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Genealogy and Family History

How to Begin

What To Do First

About Events

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Understanding the historical context in which your ancestors lived can be immensely useful. This lets you see the lives of your ancestors in perspective and helps verify that the details you have are accurate. When doing research in and about Canada, Library and Archives Canada is a good starting point from which to gain that context.

You will naturally focus on the life events of your family (births, marriages, deaths); but you may find other events that were of equal or greater importance.

Religion may have been important, whether through celebrations such as baptisms or through family members who became part of the established clergy. Migration events were often disrupting influences that separated family branches and generations. Understanding the context surrounding your family's migration will often reveal new facts or paths to explore.

Enrolment in the military can be of significance. Your Canadian ancestors may have participated in the War of 1812, the South African War (Boer War), or the First and Second World Wars. Do not overlook other wars, however. For instance, Canadians participated in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars in the United States; and you may find military records or pension applications for your Canadian ancestors who served in these conflicts.

Events of global proportions, such as world wars, may have altered families forever and will make research difficult. Researching an event such as the Holocaust, for instance, requires special genealogical research methods.

It is a certainty that, at some point in your research, you will need to understand the events and context of your family in order to pinpoint the details. Do not neglect the broader picture. It will give your research context and will bring your ancestors to life.

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