Metis and Aboriginal Research
This document has been adapted from
one written by Karla Thompson and Art Haines for a
presentation to the Ontario Metis Aboriginal Association
in Bancroft, Ontario in June of 2006.
Much of this information relates to
Internet research as neither Art nor Karla is able to
travel as much as they would like to. Art has
concentrated mainly on the Indians in his family.
It is not an easy task. You will find the Six
Nations tribes are far better documented than the
Algonquin tribes. Art’s grandmother always talked
of her Algonquin ancestry. Art has found several
Mohawks in his tree but not the Algonquin.
Trying to identify a particular
person as having aboriginal ancestry can be a huge job.
In seven generations you have 254 direct ancestors.
If you don’t know which of your ancestral lines is
aboriginal, that is a lot of research.
The start of your search is the same,
whether you are researching all of your family tree or
are just looking for your aboriginal ancestors.
Get your supplies ready first.
You will need a note pad, pen, highlighter, 3 ring
binder and probably some file folders. Eventually
you will find maps are necessary, but you can probably
find what you need on the Internet.
If you own a computer we highly
recommend that you buy one of the many family tree
software programs available. These programs are
wonderful at keeping your information organized and
Keep a research journal.
Document everything you do, including the date, place
and the name and location of every book, microfilm or
microfiche you search. In a year or so you won’t
remember every source you have searched and may find
yourself doing the same work again.
Start with yourself and work
backwards. List your name, your spouse, your
children, parents, your siblings, grandparents, aunts
and uncles. Include date and place of birth,
marriage and death. Remember that your work will
probably be read by some future descendant who doesn’t
have your personal knowledge of people, places and
events. Record everything.
Keep yourself organized right from
the start. Any pictures you collect should be
identified on the back. You might know who it is
but will your children and grandchildren? Both
Karla and Art have many pictures of relatives that no
one has been able to put a name to.
Verify all your facts with multiple
sources whenever possible. When you have verified
that a fact is true, use a highlighter to indicate that,
or some other method to signify the same.
Talk to relatives. This is
discussed later in more detail.
Collect obituaries of your family
names. Some of them contain a great deal of
Check all the archives, libraries,
museums and government offices for the area you’re
searching – Ottawa, Toronto, Napanee, Kingston, etc.
Ask them about genealogy books, genealogy groups,
what records do they hold and which libraries have a
microfilm or microfiche reader. These readers are
needed for films you can order through Inter-Library
Check for a local Church of Latter Day Saints that
may have genealogy holdings.
Check out cemetery listings. There are many sites
on the Internet for this.
If you know the religion of your ancestors, look at
church records for birth, baptism, marriage and death.
Census records are a great source of information and
many are available on the Internet. You can also
view them at the Latter Day Saints Family History
Centres. Genealogy is a part of the Mormon
religion and their centres are a great place to start
Whether you use binders or family tree software to
organize your information, make copies of as much of it
as possible and store it at a friend or relative’s
house. You don’t want to see years of work
destroyed by water or fire.
Documents that are great sources of
Long Form Birth Certificates
Hospital Birth Registration
Newspaper Wedding and Anniversary Announcements
Deeds and other land records
Local history books
There are millions of websites out there. No
one can find all of the relevant ones by themselves.
Talk to other people who are also doing research and you
will be rewarded with websites they have found that you
haven’t. Karla has given Art many. One in
particular Art found absolutely wonderful. It was
loaded with pictures of many of his ancestors.
Most websites dedicated to genealogy advise you to enter
as much information as possible when you are searching.
We prefer to enter as little information as possible,
and then add information a bit at a time to narrow the
search. You will often find a multitude of records
for a person with conflicting spellings, dates and
places. Many researchers use the baptism date as
the birth date, even though the two events could have
months or years apart. By
searching with too much detail you will miss the records
that have alternative information.
When searching for someone on a
genealogy website, there are various pieces of
information that you can enter. When you finish
searching don’t forget to take out all of that
information before beginning a new search. It’s
easy to forget and your next search won’t be successful
because of it.
Soundex is an option on most
genealogy websites. Using it will give you most of
the names that sound like the one you are searching for.
I have found that soundex on rootsweb.com and
ancestry.com works much better than soundex on
Use soundex whenever possible, but
don’t be confident that soundex will give you all of the
possible variations. If a stranger told
you their name was Boomhour, think of
all the possible ways you might spell that name.
Art has 18 variations from various records and soundex
never catches all of them. Art recently worked on
another family that had over fifty variations of the
The website for the Latter Day Saints
www.familysearch.com. How you search is
severely limited in comparison to other sites. If
you enter certain information, they don’t allow you to
enter other information. If you use soundex you
will be given names that don’t look like, sound like,
and couldn’t possibly be the name you are looking for.
If you don’t use soundex, they don’t allow you to enter
certain information to narrow the search. Some of
the search information you enter appears to be totally
ignored. For example, if you search for John Smith
married to Sarah Jones, you will be given a million or
so John Smiths no matter who they were married to.
In most cases you will be overwhelmed with the number of
records you have to look at. Search elsewhere
first and then use this site to look for confirming
If you are searching census records,
some aboriginals may be identified as Indian,
half-breed, indigenous or by tribe on the census, others
are shown as white, English, Ontarian or French.
The tribal name may have many spellings. In some
cases, people didn’t want to be identified as
aboriginal, in other situations they thought of Canada
as being divided into English and French, and identified
themselves with one or the other group. If you
don’t find the particular person you are looking for,
search for just the surname in that area. Many
times people are listed by their nickname or an
alternative spelling of their given name.
Don’t limit yourself by searching for
just the person you are looking for. Research the
whole family. Many times we have found the
information we wanted in the records of one of their
relatives. available online with your family
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