Saturday, July 1, 2017

O Canada!

For those of my friends beyond the border up north—and for all those distant cousins of my father-in-law's Irish-Canadian ancestors whom I've yet to meet—today begins an extended weekend's celebration of Canada Day, anniversary of the July 1, 1867, British North America Act that united four provinces into the Dominion of Canada. Not only that, but this year marks an especially significant designation: Canada 150.

Those of us so focused on researching our American roots that we won't even lift our heads from our computer screens until the Fourth is upon us may want to pause to take note of our neighbors to the north. Sometimes, that "kith" may turn out to be "kin"—as I found out when puzzling over where my father-in-law's Irish ancestors disappeared after leaving famine-stricken County Tipperary. I knew where they lived in Ireland, and I sure knew they ended up in Chicago—but where were the passenger records to demonstrate their arrival in the United States? Clue: they didn't arrive in the U.S. They came by way of Canada—staying long enough to be counted in at least two census enumerations in Ontario.

The same can be said for family members I've researched who settled out in the western territories of the northern United States. Reading through accounts of the era in places like the Dakota Territory, it seemed like a small thing for a family to bounce between, say, Fargo and Winnipeg. It didn't matter that each of those cities belonged to different countries. The affinity to the locale was regional, not geopolitical to a specific nation. Once again, the full story could only be pieced together by documentation from each of the two countries.

It is true that, like the United States, Canada has a rich multicultural heritage—as, for instance, Canadian genealogy blogger John D. Reid mentions in a recent guest post for MyHeritage. However, it is also true that some of the people now celebrating Canada Day on the first of July may once have had ancestors who saluted the Stars and Stripes on the Fourth—and vice versa, for many living in the United States who now assume their roots were always solidly established in the lower forty eight.

I am quite certain there are more of us who, if we took a look across that same border, might find the missing pieces to our genealogical heritage. That's why I have two must-read Canadian genealogy blogs on my daily reading list: John Reid's Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections and Gail Dever's Genealogy à la carte. Both are excellent resources for those wishing to familiarize themselves with what's available for researchers seeking their Canadian roots. I consider a daily tour through their informative offerings to be my learning-by-osmosis opportunity.

Of course, there are many more Canadian resources—including Gail Dever's constantly updated listing, "Facebook for Canadian Genealogy." There are also quite a few excellent genealogy blogs produced by our fellow researchers in Canada. And though one blogger's "Canada's 150th Genealogy Challenge"—post a list of all your ancestors living in Canada in 1867—may have originally expected participants joining in to be fellow Canadians, I'm sure quite a few of us from the States could add our list to the comments there, legitimately, as well.


  1. I would like to take a trip to Ontario where my husbands maternal grandfather was born. He was 1 or 2 years old when they came here:)

    1. Now, that would be a great trip, Far Side! I hope you get to do that.

      It's interesting to see how many Americans have some sort of connection to Canada. Just like your husband's story, I've met others who have told me similar stories of family roots across the border--some from prior generations, some who are living here now, but are themselves Canadians by birth.

  2. Replies
    1. Gail, any time! I so appreciate what you do with your blog--and thank you, too, for your mention of my post in your Genealogy à la carte Facebook group.


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