21 November 2016

Canadian Public Libraries Genealogy Databases

Public libraries have great resources for genealogists, but when it comes to online databases some are better than others. Here's a survey of the major genealogy-related database offerings from some large Canadian public libraries.

Every library surveyed, from Victoria to Halifax, has free access to Ancestry Library Edition from inside the library. Many resources are included, up to and including the 1921 census, so you only have to get to a library to obtain free access.

Early Canadiana Online was selected as a growing resource, especially for the Canadian Genealogy and Local History collection which includes "voter’s lists, eulogies, directories and gazettes, biographies, civil service lists, published diaries, church magazines and pamphlets, militia lists, publications from professional and trade societies, school publications, and more."

The Globe and Mail, the closest thing Canada has to a national newspaper, provides context for the world in which our ancestors lived day to day.

The Times Digital Archive has the full text of the Times of London reporting on events and government decisions made in London that had a major impact on British North America before and even after Confederation.

InsitiutionAncestry LibraryEarly Canadiana OnlineGlobe and Mail ArchiveTimes Digital ArchiveStar Rating
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Most libraries surveyed had additional resources, many locally oriented.

Victoria Public Library
KnowBC.com  Contains The Encyclopedia of British Columbia, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names, Raincoast Chronicles 20: Lilies and Fireweed: Frontier Women of British Columbia, and Far West: The Story of British Columbia, as well as other eBooks about British Columbia’s social, political, and natural history.

Vancouver Public Library
Biography and Genealogy Master Index.  Indexes biographies for over 16 million people from the beginning of time through the present. Each citation provides the biographee's name, birth and death years, the source publication, publisher, year published, and miscellaneous notes. (Not one I've found especially useful).
Canadian Who’s Who.  Offers access to over 12,600 notable Canadians in all walks of life from a wide variety of occupations and professions.  Entries include: date/place of birth, education, family details, career information, honours, awards and more.

Calgary Public Library
Biography and Genealogy Master Index (see Vancouver)
Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library Facsimiles of photographs, postcards, maps and more on Calgary.
Heritage Quest Online American genealogical information from 1790 to the present, including: census, genealogy books, periodicals, bank records, war records and more.

Edmonton Public Library
Biography & Genealogy Master Index (see Vancouver)
Edmonton Obituaries Edmonton Journal Index coverage from January 1950 to December 1982.
HeritageQuest Online (see Calgary)
World Vital Records. Access to a wide variety of genealogical records from around the world, including everything from birth and marriage records, to historic newspapers, immigration lists, census records, vital records, parish and land records. Rare collections, such as passenger lists from immigrant vessels, yearbooks from US high schools and universities, manuscripts and major new census documents are also available.

Saskatoon Public Library
Biography & Genealogy Master Index (see Vancouver)
Biography in Context. More than 450,000 biographies on more than 380,000 people.
Community Histories Database.The Saskatchewan Community Books database contains more than 750 titles.

Winnipeg Public Library
PastForward.  Winnipeg's history, digitized. View vintage Winnipeg and Manitoba postcards, search historic people and business directories, listen to people tell their stories, and more.
Winnipeg Free Press Archive (In-library use only).  Dating back to 1874, the pages are fully searchable by name, keyword and date, making it easy for you to quickly explore historical content, research your family history, or simply read about a person or event of interest.

Toronto Public Library
Quebec Records Online (Two branches only)  French-Canadian genealogy resource featuring records from the Drouin collection. Includes baptisms, marriages, deaths, obituaries, family histories, etc.
Toronto Star Historical Newspaper Archive Articles and full page reproductions of the complete newspaper from 1894 to 2011.

Ottawa Public Library
Généalogie Québec (library usage only). Provides access to over 42,000,000 images and files from the origins of New France to today, drawn from the search tools of the Drouin Genealogical Institute. Includes baptism and death certificates (1621-1849), the Fond Drouin registries from 1621 to 1967, and marriage and death certificates (1926-1997). Many digital documents are also available, such as notarized contracts, post cards, censuses, etc.
PRDH (Programme de recherche en démographie historique) (library usage only). Database containing a directory of civil status records (baptisms, marriages and burials) in Quebec (1621-1799), a genealogical dictionary of families (1621-1765) and a directory of couples and descendants.
Unlike every other library in the survey there are no databases relating to local material.

Ottawa was the only library in the survey without local resources online!

Montreal, Grande Bibliotheque
Lovell Directories, 1842-2010
Marcotte Québec Directories, 1822-1976
Québec Notary Archives, to 1935
Non-catholic baptisms of Montreal, 1766-1835
Biography and Genealogy Master Index
BMS 2000 Quebec Genealogy (on site only)

Charlevoix marriage contracts, 
1737 1920

Quebec Region Marriage Contracts, 
Saguenay Region Marriage Contracts, 1840-1911
Land Grants to Families with 12 or More Living Children, 1890-1905
Coronor's Inquests:1765 à 1954. Beauce (1862-1947), Charlevoix (1862-1944), Montmagny (1862-1952), Québec (1765-1930), Saint-François (Sherbrooke, 1900-1954). 
and more!

Halifax Public Library
Local Books of Remembrance. Three commemorative books containing the names of local people whose lives were lost at war.


Patti Mordasewicz said...

Thanks for sharing this information, John. It's a sad commentary on the City of Ottawa that there are no local resources online. Are they online at other City institutions such as the Archives?

Anonymous said...

FYI -- This was on CBC early this morning --- The Why Factor -- Mike Williams asks why so many people are obsessed with discovering their family origins and also learns new things about his own ancestors along the way.

Genealogy is a growing phenomenon driven by the digitization of old paper records, websites offering to DNA test your saliva for $100 and TV shows like Who Do You Think You Are which explore celebrities family histories.

But what does spending hours, weeks and – in some cases – years trying to discover names or dates that might reveal the identity of someone related to us hundreds of years ago say about us? And what are we really looking for?

Mike talks to Else Churchill at the Society of Genealogists in London, Nathan Lents, professor of molecular biology at John Jay College in New York and Catherine Nash, Professor of Human Geography at Queen Mary University of London.


Joanne McCarthy O'Leary said...

Hi John,

Thank you for this survey!

You might have missed the Halifax Public Libraries "Library and Community Archives" database, which has postcards of historic Halifax Regional Municipality, the photographic collection of Mainland South Heritage Society, the Gainsborough Hotel Register, and the Vintage Halifax City Guides: http://digitalcollections.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/

The other databases look interesting and we're going to look into it!

all the best
Joanne McCarthy O'Leary
Local History and Genealogy Librarian
Halifax Public Libraries

Teresa said...

Great list - I'd also add the Mecca for genealogy in BC, the Cloverdale Branch of the Surrey Public Library system. It also has a subscription to FindMyPast and HeritageQuest... I have yet to visit, but its reputation is stellar:


M. Diane Rogers said...

The Vancouver Public Library has great databases for British Columbia research, incl. directories, periodicals, photographs and more, but almost all are on-line free on its website: www.vpl.ca so maybe don't fit your criteria. (And the 1921 Canadian census is free on-line from Ancestry.)