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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian Local Histories and Special Collections  by Michelle LaBrosse-Purcell, B.Sc., MLIS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Historical Sites

Can you use historical sites to gather genealogical information? Of course you can!

It’s up to you to find a site of interest to you, perhaps near the place your ancestor was from, or relating to your ancestor in some other way (military, ethnic, religious, etc.). As historic sites can be municipal, provincial or federal, I can’t even provide you with one source to turn to that lists all the sites in Canada. The best resource I’ve been able to find thus far is the Attractions Canada website, which lists a great number of historic sites in Canada. “Another great website to use to discover National Historic Sites in the area where your ancestor lived is the Parks Canada—National Historic Sites of Canada website. It lists all historic sites by province, making it easy to determine what sites are near your ancestor’s former home.”

Here’s a sample of the type of information that’s out there for the genealogist:

To start, let’s take a look at Pier 21. Pier 21 located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was one of four ports (Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, and St. John) where immigrants first entered Canada. The Library/Resource Centre at Pier 21 has immigration records for individuals who entered Canada through Quebec City, Montreal, Halifax and Saint John between 1925 and 1935, as well as photographs of 90% of the ships that brought immigrants to Halifax between 1928 and 1971, newspaper photographs, a collection of books on Canadian immigration, and other records of importance to researchers interested in the study of Pier 21. The immigration records available at Pier 21 are the same ones available at Library and Archives Canada. When you receive a copy of the immigration record, you will find each applicant was asked a series of questions, and based on the immigrant’s response he/she was granted landed immigrant status or detained. There are no separate interview records, only passenger lists. The following questions were asked:

Family Name?
Given Name?
Single, married, widowed, divorced?
Country of birth?
Place of Birth?
Race or people?
If in Canada before between what periods?
At what address?
Ever refused entry to or deported from Canada?
Do you intend to reside permanently in Canada?
Can you read?
What language?
By whom was passage paid?
What trade or occupation did you follow in your own country?
What trade or occupation do you intend to follow in Canada?
If destined to relative, friend or employer state which and give name and full address. If not joining any person in Canada, give the address in Canada to which you are going?
Give name, relationship and address of your nearest relative in the country from which you came. If a spouse or children are to follow you later to Canada, give names and ages?
Have you or any of your family ever been: Mentally defective?
Physically defective?
Passport - number, place and date of issue?
Money in possession belonging to passenger?
Traveling inland on?
Action taken and civil examiner?
Here the prospective immigrant receives either a landed immigrant stamp or detained stamp

It’s nice to see that a historic site of such importance to so many Canadians is working hard to answer questions from the public. This centre has a wealth of information for anyone looking for information on an immigrant, as well as a research librarian who can answer any questions you have. Not only does it have all this information available, but it’s accessible by the Internet, making it possible for all of us not able to travel to Halifax to still be able to access the vast array of information they have available.

For more information on Pier 21, contact:

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
1055 Marginal Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
B3H 4P7
Telephone: (902) 425-7700 ext 250

Not every historic site has a resource centre or library open to the public as Pier 21 does. However, most historic sites usually do have people on hand with a background in Canadian History, and there are usually some reference books on hand used for re-creating the historic site. From the Ukrainian Village just outside of Edmonton, Upper Canada Village near Morrisburg, Ontario, or the Citadel in Halifax; all of them are willing to answer questions from the public.

Any institution dealing with historical subjects, be it a museum, historical village, university professor, professional historian, etc., have vast resources of information that you can tap into, if you will only take the time and effort to seek them out!


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Canadian Local Histories and Special Collections offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

  • This page was last modified on 27 October 2014, at 19:43.
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