The Histories of Families


For our research into the histories of families, either for personal connection or as part of local historical research, there are several resources to choose from. One is Ancestry Research. If we are fortunate enough to have Ancestry Library Edition in our local public library system (or in a neighbouring system that we may be entitled to join), we can access at any library branch U.S., Canadian and U.K. collections of censuses and birth, death, and marriage records; other national records; and international, military and multimedia collections*.

Through a public library we can also obtain access to the EBSCO MyHeritage Library Edition. Libraries that offer the MyHeritage Historical Content Database are able to provide  access to billions of historical document in thousands of databases that span the past five centuries.

The Mormon-managed FamilySearch online contains some collections of possible use, and recently added 27 new and updated Canadian historical records collections of which several come from Ontario.

At the province-wide level the records in the Archives of Ontario in Toronto can be searched online or visited in person. Other more locally focused resources will lie in our county archives like the Peel Archives at PAMA in Brampton or the Dufferin Archives at the DCMA in Mulmur. Our municipality may have its own resources such as the King Township’s library system ‘People and Villages‘ collection and the King Heritage and Cultural Centre next to the King Museum in King City, or, for Halton Hills, the historical township of Esquesing archive in the Georgetown branch of the Halton Hills Public Libraries.

If our target family/families belong to an ethno-cultural group with a long history in the province, there may be culture-specific records that can be accessed. An example is the Research Repository of genealogical and related historical information about Scottish Canadian families currently under development at the University of Guelph, and which is aimed at “the establishment of a Genealogical and Family History Institute, which can promote, support and facilitate academic research on Scottish families, and which is equally committed to supporting and encouraging non-academic researchers concerned with the history of Scottish Canadian families.”

Our city, town or village historical society, of which there are many in our hills, may be worth contacting as there will likely be members who have made a detailed study of area families. The heritage resource office at our local town or city hall or our local library should be able to direct us to executive contacts for these organizations, or even to well-known local historians who accept queries. We can also ask the relevant public libraries if they have compiled a list of the local historical books and pamphlets held in their collections. Some of these publications will mention our ancestors,and may even have been written or illustrated by one! Let’s not forget local newspaper archives where that paper and its antecedents have been in print far enough back. Many have digitized their past editions but a request visit may be necessary, especially for older dates.

If we are willing to shell out to buy specific material we can search international online catalogues of used and new specialized books and pamphlets, such as Abebooks. Use their Boolean search function to explore likely book title terms such as village and family name. Despite our specialized focus it may be a seller in far-away South Carolina USA or Ross-on-Wye UK who is offering what we seek.

N.B. This list is not exhaustive.

* Caledon Public Library is running two sessions called ‘Discover Your Roots With Ancestry’  where library card holders can learn the basics of how to use Ancestry Library Edition database. No charge, but advanced registration at any branch is required. Sessions are at 7:00 – 8:30 pm on Thursday, March 31st at the Albion Bolton Branch and Thursday, April 14th at the Alton Branch.

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