Thursday, September 11, 2014

What's in a name? Just Confusion

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;"

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene I

Only if that was true when it is comes to the names of places and people when doing genealogy research. As I posted in "When is a Wilkerson a Wilkinson?" following the possible variations in a surname can cause no end of confusion. It can get even worse when a person changes their forename like Oscar James Little AKA James Austin Little (but that is for another day and another post).

Another of the challenges faced by all family history and genealogy researchers is to accurately record where an event took place. Some people try to keep it simple by using the place name as it exists now when adding details to their family tree. However, that can create some interesting brick walls when it comes to locating some of those hard to find records. What I try to do is to record the name of the place as it was at the time.

As some of my gentle-readers may have guessed, I've been spending the past several weeks researching various lines that originally settled in what is now called the Regional Municipality of Niagara and that is where it gets interesting. For example, a place like Niagara-on-the-Lake, Regional Municipality of Niagara, Ontario, Canada also is known by the following names (years are approximate and depended on when the necessary legislation was passed and signed law):
  • 1781-1788 Butlersburg, Montreal District, Province of Quebec
  • 1788-1791 Butlersburg, Nassau District, Province of Quebec
  • 1791-1792 Butlersburg, Nassau District, Province of Upper Canada
  • 1792-1798 Newark, Home District, Province of Upper Canada
  • 1798-1841 Niagara, Niagara District, Province of Upper Canada
  • 1841-1851 Niagara, Niagara District, Canada West, United Province of Canada
  • 1851-1867 Niagara, Lincoln County, Canada West, United Province of Canada
  • 1867-1970 Niagara1, Lincoln County, Ontario, Canada
  • 1970-now Niagara-on-the-Lake, Regional Municipality of Niagara, Ontario, Canada
And that is just one place!

So why is it important to know the various names of a place? When looking for land records and if you are just looking for Niagara and ignoring Newark or Nassau then you will probably miss all those critical early records. You might also ignore a key record just because the place name used is not the same name in use today.

It can get even more confusing for early records in Ontario since there were counties created in 1792 but they co-existed with the district names until about 1851 when the districts were abolished. The counties during that period were for electoral, land registration, and militia purposes. So even though Newark was in Home District in 1792 you will also find land registrations and probates listed as being in Lincoln County.

Yes it can get very confusing at times. The Archives of Ontario even has a page called "The Changing Shape of Ontario" where you can view and download maps showing the progression from districts to counties from 1788 to 1899.

So look for web sites and other resources that can help you figure out that correct name. In my case I purchased AniMap County Boundary Historical Atlas by Gold Bug for my USA and Ontario research (Ontario is only district and county borders unfortunately and not place names). I also make use of the web pages of various historical societies and even Wikipedia to give me clues and pointers. Also for the United States of America there is the online Atlas of Historical County Boundaries that is available for free. Don't forget about gazetteers to help you out in figuring out what something is called, which county or country it may be and when.

1. Niagara-on-the-Lake was the postal designation from the 1880s but it wasn't until 1970 when the Town and Township of Niagara was merged that the name became "official".

Monday, September 8, 2014

Robert Wilkinson: A Loyalist or Not?

In my past post, "When is a Wilkerson a Wilkinson?" I was dealing with the Wilkerson/Wilkinson family that settled in the Township of Thorold in Niagara District, Upper Canada. My interest in this family is due my aunt's husband asking me to see if the family story of being a descendant of Loyalist that served in Colonel John Butler's Rangers is true. The good thing is yes, it is true and my aunt's husband is a descendant of the Loyalist Lt. Jacob Ball (the Elder). Before anyone asks, the paperwork for the certificate application is in progress with a draft that needs to be reviewed by my aunt's husband before my final check.

Yet I didn't stop there. I was curious as to if any other of my aunt's husband's lines were also descended from Loyalists. One interesting possibility popped up and that is Robert Wilkerson, the son of Robert Wilkinson, who married the granddaughter of the United Empire Loyalist Lt. Jacob Ball (the Elder).

The starting point anytime I look for a Loyalist connection is the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada web site. On that site there is a Directory of Loyalists and, if known, that lists indicates whether the person is "proven" or "expunged". A search of that directory results in finding a Robert Wilkerson listed:


WilkieJamesMuster Table HMS "Clinton", Document # ADM 36/9966 Public Record Office, Kew, Surrey, England. Copied by Frank Davis, transcribed by Mette Griffin Detail
WilkinsAndrewCharlotte Co., NBNYGBS; V40 N2 Apr 1909Detail
WilkinsIsaacHome DistrictUEL ListDetail
WilkinsMartinHome DistrictUEL ListDetail
WilkinsRobertSerj'tMidland DistrictExpungedUEL ListDetail
WilkinsenWill'mMuster Table HMS "Clinton", Document # ADM 36/9966 Public Record Office, Kew, Surrey, England. Copied by Frank Davis, transcribed by Mette Griffin Detail
WilkinsonJohnMuster Table HMS "Clinton", Document # ADM 36/9966 Public Record Office, Kew, Surrey, England. Copied by Frank Davis, transcribed by Mette Griffin Detail
WilkinsonRich'dCapt.Eastern DistrictUEL ListDetail
United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada, Directory of Loyalists, database ( 8 Sep 2014), Robert Wilkerson entry.

Since I know there are several spelling variations of the name I also make note of other potential Loyalists such as the Robert Wilkins that is listed as "Proven".

Clicking on the Detail link for Robert Wilkerson brings up the recorded details:

Surname : Wilkerson
Given name : Robert
Rank :
Where Resettled :
Status as Loyalist : Proven
Source :
Notes (Expunged, Suspended, Reinstated) :
Regiment :
Enlistment Date :
Date & Place of Birth :
Settled before war :
Date & Place of Death :
Place of Burial :
Wife Name :
Children :
Biography :
Proven Descendants : Col. John Butler 2010-03-29; Col. John Butler 2010-04-12;
Military Info :
Loyalist Genealogy :
Family History :
Family Genealogy :
Other Info :
Reserved :
United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada, Directory of Loyalists, database ( 8 Sep 2014), Robert Wilkerson details.

There really isn't much there. However, for the Proven Descendants there are two references:
  • Col. John Butler 2010-03-29
  • Col. John Butler 2010-04-12
These refer to the UELAC branch and the date of approval of the certificate application. This is a great thing to find. Since I belong to UELAC and I am also doing this as part of a certificate application I sent an e-mail to my local branch genealogist asking to retrieve either one of those certificate application. He forwarded me the e-mail of the Col. John Butler branch genealogist and after a few e-mail exchanges I had a copy of the application sent to me by mail (postal mail, not e-mail).

One thing I did when asking for a copy of the application and supporting documentation was to ask that all except the first four generations from the Loyalist be redacted. That way I preserve the privacy of any living people listed yet I still have enough information that I can bridge from my records to the generation(s) that I am missing.

In the packet I received paper copies of the wills for Robert Wilkerson and his father Robert Wilkinson plus the Certificate of Family Lands and Additional Bounty with Robert Wilkinson's name on it.

Township Papers for Thorold, microfilm MS658 (Toronto, Ontario: Archives of Ontario), reel 471, no. 000144, Certificate of Family Lands and Additional Bounty for Robert Wilkinson, issued 9 Feb 1791.

Here you can read that the board has "...examined into his character and pretensions, and find that he as received two hundred Acres of land in the Township of No 9 in the District of Nassau as a Loyalist..."

This, interestingly enough, is the only documentation that I can find, with the exception of an entry1 for his grandson, David Wilkerson, son of John Wilkerson, where it says "...grandson of Robert Wilkerson, a native of Pennsylvania, of German descent, who came to Canada as a U. E. Loyalist during the American revolutionary war".

Since I'm not a trusting sort when it comes to genealogy research I like to have some corroboration to statements made. To that end I've looked in the following references for any mention of Robert Wilkinson or Robert Wilkerson:

  • "The Loyalists In Ontario: The Sons and Daughters of The American Loyalists Of Upper Canada" by William D. Reid
  • "American Loyalist Claims (AO12)", Library and Archives Canada, Robert Wilkinson file, microfilm B-1177, volume 99, image 352. A claim reviewed in October 1783 was made but was found to be "perfectly groundless" by the examining board.
  • "American Loyalist Claims (AO13)", Library and Archives Canada, Robert Wilkinson file, microfilm B-2432, volume 67, images 601-602. This is the petition made that was reviewed in October 1783.
  • "British Military Records", Library and Archives Canada, RG 8, C Series.
  • "Loyalist Lineages of Canada" compiled by Toronto Branch, United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada (c) 1991. Published by Toronto Branch, United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada, Toronto, Ontario.
  • "Biographical sketches of loyalists of the American Revolution" by Lorenzo Sabine
  • "Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War" by Murtie June Clark
I still have several tasks to do:

  • Locate the first grant mentioned in the above Certificate of Family Lands and Additional Bounty.
  • Review the notes of W. G. Reive that have been placed within the collections of Library and Archives Canada. 
  • Scan the shelves of the library of the Sir Guy Carleton Branch of UELAC that are held at the City of Ottawa Archives.
  • Look through the Heir and Devisee digitized microfilms.
But as of yet, nothing has been found to corroborate the statement that Robert Wilkinson/Wilkerson is a Loyalist.

If you have any suggestions as to where to also look for additional evidence that Robert Wilkinson was a United Empire Loyalist I would be happy to hear from you.

1. Historical Publishing Company, editor, The History of the County of Welland, Ontario, Its Past and Present, Containing a Condensed History of Canada; A Complete History of Welland County: Its Townships, Towns, Villages, Schools, Churches, Societies, Industries, Statistics, Etc; Portraits of Some of Its Prominent Men; Description of Its Various Historic and Interesting Localities; Miscellaneous Matter; Biographies and Histories of Pioneer Families, Etc. (Welland, Ontario: Welland Tribune Printing House, 1887), p. 488, entry for David Wilkerson.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

When is a Wilkerson a Wilkinson?

One of the many challenges we can face when exploring our various family lines is coming across a surname change in one of the branches. In my case I was researching the Wilkerson line that, around the mid to late 1780s, came to what later became known as Canada. Much like most of my research I was working from the present to the past. Everything was going just fine until I came to the Robert Wilkerson that was born about 1785 and died July 21, 1843. That is when the problem began. OK, actually he wasn't the problem. It was his father or more correctly how his father spelled the family name.

On handwritten notes found in the collections of the Niagara Peninsula branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society that at the time were housed at the Thorold Public Library but are now at the St. Catharines Public Library there was comment on the Wilkerson page of "Robert Wilkinson or Wilkerson" with one of the children listed as "Robert". It just happened that on the same day I was looking at the collection another couple was also researching the same family name. Except they were coming at it from the John Wilkerson (husband of Anne Hoover) branch.

Since I am a doubting sort when it comes to documents that I have no idea as to their source or providence I could only use that note as a possible clue or guidepost. I knew I had to dig further to verify this change of surname and make sure the Wilkerson and Wilkinson families were one in the same. Since the events took place in the early history of Upper Canada and civil birth, marriage, and death registrations are non-existent I decided to use will and land records. Yes, church records are a possibility but many have been lost in this early time of Ontario and even then many don't record the names of parents when it comes to marriage records or funerals.

My first stop was the Niagara Settlers web site. This is an amazing resource for those with ancestors that settled in the Niagara Peninsula region after the American Revolution. There you will find transcriptions of land transactions and petitions along with some old township maps. There I found transcriptions under the name of Robert Wilkerson Sr. for a number of land transactions to his sons made via wills. But it this the right person since the transcription says Wilkerson and not Wilkinson? The only way to be sure is to get a copy of the wills.

From the will of Robert Wilkinson, written 12 May 18131

Step 1: Finding the Wills

The first thing I had to do was to find the wills in question. For that I headed over to the Archives of Ontario web site and their online "Ontario Court of Probate and Surrogate Court Records: Wills and Estate Files - A Pathfinder" document. From the clues I'd already been able to gather I know (or presumed) the following:
  • Robert Wilkerson died 21 Jul 1843 [from his grave marker]
  • John Wilkerson died in 1827 [from hand written notes in the Thorold library]
  • Robert Wilkinson died in 1813 [from hand written notes in the Thorold library]
So it seemed that all the deaths happened before 1859 so that is a good thing for me since there are actually online indexes on the Archives of Ontario web site:

Inventory 22, Appendix A1 (Court of Probate)
Inventory 22, Appendix A25 (Surrogate Courts)

I didn't find any Wilkerson or Wilkinson names from the townships and counties in the Niagara area in the Inventory 22, Appendix A1 (Court of Probate) index but a check of Inventory 22, Appendix A25 (Surrogate Courts) had quite a number with those surnames from Lincoln county.

The next step to locate the microfilm that has the information from the Surrogate Court was to locate the records for Lincoln county. I went to the Estate files section and found that all the possible name variants for this family in Lincoln county could be found on microfilm MS 8421. That was almost too easy. Through the Ottawa Public Library I knew I could order that microfilm via the Interlibrary Loan program. The hardest part was the waiting for the microfilm to arrive ... almost 3 weeks but it finally did come in.

Step 2: Saving the Microfilm Pages

The reading of the old handwriting can be a chore and, depending on the scribbles, sometimes near impossible. Instead of attempting to do the work at the library I made use of the one and only microfilm reader with USB saving capabilities at the main branch of the library to save the pages as images. Since the pages on the microfilm reader were larger than what could be scanned in in one shot I scanned them in piecemeal (top, bottom, left, right, etc.) with the expectation of being able to stitch them together at home into a readable document.

[As an aside, whenever you scan a microfilm page make sure you scan it at the highest resolution possible and save it in TIF format. Although it makes for a huge file it will be a good thing later on when you need to zoom in or do any editing to the pages.]

Once I got home I was able to use Microsoft's free (yes, FREE!) Image Composite Editor to just drag and drop the various parts of the pages onto the edit screen and it automagically created perfectly stitched together single pages for me.

Step 3: Reading and Transcribing

This for me is always the most painful part of genealogy research. But I have found that if I don't do this, especially for long handwritten documents, I can easily lose track of what I've read and that leads to confusion. Always a bad thing when doing research. A few days later (I had to take breaks so I wouldn't go too crazy) I had the wills transcribed. By the way, the more practice you have in reading and transcribing these documents the easier it becomes.

Step 4: Analysis and Conclusion

This was the interesting part. I now had the transcriptions of the wills of the Robert Wilkinson and that of two of his sons to work from plus digital images of the wills to verify what I had transcribed (yes, sometimes I even doubt my own transcriptions).

In the will of Robert Wilkinson of the Township of Thorold, Lincoln County, Niagara District, Upper Canada dated May 12, 18131 he leaves the following property to his sons:
  • Lot 46: to son Robert
  • Lot 47: to son John
  • Lot 70: one third (south end) to son Jacob, two thirds (north end) to son Robert
  • Lot 93: one third (south end) to son Jacob, two thirds (north end) to son John

Previously Robert had given by deed the following lots
  • Lot 92: to son Jacob
In the will of John Wilkerson2 of the Township of Thorold, Lincoln County, Niagara District, Upper Canada dated August 21, 1827 he authorizes his executors to “…sell my real or landed estates and to make legal titles for the same…”. The lands in the Township of Thorold, Lincoln County, Niagara District are:
  • Lot 47
  • Lot 70

The will of Robert Wilkerson3 of the Township of Thorold, Lincoln County, Niagara District, Province of Canada dated July 18, 1843 has the following lands listed in the Township of Thorold, Lincoln County, Niagara District:
  • Lot 46: to son Robert Morgan
  • Lot 69: two thirds to son Robert Morgan
So from these documents we see that the land that Robert Wilkinson bequeathed to his sons John and Robert appear in the wills of John Wilkerson and Robert Wilkerson. In addition to the aforementioned wills, extracts4 from the Abstracts of Deeds taken from the Register of Thorold Township provide details concerning the early land transactions of that township. These extracts confirm that the lands stated within the various families. By following these wills we can see the surname change from Wilkinson to Wilkerson.

1. Ontario, Estate Files (1794-1930), microfilm MS 8421, Will for Robert Wilkinson, dated 12 May 1813; Archives of Ontario, Toronto.
2. Ontario, Estate Files (1794-1930), microfilm MS 8421, Will for John Wilkinson, dated 21 Aug 1827; Archives of Ontario, Toronto.
3. Ontario, Estate Files (1794-1930), microfilm MS 8421, Will for Robert Wilkerson, dated 18 Jul 1843; Archives of Ontario, Toronto.
4. Niagara Settlers, Settler Records “W”, Thorold Township, Welland County, Extracted from the Abstracts of Deeds, Register of Thorold Township, 2 Sep 2014.

Monday, September 1, 2014

September Backup Reminder

For those in the Northern Hemisphere either the children are already back to school after a fun summer or they will be going back in the next several days. So maybe you will have a little bit of time to yourself to make sure you have all your valuable genealogy (and other information) backed up.

photograph by Gino, distributed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

If you are using a computer to record all that information see my posts below for tips on how you can make backups:
Backups - Part I (An Overview)
Backups - Part II (Local backups)
Backups - Part III (Cloud Storage) 
Backups - Part IV (Wrap up)

But for those not using a computer to record and track all your various genealogy records what are you doing about all your shelves of work that you have painstakingly gathered over the many years? How are you making sure they aren't lost due to some sort of disaster? It would be awful to lose a wall of binders and books to a fire, flood, tornado or hurricane.

photograph by Ada Be, distributed under CC BY 2.0 license

It is something to think about. How do you back up binders? I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Searching the FreeBMD Marriage Index

Recently in some of the Facebook genealogy groups I've been seeing questions and confusion with the FreeBMD Marriage Index collection on Ancestry. The confusion I see relates to people not knowing that the associated image found on Ancestry is not the actual registration but just a list of all people, the district where the marriage was registered in a quarter and year, along with the volume, and page where the marriage certificate/registration can be found. All that the BMD index tells you is that the person was married (or born or died depending on the index) sometime before the end of the stated quarter of that year.

The FreeBMD Marriage Index collection (much like the birth and death indexes) found on Ancestry can also be found, for free, at

I'm going to walk through both Ancestry's version and the FreeBMD version of the marriage indexes. I will be using George Warrener, my 2nd great-grandfather on my father's side of the family.


On Ancestry, I found him in the index entry for the 1853 Oct-Nov-Dec quarter.

FreeBMD, "England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index: 1837-1915," database, ( : accessed 30 Aug 2014), entry for George Warener, volume 9d, page 634, Dec quarter 1853, Scarborough district; citing the General Register Office's England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes.

There are four names at the bottom of the index search result. So just who are those people? Are they witnesses (like one person thought)? No, they are people married and registered with that same registration year, the quarter, district, volume and page number. Most often you will come across a total of four names but I have seen only three names at times. You might note that two of the names are males and two females. So two couples were registered as being married.

Now let's search for his marriage on FreeBMD ...


FreeBMD search page for George Warrener

Note that I checked the "Phonetic search surname" box. I know that the Warrener name has been spelled many different ways in the records so this takes in account many of those spellings (or misspellings). I rarely select the district but I try to narrow down the county. Usually the county is known or at least guessed at based on findings in census records and birth records of children. Often the marriage will take place in the home parish of the bride or where she was last living with her family. A good map of the time is always useful tool in your research. To select multiple counties or parts of counties (like the various Ridings of Yorkshire) you can select multiple counties by holding down the control key (on Windows systems) when you click on the county names. You can also narrow down the date range based on other events in their lives. But assuming that a person was married before the birth of their first child can be a dangerous assumption to make.

FreeBMD marriage search result for George Warrener
You can see a George Warener married in the quarter ending December 1853. If you click on the page number link, 634, it brings up a similar list to what was found on Ancestry in their search results.

FreeBMD marriage search result for Scarbro, volume 9d, page 634

So, just who married who? There are several ways to find out.
  1. You could look at the decennial census records for the years following. Using details you had hopefully found earlier in your research you may be able to narrow it down. Can you find a George and Ellen Warrener or possibly a George and Mary Warrener in the 1861 census?
  2. Maybe a naming pattern will give a clue. Since this was a direct line of mine, I know that his son's name is George Kaye Warrener. Could he have named his son by including his wife's maiden name? OK, so this is a leading question.
  3. You could look for his baptism record. On the Ancestry search result there is also a link to view the Ecclesiastical Parishes associated with the district. You can click on that link and bring up a list of the parishes.
The only way to be sure that the couple is the right one and to know the actual date of marriage is to find the marriage registration itself. You have a few options to find out the marriage registration details:
 Just don't buy it via a third party site as they will typically add a $5-$20 surcharge.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Citations don't have to be perfect?

I'm going to make a somewhat heretical statement when it comes to genealogy and that is "that citations don't have to be perfect".

Over the past several years there has been a big push to make sure you have citations for everything that you have recorded in your family trees. In my personal opinion (and may others) this is a good thing. When I was first starting out I didn't record where I found various facts or who told me family lore. Not having doing this in the past has bitten me in the derriere more times than I can count and I've had to recreate the path from square one as to how I found out some details in my tree.

Yet some people out there insist that citations must perfectly conform to what Elizabeth Shown Mills has written in "Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace". For many people just starting to delve into their family trees being constantly pounded upon to have "EE approved" citations just puts them off working on their tree.

For many starting off in this hobby they will often make use of Ancestry (and hopefully also MyHeritage, Findmypast, and FamilySearch to name a few other online resource) to start their trees. Possibly they have a program on their computer like Family Tree Maker, Legacy Family Tree, Roots Magic, or Reunion. All of those resources and tools can easily generate the citations needed. Many of the programs mentioned actually make use of Evidence Explained to create the templates to quickly and simply fill in. Are they "perfect" citations? Most often they are not. But are they good enough that if you give a family report with the citations listed to another person to locate the documents can they? You bet!

So, when helping out someone new to the hobby1 of genealogy and family history research gently remind them to record where and when they found the information. But, unless they are going to be writing a book, don't insist on the perfect citation at this time. Let them enjoy the thrill of discovering their past.

For all those having fun doing their family history, please have a citation associated with the facts you record but don't stress out on how it looks. Just make sure there is enough information recorded that you can find the document cited sometime in the future. You will be thankful that you did!

1. A professional genealogist is another case though.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Finding That Lost Family in the Census

One of the challenges we have all faced in researching our family histories is locating those sometimes elusive ancestors in the various census records. It is becomes particularly frustrating when you are positive that you know exactly where they are but they don't show up in any of the searchable indexes. So what do you do? I will be using Ancestry as the online tool for some of the examples but the same approaches work with other sites also. The case study this time was posted on the Ontario Genealogy group on Facebook.

First of all, create a time line out of all the records you have that surround the date of the census. What you are attempting to do is to place the family or person on the ground at a specific time. Use birth, marriage, and death registrations, newspaper articles and city directories (or anything else you have on them). Record the following details if they are on the documents:
  • the specific date of the event from the records you have
  • the exact address if it is given. Of course, sometimes only the city is recorded
  • possible name variations
If you are very fortunate you will have a document or two that records where they were the year of the census and the year or two following. Why a year or two after? Maybe they moved in the year of the census and they might be found in the new location.

So let's look at the family of George Haney that was supposedly living in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada when the 1921 census took place. We know he was born about 1889 in Ontario. It was also known from various documents surrounding the 1 June 1921 date that the 1921 Census of Canada took place that they were living at 24 1/2 Oak Street.

Approach 1: Name searches with wildcards

Make use of the wildcards and filters within Ancestry search feature. In this case, replace the vowels with question marks '?' and put in some other identifiable details such as the date and place of birth and use an exact matching keyword of "Niagara Falls" to restrict it to that area. Why replace the vowels? well a cursive 'o' and 'a' can often look the same to transcribers. The resulting search returned the following:

Search results from Ancestry for H?n?y of Niagara Falls in the 1921 Census of Canada
Ancestry search of the 1921 Census of Canada using wildcards
As you can see, there is a Geo Honey living in the Niagara Falls sub-district, Welland district born about 1890 in Ontario. Looks promising and when you view the image you find that he is living at 24 1/2 Oak Street.

Approach 2: Address search

For some of the census enumeration returns, especially for those of cities, they will record the street address. This is most commonly seen in the United States Federal Census enumerations but in 1921 Canada also recorded that information.

So let us search using an exact match for the street "24 1/2 Oak" (I left off the "Street" or "St" since I don't know how it was recorded in the census) and also restrict the municipality (you can do that for the 1921 census) to an exact match of "Niagara Falls":

Image of Ancestry search results using the street "24 1/2 Oak" and municipality "Niagara Falls"
Ancestry search of the 1921 Census of Canada using Street and Municpality

As you can see there are several "Honey" family members at that address. Again, looking at the image itself and carefully looking at the writing you can see that it appears that the name is transcribed incorrectly.

Approach 3: "Old School" manual browsing

So you still can't them? Time for "old school" research.

1. Try looking up the address on Google Maps (or Bing Maps, your choice). However, you may not find the address since over time street names do get changed or disappear due to developments in the area.

2. Still can't find the address on a current map? Look for older maps or city directories that will hopefully indicate where in the city or town the street was at that time.

3. No old maps or directories handy? Then look for clues in the records you have. In this case it was known that a person in the family went to "Maple Street School". Doing a search for that school reveals that yes it did exist (always nice to have confirmation of that fact) but it is no longer there. However, there is a Maples Street Park and in the park they have this monument to the school:

Picture of Maple Street School memorial in the Maple Street Park, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Maple Street Park, : accessed 21 Aug 2014, "Maple Street Park Memorial"
Now looking at your favourite map of Niagara Falls, Ontario see if you can find Maple Street Park in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

4. Finally we can go browse the 1921 Census of Canada and look through all the images one by one. But don't panic yet as we don't have to look through every single page. We will narrow it down just a little bit further. Unlike the earlier censuses taken in Canada, Library and Archives Canada hasn't made available the list of districts and sub-districts for the 1921 on their web site and neither is it available in the "About 1921 Census of Canada" section on Ancestry. However, because of your extensive knowledge of the area (you did read up about the area first, right?) you know that Niagara Falls is in Welland county at that time so the odds are it is in Welland district in the 1921 census. Of course it doesn't necessarily hold true for all the places. For a large city like Toronto you need to know if the location was in the north, east, south, west or centre part of that city.

Next you have to find the right sub-district. There are 10 sub-districts for Niagara Falls (City). Fortunately each sub-district is described by the streets that comprise their borders. A little more research and it appears that sub-district 31 may be the right location:
Polling Division No. 3 - Being all that part of the City lying between a line running west from River Road, through the centre of Queen Street to Victoria avenue, north through the centre of Victoria avenue to Maple Street, west through Maple Street produced to Stanley avenue and a line running west from River Road through to centre of Morrison Street produced to Stanley avenue
We can now look through the individual pages to find any references to Oak Street to make sure we are in the right sub-district. A mention of Oak Street is found on image page 12 so we just might be in the right place. A little further along on image page 25 (census page 24) there they are once again:
Image of the 1921 Census of Canada, Ontario, Welland District (138), Niagara Falls City (31), p 24
1921 Census of Canada, Ontario, Welland (138), Niagara Falls City (31), p 24; RG 31; digital images,, ( : accessed 21 Aug 2014)

But what if you still can't find them.
  • Could they have been visiting friends that day? 
  • Maybe, and it does happen, the pages have been lost or misfiled. 
  • Possibly they just moved away for a few months and are living somewhere else and then came back ... after the census of course! 
  • The family was in transit and were just missed by the enumerator
  • Could the enumerator have accidentally forgotten to go down that street?

[Oh, if anyone does come across an Alexander McKinlay (born 1889 in Scotland) with wife Isabella (AKA Bella, born 1886 in Scotland) and son Samuel (born 1915 in Ontario) that should be living in the town of Peterborough (or surrounding townships ... Peterborough was a smaller place then), Ontario drop me a note. I've used all these techniques and have even gone through all the images for that area and still no luck in finding him or the family.]