I was always told that I’m French-Canadian, English, and Irish. I’ve been very privileged growing up with parents who valued our family history, and were able to pass down some genealogical information. At the age of 5, I was taken on my first trip to Europe, and explored the hometowns of my great-grandparents. A few years ago, I saw some ads on TV for Ancestry.ca, and was inspired to learn more about my ancestors.
I started out by making a family tree and inputting all of the information I could remember. I originally started using Ancestry over one of their free record weekends, but I’ve since upgraded to a paid version. Little green leaves starting popping up on members of my family tree, which meant that they had a hints for me (individuals in my tree matched with some of Ancestry’s records). Ancestry will show you government and church records, and even other member’s family trees if they include an individual with matching information. Being inexperienced with genealogical research, most of the information I added to my tree I had found in other member’s trees with few sources to back it up. I’ve since learned that you can’t believe everything you see on Ancestry. There are often family myths that are perpetuated through these family trees. Just because a piece of information appears in a few different member’s family trees doesn’t mean it’s correct.
Since I’ve become a more experienced researcher and will only accept information if I have proof, my family tree has shrunk significantly. I decided that it would be interesting to have an appointment with a genealogist to see if we can break through some of the brick walls (a genealogical term for when you are stuck on a member of your family tree and can’t go back any further).
I was at my local public library, and I saw a poster offering free one on one appointments with a genealogist (check out Halifax Public Libraries if you live in th area). I quickly snapped a picture and sent an email to book an appointment. I would definitely recommend looking into the public library system to see if they have any similar services. My library also offers a free version of Ancestry.
The genealogist emailed me asking about what I would like to work on during our appointment. She specialized in local maritime research, but was very receptive when I told her I wanted to do some research into the French-Canadian side of my family tree. When I showed up to the appointment, the genealogist had pulled a bunch of resources about researching French-Canadian ancestors and was ready to get to work.
I wanted to try and push back further into my Clement side and was unable to move past my great great grandfather, Eustache Clement. The genealogist taught me how to narrow down my searches to look for a specific kind of record in a specific region. We ended up coming across his marriage record by scrolling through pages of records. She told me that names are often misspelled on Ancestry because the census taker was often in a hurry and just wrote down what they heard. A lot of records have also been digitalized, and the original handwriting can be quite difficult to interpret.
Since my great great grandparents lived near the border of Ontario, we tried searching in the Ontario records in case they had moved across the border. The trail on Eustache Clément ran dry, but we were able to find the death record of his wife (my great great grandmother). The death record also included the names of her parents, so I was able to add another generation to my family tree!
I would definitely recommend making an appointment with a genealogist if you’re interested in your family history – especially if you can get a free appointment. She taught me a bunch of good research techniques that will definitely be useful as I explore new sides of my family tree.
Let me know in the comments if you want to hear more about my hobby of researching my family tree!