Canada First Nations

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Guide to Canada First Nations ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, and other agency records.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

In Canada, native races (Aboriginal peoples) include:

  • First Nations - the indigenous peoples of Canada, sometimes called North American Indians.
  • Inuit - (often referred to as Eskimos in the United States).
  • Métis- (mixed blood).

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 First Nations ancestry certain additional records can help better identify those ancestors. Before you can effectively search First Nations records:

  1. Identify a First Nations ancestor and learn where he lived. Use records described on the Canada Wiki page, particularly census and church records.
  2. Identify the tribe or band. When you know the general area where an ancestor lived, you can usually identify his or her tribe. Use various handbooks that describe the tribes that lived in an area, such as:
  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.

Provinces and Territories[edit | edit source]

For additional information about the First Nations in each of the Provinces and Territories, see the links below:

Wikipedia has more about this subject: Aboriginal peoples in Canada

Agency Headquarters[edit | edit source]

See Regional Offices of Indian and Inuit Affairs. Some of the most useful records specifically about First Nations ancestors were created by their agencies. 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 book970.1 C157m .)

Locating Other Records[edit | edit source]

An excellent Web site for learning how to do First Nations research in Canada is the Library and Archives Canada's Aboriginal Heritage.

Another excellent guide to First Nations research and sources can be found in:

  • Brenda Dougall Merriman, Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the Records. 4th ed. (Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 2008), 180-84 and 287-89. (WorldCat 228667439; Family History Library Book 971.3 D27m 2008). Discusses Library and Archives Canada, and Archives of Ontario sources; also Indian Loyalists.

Researching First Nations ancestors 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.
  • Russell, Bill,Records of the Department of Indian Affairs, at Library and Archives Canada: A Source for Genealogical Research. FHL book 970.1 R911r WorldCat

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Early Roman Catholic Church records on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border list names of aboriginal 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 FamilySearch Catalog, Author/Title section for call numbers of additional volumes in this series.

Land Records[edit | edit source]

A collection of Métis land claims on microfilm at the National Archives of Canada may be borrowed through inter library 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.

A Lands and Membership Branch of the Indian Affairs department identifies, protects and records the interest in the lands to which Indian people are entitled. Its responsibility lies fundamentally in the administration of 6.4 million acres of Indian lands divided into 2,233 reserves, set apart for 575 bands and the administration of the status rights of Indian people.[1]

Métis[edit | edit source]

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:

  • D. N. Sprague, and R. P. Frye. The Genealogy of the First Métis Nation (Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications, 1983). WorldCat 866460704; FHL Book 971.27 D2s.
  • Diamond Jenness. The Indians of Canada (Toronto [Ontario] ; Buffalo [New York] : University of Toronto Press, 1977) WorldCat 3610725; FHL Book 970.1 J435i.
  • Public Archives of Canada. National Map Collection, Maps of Indian Reserves and Settlements in the National Map Collection = Cartes des réserves et agglomérations indiennes de la Collection nationale de cartes et plans, 2 vols. (Ottawa, Ontario : National Map Collection, c1980- ). WorldCat 7468433; FHL Book 970.1 C157m.

Métis Scrip Records (free) --Library and Archives Canada. The records generally consist of the following: affidavits and applications, land and money scrip notes, scrip certificates, receipts, and a number of textual files consisting of letters and memoranda outlining government policies, rulings, and procedures.

Military Service[edit | edit source]

War of 1812[edit | edit source]

History of Service

Near the Border[edit | edit source]

If your Canadian First Nations ancestor lived near the United States border, check appropriate U.S. sources covering border areas. For further records of aboriginal people in the United States see also Indigenous Peoples of the United States Genealogy.

Periodicals[edit | edit source]

See also the periodical indexes listed in Canada Periodicals.

FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

However, the FamilySearch Catalog does not use the term First Nations as a subject heading. Rather, look in the FamilySearch Catalog Subjects search under Indians of North America - Canada, or under the name of the tribe, such as Algonquin Indians, or Cree Indians. In the catalog’s Places search look under:

Canada - Native races
[Province] - Native races

Some sources for the Métis people are listed in the Subjects search under:

Indians of North America - Canada - Mixed descent

Inuit sources are listed in the Subjects search by two categories: either under Eskimos or under Inuit.

Archives and Libraries[edit | edit source]

Archives and Libraries. Many large libraries in North America have province or tribal histories of Canadian First Nations.

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.

The Glenbow Archives and Library, has an excellent collection of resources for the study of Métis genealogy. Their sources cover predominantly Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and some parts of the Northwest Territories, Ontario, and British Columbia.

Most of our sources pertain to people who were living in the Prairie Provinces in 1900 or earlier.

One unique collection is the Gail Morin database. The collection consists of a database of 65,434 records of persons who were Metis ancestors. For each individual, dates and places of birth, baptism, marriage, death, and burial, and notes on sources are given if known. Using Ancestral Quest software, the data can be linked to show genealogical relationships in the form of pedigree charts and descendancy charts. The database is available only with the assistance of the Archives staff in the reading room of the Glenbow Archives. The database is fully searchable online.

Glenbow Archives
130 - 9 Avenue
SE Calgary, Alberta T2G 0P3
Reference Desk telephone: 403-268-4204

Provincial Archives and Newfoundland and Labrador
The Rooms
9 Bonaventure Avenue
P.O. Box 1800, Station C
St. John's, NL, Canada A1C 5P9
Telephone: (709) 757-8000
Fax: (709) 757-8017
Internet: Aboriginal Ancestry

Calendar[edit | edit source]

  • 1850 First of a series of treaties between Indians and the Crown.
  • 1860 The Crown Lands Department took over responsibility for Indian Affairs from the Imperial Government.
  • 1867 Indian Affairs became the responsibility of the Secretary of State
  • 1873 Indian Affairs became a branch of the Department of the Interior
  • 1876 The Indian Act was passed. Provided the foundation for the administration of Indian affairs in Canada. Parliament had authority with respect to Indians and their lands.
  • 1880 A separate Department of Indian Affairs was established
  • 1936 Indian Affairs became a branch of the Department of Mines
  • 1939 The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the tern "Indians", as used in the British North America Act, included Inuit inhabitants of Quebec. (A later ruling extended the BNA Act provision for Indians to all Inuit throughout Canada)
  • 1950 The Department of Citizenship and Immigration assumed responsibility for Indian Affairs.
  • 1951 The Indian Act was revised.
  • 1966 Indian Affairs was incorporated into a new Department Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
  • 1969 The government's "white paper" aroused controversy and was rejected by the Indian people. The government subsequently agreed that provisions of the Indian Act would not be amended without consulting the Indian people.
  • 1975 The government announced its intent to redefine its relationship with the country's 280,000 (at the time) status Indians to maintain their identity within Canadian society and to safeguard their unique constitutional rights. [2]

Research Tools[edit | edit source]

Resources that may be helpful in the search for your Canadian Indian ancestry include:


  • 1796 May 31, at New York with the Seven Nations of Canada

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

  • The Inuit of Canada. Prepared by Public Communications and Parliamentary Relations, Indian and Inuit Affairs program, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Ottawa. Published by Authority of the Honorable Mark MacGuian, Secretary of State for External Affairs, Government of Canada,1980.
  • Indian Tales of the Canadian Prairies. b y James Francis Sanderson. Calgary, Historical Society of Alberta, 1965. WorldCat
  • The Micmac Indians of Restigouche: History and Contemporary Description. By Philip K. Bock. Ottawa: [Dept. of the Secretary of State], 1966 WorldCat
  • Indians of Quebec and Maritime Provinces. Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. FHL CollectionWorldCat
  • Indians of Yukon and Northwest Territories. Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. FHL Collection WorldCat
  • Indians of the Prairie Provinces. Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. FHL Collection WorldCat

See also Canada Inuit.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Canadian Indian by Public Communications and parliamentary Relations, Indian and Eskimo Affairs Program, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Ottawa. Government of Canada, 1981 ISSN 0228 3808
  2. The Canadian Indian by Public Communications and parliamentary Relations, Indian and Eskimo Affairs Program, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Ottawa. Government of Canada, 1981 ISSN 0228 3808