Finding Genealogy Information in Military Records

If you have an ancestor who fought in a war or was a member of the military, an obvious place to search for genealogy information is military records.

Searching military records will provide information on your ancestor’s time of service, but will also provide personal information, including the basics such as age, height, weight, visible scars, next of kin, as well as other personal information.

You may think that is all you will find, but there is so much more information to be mined from the records.   I was researching a Canadian soldier in W.W. 2 and found those little extras that really make the search interesting.   His job prior to enlisting in the military was with the Manitoba Provincial Police.  His next of kin was listed as his mother, including her full name and address.   However, later on he changed his next of kin to whom I would assume was a close personal friend (i.e. girlfriend) from his hometown.   Aha, that is interesting.   But, reading further, his next of kin became a woman in England.   Now I was really interested.    Which one of the two did he marry or did he marry at all?

As genealogists, curious minds always want to know, so on conducting further research I finally found a marriage certificate and, yes, he married the woman from England.  I also found that after the war he returned to his job with the Manitoba Provincial Police force.  This police force was amalgamated into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and he was grandfathered into the RCMP.  Through RCMP records I found his employment information, retirement date and the cemetery where he was buried, along with his wife’s grave.

All this from military records!

At a recent general meeting of our Society Steve Cowan of the BC-Yukon Branch of the Heraldic Society spoke about researching military history for genealogy purposes.   He provided a list of research sites for several countries which has now been posted on our website at  You may find this list helpful while conducting your own research on military ancestors.

Good luck with your research.

How to research the newly-digitized Ontario Land Registry Records

If you are researching ancestors in Ontario, Cindi Foreman’s well-researched tutorial containing a four-part series of step-by-step illustrated instructions are a must-read series.

Part I: Historical Books: First Registration Book: Where genealogists can find their ancestors.  This post, is about the First Registration books which contain a list of first registrations from registry to land titles (e.g. Crown Patent or Crown plan).

Part II: Historical Books: Abstract/Parcel Register Book: Where genealogists can find all the entries of every transaction on their ancestor’s land from the date the Crown Patent was issued (all instruments recorded) up to January 30, 1981.

Part III: OnLand Records: Historical Books: General Register Index, genealogists learn why their ancestor’s will can be found in the Ontario Land Registry Office, and not in the Court records. The General Register Index contains a Registry System index of all non-land-specific documents maintained by each Land Registry Office, including wills, letters probate, and letters patent.  In this part of the tutorial  Ms. Foreman demonstrates how she found information for her 4th great-grandfather Matthew Moynahan’s (1770-1860) will.

 Part IV: Historical Books: Canada Lands Index is about the Canada Lands Index that contains plans of public lands under the Canada Lands Surveys Act. In this blog post, genealogists learn how to find information about public lands under the Canada Lands Surveys Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Transfers of Jurisdiction and Control, Indian Reserves, and National Parks.  Ms. Foreman explains that this is an “index of sorts” to the 53 Land Registry Offices in Ontario. She indicates if they even have a Canada Lands Index book online and summarizes all of the historical books that are available online in this new resource.

In addition to the instructions, Ms. Foreman provides a glossary and links to online resources for finding your ancestors’ land records.

Going through these tutorials and using the techniques can be time consuming, but it is well worth the effort to find more information on your ancestors’ lives.

Why Attend a Genealogy Conference

People often think that genealogy conferences are unnecessary because there are so many other learning opportunities available.  There are webinars, podcasts, genealogy blogs and, it seems, endless ways to learn just by searching the internet.


Yes, those are excellent learning opportunities, but there are advantages in attending a conference that are unique and not available “on line”.





Develop Your Skills

Do you have a brick wall that you can’t climb or an ancestor that stubbornly remains hidden no matter how hard you look?   Do you need to learn more about effectively researching?

Get Inspired

In a conference, you are sitting with the like-minded people. They all are here for a common goal. The conference can take your research to a new level.

Those brick walls and ancestors that are hiding may make you feel as though you can’t get anywhere with your research and you begin to develop that “oh, no, this is impossible” feeling.   Listening to experts in their field and networking with other genealogists in person will fire up that research flame again and provide you with opportunities to view your research in a new and exciting way.   You will have the “yes I can” feeling again.


You will not only learn from experienced and knowledgeable educators in their chosen genealogy field but you will also have the opportunity to speak with them in person or join in on a wide-ranging question and answer session.

You will also have the unique opportunity to network with fellow genealogists who are as addicted to genealogy as you are.  You may find someone researching in the same area, researching the same general family or find a cousin or other relative.  There are more “cousin connections” at a genealogy conference than you can imagine.   It is not only networking, that is inspiring!  By knowing who will be attending the conference, you can make a plan on what you are going to discuss with them during coffee breaks, for example.

Have I inspired you to attend a genealogy conference?  I hope so, because they are an endless source of learning, entertainment and sheer enjoyment.   I have attended on-line webinars, listened to podcasts, read blogs, chatted with other genealogists either by e-mail or through social media, but there is nothing that can compare with actually attending a conference.   You will go home from it with more knowledge, inspiration and skills as well as new genealogy friends.  It is a win-win situation all the way around.

Having said all that, you may want to find a genealogy conference in your nearby area. If you are new to genealogy and have not yet joined a genealogy society, you may want to look into joining a society in your area.  Don’t do genealogy in the closet, get out there and attend a conference or join a society, you will never be sorry and will be amazed at how your genealogy horizons will open.

Our Qualicum Beach Family History Society is hosting a conference on April 20th and 21st, 2018 in Parksville, British Columbia.  We have three dynamic speakers:

Thomas MacEntee, an international speaker from Chicago.  His topic is technology and genealogy.

Lesley Anderson, the spokesperson for Ancestry Canada.  She will be covering both researching on Ancestry and Ancestry DNA.

Tara Shymansky, a well-known instructor on Canadian genealogy.  She will be speaking about researching Canadian records with emphasis on census research.

Then there are the fabulous door prizes, great vendors, chances to network with other genealogists – and the list goes on.

For more information about our conference, please visit our conference website at

As if that wasn’t enough, you will be visiting beautiful Vancouver Island, one of the jewels in the world’s crown!

Good luck with your research and I hope to see you at a conference somewhere, some day.


Ancestor Hunting through Newspaper Research

Now that a new year has started, you probably have made and broken several genealogy resolutions.  At this point you may be feeling at a loss as to where to research for more information on your elusive ancestors.

One important avenue for research is newspapers, and not just one newspaper in the local community.   As an example, several years ago I was researching the railway accident that killed my grandfather.  Using (a subscription website), I filled in the date of the accident and the  name of the nearest newspaper in the area of the accident.  There were several articles from two local newspapers.  This was in a small town in Ontario but, to my surprise, there was also an article in an upstate New York newspaper giving details of the accident.   And the moral of that story is to widen your search criteria and to not stop your research with just one newspaper.

If you have an unusual or uncommon surname, searching for one person  by surname only may also provide useful links to other people in your family.

There are several subscription sites for newspaper research, but one free site that has links to several newspapers, both in Canada and the United States is Ancestor Hunter.

Don’t just stop with researching the newspapers.   As is stated on their page, “to research historical newspapers and be successful, it helps to be educated about the characteristics of these important genealogy resources; where to find them, and how to best search for the articles that you are seeking.  You will find the lessons page at

Good luck with your ancestor hunt!

Why We Need Our Local Family Search Centre


The Legal Genealogist Judy G. Russell in her blog post of December 12th reminds us that, starting today, Wednesday, December 13, we must set up a free FamilySearch account if we want to access anything on FamilySearch..   

This is something we all knew was coming and, as Ms. Russell writes, “For the most part, this is a small inconvenience — a minor price to pay for major-league access to free records.”

However, in her post, there was one section that struck me as very important:

“And this is the part of the process that isn’t without some major inconvenience — and frustration — for users right now. Because records that we used to be able to see, online, at 3 a.m., in our bunny slippers, are now not accessible online from home at all. To view these records, we’re told, we have to go to a Family History Center (FHC) or affiliated library or view them at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Now this isn’t any different in terms of convenience from ordering the microfilm to be delivered to an FHC or affiliated library… But, for some key records, it’s a big difference from online access just a few weeks or months ago.”

The entire blog post may be read here.

We are very fortunate that in our area we have a local Family History Centre for easy access to records that may not yet be digitized.


If you do not have a Family History Centre in your area or want more information on Family History Centers, there is an  Introduction to Family History Centers that  contains very helpful information on the FamilySearch Wiki.

Free Access to FindMyPast new British & Irish Roots Collection

Claire Santry, in her blog, Irish Genealogy News, wrote yesterday, “FindMyPast has created a new British and Irish Roots collection which allows researchers to search a wide variety of records spanning more than 400 years of migration between the British Isles and North America, all in one place. It holds some 98 million records.

Clair does state that this is not a brand-new resource. Instead, it is a specifically packaged collection that draws from a wide range of FindMyPast’s existing records and gathers together those that list origin or place of birth in Ireland or Britain.

The good news is that Findmypast is offering free access to this British and Irish collection for an undefined period. Free access could end at any time.

Good luck with your research!

Canada Passenger Lists

Passenger lists are one of the most important items you will want to search when looking for your ancestors.

FamilySearch continues to add more records to their collection of Canada passenger lists. These lists cover the period from 1881 to 1922 and the latest additions add a further 33,000 records to the collection.

This collection can be searched by first name and last name. Alternatively, you can browse through the 145,000 images in the collection, which are organized by port of arrival and month/year. Access is free.    The link to the entry page for researching passenger lists at Family Search is Historic Canada Passenger Lists

Good luck with your search. 


FamilySearch Now Requiring Free Sign In To Help Ensure Online Security

Beginning December 13, 2017, all users of the FamilySearch website will see a prompt to register for a free FamilySearch account or will need to sign in to their existing account to continue enjoying all the free expanded benefits FamilySearch has to offer. Previously, users could access many of the functions of the website without having to log in.

The change was prompted by some of FamilySearch’s partners, who have insisted on authenticated accounts before providing data to FamilySearch.  Patron sign in will also enable FamilySearch to satisfy the ongoing need for user authentication. This authentication can deliver rich, personalized discovery, collaboration, and help experiences. Simply put, signed-in visitors can access more searchable content and enjoy more personalized services.

FamilySearch’s privacy policy has also not changed. They still do not share any personal information with third parties without the user’s consent. The most important point though is that the website will continue to remain free.

Since its launch in 1999, FamilySearch has added millions of users, billions of various historical records and new features, such as Family Tree, Memories, mobile apps, digital books, and dynamic help. In order to accommodate continued growth of these and future free services, FamilySearch must assure all its partners that its content is offered in a safe and secure online environment. Patrons creating a free account and signing in fulfills that need.

“A large percentage of our current site visitors are not benefiting from much of what FamilySearch has to offer because they don’t realize the need to simply sign in with their free account to do so,” said Steve Rockwood, FamilySearch CEO. “They are basically arriving in the parking lot but not coming inside for the main event,” he said about website visitors who do not sign in.

Without signing in, there are still a number of things you can do on FamilySearch. You can search the catalogue, digitized books, genealogies, the Wiki, and the learning center, and view user-contributed photos and stories.

If you have not already registered for a free account, visit  Registering to use for information about creating a free account.

Saving a Web Page as a PDF File

I have been searching trees on Ancestry recently and have found trees containing several people in a line I am following, taking one line of the family file I am working on from Canada back to the 1600’s in France.  Of course I am fact checking and sourcing every page as I work through the information.   But, rather than going back and forth to the various pages and sourcing information on Ancestry, it is much easier to save the web page as a .pdf file.

An article by Tyler Lacoma in the Digital Trends web site tells exactly how to do that in a variety of different web browsers on Windows, Macintosh, Android, and Apple iOS (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch).

Source:  Eastman On Line Genealogy Newsletter

1921 Census Now Available at Library and Archives Canada

For those of you who do not have a subscription to Ancestry, there is good news.   The Canada 1921 census is now available for free on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website.

Several years ago, LAC signed a contentious contract with Ancestry whereby in exchange for Ancestry taking the time to digitize and transcribe the Canada 1921 census (or more specifically, the microfilm of the census), Ancestry had the exclusive rights to put the census records on their subscription website for a period of four years starting in August 2013. Now, four years later, LAC has put the records on their website.

With some exceptions, national censuses in Canada are done every ten years. The Canada 1921 census was the sixth national census and it follows the one taken in 1911. One big advantage of the 1921 census is that it asks questions about the birthplace of both parents.

The 1921 census was taken on 1 June 1921. At that time, Canada had a total population count of 8,788,483 people, or about 25% of the country’s population today.

One thing to note with this collection is that the original records from the 1921 census were destroyed when the records were transferred to microfilm back in 1955. The quality of these microfilm images varies enormously, and the odd image is, unfortunately, unreadable.

These records can be searched by first name, last name, age, province and keyword. If you cannot find your ancestors by searching by name, you might want to consider scanning the images by location if you happen to know where your ancestors lived. Alternatively, try searching for your ancestors by alternative name spellings (the Ancestry translation was not always the best). See the LAC website for more details. Access is free.

Source:  Internet Genealogy Magazine