You will need some understanding of the historical events that affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends may help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns. Records of these events, such as land and military documents, may mention your family.
Your ancestors’ lives will be more interesting if you learn about the history they may have been part of. For example, in a history you might learn about the events that occurred the year your great-grandparents were married.
Some key dates and events in the history of Canada are:
Port Royal, now Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, was founded by the French in "Acadia."
The French established the village of Quebec.
The Hudson’s Bay Company was chartered by the English to compete with the French for the fur trade in western North America.
The English officially received peninsular Nova Scotia, but serious British colonization did not begin until 1749, when Halifax was founded. Newfoundland and the Hudson Bay region were also ceded by the French in 1713.
Some 6,000 French Acadians were forcibly removed from Nova Scotia.
At the close of the Seven Years War (French and Indian War), the Treaty of Paris confirmed British possession of two French colonies in North America, Nova Scotia (formerly Acadia) and Quebec (formerly New France).
Prince Edward Island was detached from Nova Scotia to become a separate British colony.
The British Parliament passed the Quebec Act, which ended military government for the French Canadians. French language, law, religion, and custom were legally recognized in the Province of Quebec.
New Brunswick was separated from Nova Scotia.
The old Province of Quebec was divided into two separate colonies, Lower Canada and Upper Canada.
The Red River Colony was founded by Lord Selkirk, who settled displaced Highland Scots in what is now Manitoba.
The Act of Union established a single combined legislature for Lower Canada (to be called Canada East, later Quebec) and for Upper Canada (called Canada West in 1841 and later called Ontario).
The Dominion of Canada was created, uniting the four provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario.
The Dominion of Canada stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans as new lands and territories were added. The provinces of British Columbia (1871) and Prince Edward Island (1873) joined confederation.
Large portions of the Northwest Territory were later removed to create the provinces of Manitoba (1870), Saskatchewan (1905), Alberta (1905), and the Yukon Territory (1898) and to add to the areas of Manitoba (1880, 1912), Ontario (1912), and Quebec (1912).
Canadian citizenship was established separate from British.
Newfoundland became the tenth province to join Canada.
The Family History Library has some published national, provincial, and local histories. See the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
CANADA - HISTORY
[PROVINCE] - HISTORY
[PROVINCE], [COUNTY] - HISTORY
[PROVINCE], [COUNTY], [CITY] - HISTORY
[PROVINCE], [CITY] - HISTORY
These are two of many historical sources:
Morton, Desmond. A Short History of Canada. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1983. (Family History Library book 971 H2md; computer number.)
MacNutt, W. S. The Atlantic Provinces: The Emergence of Colonial Society, 1712–1857. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1965. (Family History Library book 971.5 H2mws.)
Encyclopedias also include excellent articles on the history of Canada. Many books and articles on Canadian history are listed in these annotated bibliographies:
Muise, D. A., ed. A Reader’s Guide to Canadian History. I. Beginnings to Confederation. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982. (Family History Library book 971 H23r v. 1.)
Granatstein, J. L., and Paul Stevens, eds. A Reader’s Guide to Canadian History. II. Confederation to the Present. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982. (Family History Library book 971 H23r v. 2.)
- Local Histories
Local histories are some of the most valuable sources for family history research. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of early settlers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search.
Published histories of towns, counties, districts or other municipalities, and provinces often contain accounts of families. Many district, county, and town histories include sections or volumes of biographical information. These may give information on as many as half of the families in the area. A county history is also the best source of information about a county’s origin.
The Family History Library has about 300 district histories from the Prairie Provinces and fewer township and county histories from the rest of Canada. Similar histories are often at major Canadian public and university libraries and archives.
Bibliographies that list histories for some provinces are in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
[PROVINCE] - BIBLIOGRAPHY
[PROVINCE] - HISTORY - BIBLIOGRAPHY