Canada Previous Research, Part 1Edit This Page
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Previous research is genealogical research that other people have already done about your family. It includes pedigree charts, family histories, genealogies, and other information about a family.
This guide describes some basic sources you should check when you first start researching your family. You may want to check them again after you find additional relatives.
Previous research often has a wealth of information and many valuable clues. The accuracy of the research depends on how well the people who compiled the sources did their research.
Previous research materials are written by individuals and groups. They often include many generations and go back hundreds of years. They may contain information found nowhere else. However, they should also be used with caution.
Check if the author or compiler of this information says where he or she found all the information. A reliable researcher will say where he or she found each item of information.
Previous Research, Part 1
What You Are Looking For
Information about your ancestors which other people have already found, such as information about:
- Other biographical information.
These 6 steps will help you find information about your ancestor in previous research. You may find what you need in any of the first 4 steps.
Step 1. Ask your relatives if you can copy the genealogical information they have.
Ask your relatives if they have:
- Family histories.
- Family stories, written or in their memories.
- Pedigree charts.
- Family group records.
- Birth, marriage, or death certificates.
If they give permission, make copies of these items. Be very careful with anything your relatives loan you.
Write down any other information they give you.
Step 2. Look in FamilySearch databases.
FamilySearch on the Internet has several automated databases. You can search these databases for your ancestor from Ancestor Search.
To see a list of other databases (which are available for purchase), see Order Family History Resources.
Step 3. Look in other automated databases.
Check the Internet for other automated databases. For a list of helpful Internet sites, see Where to Find It - Internet.
Many good genealogy databases are also on compact disc through various genealogy companies. Many are available for purchase or may be used at various libraries and organizations. For a list of some libraries and organizations, see further in Where to Find It.
Step 4. Find and use family histories or genealogies.
Check the following to find family histories:
- Search for Ancestors on this screen allows you to select Custom Search, click on Family History Library Catalog, and select Surname Search. You may order films at your Family History Center, use the books at the Library, or find the books at your public or college library.
- Internet for catalogs of other libraries, such as the Library of Congress.
- Public and college libraries in the area where your ancestor lived for previous research about your family. For ways to obtain help from these libraries, see Where to Find It - Public and College Libraries.
- Province archives or the province library. They may have the family history you want. For more information, see Where to Find It - Province Archives, Libraries, Historical Societies, etc.
- Family associations. You can find addresses of family organizations in Directory of Family Associations by Elizabeth Bentley. This book is available at many public and college libraries.
You may be able to have a book sent from another library to your local public library through interlibrary loan. For more information about interlibrary loans, see Tip 1.
For some of the major lists of family histories and sources of biographical information, see Tip 2.
Step 5. Copy the information you find.
Make photocopies of the information you find.
On the photocopy, be sure to write the following:
- Author's name.
- Book or film number.
- Name of the library or archive which has the source.
This information is important because:
- You may need it to check the source again or in more depth.
- Other people will want to know where you got your information.
Add the appropriate names, dates, places, and notes to your pedigree charts and family group records.
Step 6. Analyze what you found.
Check the information you found to be sure it makes sense. For example:
- Were all the mothers and fathers old enough to be parents when their first children were born?
- Compare ages of grandparents to grandchildren.
- Were the children born far from where their parents lived and died?
- Does it disagree with what you already know to be true?
For more information, see Tip 3.
Previous Research, Part II
Previous research is research done by other people. Some basic sources you should check and even recheck when you find more information are described in Previous Research for Canada, Part 1.
Additional sources of previous research are described in this guide.
Researchers and authors of previous research gathered information from either original records, compiled records, or other previous research. Previous research often has a wealth of information and many valuable clues.
The accuracy of the research depends on how well the people who compiled the sources did their research.
Town histories usually cover the entire history of the town from its beginning to the time the history was written.
County histories usually cover the entire history of the county from its beginning to the time the history was written. Many county histories were written between about 1885 and 1910. A new surge of county histories began about 1990. Many people's biographies and the histories of their families were placed in these county histories. They often include several generations.
Step 1. Find periodical or magazine articles about your ancestors or the place where they lived.
Genealogical magazines often have genealogies, biographies, and records from towns and counties, such as birth, marriage, and death records.
Periodical Source Index (PERSI) lists records (by place or surname) that were published in genealogical magazines or periodicals. This resource should not be overlooked. It is available on the Internet through Ancestry.com. The Family History Library has compact disc and book versions (1847-1985 or annual volumes) of PERSI.
Many public and college libraries also have PERSI. For obtaining their addresses, see Where to Find It.
For information about interlibrary loan, see Tip 1.
Step 2. Find local histories, biographies, and other previous research for the town or county where your ancestors lived.
Some ways to find these documents are:
- Check the Family History Library Catalog in the place search for records of the town or county. Counties often have good histories. For previous research, look under the town or county, then under the topics of "Biography," "Genealogy," and "History."
- Check with libraries in the area of the town and county to see if they have histories, biographies, or other types of previous research that might have information about your ancestor. The American Library Directory gives the address and phone number for most libraries throughout Canada and is likely available at your public library.
- Check with the town or county historian. Ask the librarians in the area if there is a town or county historian. Such historians might have useful records for family history which are not found elsewhere.
- Check with the county historical society and the county genealogical society. They might have useful records for family history which are not found elsewhere.
- Check the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) mentioned in step 1 for county and town histories in magazines or periodicals.
- Check the Internet. See Where to Find It - Internet for a few good Internet sites.
To find libraries or societies and their addresses and phone numbers, see Where to Find It.
Step 3. Find previous research for the province where your ancestors lived.
Some ways to find these records are:
- Click on Search for Ancestors on this screen, select Custom Search, click on Family History Library Catalog, and select Place to search for records of the province. For previous research, choose the topics of BIOGRAPHY, GENEALOGY and HISTORY.
- Check with larger libraries in the province to see if they have province histories, biographies, or other types of previous research that might have information about your ancestor.
- Check with the province historical society and the province genealogical society. They might have useful records for family history which are not found elsewhere.
Tip 1. How can I use Interlibrary Loan?
- Go to your public or college library.
- Ask the library to borrow a book for you through interlibrary loan from another library.
- The library staff will direct you in their procedures. Sometimes this is free; sometimes there is a small fee.
Tip 2. What are some of the major sources of biographical information?
Many biographical sources have been created. Indexes have been made for hundreds of these sources. The indexes are arranged by surname. A few of the major indexes are:
- The American Genealogical - Biographical Index, edited by Fremont Rider.
- Biography and Genealogy Master Index, published by Gale Research Co.
For places which may have a copy of these indexes, see Where to Find It.
Tip 3. Why do I need to be careful about the information in previous research?
In family, town, and county histories, people wrote what they knew about their families. However, sometimes what was written was inaccurate or false.
Verify the accuracy of previous research by comparing its information with original documents, such as birth, marriage, and death records, and court and land records. Original documents usually have the most accurate information.
Where to Find it
The Internet has many helpful genealogical sites, such as these:
- Cyndislist.com is a list of other helpful internet sites.
- FamilySearch.org has databases of names (Ancestral File and International Genealogical Index).
- RootsWeb.com has databases of names.
- FamilyTreeMaker.com has databases of names. There is a fee for some of the services.
- Ancestry.com has databases of names. There is a fee for some of the services, such as PERSI.
- Browse Categories on this screen has links to other helpful internet sites. In the window to the left, click on Family History Library Catalog.
Family History Centers and the Family History Library
Most Family History Centers keep some microfilms. They can also borrow film from the Family History Library. There is a small fee to borrow a film from the Library.
Family History Centers are located throughout Canada and other areas of the world. See the Family History Center Address List for the address and phone number of the center nearest you.
Most Family History Centers in Canada and the United States and the Family History Library have the following databases:
- Periodical Source Index (PERSI) lists records (by place or surname) that were published in genealogical magazines or periodicals. This resource should not be overlooked. It is available on the Internet through Ancestry.com. The Family History Library has compact disc and book versions (1847-1985 or annual volumes) of PERSI.
- Many public and college libraries also have PERSI. For obtaining their addresses, see Where to Find It.
- Search for Ancestors on this screen allows you to select Ancestor Search to search for your ancestor in the Ancestral File, the International Genealogical Index, Pedigree Resource File, as well as other websites associated with the surname.
The following databases are available on FamilySearch at Family History Centers, the Family History Library, and various other libraries:
- US Social Security Death Index.
- US Military Index.
- Scottish Church Records.
The Family History Library Catalog, the Ancestral File, and the International Genealogical Index are available at Family History Centers and on the Internet by clicking on Search for Ancestors on this screen, as described above.
For information about the Library and its resources, see Library Services and Resources: Family History Library and Family History Centers.
Public and College Libraries
Many family histories, genealogical magazines, and other genealogical materials are available at public and college libraries or may be sent to your library through interlibrary loan.
For more information about interlibrary loan, see Tip 1.
You could visit town, county, district, and college libraries and use their books. You can find their addresses and phone numbers in the American Library Directory, published by the American Library Association. It is probably available at your public and college libraries.
Family, Genealogical, and Historical Societies
Many family histories, genealogical magazines, and other genealogical materials are available at societies. Some material is only available at a society.
You may find societies and their addresses in the following sources, which are available at many public and college libraries:
- Directory of Genealogical and Historical Societies in the U.S. and Canada, published by Iron Gate Publishing.
- Directory of Genealogical Societies in the U.S.A. and Canada, by Mary Meyer.
- Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada, edited by Mary Bray Wheeler.
- Associations Canada, 1993/94, published by Canadian Almanac & Directory Publishing Company.
You can also check Internet sites for information about societies. See Where to Find It - Internet.
Province Archives, Libraries, and Historical Societies
You can find addresses and phone numbers for province archives and libraries in American Libraries.
The Archives and Libraries section of a province's research outline lists Internet and mailing addresses for several province archives, libraries, and historical societies. These organizations may have books or microfilms which you may want to use. Their Internet sites may list what records they have.
To see the research outline for your province, click on the province below:
|Alberta||British Columbia||Manitoba||New Brunswick||Newfoundland|
|Nova Scotia||Ontario||Prince Edward Island||Quebec||Saskatchewan|
Research outlines are not yet available for the Northwest Territories, the Yukon Territory, or Nunavut.