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

Family History Researcher Academy Offing Free English & Welsh Family History Mini Course


Nick Thorne from The Family History Researcher Academy has just added a FREE video mini-course for those searching for English or Welsh ancestors to his site at

The short video tutorials deal with some of the mistakes that researchers sometimes make when they are looking for their English or Welsh ancestors in census and birth records. The mini-course also sets out some of the places that you could research for your elusive ancestors in and also sets out how to best begin the search of these British records. While the videos encourage viewers to go on to the more detailed written course, the mini-course stands alone in offering some very useful information.

These concise videos and the more in-depth downloadable pdf Family History Researcher Academy English/Welsh family history course were complied by Nick Thorne from his experience of researching ancestors for private clients and working with one of the leading British genealogical research websites for whom he writes case study articles for publication in several of the U.K. family history magazines. He is also the author.

These FREE videos are available now at:

Source:  Dick Eastman’s On Line Newsletter


Walking in Your Ancestors’ Shoes

Following up on the recent post, “Shedding Light on Brick Wall Ancestors”, it’s time to take a stroll in your ancestor’s shoes.

Assuming you have found a location where your ancestors lived. there are various web sites that can whisk you back in time to see what life was like for your ancestor or ancestors during their lifetime.    Two web sites that may be helpful are:

What was There ties historical photos to Google maps allowing you to tour familiar streets to see what they were like in the past.   It covers major U.S. cities but there are images associated with Canadian cities and some European cities are also available.

HistoryPin is a user-generated archive of historical photos.  Members of the site “pin” historical images to Google maps, comparing past and present-day locations for places where Google Street View is available.   Members of the site build photo collections of historical content based around themes and locations around the world.  From the Browse All Collections page, enter a city or topic and you will be pleasantly surprised at what you may find.

Books and articles on towns, cities and villages are another valuable resource.   Google Books is a good starting point.  Enter the name of the area you wish to research.  Quite often local historical societies or libraries will have books that may summarize an area’s physical geography, settlement patterns and general development.   They may also include biographies of “notable and distinguished residents”.   If nothing of interest is found using just the name of the area you are researching, add the name of a resident with the name of the area and you may just hit an amazing amount of information.

Don’t forget the websites of towns, villages and cities as they often have links to local history and early settlers.  These websites may also have links to local museums or historical societies in the area.

As you continue to study your ancestors and their lives through historical photos and maps, you will gain an invaluable insight into their lives, which will bring your ancestors to life in a much better way than birth, death and marriage information.

Sources:  Wikipedia; HistoryPin; WhatWasThere; Google Books and Maps

Shedding Light on Brick Wall Ancestors

We all have brick wall ancestors who just refuse to give up their secrets, don’t we?  They completely baffle you until you want to just give up in total frustration.   You may need to change your focus and shed some light on the cracks in the wall by approaching the problem from another angle.

Lighting the Way with Maps

Many of your ancestors may have resided in several different countries, states, provinces, towns or villages during their lifetimes.    If you have determined the general area where your ancestors lived, one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with these places is by consulting maps.   Once you learn more about where your ancestors lived, you may be closer to understanding the area in which your ancestors lived.

The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection includes over 150,000 maps dating back to the 16th century, with the majority of North and South America as well as Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania.  You can search and download maps for free without creating an account.   If you do find a map you wish to download, click o Export in the upper right-hand corner of the page and then choose the preferred map resolution.

Old Maps Online is another map resource you may want to check out.   It has 400,000 maps from collections all over the world and is very user friendly.  After entering a search location several small historical map images with names and dates will load.   Click on any of these thumbnail images to view the map and see more information.

Now that you have a general overview of where your ancestor lived, it’s time to zoom in even more to see the towns, buildings and streets where they lived.   The Sanborn Map Company has published fire insurance maps covering the residential, commercial and industrial sections of close to 12,000 towns and cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico.   These maps were created to help fire insurance agents assess hazards, but these maps show many details of interest to family historians such as the size, shape and use of all buildings, names of streets and businesses, properly lines and house numbers.    Even though the names of streets and numbering of residences and businesses may have changed over time, these maps are an invaluable resource for genealogists.

How to Find Genealogy, Family History and Local History Books in the Internet Archive

We always are hunting for more information about our ancestors, and the Internet Archives’ online service might be just what you need to help further your genealogy research.  The following is an article from Dick Eastman’s July 6, 2017 On-line Genealogy Newsletter.

  “Would you like to electronically search through 129,577 genealogy books? You can do that on the Internet Archives’ online service. Not only can you search these books, but you can do so electronically. A search for a name might require a few seconds, not hours or days in the manner of a manual search through printed books in a library.

The Internet Archive (also known as The Internet WayBack Machine Archive) is a San Francisco–based non-profit digital library with the stated mission of “universal access to all knowledge.” It provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, software applications/games, music, movies/videos, moving images, and nearly three million public-domain books. This online library now has a collection that fills more than 15 petabytes. NOTE: 15 petabytes is equal to 15 million gigabytes.

The Internet Archive’s collection is growing daily. Best of all, the use of the Internet Archive is always FREE. There is only one class of available service: FREE. There is no upgraded, or ‘pro’ version. The Internet Archive is funded solely by voluntary donations, so everything is free.

The Internet Archive has always collected genealogy, family history, and local history books. However, searching through the huge collection used to require imaginative search terms to find specific references. For instance, searching all of the Internet Archive for references to my last name of Eastman used to find a few genealogy books buried in a listing of hundreds of books related to photography. In addition, a search for family names often also produced listings of book authors who shared that name, even if the book had nothing to do with genealogy. A search for a family name that is also a common English word, such as Black or Street was almost hopeless. Luckily, a change made some time ago has now reduced the search problems.

The Internet Archive now has a dedicated section just for genealogy, family history, and local history books at You might want to go to that address first and then conduct a search there.

When writing this article, I went to, found the box labeled ‘Search this Collection’ and performed a search for: Eastman. That search found thirty-seven books. Unlike searches I have performed in the past, all the books were either (a) books about Eastman genealogy or (b) genealogy or local history books that had the name Eastman someplace within the book. In fact, quite a few of the books were local histories for towns where Eastman families had settled. One book was a history book written by Ralph M. Eastman although the book did not appear to contain any genealogy information. I also tried searching for geographic locations, such as ‘Penobscot County,’ and had equally good success.

A few of the books listed in my searches were about U.S. Civil War histories. Those books had little or no genealogy information but contained great information about the soldiers and sailors who served during that war.

Many of the books were originally published in the 1800s; all of the ones I found were published prior to 1923.

The front covers of each book were displayed, and clicking on the image of any book cover immediately showed the contents of the book. Once I clicked on a book’s image, full source citations also were displayed for that book, including: author(s) name(s), publication date, publisher’s name, Internet Archive call number, number of pages within the book, the name of the person or organization who contributed the book and even the name of the OCR software used to convert the book to text

The searches seem to work best for surnames of families that have been in North America for a century or longer. It does not work well for recent immigrants with eastern European or Oriental or Hispanic names. After all, these books are out of copyright; therefore, almost all were published prior to 1923. Don’t look for more recent immigrant families in this collection. Almost all the books listed are in English although a very small number may be in other languages.

The addition of a dedicated genealogy section on the Internet Archive is an incremental improvement but a very welcome one indeed. It greatly simplifies the searches for genealogy, family history, and local history books in this fabulous online resource.

I suggest you might want to go to and search for any surnames of interest. You never know what you might find. You probably want to bookmark that address. Did I mention that the service is FREE?”

 Source:  Dick Eastman blog post, July 6, 2017

Adding Historical Events to Your Ancestors’ Lives

Genealogists seem to fall into two types of researchers, the hunter and the gatherer.   The hunter seems to be content to just find ancestors to build their tree, whereas the gatherer not only finds ancestors to add to their tree, but also wants to add historical information to each ancestor to flesh out their lives and make them “come alive” virtually.

 Over multiple census returns and other documentation, you now know that your ancestor’s occupation may have been  an agricultural labourer, a sea captain, or  a myriad of other occupations.  But what does that really tell you about your ancestor?

Your ancestor’s life sketch or biography instantly becomes more fascinating when you add a little historical context to the mundane facts for their existence.  Adding historical events adds multiple senses to your ancestor’s lives just by naming what happened at the time, who the leaders were, and what technology was spreading throughout the land.  These factors add drama and interest to your ancestors.   Don’t forget to also add local, national and global context.

Many of us cannot describe the landscape, sounds, and seasons pertaining to our ancestors. We can’t visualize what they saw, heard, smelled, or tasted. We certainly can’t imagine what worried them or excited the local town chatterboxes. But if you add the historic events from the time and place they lived in, either through adding it as an event or a story in your family history software, or taking the big step of actually writing your family history, your stories magically transform into not just a recitation of facts, but the story of a person’s life during the time period in which they lived.  Historical context, such as weather, local and world events, pop culture references, and economic averages add flavor to an otherwise bland retelling of the genealogical details.

Where do you find the details of the times in which your ancestors lived?   One source is newspaper archives.   There are several newspaper archive sites available, far too many to mention but if you Google “archived newspaper sites”, there are many sites you may want to check out.  Usually these sites are ranked by popularity, the most popular being at the top of the list.

Another way is to search for historical events during the time period of your ancestor or ancestors’ lives.   Again, the easiest way to find historical events is to use your good friend Google – enter the search term “historical events” and you may be overwhelmed by the choices.   One interesting site I found is  Then take it one step further and Google historical events for the area you are interested in – city, country or time period.

Beginning locally with my more recent ancestors, A quick Google search for British Columbia events provided several links.  One site,, provided links to the major events in British Columbia history.

Adding history to your ancestors’  bare-bones genealogical data may enable you to virtually “walk in their shoes”.   Good luck with your research.










The Challenge of Given Names

Given names are always a challenge for genealogists.  In historic records, people would often misspell names and sometimes they even used nicknames.  Names were also commonly abbreviated to save room when space was tight on a page.

For example, old street directories and city directories always abbreviated common given names. Parish records often abbreviated familiar Christian names. This was done to save space and paper. In some jurisdictions, census enumerators would also abbreviate common names when going door to door to save time.

Knowledge of given name abbreviations can be very helpful in tracking down ancestors. For example, knowing that Chas is a short form for Charles, Geo represents George, My means Mary and Hy means Henry opens up many more possibilities when looking through historic ancestral records.

You should also be aware that many people used their middle names, rather than first names, and this can also cause problems for genealogists.  For those who are members of the Qualicum Beach Family History Society, the September 2017 issue of “Voices of the Past”, our QBFHS journal, there is an article on “Using Middle Names in Your Family History Searches” that delves even deeper into ways to research your family history when searching with a first name doesn’t provide results.

Genealogy in Time magazine has a list of abbreviations for most common given names that you may find helpful when researching your ancestors.  Some of the abbreviations may surprise you!