Websites for Canadian Genealogy
Nickerson presents 25 of the best sites for Canadian genealogy
Internet is a great place to start your Canadian genealogy.
You won’t be able to do it all on the web, but you’ll
find lots of helpful information to point you in the right
direction, in addition to the wide variety of indexes, databases
and transcripts. The following are 25 of the most comprehensive
genealogical websites for Canada, starting with those that
have national focus then moving to provincial sites, from
west to east.
Canada GenWeb is a volunteer effort to organize genealogical
resources available on the Internet. The general advice
pages are excellent and the wide range of resources listed
is impressive. There are sub-sections for each province
and territory, plus one for Acadia, and one specially designed
for children. This is one of the best places to start your
Canadian Genealogy Centre
The Canadian Genealogy Centre is a new project of the Canadian
government, designed to help co-ordinate access to the genealogical
resources of Canada, including both public and private sources.
Eventually they plan to add content, services, advice and
Most of the records that are provided by the federal government
were previously available (and still are) through the website
of the National Archives of Canada (www.archives.ca), by
clicking on “ArchiviaNet”. The only new resource
is the Canadian naturalization database, which includes
the names of approximately 200,000 people who became naturalized
Canadian citizens between 1915 and 1932.
Previously available databases searchable through ArchiviaNet
include the Soldiers of the First World War database, the
index to passenger arrival records for 1925-35, the database
of child immigrants for 1869-1930, digitized images of the
entire 1901 national census, digitized images of the special
western provinces census of 1906, an index to Métis
Scrip application files (many of which have links to actual
images of the records), the Western Land Grants database
for 1870-1930 and the Heads of Households index to the 1871
Canadian Genealogy and History Links
This site consists of a huge and useful list of links, organized
by province and territory, and then by category.
Electronic Transcript of the 1881 Census of Canada
This is one resource to turn to if you know your ancestor
lived in Canada in 1881, but don’t know the province
or territory. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(LDS) has produced a searchable, country-wide electronic
transcript of the 1881 census. Information includes the
exact location of the household, the names, ages, occupations,
religion and country of birth for each household member,
and the source information to look up the actual record
for yourself (which you should do, because mistakes do happen).
This private company provides a searchable index to a wide
variety of Canadian records (focusing on those which mention
immigrants to Canada) including passenger lists, census
records, historic atlases, government records, immigration
society records, petitions for assistance and land grants,
hospital records from Grosse Île (a quarantine station
for arrivals at the port of Quebec from 1832 to 1937), oaths
of allegiance and muster rolls. Once you find an ancestor’s
name in the index, you can order a transcript of the record
itself for a nominal charge.
Here you will find a searchable database of published Canadian
local histories. Many of the items in this collection are
old and out of print, so access to the full text online
is particularly valuable. Try this site if you’re
looking for background information about your ancestors’
lives, especially if they were early settlers in their community.
Immigrants to Canada: Emigration Information of the Nineteenth
This wonderful personal website includes transcripts and
extracts from a wide variety of primary sources including
official passenger lists, accounts of ship crossings by
passengers, government reports on immigration and period
handbooks for emigrants. There is also lots of helpful information
on child immigration schemes from 1833 to 1939.
8. Global Gazette Magazine
This is a collection of useful articles about genealogical
research and resources in Canada and elsewhere. The authors
are experts in their fields, and the topics include advanced
research techniques as well as basic records. The “magazine”
is provided by Global Genealogy, which sells genealogy-related
books, CDs, maps, etc.
This site provides access to detailed descriptions of the
holdings of over 800 archival institutions across Canada,
including manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings and
maps. There are also links to virtual exhibits offered by
the member institutions. This is a good place to try to
find out which repository holds the records you need.
Automated Genealogy Census Indexing Project
This project is an unique attempt to capitalize on the free
access to the 1901 and 1906 censuses provided by the federal
government. At the National Archives site, the images to
these censuses are provided as is, with no index or transcript.
This can make the search difficult if you don’t know
precisely where you are looking. However, the Automated
Genealogy Census Indexing Project aims to help by developing
an index that is linked directly to the actual images. This
is an ongoing project but, if you are lucky, your region
will have been indexed and once you find your ancestor in
the index, you can follow the link to the image of the original
Canadian Genealogical Projects Registry
This site attempts to keep track of all Canadian genealogical
projects (indexing, transcription) both completed and ongoing.
Its listings are divided by province, then by event type
(birth, marriage, death, census and other), then into more
detailed categories (for example, births are divided into
church records, civil records, newspaper notices and other).
12. Genealogy Research Library
This commercial site provides a searchable database of five
million names in wide variety of indexed records across
Canada with an emphasis on local histories and directories.
The free search shows you how many matches there are for
the name and the years to which the entries refer. For a
small fee, you can then register to get full information
about each entry (plus, some of the pages are scanned and
viewable online). This service is especially helpful if
you’re not sure where your ancestor lived in Canada.
Another valuable offering is the set of scanned 19th-century
(and some earlier) maps available to registered members.
13. British Columbia Vital Statistics Online
Indexes to British Columbia’s civil registration records
are available at this site. The dates currently covered
are 1872-1903 for births, 1872-1928 for marriages and 1872-1983
for deaths, however, records are very incomplete for the
early years. Once you have found an index entry that interests
you, you can obtain a copy of the original entry by searching
the microfilmed records at any one of a wide variety of
locations throughout the province and elsewhere (a list
is available on the site), or through the LDS Family History
British Columbia Cemetery Finding Aid
The BCCFA is a database of names found in the burial records
and headstones of 264 cemeteries in British Columbia (plus
two cemeteries in the state of Washington). Each entry gives
the name of the person buried, the cemetery name, the location
of the cemetery and a reference code that tells you which
organization created the transcript (no dates are provided).
Once you’ve found an entry that interests you, you
can contact the organization and arrange to buy a copy of
15. Alberta Family History Society
The AFHS website provides several online data projects including
indexes to the 1891, 1901 and 1906 censuses, many 19th-
and some 20th-century newspapers, local histories and cemetery
Manitoba Vital Statistics
This site offers a searchable database of the indexes to
Manitoba birth records from 1882 to 1903, marriage records
1882 to 1923 and death records 1882 to 1933. Once you’ve
found an entry that interests you, you can order a copy
of the original record online or print out the application
form and mail it in with your fee.
In Search of your Canadian Past: The Canadian County Atlas
This is a searchable database of the property owners’
names which appear on the township maps in the Ontario county
atlases (first published in the mid to late 1800s). Township
maps, portraits and properties have been scanned, with links
from the property owners’ names in the database. The
database includes all 43 Ontario counties.
18. Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid
The OCFA is a searchable database of names found on gravestones
in cemeteries across Ontario. It contains over two million
names and is believed to include over 60 percent of the
cemeteries in Ontario. The database consists of individuals’
names, cemetery names and locations (township and county)
of burials (no dates or details). If you find an entry of
interest, you must then contact the society that published
the transcription, or search the copies of transcripts available
in libraries throughout Ontario (a complete set is available
in the Ontario Genealogical Society’s library collection
at the North York Public Library).
Bill Martin’s Early Ontario Records
This website is loaded with free transcripts and indexes
to early Ontario records, many of which were originally
published of the (now copyright-free) Papers and Records
of the Ontario Historical Society. These articles include
transcriptions of church registers from the late 1700s and
early 1800s, lists of United Empire Loyalists and early
assessment rolls. A search engine will find references to
your ancestor’s name anywhere on the site. As these
are not the original records, the information should be
verified by other records if at all possible.
Programme de recherche en démographie historique
The PRDH database provides full details from virtually all
of the pre-1800 Catholic church baptism, marriage and burial
records across the province of Quebec (back to 1621). Church
records were the official records of vital events in the
province prior to 1926, and they were very consistent and
complete. These records are the primary source for genealogical
research in Quebec. The site also provides detailed biographical
information about each of the roughly 4,500 original French
Catholic pioneers who left male line descendants in the
province. Access to the basic information in the database
is free, but more complete information is available by subscription.
Quebec and Eastern Townships Genealogy Research Page
If your ancestors were from the largely English-speaking
Protestant region of Quebec called the Eastern Townships,
you will find Marlene Simmons’ site very helpful.
She provides a searchable database of names found in church
records, cemetery headstones, censuses and newspaper articles.
Once you find a name that interests you, she will provide
an extract of the record for a small fee. As the collection
is large and comprehensive, it is well worth the fees she
charges. Helpful background articles, maps and links are
also found here.
22. Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management
The NSARM offers several very useful databases on its website.
These include marriage bonds submitted during the years
1763-1849, Cape Breton Land Petitions, deaths reported on
by the Medical Examiner for the City of Halifax and Town
of Dartmouth for 1895-1967, Poll Tax Rolls for 1791-93 (over
10,000 individuals), divorce cases filed between 1759 and
1963 (nearly 7,000 cases), the Halifax Explosion Remembrance
Book (a listing of those killed in the disaster of 6 December
1917, nearly 2,000 names), parish registers of St. Jean-Baptiste,
Annapolis Royal for 1702-1755 and the entire text of McAlpine’s
Nova Scotia Directory for the years 1907-08.
23. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
The PANB offers several online searchable databases including
original land grants for the period 1765-1800; vital statistics
indexes (from church records, as civil records did not begin
until 1920) for baptisms (1888-1905), marriages (1888-1950)
and burials (1888-1950); land petitions index for 1783-1918;
death registration indexes for soldiers for 1941-47; passenger
list indexes for 1816-38; an index to burial permits in
Saint John for 1889-1919; the marriage bonds index for 1810-1932
and an index to petitions for teachers’ licences and
payment for 1812-82.
Public Archives and Records Office of Prince Edward Island
This site offers complete searchable indexes to the 1841,
1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses (the 1841 and 1891 censuses
are incomplete), as well as valuable historical and geographical
Newfoundland’s Grand Banks Genealogical and Historical
This site is a volunteer-run gathering place for transcripts
of a wide range of primary and secondary sources for genealogical
research in Newfoundland and Labrador, including a large
proportion of the pre-1891 church records and census records
for 1921, 1935 and 1945, plus cemetery transcripts, several
19th-century directories, wills and other miscellaneous
records. The breadth and depth of material on this site
is very impressive.
Nickerson is a professional genealogist based in Toronto,
Canada. Her company’s website is www.uppercanadagenealogy.com.
article originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of Family