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25 Websites for Canadian Genealogy

Janice Nickerson presents 25 of the best sites for Canadian genealogy research.

The 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.

1. Canada GenWeb
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 search.

2. 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 research tools.
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 (, 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 Ontario Census.

3. 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.

4. 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).

5. InGeneas
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.

6. Our Roots
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.

7. Immigrants to Canada: Emigration Information of the Nineteenth Century
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.

9. Archives Canada
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.

10. 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 page.

11. 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 Library.

14. 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 the transcript.

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 transcripts.

16. 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.

17. In Search of your Canadian Past: The Canadian County Atlas Project
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).

19. 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.

20. Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH)
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.

21. 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.

24. 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 information.

25. Newfoundland’s Grand Banks Genealogical and Historical Data
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.

Janice Nickerson is a professional genealogist based in Toronto, Canada. Her company’s website is

This article originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of Family Chronicle.


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