are a number of excellent collections you can use for your research, most are only a mouse click away.
The smaller population of Canada may actually work in your favor as you have fewer records to search through. The down side is that the records in some areas may be written in French.
Your approach to researching Canadian genealogy records and finding ancestors should mirror research done on your ancestors living in the U.S.; the records may differ but the approach is the same. Canadian census records are an excellent starting point assuming your ancestor lived at a time a census was being taken.
The first census conducted by the Canadian government occurred in 1871 and every ten year period since. To protect the privacy of living individuals, Canadian census records are kept confidential for a period of 92 years. Therefore, the most recent Canadian census to be released to the public is 1921.
There are a handful of large collections that should not be overlooked including:
The most obvious place to start your Canadian genealogy research is at FamilySearch.org since they allow free access. FamilySearch features millions of digitized documents and transcribed records for Canadian researchers. Explore census, probate, naturalization, immigration, church, court and vital records, availability of records varies by province.
A paid subscription to Ancestry.ca offers numerous databases containing a total of over 235 million records for Canadian genealogy including indexes to the 1901, 1906, 1911 and 1921 Canadian census, as well as many province-specific records. Note that a world subscription to Ancestry.com allows you access to the same Canadian records as Ancestry.ca.
Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC)
The LAC boasts a massive collection composed of millions of books, periodicals, architectural drawings, documents, maps, photographs and art pieces, some artifacts dating back to the early 16th century.
The Héritage project is a 10-year initiative to digitize and make accessible online some of Canada’s most popular archival collections. It includes about 60 million pages of primary-source documents from the 1600s to the mid-1900s.
Early Canadiana Online
Early Canadiana Online is a virtual library that holds the most complete set of full-text historical content about Canada, including books, magazines and government documents.
This collection captures a full span of Canada's documentary record (from the first European settlers to the first half of the 20th century) with new content is being added every year.
There are literally hundreds of smaller record collections
that can be accessed online. Below are
two websites with links to many of the smaller Canadian collections. These smaller collections may contain just
the record you are looking for and should not be ignored, especially if you
have narrowed you ancestor’s location to a specific area.
TONI – The Ontario Name Index
If you strike out with these online resources, you might consider hiring a professional genealogist who specializes in Canadian genealogy. Also keep in mind that, even though billions of records have been indexed in the last decade, it is estimated that only about 5% of all records have been indexed and are available online.
There is no substitute for hands
on research conducted in the places where your ancestors lived. A research trip to Canada may be in order to
dig deeper into local paper archives and sift through more Canadian genealogy records.
Read related articles: Record Sources