52 Ancestors: Week 37 – Bankruptcy Records

Week 37\’s prompt for 52 Ancestors is \”mistake\”. Our ancestors were human, just like us. They made mistakes. Some were small, and some were large enough to warrant official notice. One such type would be bankruptcy. This post I\’m going to lead you towards sources for bankruptcy records.

The Courts
Of course the first place you should look for bankruptcy records in the court system. There are both federal and provincial governments involved in bankruptcy. The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy is the federal overseer of the majority of the process. If a discharge of the bankruptcy is required through the courts, that is done through the provincial court system. Week 9\’s post dealt with Canadian Courts, and you can access it here.

You can also search for court cases on the CanLii website. The Canadian Legal Information Institute has digitized the decisions of tens of thousands of court cases across Canada. There are decisions at both the provincial and federal level. They have cases from the 1800\’s to present day.

Canada Gazette
Back in 2017, I wrote a blog post about the importance of the Canada Gazette to researchers. The official newspaper of the federal government, it contains notices of all manners of petitions and bills passed. You\’ll especially want to look at this in the early years of the country. Here\’s an excerpt from November 21, 1846. It shows two notices. The first is that James Robinson is handling the bankruptcy of John Grierson. The second is a notice of an auction sale of the land of Alexander Christie.

On the very same page is another notice discharging the bankruptcy of Peter Pearce.

Make sure you also look the the provincial gazettes as well. Check the provincial government\’s website to see how you can access copies.

Newspapers
As always, newspapers are a good source to finding \”dirt\”. Check the classified ads for bankruptcy sales. If your ancestor was an upstanding member of the community, you may also find newspaper articles of their financial troubles. here\’s a couple of notices taken from Ontario newspapers. The first is from The Porcupine Advocate in Timmins, Ontario:

The second is from The Independant in Grimsby, Ontario:

Provincial Archives
Court cases routinely get transferred to provincial archives, and bankruptcy cases are no exception. You may also find interesting items in personal fond collections. For instance:

Canadiana
Yet again, this site contains some gems. When I searched using \”bankruptcy\”, I received some interesting hits. Among these are several historic Canadian law journals. They may or may not mention specific cases, but they do discuss the legal aspects around bankruptcy.
I also found some digitized items relating to individuals:

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