google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: June 2009

The Historical Canadian Census 1851-1916

Last week was a big week for genealogists and family historians alike. The Historical Canadian Census 1851-1916 was released. It provides nearly 32 million names and 1.3 million records.

These records can be accessed at at or at the Canadian Archives. If you currently do not subscribe to Ancestry then this is your day. You can sign up for a 14 day free trial. This gives you 2 weeks of free research but not just to the census records but their entire online database. You will have to provide a credit card for access and if you don't intend on being a long-term subscriber then you must cancel in order to keep your card from being charge for the subscription at the end of your 14 days. However, you can also access these records free of charge at Family Search if that is your online database of choice.

In keeping with this exciting census news, I would like to review exactly what a census record can do for your research. If you are just starting your research then a census record is a great starting point, if you are at a brick wall then access to one of these newly released records can open up further clues.

A census record can reveal family members you may not be aware of. This morning I was able to find a census of my GGGGrandfather. On this 1861 census I learned of a child I was not currently aware of. Census documents can help in establishing ages, occupations, religions, native tongues and ethnicity. You can learn addresses and house types which can open doors in looking for land records. They will also help in establishing migration dates. As families picked-up and moved they could be in one county on one record and by the next census a different county. Census records can reveal parents and birth dates. Elderly parents may appear living with their children on one record and gone the next, helping to narrow a possible death and location of death. Often these records will include an immigration year, which in turn can help narrow your search for passenger lists and immigration records. Census records can also reveal military service.

Also available are agricultural censuses. Many of our ancestors raised crops and livestock for a living. These schedules offer us a glimpse of their farms, the kinds of crops and livestock they raised, giving us a clearer picture of their lives.

So never dismiss a census record. It can be one of the most valuable records you can have in your collection, and once you have a series of them then they truly will begin to paint the picture of your ancestors story.

The Celebrites in My Tree

This week Geneabloggers suggested a blog prompt; to write about any celebrities in your family tree. A couple of weeks ago I wouldn't have answered to this prompt. No one to write home about in my tree. I came from some very common, hard working farmer types, Irish, German, Polish and French ancestry.
However, remember that book I told you about last week, well it has turned out to be more of a gem then what I thought. I couldn't help but spend my Friday evening flipping through it's pages. In doing so I have come to learn that I am the 2nd cousin 4th removed to Sir Wilfred Laurier.

For those non Canadians, Sir Wilfred Laurier was our 7th Prime Minister, he governed Canada from 1896-1911 and he was our first French Prime Minister. Laurier was knighted by the Queen and is known in history for his passion for Canada's national unity. He was the son of a farmer.
Now you ask how did I come to this conclusion in a brief span of a Friday evening. What I learned is this: My mother's father is Germain Desmarais, his father is Charles-Thomas, his father is Charles and his father is Thomas. Thomas' father is Francois. Francois has a sister named Scholastique (they are among 10 boys and 5 girls born to Louis Desmarais.) Scholastique marries Henri Martineau, they have a daughter Marie-Marcelle. She marries Charles Laurier and they have a son Wilfred Laurier. Cool Eh!

So how does this change things. I was quick to tell my children. I guess it's nice to know you share the same DNA as someone as educated as a Prime Minister. I hoped it would be a kind of modivator for them. It's too late for me to follow in the steps of this illustrious man. I do wish, however I had known when I was younger, it might of made a difference to me, I may have extended my education, sought bigger goals, dreamed larger.
However, as exciting as that tidbit was to learn I put it into perspective. The uncovering of a celebrity in my tree has encouraged me to be somewhat reflective of all my ancestors and what they have taught me as I dig into the intimate details of their lives. I've examined the obstacles and decisions they made. Why an individual chooses one path versus another.
For instance, Adam who set sail from Poland in 1905 at the age of 20, leaving his parents behind never to see them again, laying the groundwork for a better future for his family. James from Ireland, who takes on the task of becoming one of the first settlers to clear the land and farm in Upper Canada in 1832 again doing the back breaking work for future generations and Louis who in 1850 in Quebec believes so strongly in the value of an education that his children would promote that message to future generations and produce a Prime Minister. They all made their decisions in the pursuit of a better future for their children and their descendants including me . This is what I value from my genealogy research and from my ancestors decisions. They are all celebrities in my tree.