I thought I’d share some of the tools and sites I used to research Senator Samuel Prowse, the subject of my last 52 Ancestors post, along with other ancestors from PEI (including my next 52 Ancestors subject – stay tuned!). This list is by no means exhaustive, but covers some my more frequently used sources.
If your ancestors were politicians or anyone else who would be likely to be written about in the paper, newspapers are an invaluable source of information. Even if they weren’t, newspapers are often a source of birth, marriage and death announcements. And its a great way to better understand the world our ancestors lived in.
Many PEI newspapers from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s are available in a free, searchable, online database at Islandnewspapers.ca. Unfortunately, there are some dates/issues missing (like January 1902 when Samuel Prowse died – oh how I want to find his obituary!), but overall, it’s an incredibly valuable resource.
The following censuses are available for PEI:
- 1841 – Lists heads of household only. Includes occupation of head of household, sex and ages of household members, religion, land holdings, agricultural production, country of origin of household members. Can be searched on the PEI Provincial Archives and Record Office (PARO) site. None of my names were found on this search, but maybe you’ll be luckier than I was.
- 1861 – Lists heads of household only. Includes occupation of head of household, sex and ages of household members, religion, land holdings, agricultural production, country of origin of household members. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), FamilySearch (free, no images)
- 1881- Lists all household members, sex, age, country or province of birth, religion, origin, occupation, marital status, infirmities. Note that it does not include relationship to head of household, so you might assume someone is the child of the head of household when they are actually not. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription) FamilySearch (free, no images)
- 1891 – Lists all household members, sex, age, marital status, relationship to head of household, country or province of birth, place of birth of father, place of birth of mother, religion, occupation, employment status, able to read/write, infirmaries. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), Family Search (free, no images).
- 1901 – Lists all household members, sex, colour, relationship to head of household, marital status, date of birth, age, country or place of birth, year of immigration to Canada, year of naturalization, racial or tribal origin, nationality, religion, occupation, employment status, education, language, infirmities. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), FamilySearch (free, no images).
- 1911 – Lists all household members, residence, sex, relationship to head of household, month and year of birth, age, country or place of birth, year of immigration, year of naturalization, racial or tribal origin, nationality, religion, occupation, employment information, insurance held, education and language, infirmities. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), FamilySearch (free, no images).
- 1921 – List of all household members, residence, type of home, relationship to head of household, sex, marital status, age, place of birth, father’s place of birth, mother’s place of birth, year of immigration, year of naturalization, nationality, racial or tribal origin, language, education, occupation, employment information. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription).
I especially love the parents’ place of birth on the 1891 and 1921 census, and the birth date on the 1901 census (but take that with a grain of salt, the year is frequently wrong!).
Here’s a hint for accessing Canadian census records if you don’t have an Ancestry subscription (or if you’re a non-Canadian who does not have a worldwide subscription) – All of the Canadian censuses are available on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website. However, the search function on that site is less than ideal – you have to have the exact spelling (with or without wildcards) to get the entry. FamilySearch, on the other hand, has a better search function, but does not have the images of the census pages (unless you access them from a Family History Centre). So I like to use a combination of the two – I’ll first do a search on FamilySearch, see how the name was spelled (eg Prouse instead of Prowse), then use that spelling at LAC to find the census images. Works like a charm!
Birth, Marriage, Death records
Civil registration only began in PEI in 1906. Prior to that, BMD information can mostly be found via church records. There are some indices available on PARO and FamilySearch, but I’ve found it pretty hit and miss on whether someone’s included. As well, FamilySearch has images of church records that have not been indexed: Prince Edward Island Church Records, 1777-1985
Once you know the location and religion (which you can get from the census), I’ve had pretty good luck going through the church records page by page to find names of interest. Or when I do find them in the index, and it provides the church record number, I can then go look at the church records to find the actual entry.
The biggest drawback of PEI BMD records is that marriage records don’t include parent’s names and baptismal records rarely include the mother’s maiden name (at least not in the non-Catholic churches).
Master Name Index
The Master Name Index has been compiled from a variety of sources, such as cemetery transcripts, selected newspapers, funeral home registers, the 1880 Meacham’s Atlas and other sources. It’s available at the PEI Archives, but if, like me, you don’t get to PEI often, there are copies on microfilm available at other places. In Ottawa, there’s a copy in the Genealogy Room at Library and Archives Canada.
Family Histories and other goodies
Genealogies and family histories compiled by previous researchers are a great starting point for further research. I’m fortunate to have a copy of “The Descendants of James Willis and Samuel M. Smith”, compiled by Vernon E. Hargraves, 1980.
As well, a great source for family histories (and many many other things) is Dave Hunter’s The Island Register. You can also sign up for Dave’s weekly newsletter to be informed of new things added to the site.
And finally, don’t forget to use Google or your search engine of choice, especially if you’re dealing with a less common name and/or a prominent person. Here’s a list of things I found just by googling “Senator Samuel Prowse PEI”
Samuel Prowse | Prince Edward Island Legislative Documents Online
PARLINFO – Parliamentarian File – Complete File – PROWSE, The Hon ..
Debates of the Senate of the Dominion of Canada: Official Report
And that’s just the first page!
What are your favourite PEI research tools or sites?
5 thoughts on “Genealogy Tools – Prince Edward Island”
Three other websites of interest to PEI researchers are the PEI Genealogical Society website (peigs.ca), Island Archives Centre at University of PEI (islandarchives.ca) and PEI Ancestry (peiancestry.com).
PEIgs.ca has information about the society and their publications (cemetery transcriptions, census transcription plus others) and includes parts of the Master Name Index which is searchable.
islandarchives.ca is more about PEI history (oral interviews and stories, photos, maps), but these include many items of interest to genealogists.
peiancestry.com is a subscription site run by the MacNaught History Centre and Archives, a part of Wyatt Heritage Properties. While I haven’t used it, it is a major resource for Prince County researchers and includes a significant database of obituaries, cemetery images and other genealogical sources.
Thanks, Arthur! While I knew about the first two, peiancestry.com is a new one for me, perhaps because I’ve only researched people in Queens and Kings counties.
wonderful site. I must get going again.
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