Wednesday, April 22, 2015

In Honour of Samuel McKinlay


A hundred years ago today or tomorrow, the date is a little uncertain, my grand-uncle Samuel McKinlay, like many others during the First World War, gave his life in the service of his country. The only picture I have of Samuel McKinlay, Jr. as an adult is that of the eldest sons found in the "The McKinlay Family" article by Bill McKinlay in A History of North Monaghan Township, 1817-1989 (Samuel Jr. is circled in red).

McKinlay, Bill. "The McKinlay Family." The North Monaghan Historical Research Committee, editor, A History of North Monaghan Township, 1817-1989. Canada: The North Monaghan Historical Research Committee, 1990. p. 99.
McKinlay, Bill. "The McKinlay Family." The North Monaghan Historical Research Committee, editor, A History of North Monaghan Township, 1817-1989. Canada: The North Monaghan Historical Research Committee, 1990. p. 99.
In a situation seen across Canada several of the McKinlay sons enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Unfortunately for Samuel he was the only one that didn't make it back home.

Sometime between April 22nd and 23rd, 1915 he was killed when the Canadians were brought up to fill the gap due to the lines collapsing during the Ypres Gas Attack.

So for all those that went off to fight for their country, regardless of the nation they were fighting for, yet never came home thank you for your sacrifice. For all those that have served or are still serving their country, thank you for your service.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
- John McCrae1




1. John McCrae, In Flanders Fields and Other Poems. Edited by Sir Andrew Macphail, Toronto, Briggs, 1919.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Some Lessons Learned from WDYTYA

Out of the several current television shows with a primary focus on genealogy1 I find that TLC's Who Do You Thing You Are?2 is the most interesting to me. Much like the Canadian History Channel's earlier Ancestors in the Attic you get to follow the trail of research and learn about some of the resources used. Unlike Ancestors in the Attic where they helped the average person, WDYTYA focuses on a family branch or two of a celebrity. Now the celebrity focus really doesn't matter to me. What matters to me is that they show some of the the leg work and also keep the brick and mortar buildings in the forefront of their research toolkit.

Of course with only an hour of time, including commercials, the other 999+ hours of behind the scenes efforts of the researchers, archivists, and librarians are often glossed over or presented as a fait accompli. Yet we as the family historians often do the same when we give the 50 page descendants report to a family member. They don't realize the time and effort taken to find, analyze, and compile the information into something that is readable.

Another thing I enjoy about WDYTYA is reading the tweets of many of my fellow genealogists while the show is taking place. Even without a Twitter account you can follow the #WDYTYA hashtag in real time while the show is on or even go back and look at older posts.

So here are just some of my thoughts and lessons learn over the past several years of watching Who Do You Think You Are? I find myself repeating many of them when I live tweet during the East Coast broadcast.

It comes down to perspective. A person's motives are always complex. It is rare you find a truly good or evil person. What a person does in the past needs to be judged based on that time and not through your own personal bias.

Since our ancestors were either willing or unwilling participants in events you need to learn about the times they lived in. Why would a 15 year old become an indentured servant? Could it be that that was the price to pay for their passage to get away from a land struck with famine and poverty?

Something to keep in mind when researching: most documents aren't online, indexed, or digitized. WDYTYA does a great job in keeping idea this in the forefront. They may start with visiting Ancestry.com but more often than not the celebrity ends up at a library or archive to find the actual document that connects them to the ancestor.

Before it is too late ask your living relatives about their life, their experiences, and what they remember about their ancestors. Often the starting place for the show is a visit to a relative to learn what they know or have in their possession. Sometimes the celebrity will express remorse that they didn't ask their parents or grandparents those all so important family history questions.

Many of the newspapers of the past had a very visible political bent. Keep that perspective in mind when reading those papers. Much like the political bent of some of the news broadcasts on television today the newspapers of the past were often also platforms for the political views of the owners and editors. If an article is talking about your ancestor in a glowing positive way or vilifying them check to see what the viewpoint is of the editor. If your ancestor was a Whig and the newspaper was owned by a Tory then their might be some bias in the words used to describe your ancestor.

Before visiting an archive you may want to contact them 1st to order the files. It may take a day or so to get them from the vaults. This is a very important detail to remember. When I visit Library and Archives Canada I see this often. Many times it is a visitor from out of town that comes by with only a day available to do research. However, because they didn't pre-order the material that is held in the vaults at the Preservation Centre in Gatineau they go away disappointed that they couldn't see the document immediately.

When doing US genealogy research make sure you know when the states formed & when the various borders changed (state/county). This not only applies to the United States of America but to any country. Why is this important? When borders change the documents stored in court houses and archives aren't picked up lock, stock, and barrel and shipped to the jurisdiction of the county, state, or country where the place now falls under. The files just stay where they are. So you need to learn about the border changes so you know where to look for that key document.

Remember to record the various spelling of the names of your ancestors. When searching records use those spellings in your searches. How we spell our surname right now isn't necessarily how it was spelled in the past (or even by future generations). Depending on who was recording the information it might not even be your ancestor that was doing the spelling. It could have been a town clerk or clergy member and they spelled the name as they heard it. Is the name spelled Houghten, Haughten, or Hutten?3

Always read the source details when looking at those index records. What is extracted is often only a portion of the full document! An index just provides enough information to allow you to find a person in the collection. What is often missing from the index are the details to confirm that the record really does apply to your ancestor. Always go to the document in question to read and analyze the contents before jumping to any conclusion.

Often the stops along the journey into your ancestors' past brings more joy than finally reaching your genealogy research goal. To aid in our research we should always set a goal. It helps us keep focused and keeps us from being distracted by the BSOs4 we come across. However, during this journey we should also stop and reflect on what we have discovered.

When doing your genealogy research you need to leave present day ethics aside & consider the events in the times they occurred. If you have a well off ancestor that lived in the southern United States in the early 1800s then expect to find that they may have owned slaves. It was just a normal part of their existence. Maybe you have an ancestor that fought in World War II for the Germans. That doesn't mean he was a Nazi but it could just be that he was fighting for his fatherland. Look at the situation through the eyes of those living at that time and don't be so quick to judge their actions.

So set aside some time on Sunday night at 10 pm to watch Who Do You Think You Are? on TLC and follow the live tweets (#WDYTYA) or catch up on the various US, UK, and Australian episodes on YouTube. You might just learn about some unknown resource or some interesting history.



1. PBS's The Genealogy Road Show, PBS's Finding Your Roots, and TLC's Who Do You Think You Are?
2. Often abbreviated as WDYTYA.
3. This was a real life challenge for me. The last various was a phonetic spelling found in the census.
4. BSO - Bright Shiny Object. Those records we stumble upon that drag us away from our current research goal.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

One of the Least Used Genealogy Resources

As more people come to the party known as family history and genealogy research the majority start their hobby with on-line resources. There are many sites on the Internet that help facilitate that research by permitting people to quickly find records such as:
  • census enumerations
  • civil birth, marriage, and death registrations
  • parish baptism, marriage, and funeral records
  • passenger lists
  • border crossing forms
  • military records
  • city directories
  • electoral rolls

Yet that only scratches the surface of what is available. The various archives, libraries, and museums are a treasure trove of those hidden gems that often contain the answers to our brick walls. I've mentioned in past posts the need to Check the Local Library and have often mentioned the collections at Library and Archives Canada.

However there is one resource that is often not used. This resource is not a document or microfilm. It isn't composed of paper, plastic, or celluloid. Rather this resource consists of the amazing Librarians and Archivists in those brick and mortar, glass and steel, and concrete buildings that I keep encouraging you to visit.

Maybe you are visiting a library in a town where your ancestors settled. You think you know the exact book you want to consult since your found that book in one of the online catalogues such as WorldCat or on the library's own web site. So you head over to the genealogy section, read the applicable pages in the book and then you are done right?

Not even close!

Before going to that book you should have dropped by the reference desk and said hello to the Librarian. Then you should have let them know what you are researching and if they might be able to point you to what they have in their collection that can help you in your quest.

That is how I met up with another researcher who just happened to be researching the same family line I was interested in. The Librarian brought me over to the genealogy section and made the introductions. We were then able to compare notes, help each other out, and save time by not duplicating our research efforts.

Maybe you have a brick wall and you have looked everywhere in the library or archive. Actually that should be you think you have looked everywhere. Walk over to the reference desk and ask if they have a moment to help you out. Explain your problem and where you have looked. You may just be amazed to find out you really haven't looked everywhere. You see the Librarians and Archivists know their collections. They will ask some probing questions, maybe even check their computer or card catalogue (yes, these still exist), and then take you to the document or book that you didn't even know existed.

So make use of that wonderful resource known as the Librarian or Archivist!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Working Backwards to Move Forward

Much like many of you I too have a family tree hosted on Ancestry. I use that tree for cousin bait and also to let the computers at Ancestry do some of the easy research for me while I sleep. Many of those hints are for census records and after reviewing the documents I make an informed decision as to whether the person on the census page really does match who I am presently working on. With my world subscription (vital for my Canadian, USA, UK, Australian, and even some Irish research) I sometimes get some very strange possible matches to people in my tree. This is one of those cases.

In my tree I have a John McKinlay (my 1st cousin twice removed) born 4 Jul 1891 at 33 Maxwell Street in Pollokshaw, Scotland1. He is the son of James McKinlay, a cloth bleacher foreman, and Mary Baird. I had found him in the 1901 census of Scotland living with his parents and siblings. The last record of him I could find was as the informant of his father's death in 1916. At that time John was residing at 6 College Street, Glasgow (same place his father's home). After that John disappeared.

In the waning days of 2014 a little hint appeared on John's page. This hint was for a record in the "World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942" collection.

Ancestry.com, "U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942," database on-line, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 9 Mar 2015), entry for John Baird McKinlay, serial number U601, Draft Board 8, Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey; citing Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration. Records of the Selective Service System, Record Group Number 147, National Archives and Records Administration.
Ancestry.com, "U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942," database on-line, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 9 Mar 2015), entry for John Baird McKinlay, serial number U601, Draft Board 8, Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey; citing Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration. Records of the Selective Service System, Record Group Number 147, National Archives and Records Administration.

The birth date was right and that document recorded that he was born in Glasgow, Scotland. Also knowing that a mother's maiden surname may be used for a middle name I was tempted to added that record. Yet a name and a matching birth date didn't necessarily mean it was the same person. It did mention that a Mrs. Lily McKinlay living at the same address was a "person who will always know your address". Could she be his wife? However, I had to put those questions to the side and deal with other branches of my tree first. Instead of getting distracted by this BSO2 I created a To Do item and carried on with my research task I had initially started working on.

Today, while avoiding other activities, I decided to look into this To Do item3.

Instead of linking that record to my existing John McKinlay I created a new person John Baird McKinlay and connected that record to him. I also added a spouse with the first name of Lily. It was a guess that she was his wife but I needed to start somewhere4.

Next I looked for John and Lily in the 1940 US Federal Census. From the registration card I knew that John and Lily lived at 867 Sheridan Avenue, Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey, USA and there I found them. But I still don't really have any additional details on John. I do now know that Lily is his wife and she was born about 1892 in England.

1940 U.S. census, Union County, New Jersey, population schedule, Elizabeth, enumeration district (ED) 23-90, sheet 4B, household 120, John McKinlay household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 Mar 2015); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 2400.
1940 U.S. census, Union County, New Jersey, population schedule, Elizabeth, enumeration district (ED) 23-90, sheet 4B, household 120, John McKinlay household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 Mar 2015); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 2400.

Can I find them in the 1930 Federal Census of the USA? I didn't really even need to search since an Ancestry hint popped up for that census. But I still needed to read and analyze to make sure it was the correct census for John and Lily ... and it seemed to be the right entry.

1930 U.S. census, Union County, New Jersey, population schedule, Elizabeh, enumeration district (ED) 66, sheet 23A, p. 35 [stamped], dwelling 387, family 574, John McKinlay household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 9 Mar 2015); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 1387; Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.
1930 U.S. census, Union County, New Jersey, population schedule, Elizabeh, enumeration district (ED) 66, sheet 23A, p. 35 [stamped], dwelling 387, family 574, John McKinlay household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 9 Mar 2015); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 1387; Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.

A few more facts appeared. The first is that they were both first married at the age of 27 years. This puts their marriage happening around 1919. As a starting point I'm assuming they were married to each other at that time and this is not a second marriage for both of them. The second is that they immigrated to the United States in 1920. So the odds are that they were married before they came to the USA.

With any luck they married in England (Lily's birth country) or Scotland (last place I found John). If England then I will need to order from the General Register Office for England and Wales for £9.25 and wait a few weeks to get a document. So off to FreeBMD to search for a John McKinlay marrying a Lily.
FreeBMD.org search for marriages for John McKinlay between 1st quarter 1917 and 4th quarter 1920
FreeBMD.org search for marriages for John McKinlay between 1st quarter 1917 and 4th quarter 1920

Only three matches and when I looked at each one none had a Lily or anything close as a possible spouse. So it was off to ScotlandsPeople to see if there was a marriage there for John McKinlay.

ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk search for statutory marriages for John McKinlay, wife's forename starting with "Li", with a year range between 1917 and 1920.
ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk search for statutory marriages for John McKinlay, wife's forename starting with "Li", with a year range between 1917 and 1920.


Since it only found two possible matches it was definitely worth spending the 1 credit necessary to see the search results (note that the image above was taken after I viewed the index that is why it is free to view the page).

ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk search results for statutory marriages for John McKinlay, wife's forename starting with "Li", with a year range between 1917 and 1920.
ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk search results for statutory marriages for John McKinlay, wife's forename starting with "Li", with a year range between 1917 and 1920.
Usually I don't this lucky in my searches but there is John Baird McKinlay marrying a Lila Ada Dunbar in 1918. Since the Scottish statutory marriage registrations normally include the names of the parents of both parties it is definitely worth spending the 5 credits needed to view the marriage registration.

Lanarkshire, Scotland, Statutory Marriages 1855-2009, 1918 Marriages in the District of Garngadhill: 44, John Baird McKinlay-Lily Ada Dunbar, 1918; digital images, General Register Office for Scotland, ScotlandsPeople (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/ : accessed 9 Mar 2015).
Lanarkshire, Scotland, Statutory Marriages 1855-2009, 1918 Marriages in the District of Garngadhill: 44, John Baird McKinlay-Lily Ada Dunbar, 1918; digital images, General Register Office for Scotland, ScotlandsPeople (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/ : accessed 9 Mar 2015).
There is the John Baird McKinlay that I was hoping to find. Here he states that he is the son of the late James McKinlay, a bleacher, and the late Mary Baird. I actually have documents for James and Mary showing that they died before 24 Dec 1918 so that helps confirm this statement. Even the address for John matches (spelling to be ignored) the information on his father's death registration and John's last known address. This is a definitely a match to my John McKinlay.

I now even have the full name of Lily ... it is Lily Ada Dunbar, the daughter of Oliver Dunbar and Lily Ada Adkins.

So the James Baird McKinlay initially flagged as a hint in the "World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942" collection is the John McKinlay in my tree. Of course a new To Do item needs to be created: find their arrival in the New World.

Tip: Don't discount those hints that don't seem to fit at first. Form a hypotheses and work through the records. Sometimes you need to work backwards to find the answer.




1. Renfrewshire, Scotland, "Statutory Births 1855-2009," 1891 Births in the Parish of Eastwood, p. 102, John McKinlay; digital image, General Register Office for Scotland, ScotlandsPeople (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/: 25 Aug 2011).

2. BSO: Bright Shiny Object - the bane of most genealogy researchers since one can easily distract you from what you are presently working on.

3. 530 open items with 239 just for ordering records from the General Register Office of England and Wales. That is over £2200 or about $4200 CDN! Maybe I'll get them when I win the lottery.

4. Always be willing to throw away a theory if it doesn't pan out. However, make sure you record in your Research Log what you found and why it didn't work out.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Searching the Obituary Daily Times

One of those sites that have become invaluable to me for locating fairly recent obituaries is the Obituary Daily Times. If you have a subscription to Ancestry.ca you can also find the Obituary Daily Times in their collections under "Web: Obituary Daily Times Index, 1995-Current". But the Obituary Daily Times web site is constantly updated so use that whenever possible.

Not all newspapers are indexed by the fabulous contributors. However, the list of publications that are or have been indexed can be found on the Publications page. Just be aware that the Obituary Daily Times DOES NOT have the obituaries. It is just an index to help you find the newspaper that does have the obituary or notice of death.

There are two ways you can use this site for your genealogy research. The first is to subscribe to their daily (or twice daily) e-mail. You do that by sending an e-mail to GEN-OBIT-L-request AT rootsweb.com (replace the "AT" with the "@" symbol) and putting "subscribe" in the body of the e-mail. No subject for the e-mail is required. However, since I already get enough e-mails every day I make use of the second option and that is searching their online index.

Searching the Obituary Daily Times database is as simple as going to their search form found at http://obits.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/obit.cgi. There you can search for anything recorded in the index.

For example, I'm looking for recent obituaries for Jenkins. For the keywords I just type in Jenkins. That returns back almost 18,000 possible matches for people with a surname of Jenkins, maiden surname of Jenkins, previously married surname of Jenkins, people who died in Jenkins township in Pennsylvania. That is just a few too many to review in my lifetime. Yet I can also use more than one keyword in the search. In this case, I am looking for any obituaries in the index for any Jenkins in New Brunswick. For the keywords I just use Jenkins NB. Just by adding "NB" I now only have 60 possible obituaries to look through. Below is a snippet of what was returned:

BEERS, Constance (JENKINS)[KING]; 92; St John NB>Auburndale FL; Tampa Trib; 2007-9-18; evallie
CYR, Margaret Helen (JENKINS); 74; Woostock NB; Telegraph Journal; 2002-11-22; jdlmwc
FIDLER, Maxine J (JENKINS); 78; York NB>Troy MT; Missoulian; 1999-4-16; hharley
HANLEY, Dorothy "Dot" (JENKINS); 88; Saint John NB>Halifax NS; Telegraph Journal (NB); 2005-8-31; jdlmwc
HANLEY, Dorothy Parker (JENKINS); 88; Saint John NB>Halifax NS; Chron-Herald; 2005-8-31; kbutler
HEDBERG, Brenda J (ESTEY)[JENKINS]; ; Saint John NB; Telegraph Journal; 2003-3-8; jdlmwc
JENKINS, Betsy Maria (PAGET); 89; Plaster Rock NB; Daily Gleaner; 2007-2-19; rmdi
JENKINS, Betsy Marie (PAGET); 89; Plaster Rock NB; Telegraph Journal; 2007-2-19; jdlmwc
JENKINS, Carl Beecher; 76; Minto NB; Daily Gleaner; 2008-4-28; rmdi
JENKINS, Carmen A (OUELLETTE); ; Saint John NB; Telegraph Journal; 2011-12-19; jdlmwc
JENKINS, David G Rev; ; Rothesay NB; Telegraph Journal; 2013-8-14; jdlmwc
JENKINS, Donald M; ; Saint John NB; Telegraph Journal; 2008-4-19; jdlmwc
JENKINS, Donald Osbourne; 73; Fredericton NB; Saint John E-T-G; 1990-9-28; jdlmwc
JENKINS, Doris Gertrude (CUMBERLAND); 90; Hampton NB; Telegraph Journal; 2008-11-11; jdlmwc
JENKINS, Dow A "Dowie"; ; Nauwigewauk NB; Telegraph Journal; 2006-10-31; jdlmwc
JENKINS, Edith Gertrude (SMITH); 96; Long Reach NB>Cumberland MD; Cumberland T-N; 2006-3-14; gschubert
JENKINS, Eileen Ruth (TOMPKINS); 61; Waterville NB; Daily Gleaner; 2009-4-21; rmdi
JENKINS, Ellen "Nellie" (STACKHOUSE); 101; Medford ME>Saint John NB; Telegraph Journal; 2007-5-22; jdlmwc
JENKINS, Flora A (McGARITY); 77; Cambridge Narrows NB; Telegraph Journal; 2013-9-17; jdlmwc
JENKINS, Fred W "Roop"; 78; Saint John NB; Telegraph Journal; 2009-11-21; jdlmwc

Note how the index is formatted (taken from the Obituary Daily Times Contributors' Handbook):
Surname, Firstname; Age; Place of Birth>Death; Pub Name; Pub Date; Tagname

The surnames are always in upper case and if a maiden surname is provided in the obituary then it is included between "()". If the person was married previously and the previous married surname (or surnames) is in the obituary then that too is included but encased in "[]".

The age, if provided in the obituary, is recorded.

You will see sometimes the place is listed like "Long Reach NB>Cumberland MD". This means that the place of birth is also recorded. In this case the obituary stated that the person was born in Long Reach, New Brunswick and died in Cumberland, Maryland.

The publication name can be a challenge since often the full publication name isn't typed in but instead a short form or abbreviation is used. You can find all the publication name abbreviations on their Publications page. Always double-check the abbreviation to make sure you are looking for the correct newspaper.

The date of publication is in the format of YYYY-M-D. So a publication date of 2003-3-8 converts to March 8th, 2003. Note that there are no leading zeros for the months and days.

Finally the tagname is the code for the contributor's name.

Let's look at the line "JENKINS, Fred W "Roop"; 78; Saint John NB; Telegraph Journal; 2009-11-21; jdlmwc". I note that his nickname appears to be "Roop". An unusual nickname but since I've been researching his line for some time now I know that his grandmother's name is Lena Garner Roop. According to this obituary he was 78 years old when he died in Saint John, New Brunswick. I should be able to find his obituary in the November 21st, 2009 edition of the Telegraph-Journal. I can either see if a local library or archive has this edition or I can check online to see if the Telegraph-Journal has an online presence (they do and their recent obituaries can be searched at http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/obituaries.php).

I could have searched for Jenkins 2009 or Fred Jenkins and his entry in the index would have popped up. The search keywords can be anything recorded in the index.

Just remember, the Obituary Daily Times is just an index. You still have to locate the newspaper and read the obituary to confirm that it is for the person you are searching for.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Canadian Census Enumerator Instructions

Many times as we do our research into the lives of our ancestors we come across census entries that cause us to scratch our head in bewilderment and confusion. Just why did the enumerator record the religion as "N.C." or the birth place as "U.C."? There must be a rational reason and many times there is. First of all, make sure you visit the Censuses page at Library and Archives Canada and read the various sections, especially the "About" page, for clues concerning abbreviations and when the enumerations took place.

However, the next challenge is to find out what were the instructions given to the enumerators. For those censuses taking place after the 1867 Confederation you can find PDF copies of the proclamations and/or manuals on several web sites such as the Internet Archive, Library and Archives Canada, or even the University of Ottawa.

For those censuses taken before Canadian Confederation it becomes a little more of a challenge. Fortunately the Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), Département de Démographie, Université de Montréal as part of their historical census database construction projects for the Canadian censuses of 1851/52 and 1881 has pulled together some transcriptions to help understand those censuses.



Those excerpts may be found in David P. Gagan's article "Enumerator's Instructions for the Census of Canada 1852 and 1861" in the "Histoire Sociale/Social History", Vol. VII, No. 14 (November 1974). Use WorldCat to see if you can find a copy close to you to peruse.

For those more recent census enumerations of Canada such as those taken in 1926, 1931, 1936, 1941, and 1946 a search of the Internet Archive can locate the enumerator manuals.


Tip: Save those PDF files to your computer just in case they disappear from the various web sites.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Missing Sub-Districts in the Canadian Censuses?

One of the key resources we make use of in order to track our ancestors over the years are the nominal census enumerations. In Canada, for most provinces1, we have records of the decennial nominal census enumerations from 18512 to 19213 available to us. In the Prairie Provinces there are also the 1906 and 1916 censuses available. All except for the 1921 census are available on the Library and Archives Canada web site on their Censuses page. There is even the 1870 census of that brand new province of Manitoba.

Yet have you ever run into the problem where you just can't locate the family in a specific census?

You know the family was in the township and county during the census so why can't you find them using Ancestry or FamilySearch?

Beyond the obvious issues of horrible handwriting making transcriptions difficult or the family being missed by the enumerator (it happens) there is another reason ... the pages may have been lost. This is more common in the enumerations prior to Confederation. A good example is the 1851 census enumeration of Bytown4. If you had ancestors residing in the East and West sub-districts then you are in luck. However, if the family you are interest in was in the Centre sub-district then stop banging your head against the monitor or keyboard trying to find them in the census5. The census records for that sub-district didn't survive.

District: 46 - Bytown (town)

Sub-district NumberSub-district Name
442East
443West
444​Centre (census records have not survived)

Yet how do you know if the pages from the census for a sub-district survived the ravages of time? There we are fortunate that Library and Archives Canada has listed all the numbers and names of the various districts and sub-districts. On each of the About pages for each census there is a link to the "Districts and Sub-districts" for that census. Go to the Districts and Sub-districts, select the province in question and a list of the districts and sub-districts will be display.

While you are on the About page take some time to read what schedules have also survived and have been microfilmed (and later digitized). For example, the 1871 census of Canada has all 9 schedules preserved while for the 1881 census of Canada only "Schedule 1, Nominal return of the living" has been preserved.

Tip: Before you go insane looking for records that may not exist become familiar with what records have survived.



1. Nova Scotia didn't start listing everyone in a household until the the 1871 census.
2. Sometimes also called the 1852 census since they didn't get around to taking the census until 12 Jan 1852.
3. The 1921 census of Canada is available for free on Ancestry to those using an Internet Service Provider in Canada.
4. Now called Ottawa. 
5. Don't give up though. Have you checked the city or county directories for a listing for the head of household?