More and more resources are becoming available on the Internet every day. In
the past few years it has become a ubiquitous source for researchers, providing
access to a vast number of records, documents, images, and collections that have
remained hidden in the past. This column is the first of a two-part series that
will examine some of the more valuable websites available to those researching
their Canadian roots. We will begin by examining websites maintained by
National Archives of Canada
The National Archives of Canada contains materials of historical significance
to the dominion of Canada. It is important to remember that Canadian
confederation occurred in 1867, almost a century later than the United States
Revolution. Many documents and items relating to the period before confederation
are still in the archives of the individual provinces, and you should consult
with those archives as well.
The National Archives website is extremely informative. There is a specific
section for genealogy where you will find a frequently asked questions list for
Canadian genealogical research. You will also discover a plethora of information
on individual source records and how to locate them. For example, there is a
basic description of vital records for each province, as well as links to the
individual provincial agencies that handle those records.
The National Archives also has a very active microfilm loan program. You can
borrow microfilms by interlibrary loan through your local public library, and
have materials from the collection sent to you. The ArchivaNet catalog contains
detailed information on the microfilm holdings of the archives, and there are
comprehensive instructions on the site for borrowing the films.
The National Library of Canada
The National Library of Canada in Ottawa has an enormous number of resources
available to assist you in your research. You can access these resources in a
number of different ways. The Amicus Catalog will search a database of over
twenty-four million bibliographic citations to more than forty million items in
libraries across Canada. There is no fee or registration required to use the
catalog, which will give you access to untold hidden treasures. Most of these
materials are available through interlibrary loan or by requesting photocopies
from the library holding the materials. There are several other catalogs, such
as the Directory of Special Collections of Research Value in Canadian Libraries,
that will also give you details on difficult to find and heretofore unknown
There is, of course, a special section devoted just to genealogists. Here you
will find information on newspapers, directories, family and community
histories, church records, cemetery transcriptions, periodicals, and government
publications that will assist you in your research. The genealogy section is one
of many services provided by the library.
Canada has always been a progressive nation. Their national
government includes a department solely for preserving and promoting Canadian
heritage. The department is responsible for national policies and programs
relating to broadcasting, cultural industries, arts, heritage, official
languages, Canadian identity, Canadian symbols, exchanges, multiculturalism, and
sport. On this site you can learn much about the land where your ancestors came
from as well as what is happening there today.
Archives of Ontario
The Archives of Ontario contains over 240,000 cubic feet of textual records,
35,000 maps, 150,000 architectural drawings, 60,000 reels of microfilm, 21,000
hours of audio/video materials, and over three million photographs. It is
estimated that ninety-seven to ninety-eight percent of all records in the
archives exist in their original format only, with less than two and a half
percent of all holdings on microfilm. In addition, the archives maintain a
library of over 70,000 volumes of interest to historians and genealogists.
There is an excellent section for genealogical research that will help
everyone from beginners to longtime professional researchers. It contains
finding aids helpful for locating vital records, wills, and estate files among
other documents. A detailed online catalog allows you to search descriptions of
archival record collections, individual files, and the organizations that
created these records. One can also search the catalog of volumes in the
library. A third option searches images from the collection that are viewable
through the website. There are separate finding aids that detail the microfilms
that are available through interlibrary loan. A list of professional researchers
is available for those who would like to hire someone to conduct research for
Public Archives of Nova
The provincial archives for Nova Scotia traces its history back to 1857 when
the legislature first provided for the preservation of provincial documents.
Since 1996 the Public Archives of Nova Scotia has been combined with Nova Scotia
Records Management to form Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management. Access
is available to their electronic catalog on their website. PANS is working to
complete this catalog, but in order to find all items in its holdings it is
necessary to visit the archives in person. The address, contact information, and
hours of operation are listed on the website. In addition to this catalog, the
site offers access to finding aids for collections in archives all over the
province through its Archway to the Council of Nova Scotia Archives.
PANS has worked to make some of its own materials available on its website.
Currently there are six databases containing information on marriages, divorces,
poll tax, land records, and court records. There are also virtual exhibits of
items from the collections where users can see examples of newspapers,
photographs, and documents.
Archives Nationales de Québec
Because Québec was one of the first settled areas, the records in the
Archives Nationals de Québec are some of the oldest available in the country.
The archives were created in 1920 and Pierre-Georges Roy, one of the most
important figures in French-Canadian genealogy, was appointed the first
archivist. Roy was responsible for publishing thousands of records from the
holdings of the archives. The archives holds over 40 miles of documents, 12,000
reels of microfilm, 45,000 microfiches, 53,000 hours of audio/video materials,
800,000 maps and plans, and seven million photographs and images.
This website allows you to search the catalog for details on some of the
holdings. It will also tell you which of the nine regional branches of the
archives the materials are held at. Contact information, addresses, and
operating hours are included for each of the branches.
Provincial Archives of
One of the most valuable of all governmental websites for Canada is that of
the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. PANB was founded in 1967 and holds
records dating back to the founding of the province in 1784. Some records date
back as early as the Acadian settlements of the seventeenth century.
Over the past few years, PANB has been busy converting many of its indexes to
electronic format and making them available for research on their website. Vital
records registration began fairly late in New Brunswick, but many indexes have
been digitized including:
They are working on adding indexes to earlier death records, and the indexes
for Kent and Northumberland counties are already available from 1888-1920.
Other topics for which indexes are available include land records, military
records, letters patent, and justice of the peace appointments. Also available
are numerous finding aids to make better use of the collections, including vital
records and the records of the Surveyor General of the Province. This is just
the tip of the iceberg of items available on the website. It stands as a model
to other archives throughout the world for what can be done to assist
researchers in using the collections.