Canada Archives and Libraries
Archives collect and preserve original documents created by organizations such as churches or governments. Libraries generally collect published books, maps, microfilms, and other sources. This section describes major repositories of Canada’s genealogical and historical records. Many archives have Web sites. To find them do a Google search for the name of the archive or its locality. When you need the address of an archive or library, look in this section.
Before visiting an archive, contact it and ask for information about its collection, hours, services, and fees.
The Family History Library has microfilmed records from the National Archives of Canada and the provincial archives in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. It has vital records and probate records from British Columbia, homestead applications from Saskatchewan, land and property and probate records from Newfoundland, and probate records from Manitoba but few records from other Canadian archives.
In Canada these archives have records for genealogical research:
- National archives and library
- Provincial archives and county and local museums
- Municipal local government offices
- Church archives and parish offices
- Public and academic libraries
- Historical and genealogical societies
National Archives of Canada
The Canadian government collects records about Canadian history, culture, and people. Many such records are at the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa, formerly called the Public Archives of Canada. Their collection includes census, military records, immigration lists, land records, and some church records. A helpful overview of the collection is in:
St-Louis-Harrison, Lorraine, and Mary Munk. Tracing Your Ancestors in Canada.12th ed. Ottawa: National Archives of Canada, 1997. (Family History Library book 971 D27k 1997)
Many National Archive records are available on microfilm from the Family History Library or public or university libraries in the United States. These libraries may request interlibrary loans of up to three rolls of film at a time from:
- National Archives of Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N3
Web site: http://www.collectionscanada.ca/
The following guides list microfilms available by interlibrary loan to public libraries:
Hillman, Thomas A. Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm, 1666–1891. Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1987. (Family History Library book 971 X23ht)
Ships’ Passenger Lists and Border Entry Lists in PAC, RG 76, Records of the Immigration Branch. Ottawa: Federal Archives Division, Public Archives of Canada, 1986. (Family History Library book 971 W23p)
Campeau, Marielle, and Patricia Birkett. Checklist of Parish Registers, 1986. Ottawa: Manuscript Division, National Archives of Canada, 1987. (Family History Library book 971 K23p 1987)
This next guide describes church records and a few vital records at the National Archives, including microforms and non-circulating manuscripts:
Coderre, John E., and Paul A. Lavoie. Guide to Birth, Marriage and Death Records at the National Archives of Canada. Ottawa: Ottawa Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society, 1987. (Family History Library book 971 K23c 1987) The 1977 edition is on microfilm at the Family History Library under the title Parish Registers Held at the Public Archives of Canada (Family History Library film 1036008)
National Library of Canada
The National Library is not the same as the National Archives, although it has the same street address. It has a helpful collection of published genealogies, manuscripts, histories, directories, maps, and newspapers. It also has periodicals from genealogical and historical societies across Canada. Write for information about their holdings and services:
- National Library of Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4
Web site: http://www.collectionscanada.ca/
A list of basic Canadian genealogical sources at the National Library of Canada is:
Bond, Mary E. Reference Sources for Canadian Genealogy. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1995. (Not available at Family History Library.)
Some of the basic sources listed in this book are discussed in:
Bond, Mary E. “Reference Sources for Canadian Genealogy at the National Library of Canada,” Anglo-Celtic Roots. Winter 1996/1997, 1–3. (Family History Library book 971.384 D25a) This periodical is published by the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa.
Each province has its own archives that are separate from those of the national government. These repositories have many records valuable for genealogical research in their particular area.
In eastern Canada, provincial archives have:
- Some birth, marriage, and death records
- Some census records
- Many land records
- Some probate records
- Some church records
In western Canada, provincial archives have:
- Many land records
- Some probate records
- Specialized documents about the history of their area
You may contact each provincial archive for information about its services. The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick and the Archives of Ontario lend microfilms to public and university libraries in North America participating in the interlibrary loan service. The other archives do not, with a few exceptions for certain record types (such as newspapers). None of the archives have sufficient staff to research records for you, but they may be able to furnish names of researchers you can hire. For more information, see the research outline for each province.
Municipal Government Offices
Municipal offices in Canada, comparable to county courthouses and town halls in the United States, cannot legally provide copies of their vital records. Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the municipal governments are in:
Canadian Almanac and Directory. Toronto: Canadian Almanac and Directory Publishing Co., annual. (Family History Library book 971 E4ca; computer number 160632.)
Canadian Sourcebook. Don Mills, Ont.: Southam Inc., annual. (Family History Library book 971 B5c) Editions before 1998 were called:
Corpus Almanac & Canadian Sourcebook. Don Mills, Ont.: Corpus Information Services, annual. (FHL book 971 B5c; computer number 490918.)
For a description of municipal records for genealogical research, see:
Walsh, Mark. “Municipal Archives and Genealogy,” In Footsteps of the Habitants. ed. Debra Butler Honor, 67–75. Toronto: The Ontario Genealogical Society, 1986. (Family History Library book 971.3 D2o)
Other Archives and Libraries
Some records are also available in major libraries and special archives in Canada and in the United States. Contact these libraries and archives to ask about their collections, hours, services, and fees.
Many marriage indexes, church records, and vital records for French Canadians in North America are at the Salle Gagnon of the city library of Montreal. That address is:
- Collection Gagnon
Bibliothèque de la Ville de Montréal
1210 rue Sherbrooke est
Montreal, QC H2L 1L9
The Centre d’études acadiennes holds records of French Acadians and their descendants located anywhere in the world. You can visit:
- Centre d’études acadiennes
Université de Moncton
Moncton, NB E1A 3E9
For collections specific to a province, see the research outline for that province.
Some libraries, historical and genealogical societies in the United States and Canadian have valuable collections of Canadian records. These include:
Norfolk Heritage Centre
Eva Brook Donly Museum
109 Norfolk St. South,
- New England Historic Genealogical Society
101 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116-3087
Web site: http://www.newenglandancestors.org/
The State Historical Society of Wisconsin
816 State Street
Madison, WI 53706
Web site: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/
Allen County Public Library
900 Webster Street
P. O. Box 2270
Fort Wayne, IN 46801-2270
Web site: http://www.acpl.lib.in.us/
Burton Historical Collection
Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48202-4093
Web site: http://www.detroit.lib.mi.us/burton/burton_index.htm
In Britain and France, many archives and libraries have information on Canadians. Records in France about early French Canadian and Acadian families are listed in:
Bernard, Gildas. Guide des recherches sur l’histoire des familles (Guide to Research in Family History). Paris: Archives Nationales, 1981. (Family History Library book 944 D27b; computer number 158146.)
Inventories, Registers, Catalogs
A few archives have catalogs or guides that describe their records and how to use them. If possible, study these guides before you visit an archive so that you can use your time more effectively.
For names and addresses of provincial, church, and other archives and for brief descriptions of their collections and services, see:
Directory of Canadian Archives. 5th ed. Ottawa: Association of Canadian Archivists, 1990. (FHL book 971 J54d 1990.)
The Official Directory of Canadian Museums and Related Institutions, 1987–1988. Ottawa: Canadian Museums Association, 1987. (FHL book 971 J54dc)
For more detailed descriptions of some archive collections, see Genealogist’s Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research, by Terrence M. Punch.
For a list of some 26,000 collections of significant records at national, provincial, and local archives of Canada, see:
Gordon, Robert S., and E. Grace Maurice, eds. Union List of Manuscripts in Canadian Repositories (ULM). 2 vols., rev. Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1975. (FHL book 971 A3cp 1975; film 1036731 items 1 and 2) The Family History Library has some of the supplements to this book that have been published since 1975.
A few Canadian and United States libraries with Canadian genealogical collections are named in:
Filby, P. William. Directory of American Libraries with Genealogy or Local History Collections. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1988. (FHL book 973 A3fi) Pages 257 to 284 list Canadian libraries.
The following handbooks describe the collections of many local libraries in Canada.
Baxter, Angus. In Search of Your Canadian Roots. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994. (FHL book Ref 971 D27ba 1994)
Barclay-Lapointe, Elizabeth. Sourcing Canada.: Genealogy Addresses. 1997 ed. Buckingham, Que.: Buckingham Press, 1997. (FHL book 971 D24b)
Addresses of major archives and libraries in Canada are in:
Canadian Almanac and Directory. Toronto: Canadian Almanac and Directory Publishing Co., annual. (FHL book 971 E4ca)
Canadian Sourcebook. Don Mills, Ont.: Southam Inc., annual. (FHL book 971 B5c) Editions before 1998 were called:
Corpus Almanac & Canadian Sourcebook. Don Mills, Ont.: Corpus Information Services, annual. (FHL book 971 B5c)
Addresses of most Canadian libraries are in:
Franco, Guida, ed. Directory of Libraries in Canada. Toronto: Micromedia Limited, 1996.
Public, academic, government, and special libraries in Canada are also listed in:
American Library Directory. New Providence, N.J.: R. R. Bowker Co., annual. (FHL book 973 J45a)
The Family History Library has a few published inventories, guides, and directories to libraries. See the catalog under:
CANADA - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES
CANADA, [PROVINCE] - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES
Internet Sources and Bulletin Boards
The Internet can be useful obtaining information from selected archives and libraries. Web sites for family history can help:
- Search collections and information for archives and libraries
- Search large databases
- Locate other researchers
- Post queries
- Join in computer chat and lecture sessions
You can find computerized research tips and information about ancestors from Canada in many sources at local, provincial, national, and international levels. The list of sources is growing rapidly. Most information is available at no cost.
The web site of the National Archives of Canada contains the index to the 1871 census of Ontario and the index to the Canadian Expeditionary Force service records from World War I. The address is
The National Library of Canada Web site at http://www.archives.ca provides access to their online catalog. The Web site links to a list of 2,300 Canadian newspapers in microform. Public libraries can borrow most of these microfilms through interlibrary loan.
The following are a few sites that link to a lot of information on the Internet.
That's My Family
Search engine for information on Canadian ancestors across multiple genealogy databases hosted by federal, provincial, and territorial archives and libraries.
A cooperative effort by many volunteers to list genealogical databases, libraries, bulletin boards, and other resources available on the Internet for each province.
Canadian Genealogy Resources
Lists county, provincial, and national sources; personal pages; and publications.
A useful list of sites and resources. Includes a large, regularly updated research coordination list.