Friday, 17 February 2017

This Week in History 12-18 February 2017 - Mr. Dressup Premieres


American kids had Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. In Canada, we had Ernie Coombs aka Mr. Dressup. The show premiered 13 February 1967, and was one of the longest running children's shows in Canada. Every weekday morning he would lead his preschool viewers through songs, stories and games. He was aided by puppets Casey and Finnegan the dog, who lived in a tree house in Mr. Dressup's back yard.

Another mainstay of Mr.Dressup's show was the tickle trunk, where he would get his costumes to act out skits. Sometimes the costume would need an accessory like a hat for his costume. Then he would lead his audience in making a craft.

Casey was voiced by puppeteer Judith Lawrence, who retired in 1989. They gradually lessened the appearance of Casey and Finnegan before her official retirement. They then announced that Casey and Finnegan were no longer there because they had started kindergarten. New characters were introduced. Among them were Chester the Crow, Granny and Annie.

The last new episode aired in 1996. Ernie Coombs then spent a few years taking Mr.Dressup on the road to various towns. By this time he had become an icon for a few generations of Canadian children, as well as northern American children who could get CBC's signal. I remember taking my daughter to his show when he came to our town. I have to admit I enjoyed it as much as she did, getting to relive a part of my own early childhood.

The show was broadcast daily in reruns for another 10 years, when CBC moved it to Sunday mornings for another few months. The final airing was in September 2006.

Sadly Ernie died of on a stroke in Toronto 18 September 2001.

Casey and Finnegan's tree house can be seen just outside the CBC Museum in Toronto. Inside the museum is Mr.Dressup's tickle trunk.

On November 26 2012, the Canadian honored Mr. Dressup, Casey, and Finnegan with a Google Doodle to honor what would have been Ernie Coomb's 85th birthday.

You can look at CBC's digital archives on Mr.Dressup here

Amazingly enough, you can see episodes of Mr. Dressup on YouTube, if you're feeling nostalgic.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Vital Statistics Part 5 - Alberta and British Columbia

In the next to last installment of the series, we're looking at Alberta and British Columbia.


Alberta became a province in 1905. However, there are some civil registration records that go back to 1898, when it was still considered part of the Northwest Territories. Older record are in the custody of the Provincial Archives of Alberta. they hold live births older than 120 years old, still births over 75 years, marriages over 75 years, and deaths over 50 years.

One of the great things about the PAA's website is that clicking on the "How to" link for genealogy, it will explain in detail what they have and where to find it. Unlike other sites I've examined, they also have a PDF download on various indexes right on their website. I clicked on the first link "Marriage Registrations 1898-1902 (GR1983.0236)", and on the index it gives the following information:

  • PAA no.
  • Name of the couple
  • Collection it comes from
  • Year of marriage
  • Access code
  • Use conditions
  • Container number
  • Remarks
  • Description on the status of the record
Copies of the record are $10.50. You will not get a photocopy. You will get a typed transcript instead. Also take note that you do not get same day service by going to the Archives in person. All requests can take up to 10 days.

If you are looking for records more recent than the above guidelines, then you need to go through Service Alberta. Here are their requirements to access:

Birth Certificates:
  • Yourself (if over 14 years old), or the parent of the person on the document
  • Guardian, trustee or legal representative (proof required)
  • Person with a court order (proof required)
  • If the person is deceased, only adult next of kin or legal representatives of the deceased's estate can apply. A death certificate, proof of relationship, and/or proof of representation must be supplied. Next of kin is defined as parent, sibling, child, spouse, or "adult interdependent partner". If there are none of the above eligible, then an adult relative may apply. 
Marriage Certificates:
  • Either party of the marriage
  • Guardian, trustee, or legal representative (proof required)
  • A person with a court order (proof required)
  • If deceased, the adult next of kin or legal representatives can apply. Next of kin qualification is the same as with birth certificates, as is the requirement of proof. If there is no eligible next of kin, then an adult relative can apply.
Death Certificates
  • Adult next of kin. Same requirements apply as for birth and marriage certificates. As well, if there are no eligible next of kin, then an adult relative may apply.
  • Legal representative of the estate (proof required)
  • Guardian of the deceased (proof required)
  • A person with a court order (proof required)
  • A person who had joint tenancy with the deceased (proof required)
  • Funeral home representative
There are no eligibility requirements for a search. They will tell you if a record was found, but they will not provide you with any other information.

The FamilySearch wiki on BMD's is here

You can access Ancestry's BMD collection here

Cyndi's List of links for Alberta Vital Statistics is here

British Columbia
British Columbia became a province in 1871. Civil Registration officially began in 1872. Some records are from earlier than that but not all records have survived. Older records are at British Columbia Archives. They have births 1854-1903, marriages in two databases that together go from 1859-1940, and deaths from 1872-1995. I searched under their genealogy database for the last name BOUTILIER. One of my distant Nova Scotia Boutilier relatives came up under marriages. By clicking on the link, I was able to see the digital image of his marriage registration. I could then save it to my computer by right clicking on the image. I did notice however that not all results had digital images attached. 

Record requests go through the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency. After some navigating of the site I was able to find out how to get certificates for genealogical purposes. The fee is $50.00. They will do a search, and if there is a record then you will get a copy. If there is no record, then the $50.00 is considered a search fee.

Here are their access requirements:

Birth Certificates:
  • Person named or parents named on the certificate
  • Guardian (proof required)
  • Person with written consent of any of the above.
  • If the person is deceased for less than 20 years, then a relative may apply (proof of relationship required).
  • If the person has been deceased more than 20 years, and if the record is more than 120 years old, then anyone may apply. You will need to provide proof of death if the record is less than 120 years old.
Marriage Certificates:
  • Persons named on the certificate
  • Written authorization from either marriage party
  • If one of the parties is deceased, then a relative may apply. You will have to show both proof of death and proof of relationship.
  • If BOTH parties are deceased more than 20 years then anyone can apply as long as they show proof of death.
  • If they record was created more than 75 years ago then anyone can apply.
Death Certificates:
  • A relative of the deceased. Proof of relationship is required.
  • Written consent of the above
  • If the death is more than 20 years old, then anyone may apply.
In all three types the definition of relative is parent, child, sibling, spouse, grandparent or grandchild. 

Family Search wiki on BMDs is here

Ancestry's BC BMD page is here

Cyndi's List collection of BC links is here

Part 6 will be the last post of the series. In it we'll take a look at Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Vital Statistics Part 4 - Manitoba and Saskatchwan

Well, we've made it through the Maritimes, Ontario, and Quebec. Now we're going to start across the Prairies and look at Manitoba and Saskatchewan.


Although Manitoba became a province in 1870, civil registration did not begin until 1882. However, compliance was an issue until around 1920. Therefore the records before 1920 are sporadic.

Unlike the other provinces we've looked at so far, all records are held at the Vital Statistics Agency. They do not transfer older records to the Provincial Archives.

If you click on the website's "genealogy" link, it says that certain records are not restricted. They are;
  • Births 100 years or older
  • Marriages 80 years or older
  • Deaths 70 years or older
Search and document fees are $30.00. 

All other records are restricted. These records have the following criteria for access:

Birth certificates:

  • Person named on the certificate
  • Parents named on the certificate, or the child's legal guardian (proof of guardianship required)
  • Representative of one of the above (written proof must accompany the application)
Marriage certificates:
  • Either party of the marriage
  • Parents or children of the parties if both are deceased
  • Representative of one of the above (written proof must accompany the request)
Death certificates:

Anyone with a valid reason can get a death certificate. Only next of kin of the deceased can get a copy of a death registration.

The FamilySearch Wiki link for Manitoba is here

Ancestry's BMD collection for Manitoba is here

Cyndi's List's Manitoba BMD links are here

Even though Saskatchewan didn't become a province until 1905, there are records of civil registration that go back as far as 1878. Like Manitoba though, they were not strictly enforced until around 1920.
Again like Manitoba, there are no BMDs transferred to Provincial Archives. All records are kept at Vital Statistics Registry of eHealth Saskatchewan

Under the "genealogy" tab, it states that you can access their Genealogy Index for:
  • Births more than 100 years old
  • Marriages more than 75 years old
  • Deaths more than 70 years old
Take note: This is a new work in progress from the looks of things. Births are indexed. Deaths are available up to 1916. Marriages are NOT available yet.

Once you have located the record in the index, you can then order a genealogical copy for $50.00. It will be stamped on it "for genealogical purposes only". I don't have any Saskatchewan ancestors that I know of, but I put in "John McDonald". He's my biggest brick wall ancestor. I know he wasn't born in Saskatchewan. Trust me though, that has got to be one of the most common names in early Canada, so I knew I would get lots of hits. I got 17 results in births, and 23 in deaths.

Now, Saskatchewan seems to have much stricter policies than other provinces to access to copies of records. These guidelines apply no matter if the record falls into the time frames above or not:

Birth certificates:
  • Person named on the certificate if they are over 15 years old
  • Parents listed on the certificate if the person is under 18 years old
  • Legal guardian (proof must be submitted with application)
  • Representative of one of the above (proof must be submitted with application)
  • A person who needs it to prove Metis or Treaty Status (proof must be provided with application)
  • Court appointed Guardian or Trustee of the person named
  • Representative of Social Services of First Nations Child and Family Services acting on the person's behalf
  • A Saskatchewan court order or subpoena (copy of order must be submitted)
  • A spouse ONLY if the person is deceased
Marriage certificates:
  • Either party of the marriage
  • An adult child of the marriage
  • A representative of any of the above (written authorization required)
  • Legal custodian of one of the above (proof required)
  • A person needing to prove Metis or Treaty Status (proof required)
  • Representative of one of the parties' estate (proof required)
  • Saskatchewan court order or subpoena (copy of order must be submitted)
Death certificates;
  • Spouse if married at time of death. I assume this means the divorced spouse cannot apply.
  • The parent named on the registered birth of the deceased
  • An adult child of the deceased (18 years or older)
  • Legal custodian of one of the deceased (proof required)
  • Representative of the estate (proof required)
  • A person needing to prove Metis or Treaty Status (proof required)
  • Saskatchewan court order or subpoena (copy of order must be submitted)
  • A person who is a joint tenant and needs to prove death for land title purposes (proof of joint tenancy required)
  • Death registrations can only be given to professionals either involved in the death registration, or needing it in the course of their duties
As well, for any of the above, you will also need to submit one piece of government ID as proof of who you are. Or, you can submit two pieces of non photo ID, but one of them must have your signature. 

FamilySearch wiki on Saskatchewan BMD is here

Ancestry's Saskatchewan BMD collection is here

Cyndi's Lists's Saskatchewan civil registration links are here

In Part 5 we will look at Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Black History Month

February is Black History Month in Canada. All month long, many Provincial Archives have exhibits both on line and off line celebrating the experiences of Black Canadians.

While the Underground Railroad is probably the most well known part of Black History, there are several other events and stories to tell.

Did you know:

  • The first recorded Black person in Canada was in 1605. Mathieu Da Costa was a translator for Samuel de Champlain.
  • Ten percent of United Empire Loyalists were Black. The British offered freedom to enslaved African Americans to fight for them during the Revolutionary War
  •  We tend to turn our noses up at the Americans and their history of slavery. But Canada had slavery until 1793 in Ontario. It was completely abolished in the rest of Canada in 1833, when the Act on the Abolition of Slavery in the British Empire was passed.
  • There was a unit called the Coloured Corps in the War of 1812.
  • In 1858, at the invitation of Governor James Douglas, about 800 free Black people became pioneers in British Columbia.
  • In the late 1700's between 500-600 Jamaican Maroons were deported by the British to Nova Scotia. They were later taken to Sierra Leone.  
Black History Canada is a great website devoted to the Black experience in Canada. Along with timelines and the history of immigration and settlement, they also have biographies of noteworthy Black Canadians.

To learn what's going on in your province for Black History Month, look at these websites: 

Ontario Black History Society

Government of Canada

Maroons of Nova Scotia-Canadian Encyclopedia

Nova Scotia Archives

BC Black History Awareness Society

National Black Coalition Society of Canada (Edmonton)

Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan

Manitoba Government

moishistoiredesnoirs (Quebec)



Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Vital Statistics- Part 3 - Ontario and Quebec

In the first two parts of this series we looked at the Maritime Provinces. Now let's look at Ontario and Quebec.

One of the oldest settled areas of Canada, Quebec has BMD records that go back as far as 1621. Records up to as late as 1993 were mainly just copies of church entries. By law, churches were required to send copies to government archives. In 1994, the government started keeping their own vital records sets. From about 1926, you did not need a church record to register a life event. As of the 1960's, some births and marriages were being registered only in the civil registers.

Records before up to 1915 are held by the Bibliotheque et Archives nationale du Quebec (BANQ).
My own Quebec ancestry is before 1800. My own needs on vital statistics in Quebec has been serviced by the Drouin, so I do not have experience myself in using BANQ. The majority of it is in French, but with the "Franglais" I heard as a child and my French classes through school, I was able to navigate it fairly easily. I use Chrome as a browser, and was able to translate some of the pages as well.

After 1915, you must go through the Directeur de l'etat civil. Here are their guidelines on certificates, or "acts":

Birth certificates:
  • If living, you must be one of the people named on the certificate, or someone representing them. You will need to submit an explanation if you are not the named person, and a copy of a document showing you are acting on their behalf.
  • If deceased, you can apply if you are the spouse, child, or sibling. However, you will have to show proof of relationship.
  • As the applicant, you will also have to verify your own identity with a photocopy of two documents. One must be photo ID and one must show your address. Their website lists all recognized forms of ID.
Marriages Certificates:

The requirements are the same as birth certificates.

Death Certificates:

Requirements are the same as birth certificates.

Unlike some provinces, I did not find anything on their website about doing genealogical searches for a life event. I am assuming they will not conduct searches. If I am wrong, then by all means let me know and I will update.

The FamilySearch wiki on Quebec is here

Ancestry's Quebec BMD collection is here

Cyndi's List of Quebec BMD links is here

In Ontario, mandatory civil registration began on 1 July, 1869. Records are routinely transferred to the Archives of Ontario for indexing.  As of writing this, they have births 1869-1917, marriages 1801-1934, and deaths 1869-1944 on microfilm. There is also a collection of deaths overseas 1939-1942. Take note though that marriages before 1869 are rather sporadic and incomplete. Due to recent changes in legislation, birth registrations will now not be transferred to the archives until 104 years have passed. This means that we will not see 1918 births transferred until the year 2023. I know, I let out a groan for this too, because the births I'm interested in happened in the 1920s. Marriages for 1935 and deaths for 1945 have been transferred over, but are currently closed for indexing. Microfilms can be accessed through inter library loan.

Anything after these years are in the custody of the Office of the Registrar General. I've used their service, and it's a fairly simple process. Here are their guidelines:

Birth Certificates:

  • If living, only the person named on the certificate, their parents or the guardians can apply. Guardianship must be proved.
  • If deceased, then you must be next of kin, or the administrator of the estate, You will have to provide proof of death.

Marriage certificates:

  • The parties to the marriage, the parents or children of the marriage, or their legal representatives can apply. Proof of legal representation is required.
  • If one or both parties are deceased then next of kin can apply. Next of kin are parents, children and siblings. If they are all deceased then extended next of kin can apply. They are classified as aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, grandchildren and grandparents.
Death Certificates:

There are no restrictions on death certificates. However, only next of kin or extended next of kin can apply for a certified statement of death.

The Registrar General will also do birth, marriage and death searches for a fee. This was a handy tool for me. My aunt and I had thought that my great grandparents had never married (long story). However, talking to my dad, I found out they actually had, but not until my aunt was a very young child. Using my aunts's year of birth and my great grandfather's year of death I was able to ask for a search of the intervening years. I received a letter stating that a marriage had indeed taken place, with the date of the marriage. We were then able to apply for the marriage certificate. Searches cost $15.00 for every 5 year period. 

The FamilySearch wiki on Ontario BMD's is here

Ancestrys' BMD collection is here

Cyndi's List BMD links for Ontario are here

In Part 4 we will continue westwards and look at Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

The Pig War


One of the more amusing stories I've come across recently in Canada/US relations has been given the rather interesting label "The Pig War". What started as a dispute over a slain pig turned into an international incident in the mid 1800s on San Juan Island.

In June 1846, the Treaty of Oregon was signed in London. This treaty established the 49th parallel as the border between the United States and what would later become Canada. The problem came from some wording that said that the US owned " the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver Island...". There are actually two channels, of which San Juan Island lies in the middle of; the Haro Strait, and the Rosario Strait. Depending on which side you were on, the island belonged either to the US, or to Britain.

In 1851, the Hudson's Bay Company established salmon curing stations along the coast of the island. In 1853, the island was claimed as part of the new US Washington territory. Not to be outdone, the HBC then established sheep farms. By 1859, Americans had started staking claims to the land. While they viewed it as their right, seeing as how the Americans had claimed San Juan Island, the British on the other hand viewed them as squatters.

It all came to a head on 15 June 1859. A pig owned by the HBC was shot and killed by an American man by the name of Lyman Cutlar. The pig had been rooting around in his garden. The British threatened to arrest Cutler and evict the other Americans off the island as trespassers. In response, the Americans request the help of the army. Brigadier General William S Harney was in charge of the Department of Oregan. Fiercely anti-British, he dispatched a company of the 9th US Infantry to San Juan Island. The company was under the command of Captain George E Pickett. They landed on 27 July 1859, and set up camp right near the HBC's wharf on Griffin Bay.

The actions of the Americans incensed James Douglas, the Governor of The Crown Colony of British Columbia. he responded by sending three warships. The HMS Tribune, HMS Satellite, and HMS Plumper had between them 62 guns. The instructions were to dislodge the American troops, but to avoid clashes if possible. Pickett refused to withdraw. The situation kept escalating until President James Buchanan sent General Wilfred Scott to diffuse the situation. Neither the British government nor the American government could believe that a farmer shooting a pig could have turned into almost all out war. 

By mutual agreement between Douglas and Scott, the island remained under joint military occupation for 12 years. In 1871, the two governments signed the Treaty of Washington. They referred the question of ownership of San Juan Island to Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany. On 21 October 1872, he ruled in favor of the Americans. San Juan Island became part of Washington. It also completed the final boundary between what is now Canada, and the United States.

You can read more about the war where the only casualty was an HBC pig at:

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Vital Statistics Part 2- Nova Scotia and New Brunswick

Last week we looked at Newfound and Labrador, and Price Edward Island. Now let's look at Nova Scotia and New Brunswick:

Nova Scotia
Civil registration in Nova Scotia is rather convoluted. Marriages began as early as 1763. However, it was optional, and the surviving records are incomplete. Births and deaths didn't start until 1864, and these along with marriages continued until 1877. From 1877 to 1908 there is a noted lapse on births and deaths. Compliance was not enforced during this time period, so the records are hit and miss. From 1908 on wards, the records have been maintained continuously. But just because your ancestor falls into the "black hole" time periods, don't give up hope. For many years after 1908, the Vital Statistics Office offered a voluntary delayed birth registration process. This was so those people born before 1908 could have their birth officially recorded. This was especially helpful when applying for pensions and passports. Some of these delayed registrations go back to the mid 1800's.

Nova Scotia is one of the more "genealogist-friendly" provinces on access to BMD's. Once a specific time period is reached, records are transferred from the Vital Statistics Office, Service NS to the Nova Scotia Archives. The policy is 100 years for births, 75 years for marriages, and 50 years for deaths. The records are transferred at the end of the calendar year that the event occurred.

At the Archives, you can access the records by going to This site has been a huge part of my own research. Use the quick search to start. For instance, I typed in "Johnson, Freeman", my 2x great uncle. I got 4 possible marriages, and 3 possible deaths. His name isn't that common though, so there weren't that many hits. His father James Johnson is a much more common name. I got 22 births, 69 marriages, and 67 deaths. Now keep in mind they list results chronologically, not alphabetically, so you'll have to flip through no matter if they are James A Johnson or James R Johnson. Under the results is an advanced search option if you need to narrow things down a bit. By clicking on "view" next to the entry, you can see a digital image of the original record. What I love is that you have the option to buy a copy of the record as well right on the site. A digital copy costs $11.17, and a paper copy $22.39.

If you're looking for a record that hasn't been transferred to the Archives, then you will have to go through Vital Statistics. These are their guidelines:

Birth Certificates:
  • They will not issue birth certificates less than 100 years ago for genealogy.
Marriage Certificates
  • Short form certificates do not seem to have a restriction.
  • Long form certificates are restricted. 
Death Certificates
  • They will only issue death certificates after 20 years and if the person would be 75 years old or older.
Now, one of the great things about Service NS is that they have a link for genealogists. It explains in detail what you can and cannot apply for. They also offer limited searches for a fee. You can take a look at the fee structure and helpful hints here.

The FamilySearch wiki for Nova Scotia vital records is here.

Ancestry's collection of Nova Scotia vital statistics can be viewed here.

Cyndi's List's collection of links can be viewed here.


New Brunswick
Marriages in New Brunswick began registration in 1812, but births and deaths were not required to be registered until 1888. Originally it was done at the county level. It wasn't until 1920 that all registrations were to be forwarded onto the Registrar General. Not all of the original county books from 1888 to 1919 have survived. Missing are the counties of Westmorland, Sunbury, and Madawaska.

The Registrar General annually transfers records to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB). The policy seems to be 95 years for births, and about 50 years for marriages and deaths. Right now on their website, you can access births to 1921, and marriages and deaths to 1965.

Now the PANB is one of my favourite sites. They are one of the most "genealogist-friendly" sites out there, As an added bonus, their site is geared to those of us researching from a distance.  Most of the BMD entries are accompanied by a digital image. The absolute best thing is that they can be downloaded to your computer FOR FREE! One thing to keep in mind is that PANB indexes the records with the exact spelling that is on the document. So be prepared to use soundex and name variations. The other good thing is that they've indexed birth records not only by the child's name but by the parents' names as well. For instance, I typed in Anne MCLAUGHLIN, my great grandmother. In the search results, along with her marriage to my great grandfather Patrice MALLAIS, there were registrations for 3 of their children.

For more recent BMDs, you must go through Service New Brunswick. These are their guidelines on access:

Birth certificates:

  • If it is not for yourself, then you must have written permission from that person, or proof of death.
  • If you are the parent of the person whose certificate you are applying for, you don't need permission if they are under 19 years old.
Marriage Certificates:
  • If you are not one of the parties listed on the certificate, then you need written permission from them, or proof of death
Death Certificates:

There does not seem to be a restriction on who can apply for a death certificate. 

Service New Brunswick will do searches for more recent records. There is a fee of $15 for a three year search, and $10 for each subsequent three year search. They will not issue a certificate, but will give you a "statement of facts" if a record is located. 

FamilySearch's wiki of New Brunswick vital statistics is here.

Ancestry's New Brunswick vital statistics are here.

Cyndi's List of New Brunswick links is here.

In Part 3 we will look at Quebec and Ontario.