Alberta Provincial Archives Vital Statistics Indexes Now Online

For years, the question has been asked, “When is Alberta going to get historical vital statistics online?”

The time is now!  The Provincial Archives of Alberta has digitized vital statistics indexes and or registers and are now available online.

You can now browse the indexes for births to 1897, marriages to 1942, and deaths to 1966. Note that these are indexes, not the actual records. But think of the time you save by looking at these indexes from the comfort of your home, instead of travelling to an archival centre to view microfilm images. From these indexes alone, genealogists are discovering the year their ancestor was born.

Genealogists can thank blogger Shannon Switzer Cherkowski for sharing the news on her blog, Shannon’s Research Services, and for writing her guide.

Surprisingly, the provincial archives did not announce the release of this index, so thank goodness for all the bloggers who jumped on this right away!

Good luck with your research!

Canada On-Line Historical Newspapers

Newspapers are an invaluable source of information for genealogists, ranging from the social pages – births, marriages and deaths –
to articles of interest about your ancestors.  There are about 2,600 historical newspapers that are available online for free. All publication dates for each newspaper are not online and not all newspapers ever published in Canada are either. But the 2,600 newspapers that are available online are a great place to start.Several provinces have province-wide online databases, whether sponsored by a government agency or university or library, and other provinces have multiple collections. Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario all have sizable collections. Most of the other provinces have added many more digitized newspapers as well.

Click here for more information on accessing the newspapers currently available.

Source:   Ancestor Hunter


Note:   On our website, one of the pages in the Genealogy Toolbox, Parksville, Qualicum Beach  & Area Resources, contains a link to newspapers on microfilm in British Columbia and also a direct link to the Victoria newspapers from 1858 – 1926.

Happy hunting!

Using Wildcards to Search Genealogy Databases

Some online genealogy databases allow you to search on names using wildcards—characters that can stand in for any letter of a name—to catch alternate spellings of the name.

A wildcard is a character that substitutes for another character or string of characters when searching a database.  Using wildcards will find different spellings and name variants.

On most sites, an asterisk * stands in for zero or more letters in a name, and a question mark ?  stands in for exactly one letter. Various websites have different rules for using these wildcards, though.

Ancestry – you must have at least three non-wildcard characters in a name. You can use a wildcard as the first or last letter, but not both. After an initial search, you can change your wildcards using the Refine Search panel on the left side of the results screen, but what you’re really doing is performing a new search.  (Ancestry’s blog post has more in-depth instructions) – you can use a question mark (?) to represent one missing letter. An asterisk (*) can replace zero or more characters. You can use both wildcards in the same search if desired. You must have at least one letter in the search box, and you can place the wildcard at the beginning, middle, or end of a search field. Search alternate spelling with the asterisk * which represents 0 to 5 unknown characters. The query Bolan* will return results for Bolander, Bolanger, Bolandre, etc. A query for Smel*er will search for Smeltzer and Smelzer among others (read more on the FamilySearch blog).

Scotland’s People – can substitute * or % for zero or more characters. Substitute ? or _ for one character only. These characters can be substituted anywhere in the surname or forename and can be employed in various combinations.

The FindMyPast database is similar to Ancestry and Family Search as it recognizes both the ? mark and asterisk*.   You can use an asterisk* in a search field where you suspect there may be an alternative spelling. This will pick up places where a letter may be missing, repeated, or incorrect.

If wildcards aren’t giving you the information you need there are other ways to search.  Three methods you may want to try are:

  1. Try leaving out a surname when searching and just use a first name with a known attribute such as an occupation or place of birth. Not all databases allow this type of search but it is worthwhile trying if possible.
  2. If you are fairly sure where someone lived, then try browsing through images of the records for that area to look for possible matches.
  3. If you have found a possible match for a person on a database but the name presented just doesn’t look correct (or even probable) try saying the presented name out loud. For example “Marilous” could be Mary Louise.

Last, but certainly not least, be sure to keep a Research Log while you are searching.  Write down who you searched for, where you searched for them, which search variations you tried, and what your results were. This will help keep you from spinning your wheels and duplicating your research time as you move ahead with your research.

Good luck with your searches!

Victoria, BC Family History Conference

The recent LDS Church Victoria Family History Conference held on March 10 – 11, 2017 in Victoria, B.C. had some very interesting and informative classes, far too many to list here.

We are very fortunate to be able to review the list of handouts from the conference. You will be able to either read, print or download any handouts on the various topics covered at the conference that may be of interest to you.

One handout that I found particularly interesting was the comparison of the “Big 4 – Comparing Ancestry, FamilySearch, Findmypast and MyHeritage” by Sunny Morton.   We are definitely among a huge group of “genealogy addicts” when you read the number of subscribers!

These handouts will only be available until March 24, 2017 so be sure to visit the site soon.


Around the Web – March 1, 2017

Dublin City Libraries release free Digital Repository

 Dublin City Libraries and Archive Digital Repository was released last with some 43,000 historic photographs and documents freely available to search and download. The material includes photographs, postcards, letters, maps, and historical memorabilia.

Highlights of the collection include the Fáilte Ireland Photographic Collection with images dating from the 1930s onwards of people, places and tourist locations from across Ireland, and the Dublin City Council Photographic Collection


Free or Almost Free Genealogical Education

One of the sources of free or almost free genealogical education is the proliferation of blogs that exist today. Signing up to have the blog postings come to your inbox is an easy way to learn from the experiences and expertise of others in the field of genealogical research. The risk in doing this too often is information overload. At some point in time you want to stop reading and actually do some research and recording related to your own family.

How much information is too much information and which bloggers should you follow?  Please click here to continue reading.


Take Another Look At Your Documents

Do you merrily go along downloading documents and only look at what you were looking for?  We are all guilty of doing that!    Janine Adams on Organize Your Family History blog talks about what can happen when you read the fine details on the document you downloaded or perhaps take a look at the documents you do have with a fresh eye.


The FAN Club

The FAN Club, if you haven’t heard of the term coined by genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills, is a cluster of people in the milieu surrounding a mystery ancestor, and may present some viable clues about those research brick walls we struggle to overcome. The acronym FAN stands for friends, associates and neighbors.  But what do these terms mean, and why does it matter? We all have those ancestors who seem to have dropped straight out of the sky and don’t connect to anyone of their same surname. Or an ancestor whose surname is Jones, Smith, Williams, or Davis, and everyone in the community shares their same surname. Then there are the women, whose maiden names and parents can often be a mystery lost to the past. Researching an ancestor’s FAN club may not be a magic bullet in those situations, but it can come pretty close.

Legacy Tree Genealogists talks about how you can effectively use the FAN club principals to further your research.


It’s Complicated: Unique Relationships in Historical Records

Leslie Albrecht Huber on the blog talks about how relationships can be complicated. Everyone knows that. There are many songs, movies, and plays out there detailing the tangles and twists of relationships, each with their own dose of dramatic flair. And despite what anyone might say about life being simpler in the good old days, complicated relationships are nothing new…

Every one of us has plenty of these messy relationships in our family tree. Sometimes the juicy details get lost in the abyss of history, but other times family stories that offer glimpses into our ancestors’ complicated relationships survive. Occasionally, evidence of these relationships has been preserved in the records …  continue reading.


Good luck with your research!

Genealogy Around the Web February 21, 2017

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

If the recommendation to “think globally, act locally” is applied to genealogy, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness comes to mind. You probably can’t travel everywhere you’d like to go to research your family tree. When you have a simple request or two that would normally require you to travel to a location more than fifty miles away, a RAOGK volunteer close to the area might just be able to help.

Once you’ve registered on the RAOGK website, you’ll have access to a directory of volunteers informing you where each person is based and what tasks each is willing to help with. Volunteers do not charge for their time, but only for reimbursement of actual expenses such as photocopies, postage, and occasionally parking fees. Common services include doing lookups, taking tombstone and cemetery photos, and locating a document at an archive and copying it. To learn more about how to submit a request, check out their FAQ section. And don’t forget to say thank you or perhaps even volunteer your services.


Ancestor Search

Are you researching your ancestors in England Wales?  Ancestor Search is a website that provides guidance on WHERE to find information on your English and Welsh ancestors from the basic “where to start” information and on to links to various research sites and information.   Well worth taking the time to go through the information on this site.


General Registry Office – England

GRO indexes have been on line for some time but sometimes we forget that it is now easier and cheaper to order certificates via the government’s own official website. Certificates cost £9.25 including postage.

Searching is free but you do have to register first.  You have to register to use them.  Go to then click on order certificates online >register/login in upper right corner box, then register to create an individual account.  It is free.

It is a bit cumbersome in that you can only search in five-year blocks and only either male or female but if you are searching for a birth record, you will be able to find the mother’s name from 1916 back to 1837.

Good luck with your research!

Facebook for Genealogy

Gail Deaver has added more than 100 groups and pages to the latest edition of Facebook for Canadian Genealogy on her Genealogy à la carte page.  

On the list, you will find hundreds of Facebook groups and pages. They have been separated into Canadian provinces and territories, and special interest areas, such as Acadian, British Home Children, cemeteries, DNA, family names, First Nations, military, New France, newspapers, old photos, United Empire Loyalists, and US groups with a focus on French Canadian and Acadian family history.

Visit the Facebook for Canadian Genealogy section on the Genealogy à la carte website to view the entire list.

Thank you, Gail, for providing this valuable and helpful information.

University of British Columbia on-line Historical Book Collection

If you are researching ancestors in British Columbia or just have an interest in British Columbia history, the BC Historical Books collection combines the traditional tools of bibliography with the new tools of the digital world to transform our understanding of, and insight into, the history and life of British Columbia.  The collection includes more than 1,300 items in BC Historical Books that showcases the history of the province from 1783 to 1952.  Early works in the collection include travelogues that tell tales of grand landscapes, meeting strangers, and surviving in the wilderness. A quick search of family surnames and locations uncovered city directories, board of trade reports, histories, fraternal organization reports, and books.

The UBC Library feature, A Ramble in British Columbia, provides information about the collection.

Family Search Plans For 2017

There are several things FamilySearch says you can look for from FamilySearch In 2017 and they are already being implemented.

A customized home home. The year has hardly even started and they’ve already delivered on this one. You must sign up for a FamilySearch account (it’s free, and gyou will have access to other things, such as more record images) and you must sign in. FamilySearch is calling it a dashboard. The content is driven by what you do in FamilySearch Family Tree. The dashboard will:

  • recommend research opportunities
  • list hints about your ancestors and their close relatives
  • list recently viewed tree persons
  • provide a to-do list feature that you can use to create your own task list, and
  • show you new memories—photos, documents, stories, and audio recordings—that others have added about your ancestors.

To read more about their plans for 2017 with links to the appropriate Family Search blog posts, please go to Ancestry Insider’s recent post.

Source:  Ancestry Insider blog

Around the Web – January 30, 2017

Genealogy research services at Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

The staff at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax want family historians to know they offer general genealogy research services, in addition to helping find immigration records.

The experienced researchers in the museum’s Scotiabank Family History Centre can help you in person or by email begin your family research, assist you with your genealogical brick walls, or point you in the right direction with your own research.

There is no fee for general and genealogical inquiries. If you choose, there is an option to donate if you are just looking for information or tips.

Although Pier 21 became a port of entry in 1921, the centre has no immigration records. They do, however, help people request immigration documents from the Canadian government. If they help you locate a pre-1935 immigration record, there will be a $15 charge for a copy of the document.

The staff maintains a small library of books on multiculturalism and genealogy in the centre, but almost all of their research is conducted online, using free and subscription services.

The centre’s scope reaches beyond the years of Pier 21’s operation, from 1928 to 1971, with information on topics including migration, nautical history, waves of immigration to Canada, ethnic groups and genealogy. It has immigration records from 1925 to 1935 on microfilm and staff has access to arrival sources going back to 1865. Staff also has access to information on all ports of entry into Canada, not just Pier 21, and can search US seaports, such as New York and Boston.

In the centre, the staff also works with visitors at computers to help them do their own research.

To learn more about the Scotiabank Family History Centre’s research services and how to submit an inquiry, visit their website. Make sure you take time to browse the menu items while you are on the website.

Source:  Genealogy a la carte


Thousands of photos of Canadian Prairie towns available online

Anyone looking for historical photos of the town where their ancestors lived in Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba should visit Images of Prairie Towns, a website that contains close to 12,000 images — and the collection continues to grow.

The collection is divided by province and then into an alphabetical list of more than nine hundred towns. There are photos of streets, schools, railways, and commercial and public buildings.

Many of the town pages include early population numbers — useful information when trying to put flesh on the bones of an ancestor’s life.

The only drawback to the site is that there are no photo captions and dates or and information about copyright restrictions. Before publishing any photos, it would be a good idea to request permission through the website contact page.

Ontario (Upper Canada) Historic On-Line Resources

Links to an ever-growing list of Ontario History books, directories etc. that are entirely free to read online, or downloadable to your computer for future reference use.  There are also links at the bottom of the page to join Ontario Genealogy and Upper Canada mailing lists.


New records at FindMyPast:


  • A collection of some 3 million petty court records from the state of Victoria. In Australia, petty court cases were held to hear minor criminal cases such as public drunkenness, criminal damage and theft. The cases usually involved just a judge (no jury). The records in this collection span the years from 1854 to 1985. A typical record lists the first and last name of the person, the name of the court, cause or reason for the charge, a description of the case and the actual court date. These records can be searched by first name, last name, year and court. Access is by subscription [Victoria State Petty Court Records]
  • 107,000 ship records from the port of Brisbane. These are passenger and crew manifests covering some 485 ship voyages between the years 1852 to 1885. These records come from the National Archives of Australia and list the vessel name, date and port of arrival, ancestor’s name, nationality and occupation. The vessels in this collection cover departures from England, Europe, North America and Southeast Asia. The records can be searched by first name, last name, ship name and date range. Access is by subscription. [Historic Queensland Ship Passenger Records]


1.2 million Historic Irish Newspaper articles this month have been added to the FindMyPast collection of historic Irish newspapers. Also included are seven new titles: the Leinster Leader, Donegal Independent, Kildare Observer, Eastern Counties Advertiser, Wicklow Newsletter & County Advertiser, the Longford Journal and the Ballyshannon Herald. Access is by subscription.


ArkivDigital, the Swedish genealogy website has announced that they will be adding several million aerial photographs to their extensive collection of some 58 million ancestral records. These aerial photographs appear to be primarily of rural regions and cover farms, cottages, rural stores, etc. Most of the images were taken from the 1950s to the present. These images are expected to be added over the next several months (in addition to the some 600,000 new records added to the website on average every month).

Source:  Genealogy in Time Magazine


Just for fun:



Moral of the story: Don’t nag and always write your father.

As a final note, as funny as it is, this document also pains me. How sad it is that this man died alone and bitter. What trouble had he fallen into? What had fractured a family that must have begun in hope and happiness? May I suggest that we each hold close those we love – in kindness, patience and forgiveness?

Source: FamilySearch (