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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 ($).


Provincial Union Lists of Archival Holdings

Suppose you know from which province your ancestors come.  Is there a way you can search all of the archives, regardless of their size, located in that province?  Often they hold the records that add flavour to family histories.  In most provinces and territories of Canada, there is some form of network of the various archives in the province.  In most cases the network has developed a union search engine for describing their records and holdings.   In some cases, digital images are accessible from the search box while, in other cases, results are confined to descriptions of the records in the various archives. 

Clicking on the Networks tab on the Archives Canada website will reveal a map and a list of the network organization and website for each province. Additionally, they are described below alphabetically by province:


Alberta On Record is the Archives Society of Alberta’s online portal to archival collections in Alberta. It gives access to collections from nearly fifty archives throughout the province. There are over 51,000 digital images and over 103,000 text records that can be searched from your home computer.

British Columbia

MemoryBC is a portal where you can access descriptions of archival materials preserved in repositories throughout the province. It provides a searchable database of the materials available at nearly 200 archival repositories. Some material is digitized and available online; other descriptions include the location of where the material can be viewed in person


The Manitoba Archival Information Network is the online database for descriptions of archival holdings including letters, school records, digital objects, photographs, manuscripts, audiovisual records, legal documents, and maps in Manitoba.

Newfoundland / Labrador

The Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Archives maintains an Archival Resource Catalogue (ARC) with descriptions of records of individuals, families and organizations held by member institutions. This catalogue may be accessed.

New Brunswick

The Council of Archives New Brunswick advises that the best “way to make the holdings most widely accessible is through Archives Canada”. Although they offer advice to member archival organizations, they do not maintain a searchable database of member archival holdings.

Northwest Territories

Although there were references to the Northwest Territories Archival Network on several sites, the network URLs could no longer be accessed in March of 2014. There is a searchable database for records and photographs held by the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, the territorial museum and archives. The database is searchable at the item, accession and fonds levels.

Nova Scotia

The Council of Nova Scotia Archives maintains ArchWay, an online resource of holdings of member archival institutions. According to its website, “The ArchWay Descriptive Database offers detailed information about the records and their creators as well as contact information for the contributing archives. Here you will find biographical sketches, institutional histories, dates of records’ creation, number of files/boxes, and any access restrictions.”


Archive Council Nunavummi declares they are excited about taking the first steps to develop their archives of Canada’s newest territory, Nunavut. An initial website has been created and researchers are invited to browse.  New materials will be added as time allows.


As described on ARCHEION's website, "ARCHEION is Ontario's Archival Information Network, an online research tool providing access to descriptions of archival records held by members of the Archives Association of Ontario (AAO). The records themselves are preserved and made accessible via the individual archives.” There are currently a hundred organizations and over 13,000 descriptions available for search and display. Searches can be full-text or keyword searches, basic or advanced searches, or a browse of subject, title and repository indexes.

Prince Edward Island

Arhives P.E.I. is the Archives Council of Prince Edward Island's database of descriptions of archival holdings held in repositories across Prince Edward Island. The holdings are not available in digital format. The search function can be accessed.


Le Réseau de diffusion des archives du Québec has organized a database of over 170,000 descriptions of historical and genealogical documents from hundreds of public and private archives including the various locations of Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. However, the search function is very precise so you will need to try different variations of the spelling of the term you are searching. For example, ‘coureur de bois’ returns three results all at the fonds level but ‘coureurs de bois’ returns eleven results. The search results identify the archival location and the information required to retrieve the documents. Naturally, all of the site is in the French language.


The Saskatchewan Archival Information Network (SAIN) is a database of descriptions of archival material held in Saskatchewan archives. It has two searchable databases: collections and photographs.


Some records from the Yukon are contained within the Alberta-On-Record site; As well, the Yukon Genealogy Database, made up of eight separate databases donated to or created by the Archives since 2002. The eight databases are described on this site as well. 

An online, searchable guide to the archival holdings at Yukon Archives is available; This site includes a small but increasing number of digitized records.  Books and published materials held by Yukon Archives Library can be searched through the Public Access Catalogue.
Finally, the Yukon archives also has a digital library.


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 3 November 2014, at 21:29.
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