Friday, March 27, 2009

Beginners Genealogy Course - Local Resources

Terry Findley—the last lecturer in the highly-successful Beginner's Course in Ottawa on March 21st—gave his lecture on "Local Resources".

As I listened to his lecture, I wondered how many of the sixty or so people who were there had actually done any research on their family histories.

Roughly three-quarters of the attendees were what we would call "first timers". That is, they hadn't done any research at all, so, naturally, they were very interested to hear about the facilities that Terry was about to mention.

The first place he spoke about was the Canadian Genealogy Centre (CGC) -

He called it the "jewel of family history in Ottawa", and went on to explain that the Canadian Genealogy Centre has databases (for example - census, Canadian Passenger Lists, First World War papers), books, and now even a presence on and

The CGC is located within the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) at 395 Wellington Street. A research pass is required for access to the rooms which hold the records.

He talked about the Mormon's Family History Library on Prince of Wales Drive, and its many holdings.

It is a welcoming place, where you might run into fellow researchers who might be related. It happens a lot at the FHL!

While you are there, feel free to order microfilm—for a nominal fee—from their main library in Salt Lake City. The knowledgeable volunteers will be glad to assist you.

The Ottawa Court House—located at the corner of Laurier and Elgin Streets, right next to Ottawa City Hall—was a surprise to many because they didn't know that it is where you find land records and might even discover some wills there, also.

The Anglican Diocese of Ottawa is located next to Christ Church Cathedral on Bronson Avenue, in the northwest part of the city.

It has such records as the BMDs of Ottawa. Its website is

One thing Terry said—which was a surprise to him when he was doing his research—was that it also contained BMDs of other religions, so if you can't find them in anywhere else in Ottawa, you should go there because they may have it.

The Ottawa Public Library has the Ottawa Room, where you will find newspaper indexes for such local newspapers as the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Journal.

He said that it will be closed for the next month while they renovate it (they are making it bigger), but it has a wealth of materials there. It's a good place to check for finding more on the social history of the city.

And, lastly, he talked about the city archives, located in the old city hall on Sussex Drive

It houses the libraries of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS), the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO), as well as the C. Robert Craig Memorial Library (a specialized railway library).

The archives is moving to a new building in the spring of 2011 near Algonquin College in the city's west end.

He gave us each a great piece of advice when going to these places to do research.

First, contact the facility to check where it facility is located (in case it moved, as noted above), what the facility has for holdings, its available parking, their hours of operation, if there are any researcher restrictions, if they have copy services, and so on.

By being prepared in advance, it will make your visit much more pleasant.

Don't forget to ask lots of questions to the staff and volunteers who man these facilities - you just may be delightfully surprised by the answers you receive! Terry punctuated this fact (the whole lecture, actually) with many well-told (and well-received) anecdotes.

Terry Findley is a lecturer and former BIFHSGO Director of Conferences and Programs. Credit: J.M. Lapointe, CD