52 Ancestors: Week 25 – Indigenous Research at Library and Archives Canada

By Canada location map.svg:derivative work: Yug (talk)Canada (geolocalisation).svg: STyxderivative work: Themightyquill (talk) – Canada location map.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14706244

This week\’s 52 Ancestors prompt is \”Earliest\”. The earliest people in Canada were the native tribes, so I thought I\’d look at Indigenous Research at Library and Archives Canada.

The best place to look at what they have both offline and online is their page Indigenous heritage. On it are links to their databases, virtual exhibits, and research guides. It\’s a great information page to help you get started. They\’ve also provided links to their pages on the First Nations, the Metis Nation, and the Inuit.

I\’ve taken a look at their online databases, and given a brief outline of each one.

Indian Affairs Annual Reports, 1864-1990
The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was created in 1966. Before then, various departments were responible for Indigenous Peoples and/or Canada\’s North. This database contains images of the the annual reports submitted to the government by the Department and it\’s earlier counterparts. If your ancestor was an Indian Agent, you might find mention of them. If your ancestor was part of the indigenous tribes, you probably won\’t find mention of them. However, you can still get some background on their life through the eyes of the government. This database can be searched by keyword or by year. Images can be downloaded to your computer.

Indian Reserves – Western Canada
This database contains maps and plans of the Indian Reserves in Western Canada. You can search by:

  • Reserve Name
  • Reserve Number
  • Province
  • Date
  • Reprography Number
  • Keyword

The results screen gives you the year of each result, and whether there is an online image. Click on a result, then \”PDF\” to obtain your image. You can then download the image as a PDF file.

Project Naming
This database is a collection of over 4,000 photographs of the Inuit people in Canada\’s far north. It is an ongoing collaboration to name the individuals photographed. You can search the collection by

  • Community
  • Photographer
  • Year
  • Keyword
  • Reproduction Number
You can also further your search by whether or not the people in the photographs have been named. If there\’s an image you would like to keep, then right click your mouse. Click on Save image as… to save to your computer.
This database contains the documentation looked at by the RCAP. In 1996 the Commission released an indepth report on the relationship between Canada and the indigenous people. Thedocuments include project submissions, research reports, transcripts, and publications. You can search by 
  • Keyword
  • Title
  • Language
  • Document Type
These documents can be downloaded to your computer as PDFs.
This database contains the documents relating to the Treaties, Land Surrenders, and Agreements that are in LAC custody. This is not a complete collection of all documents, as some are in the custody of other government departments. You can search by
  • Keyword
  • GAD Reference Number
  • Volume 
  • Microfilm Reel Number
Click on your result, and you have the option of looking at the images by JPEG, PDF, or both. Here\’s an image of an 1846 map titled Indian Chart of Red river



There is also a digitized microfilm collection that could provide you documentation of your Indigenous ancestor in the Residential School system. The collection, called School Files Series – 1879-1953, contains digitized microfilms that deal with the administrative side of the residential school system. If you scroll to the bottom of the page in the link above, there is a chart.
Beside the microfilm number is the name of the agencies and schools on that particular reel. Pick the reel you\’d like to look at, and then scroll page by page. These are not searchable. The nice thing is though, is that once you find an image you\’d like to keep, you can download that particular image. Just click on View PDF just above the image to save to your computer. You can also right click and save as a JPEG. Here\’s a quarterly return for the Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School in Kenora:

Don\’t forget to also look at the census returns on the LAC website. Reserve lands were often included in the enumeration.


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