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Researching Your Aboriginal Ancestry at Library and Archives Canada

Part I: Researching Your Aboriginal Genealogy at Library and Archives Canada

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Headquarters Case Files

The headquarters case files series (also known by the descriptive title in the ARCHIVED - General Inventory as the modified duplex numeric system sub-series) consists of more than 27,000 individual case files arranged according to the geographically based system of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's responsibility centres. Although most information in these files covers the core period of 1920 to 1950, some files include information from as far back as 1871 or as late as 1967. The case files deal with such matters as estates, band loans, enfranchisement, guardianship, revolving fund loans, the Veterans Land Act, veterans' disability pensions, pensions for descendants of deceased veterans and soldier settlers. Miscellaneous case files are included, as are protest files, the latter arranged by the name of the band. These records exist in microform only, the original paper records having been destroyed after the filming. The files can be found on microfilm reels M-2521 to M-2777.

The following notes are not exhaustive; rather, they provide samples of the typical information that can be found in the case files. Case files vary according to the particular circumstances of the individual. Moreover, their content is determined by the regulations and policies in force at the time the files were written. Some examples of case files (with file classification numbers in parentheses) are as follows:

Estates: Under the Indian Act, the Department of Indian Affairs has jurisdiction over the administration of the estates of deceased Indians who resided on reserves or Crown land. To facilitate land transfers, the Department may also assume jurisdiction over the administration of the estates of Indians who resided off-reserve but whose estates include reserve land interests.

The contents of estate files vary, but many include a notice to creditors, an application for administration or probate, an application for appointment of an administrator and approval of the will, a succession duties statement and investigators= progress reports. These forms record vital information on the deceased, summaries of land and personal assets, summaries of debts and vital information on heirs and next of kin.

Numerous other types of forms and documents that might be of value to the genealogical researcher can be found in estate files.

Veterans Land Act: The Veterans Land Act, 1942, provided that grants could be made to eligible Indian veterans to settle on Indian reserve lands. The typical file contains the grant application form, which identifies and describes the applicant (name, band, ticket number, regimental number and rank, address, enlistment and discharge dates, pension status, age, marital status, the number, age and sex of children, health and any previous benefits under the Act) and indicates the requested amount of the grant and its purpose. The form is usually accompanied by copies of the person's service record (which includes date and place of birth, date of enlistment and discharge, overseas service, medals, rank, reason for discharge and physical description) and discharge certificate.

Other documents commonly found in the files include forms on the amount granted, the delivery of goods purchased and correspondence about the benefit.

Revolving fund loans: Files on revolving fund loans usually contain the loan application, a form describing the applicant (name, band, ticket number, reserve, agency, age, marital status, dependents, annual income, previous loans and general reputation), the approval form (including amount and repayment schedule) and a lien note signed by the recipient.

Other documents that may be included are a chattel mortgage form, a form giving authority to deduct repayment amounts from earnings at source, statements of monies owed, notices of arrears and reports on non payment, documents attesting to payment in full and covering memos.

Enfranchisements: Enfranchisement meant that an individual ceased to be a status Indian within the meaning of the Indian Act. These files take two forms, depending on the sub section of the Act being applied.

Most enfranchisement files relate to Indian women who married non Indians. Typical documents in the files include a statement of marriage to a non-Indian (including the woman's name, ticket number, band, agency, date and place of marriage, husband's name, address, particulars of minor children and details of band funds payable), a form on the particulars of enfranchisement, a form detailing the lump sum payable on enfranchisement (based on the woman's share of band funds or federal annuities) and a form instructing the superintendent to remove the woman from the band membership list. Some files contain a statement about minor children, which gives the children's names, dates of birth and address and describes whether the parents want children over 16 to be enfranchised. The files may also contain correspondence and memos about the case.

Less common are the files of individuals who applied for enfranchisement. These files contain an application for enfranchisement, which has personal data on the applicant, his or her physical description, employment data, any debts and details about his dependents. The application includes a statement about whether the band approves of the application and the decision of the officer in charge of the agency.

Loans: Loan files are distinct from revolving fund loan files in the origin of the loan. These files document loans from band funds, not from the federal consolidated revenue fund. Documents might include memos, a band council resolution and a copy of the council minutes from the meeting during which the loan was discussed.

Protests: The sections of the Indian Act that relate to the definition of an Indian and registration also include a mechanism for protesting deletions and additions to the membership lists. The two standard documents in these files are an Indian membership protest form filed by the band and a membership questionnaire. The former identifies the person (name, band, ticket number) and gives a reason for protesting the omission, inclusion, addition or deletion of that person from the lists. The latter gives more detailed information on the person, including name, date and place of birth, marital status, Indian status, name and status of spouse, names and dates of birth of children, details of parents and details of maternal and paternal grandparents. Covering memos are usually included, and sometimes there is correspondence relating to the paternity of children.

Some files also contain a form detailing the case history of the individual and recommending a decision. A statement of the registrar's final decision may also be included.

FA 10-73 contains a file list for the Headquarters Case Files and is arranged first by regions and then by bands. However, an online version of this finding aid can be searched by subject, by band, and in most cases, by name, using the ARCHIVED - Government of Canada database as explained in Part II of this guide. Please note that references to a few case files, such as unproven criminal accusations, have been severed from the online version of the finding aid. Both the case files and the paper copy of FA 10-73 currently have access restrictions. It is necessary to know the name of the band an ancestor might have belonged to, or the precise region where this ancestor resided, should there be a need to send an inquiry to Library and Archives Canada.

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