In Shadows Of Your Name
Author: A. Leone Hinds
Publication Date: 1967
How the Pro Does It
A professional genealogist accepts only legal evidence of birth, marriage, and death along with proof of parentage on which to assemble a pedigree. Such legal evidence must be a registered certificate; this is considered a record made under the law of our land.
Present day records of the genealogist accept a government issued birth or death certificate or registration of marriage. He might obtain legal proof of a marriage from a clergyman of the church in which a marriage took place.
A professional genealogist never tries to build his ‘legal evidence’ out of tombstone inscriptions, memories, and published accounts in rare books. He uses these references as clues around which to search out the dates he needs so he can apply to the depository holding the legal evidence of that era and get a copy of a lawful document. The document stays with the master copy of the family pedigree.
In our collections of pre-confederation records the pro must depend on those documents found in the archives of the Office of the Clerk of Peace, the vital statistics registers, censuses, parish registers, and land records of settlers.
When no further proof of parentage, birth, marriage, or death can be found the pro considers the pedigree finished. He has gone as far as available legal evidence will allow. He follows the Bible and Law assuming all children born in wedlock belongs to the husband.
If you stick to a single surname and single branch within that family, your work will be done quickly. If you follow the fortunes of every individual in every branch you’ll never get done but you’ll have a lot of fun.
Work just as the pro does. It’s a game of wit and resource. You’ll use everything from live interviews with aging relatives to fitting together broken pieces of tombstone in an abandoned cemetery. I’ve even done that in the windy-gloom of a thunder shower.
The first three generations on your pedigree chart will cause you little difficulty. It will be you, two parents and four grandparents. The eight great-grand-parents produced by 16 great-greats, product of 32 and on will cost you some thought and fancy calisthenics.
Just think, 20 generations ago you had a million living, breathing ancestors! And that at a time when the world’s whole population was around 3 million people!
As you work on your pedigree your notes will become mountainous. Don’t keep a shoe-box collection. Buy a loose-leaf style three-ring binder and a couple of refills. Then insert some identifying tag between generations. Punch three holes in some large envelopes and place these in your binder so you have a secure place to put letters, cards, newspaper clippings and pictures which you may collect from interested relatives.
You may write a lot of letters to government offices as well, and these replies are best kept in your binder, too. As you receive letters containing legal proof of a date for someone in the family the date can be put on a pedigree chart and the document filed in the proper section of your binder.
Every individual in a generation can be hunted out. If you come upon a tradition, a pioneer tale of adventure, hardship or great human compassion don’t be a bit surprised. If it turns out that after a bit of checking your great tale is a red herring, don’t be hurt by the fact that it’s not true. Time and telling have embellished some of our family history, we all know this. Look again. Lurking just around the next corner there will be an even better tale and this time it could be true!
Save every scrap of material. Descriptions of your people, height, weight, colour of eyes, talents, and handicaps. Of such are great novels written. You may find the foundation of another, Gone With The Wind.
Because the pioneers moved frequently, a search which begins in the province of Ontario may drift off in any direction so that it is best to be well-prepared and move with it. Across Canada there’s a string of Provincial Archives. Often, they can point the way to the most helpful sources:
Write: Provincial Archives of B.C.,
Write: Provincial Library,
Write: Legislative Library,
Write: Ontario Department of Public Records and Archives
Write: Archives de la Province de Quebec,
Parc des Champs de Bataille,
Write: Public Archives,
Write: New Brunswick Museum,
277 Douglas Avenue,
ST. JOHN, N.B.
Canada’s National Archives are located in OTTAWA, Ontario. Personal visits are much more satisfying than trying to locate information by mail. But if you have a very specific request, they can correspond with you. The address is:
Public Archives of Canada,
Public Archives recently published a booklet titled Tracing Your Ancestors in Canada. It’s obtainable through the Manuscript Division of the Archives.
A number of booklets which tell about records held by the Archives are available from the Publications Division. A list is available and for the most part these booklets sell for less than a dollar each.
Census records for Ontario covering the years 1851, 1861, and 1871 are available to genealogists from the Archives. Information usually available on a census record includes age, country or province of birth, religion, marital status, and some agricultural information. A Checklist of Ontario Census returns 1842-1871 is one booklet recently published and it’s available from Publications Division for 25 cents.
Your census search depends on knowing the Township in which your pioneer family resided during a census year. If you can pin-point the time and place of residence you may re-learn many forgotten details about them.
Other sources of interesting detail may be found in land petitions, military records, local records (religious and civil records described in published booklet Manuscript Group 9, Publications Division - 50 cents) Loyalist lists and published material including county directories, Army lists and local newspapers some of which are held by Public Archives in Ottawa.
The building in which records are kept is across the road from the west door of the Parliament Buildings in Queen’s Park, Toronto.
Visitors should look for #14 on Queen’s Park Crescent West.
The West Crescent carries one way traffic only. Traffic moves north to south off Avenue Road onto University Avenue on their laterals. If you drive a car into Toronto, you can usually secure parking space in one of several lots on streets south of the Parliament Buildings. If you arrive by bus or train, it is helpful to secure a copy of the newest city map.
To contact the Archives by telephone, use the main Parliament Building number. When you receive an answer ask the switchboard to ring the Archives for you.
If you plan to be in the Archives for some time and the weather is nice, you can bring a picnic lunch and eat in the park at the front of the Parliament Buildings where benches and wastebaskets have been provided for public convenience.
At #14 Queen’s Park Crescent West there is a uniformed guide just inside the door who can direct you to the stairway which will take you up to the Reading Room on the second floor. 1966 hours are 8.30 A.M. to 5 P.M. from Monday to Friday.
Inside the reading room you’ll find a card index catalogue similar to that found in a public library. From these cards you can select the numbers and titles of books, periodicals, and maps. There are also inventories of records kept in the Archives to which you can refer. Even with all, the best 'finding aid' for the beginner is an experienced researcher or an archivist. Since the staff are quite busy your request should be as brief and as specific as possible.
On each table in the reading room is a copy of 'house rules' and a number of requisition slips on which you may request and sign for books and papers.
If you acquaint yourself with the rules and fill your request slips, rather than making a verbal request, your archivist is certain to know what you want regardless of what he or she may have on their minds that day.
Prior to visiting the Archives to hunt for records of your family, it is wise to read the back issues of the Ontario Genealogical Society’s magazine BULLETIN. The issue Volume 4, Issue 3, dated September 1965, is helpful to the beginner because it contains, among other articles, one called Paper Presented To Members of the Second Genealogical Seminar. It was written by Miss Sandra Guillaume who is an archivist at Ontario Archives. In the article Miss Guillaume tells of the type of records most helpful to beginners in genealogical research.
Bruce W. Carr, Carrswood, R.R.#1, DUNDAS, Ontario is editor of BULLETIN. Back issues of the magazine should be readily available if you wish to purchase them. No Public Library in this area subscribes to the magazine at this time.
Finding genealogical information in registry office is fairly easy if you know the exact lot and concession, township or town where your relatives lived.
One way to figure out exactly where the old ancestral home is located is by means of old maps and directories. These can be seen at Ontario Archives or sometimes at the local library.
Check Tremaine maps or maps in County Atlases. Many of these show the names of occupants of each lot in the year the material was published. Ask to be allowed to check early assessment rolls.
When you’ve found what you believe to be the correct lot, check its location against a modern map. Some townships have been split in two or more divisions, often with each division becoming part of a different country.
In a registry office the first record you’ll consult will be an abstract book where a page or two has been set aside for each piece of land.
At the top of the page the number of the lot, concession or plan and the township of town are shown. A document relating to the piece of land is known as an instrument. Each instrument is numbered except for the Crown patent or first document. The instrument number (sometimes with a letter of the alphabet attached) is shown in the left-hand column of the abstract book.
In the next column is the name applied to this particular instrument. It’s usually recorded in abbreviated form: 'Mtg.' for mortgage; 'D of M.' for discharge of mortgage; and 'will' for last will and testament.
Next column shows the date on which the instrument was written. In column four you’ll read the date on which the instrument was registered. These dates need not to be the same. For instance, a will written when a man is in his productive years is registered after his death during disposition of his estate.
The next column names the person who is selling or granting the land or use of the land. Often his wife’s name appears, too.
Column six names the party receiving the land. The next column shows the amount of money which changed hands in the deal and the last column fills the quantity of land involved.
...[For] undivided farms it’s easy to request the original instruments and...through them gathering short notes on names, addresses, and other family data.
A farm which has become village, town or city following its history is more difficult but if you persevere, you will be able to give a comprehensive account of major changes.
Instruments that offer the most detail for your genealogy are wills. They often name married sisters, tell the location of the family burial site, and give glimpses of a man’s earnings and yearnings by what he gave and to whom.
On some land you may find recorded letters of administration issued a Surrogate Court where a deceased party left no will. Within this be the name of the deceased, date of death, place of residence and occupation prior to death, the name of the appointed administrator, and his relationship (if any) to the deceased.
The registry office has a separate alphabetical index of wills and letters of administration which you can check even when exact location of the ancestral homestead is in doubt.
For searches in a registry office a fee is charged. To search the abstract book costs 50 cents for each lot or part of a lot. To see original instruments will cost ten cents to 20 cents each and access to the index of wills would cost another 50 cents.
Registry offices are busy places. The Registrar and his staff are custodial officers of valuable land records. These people are there principally to keep records of land transactions in such a way as to be value to landowners. These officers are not there to do historical or genealogical research.
Ultimately, in order to be able to properly use registry office facilities:
- Get your lot, concession, and township information before you go to the registry office.
- Ask for the abstract book giving the specific lot and the year you believe your family lived on the lot.
- Ask for the instruments by their numbers as found in the abstract book, the township or town name. In the case of old titles, add the year of registration as numbers may have been used over a long period of time.
- Be as specific as possible when you request your material. At the Archives, no fee is charged. These films are not presently available through inter-library loan, so a personal visit is necessary.
- Ontario Archives has a group of microfilms, abstracts, and instruments for most registry offices in Ontario dated from the time of settlement to about 1875. If you are working in the Archives and need this information, it is all close at hand.