Monday, 27 March 2017

Religious Records Part 3 - Nova Scotia and New Brunswick

Last post we started our trek across Canada in search of Religious Records, by looking at Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. Now we're going to look at Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.





Nova Scotia
For a brief outline of the religious history of Nova Scotia, take a look at anglicanhistory.org's page on The Church of England in Nova Scotia and the Tory Clergy of the Revolution. Though obviously centered around Protestantism, it does briefly mention the Acadian Catholic years. Also take a look at St. Francis Xavier University's page that covers both Catholicism and Presbyterian histories of the province. It also has a bibliography if you want a more in depth look at either history.

FamilySearch has a browse only collection of records called Nova Scotia Church Records 1720-2001. The collection covers both Catholic and Church of England records. Also check out their wiki on church records in general. What's great about this particular wiki is that is also has links and contact information for some of the denominational archives as well.

If you have Catholic ancestors, then check out the Drouin Acadian church records on Ancestry. Do take note though, that this collection covers both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Also please note that is not fully indexed. Some of the locations will need to be browsed page by page, especially if you are looking at the very years of the collection, when Nova Scotia was Acadie. Some records are in English, but a huge amount are in French. So along with poor handwriting, you will be dealing with French and sometimes Latin records. They can be a gold mine of information though. The Catholic records were usually a little more detailed than their Protestant counterparts. Some of the extra information I've come across in these records included:

  • Names of parents of a marrying couple
  • Maiden name of mothers in baptism entries
  • If one of the parties of a marriage comes from a different parish, their home parish is sometimes listed
  • If a widow is remarrying, sometimes her previous husband's name is also included (i.e the widow of so and so)
  • Relationship of the witnesses to the infant, wedding party, or deceased's entry. I've seen this in both marriages and burials for my own tree, and births in some other entries. (i.e. In attendance at the burial was her son Pierre)
The Nova Scotia Archives has a church records collection. There is an online database that will tell you what they have available. It is NOT the records themselves. For that you will have to visit the Archives in person to see the microfilms. The individual parishes still retain custody of the microfilms, and therefore are only available according to their guidelines. A detailed explanation of the holdings is here. The exception to this is their collection An Acadian Parish Remembered. These are the records of St. Jean Baptiste in Annapolis Royal, and covers the years 1702-1755. This is valuable tool for Acadian researchers. Type in a surname and you get every event pertaining to that surname in the registers. For example, when I enter BASTARACHE, one of my Acadian surnames, I get 43 results. If I click on one of these results, I will get to see a digital image of the page the entry is on. You cannot download the image, it is for viewing only. Above the image is an extract of the entry.

The Nova Scotia GenWeb has the LDS film numbers for various churches in Nova Scotia. Click on the county you are researching and you will get the various churches and their LDS film number. Some counties also have pictures and brief histories of individual churches.

The Shelburne County Archives and Genealogical Society has some church records and family bibles among their holdings. Along with Shelburne County, they also have the Liverpool Methodist and the
Port Mouton Circuit records from Queen's County.

If you have Lunenburg ancestors, then you have to look at the information on the Lunenburg County GenWeb site. They have a huge collection of transcriptions available for download. Along with that though, is the Don Shankle database. It has almost 50,000 BMD's taken from both vital statistics and church records. Though it is not as good as looking at original records of course, this database is the next best thing. Oh, and did I mention it is free to download? You can access the Shankle database here.






 New Brunswick
Originally part of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick became a separate entity in 1784. Over the years of it's existence, there has been much friction between the Catholic and protestant sects. Most of the Catholics were and are of French and Irish descent, while the Protestant sects come from the British and American immigrants. The Scottish immigrants fell into both groups. Today, the second largest Catholic population in Canada live in New Brunswick.

FamilySearch has a small collection of births and baptisms for the years 1819-1899. There are no images, but you will get a simple extraction of the original record. You can access the wiki as well for information and helpful links on the various denominations.

As mentioned in the Nova Scotia segment above, you can access the Acadian Drouin Collection on Ancestry for Catholic New Brunswick records. I have traced my own tree back several generations using this collection.

My favourite site in the whole world, The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, has microfilms of both Catholic and Protestant church records. I love these guys. Not only are they "genealogist friendly", but they offer inter library loan on most of their records. For the church record microfilms, you need to go to the tab Research Tools, then click on County Guides. That will take you to this page. Click on the county you are interested in. You will get an Adobe Acrobat file of all the information for that county. Near the bottom is the section Church Records. Here you will get a listing of the various churches in the county, what years the records cover, and the microfilm numbers. Then just go to your local library with the information and have them submit a request for the film. Easy and free!

The University of Moncton has a great Acadian department, where you can find Stephen A White. Mr. White is the go-to source on Acadian genealogy. His work in progress on the original Acadian settlers and all their descendants is a hot commodity. The first two volumes are no longer in print, but if you can get your hands on them, they are invaluable. I was lucky enough to buy a used set last year. Though they are written in French, there is a English supplemental guide that can help you navigate the information. You can check out Stephen A. White and the holdings of the Centre D'Etudes Acadiennes Anselme-Chaisson here. The page is in French, but if your web browser should be able to translate it for you.

If you have First Nations ancestors, check out Genealogy First's page on parish records. They have information to help you find your New Brunswick First Nations ancestors.

If your ancestors belonged to Gagetown parish, then check out the Queen's County GenWeb page on parish records. There are over 4,000 transcriptions of baptisms, marriages, and burials.



And of course for both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, check out LAC's Religious Archives links.

Next post we'll leave the Maritimes and head over to Quebec and Ontario.



Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Religious Records Part 2 - Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island

In this section we will be looking at Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. For the sake of convenience, I'll be referring to the various sects of Protestant as simply Protestant for this post and the future ones as we go across Canada.




Newfoundland

If you would like a historical timeline of the church in general for Newfoundland, I came across a great site by Claude Belanger on the religious history of Newfoundland. In fact, the whole site is good for Newfoundland history. I've added the link to the Newfoundland and Labrador tab at the top of the blog.

The first recorded minister in Newfoundland goes back to the early 1600's. Though a predominately Protestant province, there has been a Catholic presence since the middle of the seventeenth century. You can find records that go back to 1793 through the following sites:

FamilySearch has an collection of both Church of England and Catholic records that range from 1793-1945. This collection is not indexed, so you will have to use the browse feature. The wiki has instructions on how to use this collection, as well as a chart that will tell you the range of years for each location.

Newfoundland Grand Banks has among its other records transcriptions of parish records. It also has some various church reports transcribed. These are worth looking at, because you never know if your ancestor will be mentioned.

The Family History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador has on site transcriptions of over 100,000 births, marriages and deaths. These records cover the years 1753-1968. They will do searches for you for a fee if you cannot go there yourself. This is an ongoing project, so they will be continually adding to the database.

The Rooms has a finding aid online outlining what parish records they hold. Depending on the parish, year rages for the parishes vary from the early 1800's to as late as the 1990's. They will do research for a fee.

NL GenWeb has transcriptions of records for various areas of Newfoundland. Not all areas have transcriptions available. Check out the site to see what they offer.

Of course you can also contact the Church Archives themselves. Some do research requests. To go to the specific Archives of the denomination you are looking for, Library and Archives Canada
has a great collection of links for contact information. Scroll down to the section called Religious Archives.





Prince Edward Island

There has been a Catholic presence on PEI back to the Acadians, when it was called Ile St. Jean. With the waves of UK settlers, the Protestant church came to PEI.

FamilySearch has a browse only collection of records from 1777-1985. The wiki explainds it in detail with instructions on using the database. They also have an indexed database of PEI baptism cards from 1721-1885 here.

PARO has a database where you can enter in a last name and you will get a breakdown of how many each of births, deaths and marriages there are. Use the advanced search option to help narrow your search. I typed in FERGUSON, with no date range, and got 433 births, 103 marriages, and 230 deaths. Clicking on a specific record will give you a transcription of the event.

The Island Register has transcriptions of family bibles. Some only have a few entries, others are quite extensive.

The University of Prince Edward Island does have some religious records in their holdings. Some are available to look at online.

If you are looking for Acadian records, Library and Archives Canada has digital images for Ile St. Jean parish records. The LAC page is in French, but google will translate for you. Also keep in mind that the records themselves are in French, and so some familiarity with French will be needed. I find that the "Franglais" I grew up with is sufficient. Also see the LAC link in the Newfoundland section for the contact information for Religious Archives.

Next post we will look at records for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.








Friday, 17 March 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Canada and our Irish Roots

According to the 2011 National Household Survey, 14% of Canadians identify themselves as Irish. I recently found Irish in my own family history. My brick wall ancestor, my great grandfather John Wellington McDonald, identified his parents as being born in Ireland on his wedding registration. I am not the only Canadian genealogist to have found at least one Irish person in their tree. According to Library and Archives Canada, Irish is the fourth largest ethnic makeup of Canadians. Almost 4.5 million Canadians claim at least part Irish ancestry.

There are reports of Irish coming to Canada as early as the 1600's. The relationship between southern Ireland and France at this time period meant that Irish came here when it was New France. In fact, it is believed that some French Canadian/Acadian names actually find their roots in Irish names. By 1871, the Irish were the largest ethnic group every major Canadian urban center, with the exception of Montreal and Quebec city,

The biggest influx of Irish immigrants came during the Great Potato Famine of 1847. Hundreds of thousands of Irish people fled to North America. British North America was cheaper to travel to than the United States, so the majority of the immigrants coming here at this time were poor and destitute. They came over on what became known as "coffin ships", because of the disease and sickness that became rampant on them. The flood of sick people on these ships soon overwhelmed the quarantine station at Grosse Ile. An estimated 5,000 Irish people died on Grosse Ile. The mass graves there are considered the largest concentration of Irish burials outside of Ireland. According to Wikipedia, there are eight memorials erected in Canada, dedicated to the Irish famine. They can be found in:
  • Grosse Ile, Quebec
  • Quebec City
  • Saint John, New Brunswick
  • Saint Andrews, New Brunswick
  • Kingston, Ontario
  • Maidstone, Ontario
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Toronto, Ontario

Plaque commemorating the fever sheds in Toronto
Source: http://irelandparkfoundation.com/famine-memorial/150th-anniversary/

The assimilation of the Irish into British North America, as in the United States, was not easy. The Catholic Irish tended to fare better in French and some Scottish communities, due to their shared Catholic beliefs, and anti British sentiment. However, in the strong British Protestant areas of Ontario, for example, there was outright discrimination of the Irish. They were denounced as lazy, alcoholic ne'er do wells that bred like rabbits. The fact that the huge influx during the famine years also brought cholera and typhus outbreaks did not endear them to many. Their loyalty to Britain was also constantly questioned.

The Protestant Irish fared better than their Catholic counterparts. Being a product of British settlement in Ireland previously, they were considered much more loyal than their Catholic counterparts. The friction between the two groups of Irish that began in Ireland carried over to their new country. As well, the Protestant Irish came with more wealth than the Catholics did, and were more interested in farming. They also brought with them the Orange Order, a Protestant fraternal organization that started in Ireland,.

Today St.Patrick's Day is a provincial holiday in Newfoundland. In the rest of Canada, there are parades in cities across the country. Montreal's parade is considered one of the oldest in North America, going continuously now for over 190 years. Toronto's earliest one was in about 1863. However, due to threats of violence between Catholic and Protestant factions, it was cancelled in 1878. It didn't resume again until the 1980's.

Canada has Ireland to thank for some of our iconic historical figures. Some notable Canadians with Irish roots are:

  • Nellie McClung, one of our greatest suffragettes
  • Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a Father of Confederation
  • Sir John Thompsom, our 4th Prime Minister
  • Louis St. Laurent, our 12th Prime Minister
  • Brian Mulrony, our 18th Prime Minister, 
  • Ben Mulroney, tv personality and son of Brian Mulroney
  • Paul Martin, our 21st Prime Minister
  • Seamus O'Regan, former tv personality and now MP in Newfoundland
  • Stompin' Tom Connors, an iconic Musician
  • Jill Hennessy, an actress (Law and Order, Crossing Jordan)
  • Eugenie Bouchard, professional tennis player
  • Jim Flaherty, federal finance minister 
  • Timothy Eaton, founder of Eaton's Department Store
  • Mary Walsh, comedian and activist

So, even if you're not one of us who can claim Irish ancestry, take today to thank Ireland and the impact it's made on our country.

For more information on Canada's Irish roots, look at the following sites:

Library and Archives Canada

The Canadian Encyclopedia

Irish Genealogy Toolkit

A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada

Canada's Historic Places

Ireland Park




Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Religious Records Part 1 - The Basics

St. Peter's and St. Paul Church, Bartibog Bridge, New Brunswick
Source: http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=2593




Religious records are an important part of Canadian research. Unlike today, the houses of worship played a much bigger role in our ancestors lives. It was not only where you went to have your rites of passage performed. It was also where you went to socialize and catch up on the news of the area. This was especially true of our rural ancestors.

Canada has many different religions. Due to our British and French heritage though, the two main ones in our history are the Catholic religion and the ones that fall under the umbrella of Protestant faiths. These two are the ones I am more familiar with, so I'll be writing these posts geared to researchers of these religions. I will not get into the fundamental differences between the Protestant sects though. It could take up a whole post of it's own. If you're interested, the National Institute of Genealogical Studies has a Religious Records Course that breaks everything down. I've taken the course and learned a great deal.

When I was preparing for this post, I realized that I was going to have to take the same approach as I took to civil registration. The establishment of the various churches, and where to find records, also varies by province and territory. So for this first part, I'm going to give a quick summary of tips for searching in general. Future posts will be more specific to the province or territory we are looking at.

The Canadian census can be really helpful in determining where to look for religious records of our ancestors. Every national census from 1851-1921 has asked what religion each person was. It was also asked on the 1916 census of the Prairie Provinces. Having this question asked can narrow down your search for a church tremendously. Most family units tended to have everyone of the same religious sect. I have seen the parents have two different denominations on occasion though. In the cases I looked at, the children tended to have their religion listed as the same as the mother's.

In the early years of Canada, a lot of communities did not have an established house of worship. Instead, both priests of the Catholic Church and Protestant ministers traveled a great deal. Depending on the area of Canada, some had huge territories that they were responsible for, travelling a circuit. Sometimes it would be months before a community could get marriages performed or had their children baptized. This is significant for a few reasons:

  1. You may have to broaden the time period you search for for a baptism. In the Catholic faith, a lay person could do a baptism under certain circumstances. But, the family would still have to seek a priest to have a formal ceremony as soon as they realistically could. On the plus side though, you may end up seeing a group of siblings being baptized or christened on the same day.
  2. The marriage ceremony you are looking for may have taken place outside of the faith of the family. If a couple wanted to get married, but a minister of their own faith would not be there for several months, they might have gone to another minister that was in their jurisdiction right then. This could be because the couple didn't want to wait. It could also be that they couldn't wait. To put it delicately, the social norms of the time may have required that this couple get married as soon as possible, especially if you looked at the date of birth of their first child. You probably will not see this in Catholic couples, but a Church of England couple may go to a Methodist minister.
  3. The above was also true for baptisms. The Catholics and some of the Protestant variations held a firm belief that baptism should be done as quickly as possible, especially if the child was in ill health. Therefore, most of the clergy of these faiths would perform the ceremony even if the parents were not members of the church. Catholics generally did not go outside their faith as a rule, but a Church of England member might go to a Methodist minister if they were available, or even to a Catholic church if they felt that that the child was not likely to live.
  4. You may have to look at records in a different area to find the record you need. Pay close attention to the start date of the parish records. For instance, some of my New Brunswick ancestors' records can be found in three different parishes. Tracadie Catholic church records don't start until 1798, and even then, you do not see a lot of entries. The first entry I saw in the book was in August of that year. The first few years only a half a few pages for each year, and there are only 1-3 entries on each page. I had to look at neighboring parishes to find records of my ancestors.


The next thing to keep in mind is geography if your ancestor did not live in a city. Take a look at a map of where your ancestor lived. Let's say they were Church of England. The nearest church that was Church of England meant that they had to travel a couple of hours away. A Methodist church was maybe a little closer. Chances are that they will go to the Methodist church. Also note any possible barriers like river crossings. This guideline is more for the variations of the Protestant faith. Catholics as a rule went to a Catholic church, no matter what. But even still, you might find your Catholic ancestors going to a Catholic church outside their geographical parish. If your ancestors lived close to the borders of two parishes, the one that is closer and easier to get to will be the one that services their needs.

Let's say you have a couple who grew up in different areas. Usually the couple will live their married life in the husband's parish. The general rule is that the marriage itself though will take place where the bride comes from. If you can't find a marriage record in the parish where they lived, check to see if the marriage took place in the area that the bride came from.

Last tip: Chances are you are going to have to research the "old fashioned way" for religious records. In comparison to other records sets, you are not going to see a lot online. You might have to resort to looking at microfilm, or doing in person visits, Don't be surprised if you have to make phone calls, and write letters and emails.

In Part 2 of the post we're going to look at Newfound and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island.
















Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Louis Hebert and Marie Rollet - Canada's First Settlers

This post will appeal to both genealogists and history buffs. There's been some excitement from the French Canadian genealogy community the past few days about Louis Hebert and Marie Rollet. The theory for many years was that they had married in Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois church in Paris in 1602. There was a fire at the church and the records were destroyed. Thanks to Gilles Brassard, a man from Quebec, this has been proven wrong. While researching his ancestry in Paris, he came across an entry from the registers of Saint-Sulpice church in Paris. The handwriting is very old and hard to decipher, but thanks to Gail Dever's blog post, you can see a transcription of it in both French and English. The English translation provided by Gail says that Luis Hebert and Marie Rollet married 18 February 1601. It also states that Marie was the widow of the merchant Francois Dufeu. This is exciting for those descending from Louis and Marie, of which I am one. Not only do we have a confirmed marriage date and place, but we now know that Marie was a widow when she married. We even have the name of her previous husband, and now a new line of research.You can see the image of the marriage entry itself on geneanet.org. This discovery is timely, as this year marks the 400th anniversary of Louis and Marie coming to New France.

Louis and Marie are my 11x great grandparents. Here's the descendency:


  • Louis Hebert and Marie Rollet
  • Guillaume Hebert and Helene Des Portes
  • Guillaume Fournier and Francoise Hebert
  • Joseph Fournier and Barbe Girard
  • Jean Fournier and Louise Joncas
  • Pierre Fournier and Marie Morin
  • Guillaume Fournier and Rosealie LeBlanc
  • Pierre Fournier and Marie Saulnier
  • Guillaume Fournier and Marie Anne Brideau
  • Jean McLaughlin and Marie Louise Fournier
  • Patrice Mallais and Marie Ann McLaughlin
  • Henri Govereau and Marie Ann Mallais
  • David McDonald and Mary Jane Govereau
  • Candice McDonald


So if you're not descended from them, you might be thinking so what? They're not my ancestors, so why should I be excited? Louis and Marie are important to Canadian history because they are considered the first settlers of New France. They were the first to come for reasons other than military service or trade.

First let's take a look at Louis Hebert. His birth is estimated to be about 1575 in Paris. He was the son of Nicholas Hebert and Jacqueline Pajot. Nicholas was an apothecary, and at one time was the apothecary to the court of Catherine de Midici. Louis followed in his father's footsteps and became an apothecary as well. In the early 1600's he accompanied Pierre Du Gua De Monts in his early voyages to what became Acadia and also Gloucester, Massachusetts. It was on these voyages that he met Samuel de Champlain.

In the early spring of 1617 he and his wife Marie sailed for the new settlement at Quebec. At this point the settlement was only 9 years old. With them were their children Anne, Guillemette, and Guillaume. His skills as an apothecary came in handy the first few years, tending to the other colonists. He also became a trusted friend of the nearby Native tribes. Unlike the general feelings of Europeans at the time, he looked upon them as normal human beings, and not savages.

By 1618 Anne Hebert, the oldest daughter of Louis and Marie, had married Etienne Jonquest. This was the first recorded marriage in our country's history. Anne died shortly after, presumably from complications in childbirth.

In 1620, Champlain made Louis the first "King's Attorney". He was responsible for administering justice in the colony. Louis and his family continued to clear land and farm. What was remarkable about this is that there were no plows in the colony at the time. Everything was done with only hand tools.

In 1626 Louis slipped on some ice and died in January of 1627. There is a monument in Quebec City, erected in 1918 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of his coming to New France.



Marie Rollet, Louis' wife, was no less important than her husband. Unfortunately, as happens more than it should, she gets overlooked. Marie and her daughters were the first European women to colonize Canada.

It is thought that Marie was born about 1580 in Paris. It is not known who her parents were, or her early life. As with many wives of the day, she helped run her husband's business in France.

Once in the new world, Marie became Canada's first school teacher. She taught the children of the new colony how to read and write. She also taught the Native children, and also gave instruction in the Christian faith.

After Louis died, Marie remained in New France. She married Guillaume Hubou 1929, a man at least 20 years younger than her, and what we now know was her third husband. The same year, the English took Quebec. While many colonists returned to France once the colony came under British control, Marie and Guillaume chose to remain. The colony reverted back to the French in 1632.

Marie continued teaching children. Her house became a home for children being cared for by the Jesuits. Her relationship with the local Native peoples stayed close. There are church records where she is the godmother to many Native children.

In 1637, Marie was a witness to the marriage of her grand daughter Margueritte Couillard to Jean Nicollet de Belleborne.

Marie died at the age of 69 in 1649. She outlived two husbands, and 2 of her children. I find it amazing how much is made of her husband, who only lived long enough to spend less than ten years in the colony. Meanwhile, Marie spent over 30 years in New France, and was responsible for the education of many. Yet, outside of certain circles, she is hardly mentioned.

Fortunately, Marie also has a monument in Quebec erected in her own honor. It shows her with children, to honor her work teaching:





Louis, Marie and their children are on a plaque honoring the first settlers of Quebec. The plaque is located on the Hebert monument:



You can find more detail about Louis Hebert and Marie Rollet at these sites:

Louis Hebert's page in the Canadian Dictionary of Biography is here.

Marie Rollet's page is here.

The blog Quebec Roots has separate entries for Louis and Marie.

oocities.org

manyroads.com has separate links for Louis and Marie.











Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Cemeteries





Saint Paul's Anglican Church and Cemetery. Trinity, Newfoundland
Source: http://www.fotosearch.com/DSN024/1823198/


It sounds morbid to non genealogy people, but I love cemeteries. I find them very peaceful to walk through. I also find it interesting to read the headstones.You can learn so much from them, besides birth and death dates. Family members are sometimes buried in one plot, and can give you new avenues of research. Even if not buried together, families that have been rooted in one area for a long time will be in the same cemetery. But what do you do when you're researching from a distance?



1. Cemetery Websites

Here are some of the main sites out there to find Canadian graves:

  • Find A Grave
Find A Grave is a well known cemetery site. Using their search engine, you can insert a name into the search engine, and they'll show you everywhere that person has been listed as buried. The problem with this site is that unless you are searching in the US, you can only narrow by country. There is no way to search by province. A man by the name of Ken Lange helped us Canadians out though, by designing a search page for Canada that lets you narrow down your search to a province. You can search either by name or by cemetery. The link to his page is here.

Run by volunteers, this site has indexes to over 18,000 cemeteries across Canada. Some of the cemeteries listed are not indexed on the site itself. However, where possible, they've included links to where you can get an index. For instance, my grandfather's family was a part of St.Peter's and Paul's Roman Catholic Church in Bartibog, New Brunswick. By clicking on it, I get the location of the cemetery. It also provides the link for the Miramichi Branch of the New Brunswick Genealogical Society, who has the index. You can also search by name, and narrow your search to a particular province.

Keep in mind that this is an ongoing project, so you may not turn up anything. I put in "BOUTILIER", one of my very common Nova Scotia surnames, I only got 27 hits. None of them were part of my direct ancestors. keep checking back though if you don't find anything at first.

The free option of using Billion Graves lets you search by person. You can also see a GPS map of all cemeteries in a specific area.The cemeteries are color coded to let you know how much, if any, of the interments are on Billion Graves. Surprisingly, when I zoomed in on Lindsay, Ontario, neither of the two cemeteries in town have any records on there. Sounds like a good volunteer project in my future. Also on the free version is the ability to connect your tree to the site to search for graves. By hovering on the "Research" tab, you can see what else you do on the site for free. You can also see the benefits of upgrading to the Billion Graves Plus option.

This site is a non profit website that has over 40,000 records. You first click on the Province or Territory you want to search in, then narrow by surname. The search box is in the top right and labelled quick search. You can then filter by given name, and also by specific area if you choose. I left the given name blank and searched with the surname GREENING in all of Newfoundland and Labrador. I got 67 hits. I clicked on 6 or 7 of them and they all had pictures. It's by no means as extensive as some of the other sites, but keep checking back.

You can search this site by name, but I found it was quicker to search geographically. First click on province, then region. It will list the cemeteries in that region that have been transcribed. By clicking on the specific cemetery, you will get a list of all interments transcribed. There are no photos. I think this is the quicker way of doing this because if a particular cemetery or region has not been done, you will not waste time wading through possibly hundreds of results. By using MCDONALD in the surname search, I got 183 results. It would be very frustrating to wade through all that and then find the cemetery I was looking for isn't even on the site.


2. Provincial and Local Archives

If your ancestor's grave is not on the cemetery websites, try the local or provincial archives. Many of them have collections of cemetery transcriptions. You probably won't get a picture, but at least you'll have a transcription. Some are even online. Others are available through inter library loan

The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick has a large cemetery database on line. You can do a conventional name search, with the ability to narrow by county if need be. What I like though is the search by cemetery function. Select the county, and it will give you the cemeteries in that county on their database. It will then let you choose from all the surnames that are listed there. They have them listed by the spelling that was on the headstone, so look through the list for variations. It will then give you the results for that particular surname. By clicking on details you will get the headstone transcription.

The Trent Valley Archives in Peterborough, Ontario has transcriptions of Peterborough County cemeteries on site.

3. Genealogical and Historical Societies

Most genealogical and historical societies have collections of cemetery transcriptions. If they have an online presence, they might have something on their website. The Fort St.John North Peace Museum has a link on their website to a rootsweb page of cemetery transcriptions of the North Peace area of British Columbia. Even if they don't, you can contact the society. Most of them offer research services.

4. Local Libraries

Most libraries have collections of local history in their reference departments. Try contacting the library in the area of your ancestor to see if their collection include cemetery indexes and transcriptions. The local societies may have donated a set to the library.

5. Library and Archives Canada

LAC holds a lot of cemetery indexes. Most are available through inter library loan. You can search to see what they have by using AMICUS. They suggest searching using terms like "cemetery Calgary" or "Beechwood Cemetery".


6. Contacting the Cemetery

If you know where your ancestor is buried, try contacting the cemetery to get information. I recently had good experiences with two Toronto cemeteries. One of the sadder stories in my family tree is a great aunt and uncle. My great aunt Pauline MCDONALD died of influenza at 2 years old in 1934. One year later her brother Baby Boy MCDONALD was stillborn. According to their death certificates, they were to be buried in St. John's Norway Cemetery in Toronto. I emailed the cemetery asking for details of their graves, and in less than 2 hours I was emailed back by Jeremy. Both babies were listed in the records, but since they were "poor graves", their exact location in the cemetery is unknown. This was not a surprise to me about them being poor graves, as the family lived at that time in one of the poorest areas of Toronto. Jeremy was kind enough to give me a transcription of the records.

My great grandfather, John MCDONALD was their father. I know he was buried in Prospect Cemetery. From the FamilySearch index database Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989, I was able to get what I was sure was his burial entry in the index book. I emailed the Mount Pleasant Group (who oversees several cemeteries) with the information from the index. Within a day I had a reply from Susan. She was able to tell me which plot my great grandfather is located in. There is no gravestone, as he was a Social Service burial, and there are 4 other people interred in that plot. Along with a transcription of the burial record, she also sent me 2 maps showing the location of the burial. As she noted in her email, there are 47 burials with the name of John McDonald in Prospect Cemetery. With the information I gave her, she was able to right away find my John McDonald. So it's a good rule to make sure you give as much detail as you can, especially if you are dealing with a large cemetery, and/or a common name. 


If you know of any other avenues or websites to pursue for Canadian graves, feel free to leave them in the comments, and I'll add them in.









Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Empress of Ireland: "Canada's Titanic"

I recently came across the author Steve Robinson. He writes a series of books that are "genealogical murder mysteries". I have to tell you, I have tore through the first four of his books in less than two months. There are five total, with a new one coming out in May. His fourth book, The Lost Empress, centers around whether a passenger who was believed to have died in the sinking of the HMS Empress of Ireland actually survived. Though I had heard of the name of the ship in passing, I did not know any of the actual details. After reading his book, I just had to find out more.


Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Empress_of_Ireland


The sinking of the HMS Empress of Ireland on 29 May 1914 was one of Canada's worst maritime disasters. Over 1,000 people died when the ship sank in the St.Lawrence River. It took less than 15 minutes for the ship to sink. Sandwiched between the sinking of the HMS Titanic two years earlier and the infamous sinking of the HMS Lusitania in 1915, most people have never heard of it.

The ship was owned by Canadian Pacific Steamships, and was a major part of the immigration of Canada. Launched in 1906, she made  95 trips back and forth between Liverpool and Quebec City. Estimates go from 1 in 35 to 1 in 60 Canadians that can trace their immigrant ancestor to the ship. In total, around 120,00 Europeans made the trip to Canada on her. In my researching of family lines, I found my in-laws' ancestors had sailed on her sister ship the HMS Empress of Britain. Built in Scotland, the Empress of Ireland could carry 1542 passengers and 373 crew.

It was on the 96th voyage on a foggy night in May 1914 that she sank. On the way to Liverpool, the Empress was going out to sea down the Saint Lawrence River. Coming the opposite direction was the Norwegian collier Storstad. Both ships had seen each other before the fog settled in, but soon they were relying on whistle blasts to find each other's location. It's unsure who and where the errors in navigation were, but the Norwegian ship drove directly into the side of the Empress. Of the 1,477 on board, only 465 people survived. Sadly, only 4 of  the 138 children aboard ship were among the survivors. Also among the passengers were 170 members of the Salvation Army, on their way to a rally in England. The organization lost 141 of the 170.

Unlike the Titanic, the Empress of Ireland only sits 130 feet under water. Because of the extreme cold of the water, it is remarkably well preserved. It lies just off the coast of Rimouski, Quebec. However, strong currents makes this a dive site for only experienced divers. Around half a dozen people have lost their lives diving the wreck. Because of the damage done by wreck scavengers, both the government of  Quebec and the federal government have declared it a historic site to prevent further damage.

In 2014 Canada Post released two stamps to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking. There are several memorials in Quebec to it. The Salvation erected it's own memorial in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, as a tribute to its lost members. The Royal Canadian Mint also issued a commemorative coin.

You can find out more about the HMS Empress of Ireland and her final resting place at the following sites:

WRECKSITE

National Film Board

Historica Canada

Globe and Mail

PBS

Pier 21

If you're interested in Steve Robinson and his books his website is here.