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Researching Your Canadian Roots

The single most comprehensive resource for Canadian genealogy is the Library and Archives Canada (LAC). The LAC is located in Ottowa, but many genealogical and historical records and documents can also be found on their website at CollectionsCanada.ca. Information that can be found on the website includes individual and group genealogical information, photographs, videos, government publications, maps, and more. The LAC website is a great starting point for Canadian genealogy.

Another important Canadian genealogy website is FamilySearch.org, which is owned and maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). FamilySearch is an extensive genealogical website, containing databases such as census information, vital records, and individual genealogical information.

Canadian Immigration

Prior to 1865, there were no organized methods of tracking new Canadian immigrants. However, thousands of immigration records from this time have survived, and are now available in various places, such as the LAC and Olive Tree Genealogy websites.

Beginning in 1865, immigration records were tracked more accurately, and are more likely easier to locate. Many records are available through the LAC and Family History Libraries. It is also common to find information on Canadian immigrants in America first, so it is worthwhile to check American records for your Canadian ancestors.

Canadian Census Returns

Canadian census returns are one of the most important genealogical resources. The first Canadian census took place in new France in 1666. Beginning during the 1800’s, censuses became more frequent and comprehensive. At the least, you can expect to find names, ages, and occupations on a census return. Beginning in 1891, the relationship to the head of household is included. And then beginning in 1901, the date of birth and immigration is also included.

Canadian Vital Records

The Canadian government has been responsible for tracking vital records since 1867. These records can be located through the Canadian Genealogy Centre, family History Libraries (including FamilySearch.org), and vital statistic offices located in individual provinces.

The churches often kept early Canadian vital records. In order to locate these records, you must know which parish your ancestor belonged to. You may be able to discover this information by searching for parishes near your ancestor’s residence, or by finding their religion listed on a census return. Without this information, if can be very difficult to locate the records. The exception to this is Quebec vital records. Many early church records have been copied and are now available through Quebec vital statistic offices.