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Article posted: November 19, 1999
Prairie Province Resources (Canada)
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles
We have been asked to include more material on western Canada, and this column will start that process by providing an overview of general books on doing genealogy in the Prairie Provinces.
Of the three provinces in the Canadian Prairies, only Alberta has a full-scale handbook for doing family history. This is Tracing Your Ancestors in Alberta: a guide to sources of genealogical interest in Alberta's archives and research centres, by Victoria Lemieux and David Leonard (Lemieux-Leonard Research Associates, 1992). The authors are archivists and this handbook is an excellent introduction to the province's resources.
The Edmonton branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society has begun publishing the vital records of the province. The first volume of these civil registrations covers 1870 to 1905. There are also volumes on research in Calgary and Edmonton individually, which I will discuss in a later column.
A short introduction to family history in Saskatchewan was published in 1983, which means that it is now rather elderly. So much has changed in genealogy in the past fifteen years. D'Arcy Hande, a familiar name in Saskatchewan historical circles, published Exploring Family History in Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Archives Board, 1983). If you encounter it, you still might find it useful but verify the information before you take a research trip on the basis of it.
The Saskatchewan Genealogical Society has two huge databases available through its website which everyone should use if they have family here. One is an index to the cemeteries of the province, more than 3150 in number. The other is the Saskatchewan Residents Index, an amazing collection of material. These indexes are not available on the web, but you can arrange for them to be checked by SGS workers. Certainly it is worthwhile to be familiar with what they have to offer. The SGS has published a list of the sources indexed on the SRI at January 1997; at that time, there were more than 1.1 million names in the index. The SGS website can be found at target="_blank">http://www.saskgenealogy.com/.
The Manitoba Genealogical Society also published a very brief (seven pages) introduction to its province's family history research in November 1997, entitled Reference Sources for Researching Family History in Manitoba. If you are at an early stage of your work there, this would be helpful. Manitoba residents are also listed in The Central Canadians, edited by Noel Montgomery Elliot (Genealogical Research Library, 1994), which is a huge index of people from a variety of sources covering Ontario and Manitoba. This is a reference book that individuals would be unlikely to own, but it is widely available in libraries.
Elizabeth Briggs' Access to Ancestry: A Genealogical Resource Manual for Canadians Tracing their Heritage (Westgarth, 1995) was published in Winnipeg and has a large and useful section on Manitoba genealogy. It is the closest thing to a Manitoba genealogical handbook which has been published so far.
The four large genealogical societies on the prairies all have admirable journals which would undoubtedly assist researchers unfamiliar with those areas. I strongly recommend joining the societies which interest you. The Saskatchewan society's website has been listed above. You can find the Manitoba society at www.mbnet.mb.ca/~mgs/.
There are two societies in Alberta. The Alberta Genealogical Society library is located in Edmonton at the splendid armouries heritage centre. You can write to them at #116, 10440 - 108 Ave., Edmonton, AB T5H 3Z9 or phone (403) 424-4429. The Alberta Family History Society's website can be seen at www.calcna.ab.ca/afhs. The two societies have similar aims and do the same sort of work.
Local history volumes are a goldmine of information for the prairies; these fat books always seem to have family histories included and the focus of most seems to be on individuals rather than politics or economics. I will have more to say about those in a future column also.
If you are wondering where to start with your prairie research, my advice is: get in touch with the provincial society. They are great folks and will be glad to help you.
Books By Ryan Taylor
Across The Waters, Ontario Immigrants Experiences 1820 - 1850 - by Frances Hoffman & Ryan Taylor, 1999. Riveting first-hand accounts of the immigration and settlement experience, taken from the diaries and letters of 150 immigrants.
Routes To Roots, The Best of Ryan Taylor's columns from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, by Ryan Taylor 1997
More Family History Research Resources