Friday, 17 November 2017

Ontario Ancestors: Toronto Trust Cemeteries Collection

All the various cemetery sites online are great for finding inscriptions and pictures of your ancestors' tombstones. But one resource that many people overlook are the registers for the cemetery. The reason for this is because it involves a little more of the old fashioned leg work and persistence. You are not going to find these online. You have to track down where the registers are kept, and then find out if you'll even have access to them. This will involve letters, emails, and/or phone calls. You may even have to make a personal visit, depending on the policy of the register holders. In our digital age of instant gratification, this may seem like too much trouble. You may think that since you have the tombstone information, then there's no point in trying to track down the register. You would be wrong though. The registers can hold any or all of the following information:
  • Full Name of the deceased
  • Birth date
  • Age at death
  • Death date
  • Death Place
  • Cause of death
  • Name of nearest relative
  • Marital status
  • Burial date
  • Owner of the plot. This could lead you to more family members.
If you have Toronto ancestors, you're in luck though. Thanks to the Toronto Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society and Family Search, you can look at the registers of the Toronto Trust Cemeteries Collection online, for free. This was a massive indexing project that took from 2009-2015 to complete. In all, over 360,000 names were indexed. Thanks to their efforts, researchers can look at the records of four major Toronto cemeteries:
  • York Burying Ground (Potter's Field) 1826-1855
  • Necropolis Cemetery 1849-1989
  • Mount Pleasant 1876-1988
  • Prospect Cemetery 1890-1985
Now take note that not all the images contain the burial register itself. From what I can see, more recent burials are index books only. Also note that not all years are on here. In the Mount Peasant Cemetery for instance, the volumes skip from 1933-1949. 

You can find links to this collection on Ancestry, but your best bet is to actually go to Family Search itself. The images on Ancestry takes you to Family Search anyway, so why not just go the source.

You can go to the search page of the collection here.
You have two options. You can search for a specific name, or you can browse by cemetery. 

Searching by Name
I have a great uncle named Garfield DOUGLAS. The poor little guy died just shy of three years old in 1923, of whooping cough. According to his death registration, he was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. So I entered his name and right at the top of the search results was his entry. Clicking on it gave me this information:

Now did you notice on the right underneath the image, it says that the information may contain more information than was indexed. So by clicking on the image it also had this extra information:
  • He died at the Hospital for Sick Children
  • His death date was 8 February 1923
  • Also listed on the grave location was "north grave" in brackets
  • The Medical Attendant's name was Stanley Copp
  • Rev. Broughall officiated the burial
  • B.D. Humphrey was the undertaker
Some of this information I knew from the death certificate. But if I did not have a death certificate, then I would now have information that would help me to seek one out. I found the "north grave" information interesting. I'm not sure if this means there are more than one internment here belonging to the Douglas family. It bears looking into. Also, there's the name of the reverend. By finding which church he belonged to, I could possibly be able to find church records for the family.

As a side note, I also noticed in the image an entry a few above him, for a Grant MACDONALD. This little guy was only 5 years old when he died of bronchial pneumonia. I do not think he belongs to my particular McDonald line. That wasn't what interested me. It was the fact that according to the register, he died 8 February 1923, "put into the vault" 10 February, and wasn't buried until 26 April. If you were looking for a church burial record for him, you would have to look not in February, but April in the church registers to find it. A little tidbit of information you wouldn't have gotten from his tombstone. 

Browse by Cemetery
Now let's look at a later burial. My great grandfather John McDonald died in 1964. I used the browse function for him because it's actually faster than wading through all the John McDonalds I know are going to come up using the search function. I knew he was buried in Prospect Cemetery. But, I've never been able to find him on any of the cemetery sites online. So, I clicked on Browse through 7,234 images, then Prospect Cemetery. I then clicked on Volume 5, 1963-1972. This particular volume is an index book. It is indexed by first letter of surname, and then by year. In a rare stroke of luck for me, there is only one John McDonald buried in prospect in 1964.

The index says that John is buried in 13-768B, and his entry is listed on page 106414. What's also interesting is that what looks like "acg" is written before the location. I used this information to email the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries, of which Prospect is now a part of. They were very prompt and helpful, replying back the next day. The information I was given was:

  • He was 69 years old and 7 months when he died
  • His next of kin listed was my great grandmother Edna
  • His birth place is listed as Kingston, ON
  • His death place was Newmarket, ON
  • He died of Myocardial Infarction
  • The "acg" stood for Adult Common Grave
I emailed the lady asking about the Adult Common Grave part, and she replied back explaining that it was a Social Services burial. This did not really surprise me, as the family had always been quite poor. One of the streets they lived on in the 1930's actually no longer exists, and was part of the "Toronto slums" in the first part of the twentieth century. There are actually 5 people buried in the plot, and unfortunately, there is no marker. She attached a couple of maps for the cemetery to the email, showing on them where his location is. I thought this was really kind of her to go the extra step that way. The fact that there was no marker explains why I have never been able to find him on Find-A-Grave, or any of the other sites. 

I've never seen a digital collection like this one. Hopefully, this will start a trend into bringing cemetery registers online. I have seen the odd transcription or compiled database put up here and there, but human error can always come into play with a transcription. Even with this collection, the indexing doesn't give you all the information that's available. 

If you know of any similar other digitized register collections in Canada, then let me know, and I'll feature them in a future post. 

Friday, 10 November 2017

Military Ancestors: Boer War Ancestors

Remembrance Day this year coincides with the centenary of the WWI battles of Vimy and Passchendale. There are some great blog posts from other bloggers showing you ways to search your WWI ancestors' details.

What I'd like to do this week is highlight a lesser known set of veterans, those who fought in the Boer War. Also called the South African War, this was the first time that Canadian troops were sent overseas. The War ran from 1899-1902, with Britain and her allies fighting against the Afrikaner republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The Afrikaners were of German, Swiss and Dutch descent. They were staunchly against becoming part of the British Empire. Compared to the World Wars, the Canadian contingent sent was small. Just over 7,000 troops went, and 12 nursing sisters. What should be noted is that the entire force volunteered to go. There was no conscription. Of the over 60,000 military and civilian lives lost, 270 were Canadian.

The issue of whether to not send troops was one of many in our country's history that have divided people along French and English lines. The French, never a proponent of British Imperialism to begin with, were very much against sending troops. English Canadians, on the other hand, were very much for sending troops. Loyalty to Britain was very strong. Don't forget that we only officially became a country 30 years or so before the war began.

Now to the records. Library and Archives Canada has a database online called South African War, 1899- 1902 - Service Files, Medals and Land Applications. You can search by name, regimental number, and/or by regiment.

I typed in "McDonald". Sometimes it's good having a common last name. You're sure to get hits. I also entered "John" in the given name box, just to narrow it down at least a little. This gave me 18 hits. The way that the results are set up, you'll get land applications results first, then services files, then medals. So make sure you flip through all the results, because your particular ancestor may be listed 3 separate times. So for John McDonald there were 10 under land applications, and 8 under the heading of service files.

Land Grants
I clicked on the first one under land grants, for a Daniel John McDonald, and this is what came up:

Now, these particular records are not digitized yet. Using the information on this index you can order a reproduction through the website here. The applications were two pages and includes name, place of residence, and a summary of their service.

If you have an Ancestry subscription though, then you're in luck. They have digitized some of the records in their database Canada, South African War Land Grants, 1908-1910. By putting in Daniel John McDonald into the search, I was able to see his application. Just remember that these are 2 page applications. Don't forget to flip to the next page in the images, so you get a look at both pages.

Service Files
Now for the service records. I clicked on Daniel John McDonald under the service file section. If he's an ancestor of yours, then good for you because it's 29 pages. Within it I found attestation papers, physical descriptions, and letters of reference. I also found notation of his application to the War Allowances Board.

One thing I should mention though is that these service files are extremely cumbersome to work with. This is especially true compared to working with the WWI services files that the LAC is digitizing. You cannot download the whole file at once. What you do is look at each image. Click on the image to enlarge it. Then right click on the image to save to your computer.

There were no John McDonalds listed as getting a medal, so I took away the "John" and just went with "McDonald". I skimmed through the 117 results until I found the medals section. It appears that there are no given names, just first initials. So I found a D. J. McDonald that had the same regiment number as our Daniel John above. The image is a chart of several names, detailing what medals each soldier was qualified for, where presented and by whom.

South African Constabulary
In 1901, around 1,200 Canadians traveled to South Africa to become part of the South African Constabulary to keep order in the area. If you cannot find your ancestor among the service files, then perhaps they were part of the Constabulary. Since they were not financed by the Canadian government, there is very little on this side of the Atlantic pertaining to them. According to the LAC, the service files of these individuals are held by the National Archives of South Africa. Contact information for both locations is listed on the main page of the collection (see link at the beginning of this post).

They also say that FamilySearch has microfilmed the service files. When I clicked on the link provided, it brought me to the Family History Library's catalog page. They have 32 rolls of microfilm pertaining to the Constabulary. Good news is that they have been digitized. Bad news is that they are not indexed.

So, click on the camera at the far right of the microfilm listing. This will take you to the images on the microfilm. They all show up at once as little thumbnails, but you can fix it so it only looks at one image at a time. Just look to the right under the + and - and you'll see what looks like a box within a box. Click on that and you'll be able to browse image by image. With 32 microfilms to browse through, this looks like a rainy day project.

British Units
If you cannot find your ancestor in the Canadian contingent, then perhaps they fought with a British unit. Both the National Archives in England and Find My Past have records relating to British Boer War soldiers.

Book of Remembrance
If your ancestor was one of the 270 Canadians who died in the war, there is a Book of Remembrance dedicated to them in Ottawa. You can search for their entry on Veteran's Affairs' website here.

For a more detailed history of the Boer War and Canada's involvement you can look at the following sites:

Wednesday, 1 November 2017



Today marks one year since I started this blog. It's a little hard to believe I've been doing this for an entire year! It's been a learning experience in more ways than one.

It had been years since I did any kind of writing other than filling out weekly reports for work. To say I was a bit rusty was an understatement. But, as the weeks went by, my writing has improved, and I've been more comfortable with it. I don't think I'm up to submitting anything to the NEHGS Register yet, but practice makes perfect.

A year ago, I was well versed in Maritime record sources. My knowledge of Ontario and Quebec records were good. My knowledge of anything west of Ontario though was rather lacking. But over the course of the past year, I've learned quite a bit about Western Canada resources. It's amazing what a little focused research can teach you. If any one is looking for a research goal, let FOCUS be your catchword. I'm all for a little "down the rabbit hole" research. You can stumble upon some great information that way. But sometimes you just have to sit down and not let the bright and shiny things distract you.

By the Numbers

Now for some numbers. Thanks to the Blogger platform, I've been able to look at some stats for my blog:

  • Top 10 Page Views by Country

  1. United States 11,815
  2. Canada 7,401
  3. Germany 464
  4. United Kingdom 312
  5. Poland 192
  6. Ireland 179
  7. France 148
  8. Ukraine 126
  9. Armenia 78
  10. Australia 60
I didn't find it strange that Americans and Canadians would be at the top of the list. The flow back and forth of our ancestors across the border would guarantee that many American researchers would be looking for Canadian resources. Since the provinces govern their own rules about privacy and access to most of the records a genealogist would look at, they tend to vary widely. Both an American and a Canadian researcher would find my posts helpful in trying to navigate the waters. What I did find surprising was the huge difference in the numbers between #1 and #2. I expected the numbers to be much closer.

  • Top 10 Blog Posts

It's nice to see a cross section of Canada as far as the top posts go. I have lots of ideas in the works for future posts. But if any of you have suggestions for future posts, then by all means drop me a line through the contact information on my contact page.

I'd Like to Thank the Academy....

Now here's where I get mushy. One of the reasons that I've had a great first year in my blog has been due to the support of other bloggers. The genealogy blogging community is very supportive of each other in general. I've been able to reach out to other bloggers with questions and they've been very kind in offering support. A few of my fellow bloggers have been kind enough to direct people to some of my blog posts, and I thank you all for mention. There's two bloggers who have been my biggest mentors and cheerleaders though. They have highlighted my blog regularly in their own blogs, and given me wonderful encouragement. I can't thank them enough. So a special thank you goes to Gail Dever of Genealogy a la carte and Penny Allen of UK to Canada Genealogy.

There's also another thank you I'd like to give to the Ontario Genealogical Society. They have also featured a few of my blog posts in their OGS eWeekly Update. One in particular they highlighted was my post on finding city directories. Thanks to the mention from them, the descendants of one of my grandmother's brothers contacted me. I've been able to take that branch of my tree 2 more generations back, and gain new cousins I never knew I had. So thank you OGS!

Last but certainly not least, I'd like to thank you the reader. As much as I enjoy blogging, it's because of the people reading this that I've had such a successful first year. So it's not only my blogiversary, but yours as well. Cheers and here's to a great first year of helping you find your Canadian story!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Quebec Ancestors: La Societe des Filles du roi et soldats du Carignan, Inc.

Those of us with French Canadian heritage most likely descend from either a Filles du Roi and/or a Soldat du Carignan. Even more likely is that you will descend from more than one of them.

The Filles du Roi, or King's daughters, were women of marriageable age that were sent from France to help colonize and grow the population of New France. Almost 800 women were sent between 1663 and 1673, with their passage paid for by King Louis XIV of France. A dowry of 50 livres was given to many upon their marriage to one of the unmarried male colonists.

The Soldats du Carignan were of the Carignan-Salieres Regiment. The Regiment were the first regular troops from France, arriving in the summer of 1665. Their presence in the colony was to mainly counter the Iroquois and Mohawk. The second part of the plan was to have the soldiers and officers settle in New France. Of the around 1200 soldiers and officers that came, over 450 decided to stay and make New France their home. Many of the married Filles du Roi.

If you think you have a Filles du Roi or a Soldat du Carignan, a good place to start your research is La Societe du Filles du roi et soldats du Carignan, Inc. You can become a member of the Society, but it is not necessary to view some of their online resources. If you are not a fluent French speaker, don't worry. As you can see in the screenshot above, there is an English version and a French version of the site.

Filles du Roi (King's Daughters)

Clicking under this tab gives you a brief history of of the Filles du Roi. At the bottom are two databases.

The first is an alphabetical listing of the Filles du Roi. Beside each name is their husband(s) and marriage date. The information was obtained through Yves Landry's  Les Filles du roi au xvii'eme siecle, and Rene Jette's Dictionnaires geneologiques des Familles du Quebec.

The second is an alphabetical listing of the Soldats du Carignan who married a Fille du Roi. Set up the same way as the first database, it lists the bride and marriage date. it also lists in brackets alternate spellings of the soldier's surname.


This section also has a brief history of the soldiers and officers of the Regiment. It also clarifies that this database concerns the military men who settled in the St' Lawrence region of New France. It does not include those who settled in Acadia. Among the quick links at the top of the page is a link to the database listing soldiers who married Filles du Roi.

Another quick link takes you to a page that gives information on the ships that brought the soldiers and officers. Set up in chart form, you get the following information on the ships:

  • Ship's Name
  • Tonnage
  • Captain's Name
  • Origin Port
  • Arrival date
  • Company

There is another quick link that takes to a page listing soldiers who married, but did not marry one of the Filles. It is set up the same as the two above, with bride's name and marriage date.

The first database is those who are confirmed soldiers and officers of the regiment. It is set up alphabetically in chart form. The headings are:

  • First name
  • Surname
  • Dit/ De Name
  • Surname variations
  • Rank
  • What Company they belonged to
At the end of the confirmed soldiers is the list of unconfirmed soldiers. These are ones that no definitive proof has been found so far to confirm the fact they were part of the Carignan Regiment.
The chart has the same headings as for the confirmed soldiers.

The last database is an alphabetical listing of those soldiers and officers who never married. Besde each name is a description of any information found on the soldier. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Flotard, unknown, dit de Lescure, lieutenant-unknown, Witnessed 7 baptisms, 3 marriages in Montreal in 1669-70, probably returned to France after August 1670
  2. Ménard, Gilles, soldier-Saint-Ours, listed as servant to Jesuits in 1667 and 1681 censuses, d. 2 April 1690-occupation frère donné (monk)
  3. Vincent, Jean, soldier-Monteil, confirmed 8 April 1670, contract of marriage on 31 Aug 1670 w/ Anne Riviere but they never married


This section is filled with links to Societies, web pages, and web sites to help you further your research. Please note though that not all the links are active. At the bottom of the page is a listing of books and book stores.


There are two types of membership in the Society. The first is a direct descendant's membership. It costs a one time fee of $20US for verification of your lineage, and then a $15US annual fee, for a total of $35US. Membership includes access to data and records, voting rights, and a certificate honoring your ancestry.  You also get their biannual newsletter.

The second is an associate membership, for those who do not have an ancestor who was either a Fille or Soldat, but have an interest in them. It is also good for those who are researching, but not have yet confirmed their lineage. Cost is $15US annually. An associate membership includes the biannual newsletter and the ability to exchange information with other members.

If you would like more information on the Filles du Roi check out these sites:

You can find more information on the Soldats du Carignan-Salieres here:

Friday, 20 October 2017

Prince Edward Island Ancestors: Island Newspapers

If you have been researching Prince Edward Island ancestors for a while, then you probably know about this site. But for those just starting out, you should bookmark Island Newspapers. The site is a partnership between the University of Prince Edward Island Robertson Library, the Guardian Newspaper, Island Archives, and Islandora.


On the home screen you can see that first there's a link to purchase 125 Years Through Our Eyes, a publication by the Guardian newspaper. Clinking on the image brought me to the dreaded 404 Not Found screen.

Next is the This Day in History link. here they feature a past issue of a newspaper. Today's issue is the 20 October 1917 issue of The Charlottetown Guardian. You will be able to see each individual page of the issue. Clicking on a particular page will take you to a new screen where you can zoom in and out. You also have the option of saving your zoomed in image by right clicking with the mouse. Most of the front page in this particular issue deals with war news of course, but there are some local news as well:

Next link is the Directory of Island Newspapers. Here you can access individual newspaper histories. I clicked on the Advertiser, and found out that it ran from 1946 to 1854. It was published by John T. Pippy, and was the amalgamation of the Semi-Weekly Advertiser and the Morning News. It was published semi weekly.

The rest of the home page right now is a feature on electoral coverage from 1900-1962. It shows the issues of the Guardian published the day after the general election. The banners above the top of each issue showing the year is either red for a Liberal win that election, or blue for a Conservative win. The front page is showing, but click on that issue, and you'll have the ability to look at each individual page of that particular issue.


Here you can browse individual newspapers. They are listed according to publication start year. In all there are 10 newspapers available for browsing. Some are actually two newspapers grouped together:

  • Royal Gazette (1830- )
  • British American (1832-1833)
  • Colonial Herald and Price Edward Island Advertiser (1837-1844)
  • Morning News and Semi Weekly Advertiser (1843-1846)
  • Haszard's Gazette (1851-1851)
  • Charlottetown Herald (1864-1923)
  • Summerside Journal  (1865-1951)
  • Guardian (1890- )
  • Cadre (1969-1977)
  • Gem (1983-1990)


Here you can search all available newspapers for specific terms. I typed "Aylward", which is surname in my family tree. Now my Aylwards left PEI in the early 1800's, so I did not expect to get anything actually relevant to my own research. I got 1,379 hits. On the left side of the results screen, I had the ability to narrow my results down. You can narrow by century, decade, year, month, date issued, and finally by page number. clicking on an individual result will let you zoom in and out and highlights your search term on the page. 


This handy feature shows the start dates on individual newspapers. A handy tool if you want to see which newspapers were around in a specific time period.


This is the same page that you are able to access from the link on the home page. The directory lists all newspapers. There are about 100 newspapers listed. If the newspaper is one of the ones digitized, there will be links to take you to it. If it is not digitized on the site, try contacting the Robertson Library or the Public Archives and Record Office to see if they are available on microfilm. Contact information for the Robertson Library is at the end of the post.


Because this site is a work in progress, they do not have anything to view in this tab.

Partners Tab

Another blank section.

User Guide

A blank page, like the above two tabs.


This will take you to section to provide feedback and donate to the project. If you have copies of old newspapers they would love to be able to digitize them. You can also provide a monentary donation.

If you would like to contact the Robertson Library of the University of Prince Edward Island, here is the contact information:

Robertson Library
University of Prince Edward Island
550 University Avenue
Charlottetown, PE
C1A 4P3

Specific phone numbers and email addresses are listed here.

Library hours change throughout the year. You can see the hours here.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Newfoundland and Labrador Ancestors: The Maritime History Archive Part 2

In Part 1, we looking at the catalog of the Maritime History Archive's holdings. In Part 2 we're looking at what else they have to offer.

Research Services

Staff can be hired to do research and provide scans of documents for a fee. Considering all they have in their holdings, the fees are not unreasonable. Research is done for $40/hour Canadian dollars, with a minimum charge of one hour's research time. Scans are an extra fee, the cost depending on what you are requesting. If you choose to go the snail mail route, there is a shipping charge. Depending on the size of the file, charges range from $2-$5 for shipping within Canada. Contact the Archive for shipping outside of Canada. Also note that a 15% HST tax is on top of the stated fees. A detailed breakdown of fees and how to make payment is on their website here. The page was last updated February 2017, so there should be no surprises.


The Archive has a few publications available for sale:

2018 Heritage Calendar:

Using images from the Archives, the calendar is $20.00 if you're local, or $25.75 if they're shipping it to you. Taxes are included.

Births, Deaths & Marriages in Newfoundland Newspapers 1810-1890:

This can be purchased as either a downloadable database, or as a CD. Cost for either is $57.44 with tax. Please note that neither is compatible with Mac operating systems.

Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada:

This is also a downloadable database that can be purchased as a CD. It is actually three databases. There's one of Certificates of Registry for ships from major ports in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI. It covers years from 1787-1936.

The second database contains crew agreements from St. John (NB), Yarmouth (NS), Windsor (NS), and Halifax (NS). Years covered are 1863-1914. The database has information on over 200,000 names.

The third database contains crew agreements from non Canadian vessels, and contains over 100,000 names. They state that this database is a sampling, and by no means a complete database.

Cost is $57.44 taxes included. This product is also not compatible with Mac systems.

Canadian Fisherman

This is a set of 9 reels of microfilm. The Canadian Fisherman was a monthly journal that dealt with the commercial fishing industry. You'll not only find articles on the Atlantic Canada fishing industry, but also the Pacific, the Great Lakes, and the Prairies. It ran from 1914-1970. Cost is $290. It does not say but I would assume taxes are extra, since they do not specifically say taxes are included.

To see more details of the publications and place an order, look here.

Virtual Exhibits

This section can give you an insight into everyday life of Newfoundland and Labrador. There's exhibits on the ferries (called the Alphabet Fleet), Coastal Women, and the Titanic. You'll also find links to some of the collections we discussed in Part 1. They also provide links to virtual exhibits on other sites. Among the more than 20 exhibits I found:

  • 6 different collections of digitized diaries
  • Photographs from the Grenfell Mission hospital
  • The Twillingate Sun, a newspaper that ran from 1880-1953
  • The Mercantile Navy List and Maritime Directory. Digitized are various years from 1868 to 1938
  • An exhibit detailing the sinking of the USS Pollox and the USS Truxtun in 1942

NL Heritage Web Site

This will take you to the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage website. Here you can browse articles relating to the history of the province. You can also access photos, sound recordings and videos. The sub categories on the main page include Aboriginal Peoples, the First World War, and Government, among others. As of writing this, their featured article right now is on the 1892 fire of St. John's. While there, check out the other resources on the main navigation bar. 

Photo Catalogue

Here you can search their photograph collection. A handy tool when you're looking for something specific. I typed in "Grenfell Mission" and got 426 photos. 

Crew Agreements

This is the gem of their collections. From this link you can access three different databases.

1881 Crew Lists Database

The database has names of over 300,000 seamen from British registered vessels. You can search in any of four ways: Last Name, First Name, Vessel Name, or Official Number. I typed "Greening" in the last name field and got four hits. Each hit took me to a digitized image of the crew lists. This is a work in progress, so if your ancestor is not showing up, then keep checking. As, well search with variations on the last name. My 2x great grandfather, Dougald McArthur, was a ship's steward from Glasgow. I tried both MCARTHUR and MACARTHUR, and got different results each time. Also try searching with an initial as opposed to a complete first name. You'll get more possible hits that way.

Newfoundland and Labrador Crew Lists Database

Set up the same way as the 1881 database, this one deals with only crew lists from Newfoundland and Labrador. Along with search terms above, you can also search by Voyage Year. There are lists from 1863-1942. The initial project is complete, but as they come across more of the documents, they will add to the database. 

Merchant Seamen - Commissioned Fleet Auxiliary, 1914-1920

This database deals solely with the crew agreements of the Sunhill. You can search by either Last Name or First Name. As with the other databases, your results page will include links to the digitized image. This one is also a work in progress, so keep checking back if you don't find anything at first.

Contact information for the Maritime History Archive is:

Maritime History Archive
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's NL
A1C 5S7


If you want to visit the Archive in person:

230 Elizabeth Avenue
St. John's NL
Henrietta Harvey (Mathematics) Building

Hours are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The contact page was last updated in July of 2017. The first rule of visiting an archive is to always call to confirm hours though. I broke this rule last spring when I tried to visit an Museum/Archive in Alberta. We drove 3 hours only to find out that they were closed that day because they were changing their exhibits in the Museum. It was a nice drive, but not how I would have picked to spend the day!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Newfoundland and Labrador Ancestors: The Maritime History Archive Part 1

Researching family history in Newfoundland presents unique challenges. Though European colonization of "The Rock" goes back farther than even Quebec City, Newfoundland did not become a province of Canada until 1949. For a complete history and overview of the province, you can check out the Canadian Encyclopedia's entry on Newfoundland and Labrador here. Because they are a comparatively recent addition to Canada the normal avenues of Canadian research don't apply to Newfoundland. You have to be a little more creative in your research.

The province has always had strong ties to Maritime industries. One great resource for searching for your ancestor is the Maritime History Archive. As part of the Memorial University campus in St. John's, their mandate is to preserve the maritime history of not only Newfoundland and Labrador, but the north Atlantic as a whole.

This site has a wealth of information. You can spend a lot of time just on the site itself, and only a tiny part of what they have is online. I'm actually diving this post into two parts, because there's so much to look at. Click on the Holdings and Collections tab and prepare to lose yourself in the collections. I don't have Newfoundland ancestors but I'm wishing I did after looking at what they have.

Business Collections

This shows you the fonds from over 60 businesses. There are mercantile companies, shipping companies, as well as ones involved in ship building. Clicking on a company name gives you a description of what's available, ownership, copyright, as well as a history of the company. In some cases you can even find biographies of the families involved. Among the individual collections you'll find ledgers, payroll, diaries and journals. I also found in some collections wills and correspondence.

William Button Diaries

William Button was the son of Moses Button. M. Button and Sons started out as a general store. Through the years they diversified to include a lobster canning factory, a cod liver oil factory, ownership of wharves, and saw mills. The diaries of William Button include the years 1908, 1911-1913, and 1918-1925. Clicking on a year will give you a transcription of the diary. Though it mostly deals with the running of their businesses, you will find mention of the local community as well. For example, on 15 March 1922 he wrote how Dr. Templeton visited him. The doctor had earlier treated Wesley Goodwin's wife and child, who had fallen down some stairs.

Haystack Photographic Collection

Here you can find a history of the community of Haystack. As well, there are over 200 photos showing the people and culture of the area. The photos range from the 1920's to the 1960's. Photographs of people are captioned with names when known. I saw last names of Gilbert, Allen, and Halfyard, just to name a few.

Job Photograph Collection

The Job Family business empire lasted for 300 years, under various business names. Their photograph collection offers an insight into maritime life through the years. the photos are grouped under the headings of Property, Fishing, Events, Local Scenes, and Recreation. Clicking on the Larger Image link under each picture will give you a description and year.

Keith Matthews Collection

Dr. Keith Matthews amassed an extensive collection on the early surnames of the province. The files involve over 7,000 different surnames from 1500-1850. By clicking on the "Name Files" link, you can check if your surname of interest has a file. I looked up the surname of a friend with Newfoundland heritage (GREENING), and found that it is file G217. Using this I can order a PDF scan of the file sent me by email. Cost is .25 per page. They will only send you the complete file, not just certain pages. Among the pages, you will find Dr. Matthews' notes on the surnames. Among the sources he collected are religious records and court records.

Among the collection are also three other groups of documents. There's a collection of early Newfoundland history from British sources, and one on Newfoundland fisheries. The third deals with his research for his doctoral thesis.


Here you can use the search function to look for manuscripts relating to a specific topic you're interested in.

Maps, Plans and Hydrographic Charts

No link here to anything more specific, but it does state that their collection is "mostly relating to areas around Newfoundland and Labrador".

Newspapers and Periodicals

Here they list the over 50 titles in their collection. There are originals and microfilm copies. What's interesting about this collection is that the newspapers and broadsheets are not just from Newfoundland and Labrador. You'll find them from all over England, from Ireland, and from New York. There's even a French language one from Jersey.

Phillip Templeton Ltd. Diary 1914

Here you'll find a transcription of the 1914 diary of Phillip Templeton Ltd. What's unique about this diary is that it is a company diary, as opposed to a personal one. Entries were made by several staff. Though it mainly relates to company matters, you will also find items about the local area of Catalina. It has mentions of World War I and the S.S. Newfoundland sealing disaster. You'll also find mention of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland. You can find my own blog post about the sinking here.

Photograph Collections

This section allows you to search for photographs by keyword. I put in "catalina" and got 19 photographs of scenery and boats from the area.

Researching Genealogy and Family History

This section gives you a listing of different collections to help with your genealogy research. Clicking on a record set gives you details and access of that particular set. There's family histories, and collections on indexes for vital statistics. You can find English and Irish parish records, and census records. There's also Captain's registers and crew agreements.

Resettlement Photo Collection

From the 1950's to 1970's, the Provincial government sponsored a resettlement of over 200 isolated communities. The controversial plan affected around 50,000 people. The government would financially help families to relocate to more accessible areas. The kicker was that everyone in a community had to agree before any money would be paid. As you can imagine, this caused some friction. Later, the stipulation was that 90% of the community had to agree. This section gives an overview of the "Resettlement", as it became known as. There are documents (both images and transcriptions) relating to it. You can also look at individual communities affected. Here you'll get a history of the community, and photos. People are named, so you might even find a picture of your family in there.

Shipping Records

Here are links to the different collections in their holdings. Among the overview of each collection set, you'll also get links to other helpful websites, and how go about ordering records. The record sets are:

  • Crew Lists and Log Books
  • Vessel Registers
  • Shipping Lists
  • Ships Captains
  • Voyages
  • Shipwrecks
  • Atlantic Canada Shipping Project
  • More Than a List of Crew

Student Research Papers

Here they describe their collection of student papers relating to the history, geography, and anthropology of Newfoundland and Labrador. There are thousands of papers, written between 1969 and 1986.

Young Men and the Sea Database Collection 

This section details the information used for the book Young Men and the Sea: Yankee seafarers in the Age of Sail. The three databases are Voyages, Salem Tax Lists, and Salem Tax Valuation Lists.

In Part 2 we'll look at what else is available on the website, including virtual exhibits, research services, and publications.