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Wabanaki Genealogy Tip
Canadian Research

Last updated 11/21/2007

So, you finally found a vital record for your ancestor - but all it says is born in 'Canada'. Well - that's a very big place to look!! So, you get frustrated once again. Just remember, you are not alone - today you have the Internet, LDS, and GENWEB at your finger tips to assist. Bookmark the addresses for the major genealogy sites and visit them often.

First, you should be aware that your ancestor may not have actually been born in Canada. The actual border line between U.S. and Canada was uncharted when early settlers first arrived in the northern regions. Also, local settlers were concerned about the title and deeds to 'their' lands, and frequently stated the the Indians were all from Canada. If legal documents showed the Native People were born Canada, there would be no legal grounds for any Indian land claims. This was basically a political thing that allowed 'white' folks to sleep better at night. Clerks and census takers are supposed to be honest in the keeping of records, but they are paid by tax payers and pressured by the communities they live in!

Many Native families did spend time in Canada, were Catholic, and adopted French surnames or had French spouses. Almost all Church records for parishes in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and many in New England have been transcribed and published in book form. Many census and civil records for Canada are also transcribed and published. You will find these published records on the library selves at many of the Canadian/French Genealogical Societies scattered throughout New England and Canada. If one of these societies exist near you, visit soon. Memberships in these societies are generally very inexpensive and first time visits are often free. As a rule, the staff at the libraries are very knowledgeable and helpful. Most now have web sites that at least explain membership privileges and fees, give library hours, and provide directions to their facilities.

You should try to locate others who are researching the family name. Someone may have already found your ancestor in Canadian documents. You may have to guess at what the proper spelling of your surname might be in French. There are some aids on our web site that may assist you with surname conversions. There are a great many family name associations and individuals working on surname genealogies that can be found on the web. Frequently, these folks will have information on all people of a specific surname, even if they can not be linked to the core family being researched. While visiting a surname site, take care to notice what towns the family name is frequently found in. You should check these locations for vital records of your ancestor. Also, if your ancestor is not found on the web site, you should take the time to e-mail the group or individual to ask if they have additional information or can put you touch with other researchers working on the surname.

If the surname search fails to be of any assistance today - try again next week - new sites pop up faster than dandelions on the lawn in summer. But, in the mean time, check into the local history of the first place you find your ancestor. Groups of people often migrate from one place to another together or after their neighbors have already 'checked out' the new location for a couple years. See if there are other families coming from 'Canada' and if anyone has determined their Canadian origins. You should find local history and genealogy information at the local library and historical society. If you do not live near the place you are researching, check with your local library about inter-library book loans. The local GENWEB site should be visited frequently for additional information and vital records.

While checking out the local history, you should also look to see if the town is located on a common travel route or major river. If so, follow the route back to Canada and check the church records in the parishes found along the way. In most cases the Catholic Church records are going to be the most likely places to find another piece of the puzzle. Look to see when the town was first settled and when Church records begin - no sense tracking down records in places not established at the time of your ancestor's birth or migration.

If your ancestor was living in the states during the American Revolution, the War of 1812, or the Civil War, military records should be checked for the surname and last known location. Some Canadian born men fought in the Civil War and were granted U.S. Citizenship for their services. Military and especially pension records can provide important pieces of the puzzle. This research may be worth your time even if your ancestor is female - she may be the sister, daughter, or first wife of a veteran and mentioned in his records.

If all else fails - check the church records for parishes at or near Native Reserves in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario.

Following is a list of a few known Quebec parishes that contain records of Abenaki families also found in New England.

  • St. Luc, St. Jean County PQ
  • St. Johns/Jean, St. Jean County PQ
  • Iberville, Iberville County PQ
  • St. Valentin, St. Jean/Iberville/Missisquoi County PQ?
  • St. George, Richmond County PQ
  • St. Bernard, St. Jean County PQ
  • St. Francois-du-Lac (Odanak), Yamaska County PQ
  • Pierreville, Yamaska County PQ
  • St. Regis, Huntington County PQ
  • Bécancour PQ, Nicolet County PQ
  • Trois Rivières PQ
  • Beauceville (St-Francois-d'Assise parish) PQ
  • Ste-Marie de Beauce PQ
  • St-Joseph de Beauce PQ

Once you find family members in Catholic parish records, you will find they are often in French. You don't have to actually learn to read French. Most of the wording is standard from one record to another and soon you learn to find the names, dates, and specific information of value to family research. If you can't find an inexpensive French to English dictionary at your local book store, try web translators.

Written by: Canyon Wolf for Ne-Do-Ba