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Gathering Information
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Gathering Information

While genealogists are interested in any information about ancestors, they begin by looking for names, locations and dates of birth, marriage and death.

Your genealogical research starts with your relatives (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.).

Names, dates and places are the building blocks of compiling a family history. What do you know about your parents and grandparents? Talk to them. What were their dates and places of birth and marriage? Record the information on a Pedigree Chart.

Ask older family members specific questions about your ancestors.

  • What was your grandmother's maiden name?
  • Where did she live as a child?
  • What were her parents' names?
  • When did they come to Canada?

Any clue, no matter how small, may help your search. Ensure that the surnames and given names are accurate.

Ask about the date and place of birth, marriage and death (if applicable) of your mother, father, grandfathers and grandmothers, and if possible, your great-grandparents.

Gather as much information as possible on their occupation, where they lived, outstanding events, religious denomination, etc.

Find out for sure where your mother, grandmother and great-grandmother or their respective parents resided at the time of their marriage. It was customary to celebrate marriages at the residence of the bride or her parents.

Family anecdotes, inscriptions in bibles, wills, certificates and other family papers can reveal useful information. They can help you with your research in libraries, archives and various government offices.

Visit your local library, genealogical society, provincial archives or Library and Archives Canada. Consult our Directory of Canadian Genealogical Resources - AVITUS, or our Links section for more information.

While you work, remember the basic rules of genealogy:

  • Start with yourself and work back through each previous generation. Work from the known to the unknown.
  • Write down what you find and where you found it. What institution? Which collection of records? What volume and page number? Which microfilm reel?
  • Always record the sources you've searched, even if the results are negative.
  • Learn the history and geography of the area where your ancestors lived.

One last tip: It is important to be familiar with Canadian geography in order to do genealogical research. Every province and territory has gazetteers that help you to identify and locate various places. Place names have often changed with time. The gazetteers will give you the old names and new names. For example, Ville-Marie became Montréal and York became Toronto.


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