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In Canada, native races include:
- American Indian
- Eskimo (or Inuit).
Affiliated groups such as the Métis (mixed blood).
The American Indian and Inuit groups are often called "First Nations." More than half of the 410,000 Canadians claiming descent from native races at the 1981 census were "status Indians" affiliated with bands living on reservations or otherwise registered with the federal government.
If you have evidence of Indian ancestry, there are some records you can use. Note, however, that often families have traditions of Indian ancestry that are unfounded. Before you can effectively search American Indian records:
2. Identify the tribe or band. When you know the general area where an ancestor lived, you can usually identify the tribe he belonged to. Use various handbooks that describe the tribes that lived in an area, such as:
- Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. 1952, Reprint. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1974. (Family History Library book 970.1 S24i 1974; film 1598299 item 6.)
- Handbook of Indians of Canada. Ottawa: Geographic Board of Canada, 1912. (Family History Library book 970.1 H191hc; film 1415251 item 15.)
3. Study the history of the tribe. You will need some background information about the tribe, such as (a) migration patterns, (b) marriage and naming customs, and (c) affiliations with government agencies or churches. If the tribe moved several times, records may be in many locations.
Many large libraries in North America have province or tribal histories of Canadian Indians. Several are listed in the Family History Library Catalog, Subject section, under INDIANS OF NORTH AMERICA - CANADA or under the name of the tribe, such as CREE. In the catalog’s Locality Search, look under:
CANADA - NATIVE RACES
[PROVINCE] - NATIVE RACES
Locating the Records
Researching native races can be particularly challenging because use of the records is often restricted. When you know the tribe your ancestor belonged to and the areas where he may have lived, then determine if records are available. Administrative and Indian land records created by the federal Department of Indian Affairs before 1970 are now at the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa. An inventory of these is in:
- Gillis, Peter, ed. Records Relating to Indian Affairs. Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1975. (Family History Library book 971 A3pg no. 1.) Some of these records have been microfilmed and are available to public libraries through interlibrary loan.
Some provincial and private archives have records of native peoples. Addresses and brief descriptions of their holdings are in:
- Directory of Canadian Archives. 5th ed. Ottawa: Association of Canadian Archivists, 1990. (Family History Library book 971 J54d 1990.)
- The Official Directory of Canadian Museums and Related Institutions, 1987–1988. Ottawa: Canadian Museums Association, 1987. (Family History Library book 971 J54dc.)
Addresses of many private Canadian archives and museums, educational centers, tribal headquarters, newspapers, and other nongovernmental organizations controlled by or serving American Indian, Inuit, and mixed-blood groups are listed in:
- Snyder, Fred, ed. Native American Directory: Alaska, Canada, United States. San Carlos, Ariz.: National Native American Co-Operative, 1982. (Family History Library book 970.1 N213; four fiche 6,048,680.) This also lists names, but not addresses, of all Indian reserves in Canadian provinces.
Locations of agency headquarters and settlements are in:
- A Survey of the Indians of North America. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Institute of American Indian Studies, 1963. (Family History Library book 970.1 B768s; film 928206 item 1.)
A bibliography of maps of Indian reserves is:
- Maps of Indian Reserves and Settlements in the National Map Collection. 2 vols. Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1980–81. (Family History Library book 970.1 C157m .)
Additional Sources for Research
An excellent Web site for learning how to do native research in Canada is Library and Archives Canada, Aboriginal Races.
Métis, meaning "mixed blood," is usually limited to "non-status" persons of mixed Plains Indian and French Canadian ancestry, although there were also some Scottish Métis. The original home of many Métis was the Red River colony of what is now Manitoba. At the 1870 census of that area, 9,700 of the 12,000 inhabitants were listed as Métis. Data from that census and other sources was used to compile the family information in:
- Sprague, D. N., and R. P. Frye. The Genealogy of the First Métis Nation. Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications, 1983. (Family History Library book 971.27 D2s.)
A collection of Métis land claims on microfilm at the National Archives of Canada may be borrowed through interlibrary loan. Portions of these records have been indexed and transcribed as:
- Morin, Gail. North West Half-Breed Scrip, 1885. Pawtucket, R.I.: Quintin Publications, 1997. (Family History Library book 971.2 R2n.) This book contains transcriptions from more than 1,800 land claims. It contains much family information, including each applicant’s name, residence, date and place of birth, parents’ names, and children’s names and birth dates.
Early Roman Catholic Church records on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border list names of Native Canadians. Many such names are in:
- Munnick, Harriet Duncan. Catholic Church Records of the Pacific Northwest: St. Louis, Gervais, Brooks. Portland, Ore.: Binford & Mort, 1982. (FHL book 979.537 K2m.) See the Family History Library Catalog, Author/Title section for call numbers of additional volumes in this series.
If your Native Canadian ancestor lived near the United States border, check appropriate U.S. sources covering border areas. See United States Research Outline, "Native Races."
For more information on some First Nations groups in Canada, see the Family History Library Catalog, Subject section, under the names of the tribes or:
- INDIANS OF NORTH AMERICA
Books and records of the Métis are listed under:
- INDIANS OF NORTH AMERICA - CANADA - MIXED BLOODS
Inuit sources are listed under ESKIMOS.
See also the catalog’s Locality Search under:
- CANADA - NATIVE RACES
- [PROVINCE] - NATIVE RACES
See also the periodical indexes listed in "Periodicals." A discussion of Native Canadian research sources is included in:
- Merriman, Brenda Dougall. Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the Records. 3rd ed. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1996. (Family History Library book 971.3 D27m 1996)