Tracing a Geneology?
September 28, 2010 1:17 PM   Subscribe

My mom is trying to trace our family's geneology as far back as she can. She knows where people came from (Canada, France, Ireland) but we have no records further back than her grandparents, who came down from Canada.

What is the best way for her to trace records that run outside the US? We've found some Canadian census records, but nothing beyond that. It seems that sites like would really only get us US info, which is obviously not what we need.

Any tips, advice, sources??

posted by unlucky.lisp to Human Relations (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Try and have her read some FAQs on tracing in the areas she needs to.

It does get more and more difficult the further back you go.

Also try surname lists at rootsweb/ancestry and when she connects there, she might find a lot of support.

Good luck!
posted by magnoliasouth at 1:23 PM on September 28, 2010

Oh and let me clarify that cyndislist is separate for the FAQ suggestion. She has resources listed by location and so many other things. It's just amazing.
posted by magnoliasouth at 1:24 PM on September 28, 2010 does actually have a World Archives Project. I found the same problem when I bumped up on 15th Century England. Guess I'll have to upgrade now, to get farther.
posted by functionequalsform at 1:38 PM on September 28, 2010

I don't mean to be snarky, but "genealogy" is the correct spelling. This will spare you the wrath of hardcore genealogists... DOES have many Canadian records, but the cost of membership is rather high (on the order of several hundred dollars for a full year's access to their "World" records package, which you would need for access to their Canadian collection). before investing in this, check with your local library to see if they provide card holders with access. alternately, other research libraries, like the National Archives branches, also provide free access when using computers at their facilities.

the best way to go about research is to start nearest to the present and work your way backwards as you uncover a new generation and a link to a place. with the mix of heritage you state, your research in canada will take decidedly different paths, dependent upon whether your ancestors were Francophones (e.g. spoke French and had French heritage) or were Anglophones (e.g. spoke English and have heritage from the lands that make up the U.K.).

it will also serve you well to do a little reading on Canadian history, as told from the perspective of Canadians. it will likely give you a sense of why your ancestors left Canada for the US (mine, for example, were Anglophones who lived in a Francophone area that saw a failed rebellion in 1837-1838) and can also help you as you search for records and evidence of your ancestors' lives in Canada.

The Library and Archives Canada has a decent website with a section devoted to Genealogy. Their link to the Canadian Genealogy Centre has great 'how to' guides.

Another good starting place is a federated database accessible through the Voici ma famille / That's My Family website.

Depending upon when your ancestors lived in Canada, Canadian Census records can also be of good use. The modern census began in 1851 and happens, like the US census, every ten years (1861, 1871, etc. though the 1911 census).

The LDS Church also has an interesting set of Canadian resources. I'm probably going to get in trouble here by saying you should stick only with their primary document resources (I've personally found their published family trees as researched by church members to be woefully inaccurate and at worst, just verbatim copies of initial poor research). Try the "All Collections" link at their website which, despite the word 'beta' in the title, is actually quite a stable and somewhat easy to navigate website.

Good luck with your search, mefi mail me if you wish when you have further questions or if there is something specific and detailed you need to ask.
posted by kuppajava at 1:52 PM on September 28, 2010

You have your own and her own birth certificates, right? Hers gives her parents' places of birth, most likely, as well as her mother's maiden name (if not, you'll need to check their death certificates.) She should have the ability to order her parents' birth certificates. Those will give her grandparents' full names. Also look for citizenship/naturalization applications and draft records for the world wars (her great-grandfather might have been in the draft in 1918, depending on how your family's generations break down) - people were often asked where they were born, and you may luck out with them giving a county or parish name. One of mine said "Galway," and the other said "Russia," so. Marriage certificates also often provide this information. Don't start picking your way through Census records and passenger lists until you've got the basic vital documentation in for the four easiest generations (you, her, her parents, their parents,) because actually having them in hand can save you hundreds of hours.

If you want free in-person help for the stuff across the ocean, find the nearest Mormon church here: There will be a genealogy library in at least the stake center and quite possibly the local meetinghouses. They really will not care that you aren't Mormon. My mom was a full-time genealogist giving lectures and such, and still spent many long hours each week volunteering at the Family History Center. Heck, she still goes every other Wednesday, mostly to help non-Mormons find someone overseas in the late 1880s.

(Also: make sure to ask everyone in the family to write down any old-country stories they've heard. We just happened upon forgotten handwritten notes from 1983 that may give the surname of the cousins we believe died in the Holocaust. That was something everyone but one person forgot to ask: we knew who they resembled, that one was in the French resistance, but no last name.)
posted by SMPA at 2:07 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

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