Researching in Canada

National and Provincial Archives:
The vast bulk of information of genealogical interest can be found in the National and Provincial Archives of Canada, which are generally speaking familiar with the needs of genealogical research and very helpful. The National Archives (395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON K1A ON3, tel.: 613-995-5138) publish a useful twenty-page booklet Tracing Your Ancestors in Canada. Some of the information held in the Provincial Archives, in particular the census records, is also to be found in Ottawa, but in general the Provincial Archives have a broader range of information relating to their particular areas.

Civil Records:
Civil registration of all births, deaths and marriages began at different periods in the various provinces, starting, for example, in Ontario in 1869, in Newfoundland in 1891 and in Quebec not until 1926. In general, the original registers are to be found in the offices of the Provincial Registrars General, although microfilm copies of some may also be found in Provincial Archives. The best comprehensive guide is in Angus Baxter’s In search of your Canadian roots (Baltimore; Genealogical Publishing Co., 1989).

Census Records:
Country-wide censuses are available for 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891. There are, however, many local returns available for earlier years, which record a wide variety of information. The largest collection is in the Ottawa National Archives.

Cemetery and Burial Records:
In some places, Ontario for instance, these have been transcribed and indexed, in others it may be necessary to search the cemetery personally. The best place to make initial enquiries is the Provincial Archives. Angus Baxter’s book (see above) also provides a good guide.

Passenger Lists:
No immigration records for those of Irish origin exist before 1921, since up to then all of Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom. The practice of keeping regular passenger lists began only in 1855, for the two principal ports of Halifax and Quebec. Some earlier records are to be found in Provincial Archives. The largest single collection is in the National Archives. The information they record can vary greatly.

Church Records:
Parish registers, originals and microfilms, are found in the National Archives, the Provincial Archives and local custody. The earliest Catholic registers date from the 1620s in Quebec. Again, Baxter’s work gives a detailed listing of dates and locations.

Land Records:
The National Archives hold all the applications for land grants for the period 1764-1842, which are indexed. Later records, and some for this period and earlier can be found in the Provincial Archives.