Saturday, 8 December 2007

Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: Book Review

Just issued, this is the new definitive guide for genealogical research Canada-wide. It should replace the late Angus Baxter's In Search of Your Canadian Roots which predates most internet resources.

The first author is Sherry Irvine, an award-winning Certified Genealogist, past President of the (US) Association of Professional Genealogists, a frequent lecturer and instructor. Co-author Dave Obee has six other genealogy books to his credit which show a particular interest in Western Canada.

The book is positioned as a beginner's guide. For the total newbie I suggest reading the appendixes right after the books preface. Appendix A, is Research Fundamentals; Appendix B, Pay Attention to the Hazards; and Appendix C, The Internet.

"Library and Archives Canada," the country's premier genealogical resource, is the topic of the first chapter. "Canadian Geography and Finding Locations" follows, for as the chapter starts out by stating, "Geography and genealogy go hand in hand. It is impossible to do quality research into your family's history without understanding the geography of your ancestors' lives."

The following chapters treat various types of records from a Canada-wide perspective. They are: Immigration, Census, Vital Records - Created by Governments, Vital Records - Church Registers, Cemetery Records, Probate Records, Military Records, Land Records, Newspapers, and Other Ways to Find People.

Then follow three chapters on groups with special records: Aboriginals, Arcadians and Loyalists.

The largest part of the book, chapters 16-26, is dedicated to provincial and territorial resources, starting with Alberta, in alphabetic order. Each chapter starts with a map showing the larger communities. Then follow sections that mirror the earlier chapters; Introduction, Finding Locations, Census, Civil Registration, Church Records , Cemetery Records, Wills and Probate Records, Land Records, Newspapers, Other Ways to Find People, Special Sources, Websites, Bibliography, Addresses. You will need to read these sections in conjunction with the corresponding earlier chapter to get a full picture.

Many an experienced Canadian genealogist will want this book in their collection for reference to these chapters as their research takes them to unfamiliar provinces and territories. Some of the sources mentioned, such as township papers in Ontario, take you well outside the ground normally frequented by the beginner. However, you can only go so far in a book covering the world's second largest country. Those with more geographically focussed concerns will need to seek out specialized resources. You will find the lists of websites and bibliographies helpful in finding these.

For historical context timelines for Canada, France, the UK and Ireland, and the US are in Appendix D.

I liked this book, and not just because this blog is mentioned on page 249. It was refreshingly up to date, including even changes made to the LAC website in September. Grouping the website address at the end of each chapter, rather than including them in the text, makes for readability. Online resources are mentioned extensively. Although Ancestry is the publisher it didn't impede appropriate mention of competitive resources such as Automated Genealogy and Our Roots.

The layout has plenty of white space, and the writing style is clear. At $18.95, the price printed on the cover, it is good value. I found amazon.ca selling it for $16.75Cdn.

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