Legacy Tree Onsite: So, You Have an Alberta Ancestor?
Legacy Tree Genealogists works with researchers from across the globe to access records for our clients. We asked one of our onsite researchers located in Alberta, Canada to share an overview of the various archives available to research your Alberta ancestry.
If you have ancestors that hail from Alberta Canada, this article will share the information you need to help you get started with research at the various archives throughout the province. If your Canadian ancestor lived in a different province, check out our article, Key Canadian Genealogy Resources East to West.
The Provincial Archives of Alberta
A great place to start with your Alberta ancestry research is the Provincial Archives of Alberta, located at 8555 Roper Road NW, in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. The history of the Provincial Archives of Alberta dates to the early years in the province’s history. The Provincial Library was established in 1906, the year after Alberta became a province on September 1, 1905. In the more than one hundred years since it was established, the collection has grown, and it now includes:
- government records
- personal papers and manuscripts
- records of local municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals
- maps, plans and drawings
- audiovisual holdings including film, video and audio recordings
- resource library books
Vital statistics (Birth, Marriage and Death) Registrations
Your search can begin at home, as the archives has several collections that may be accessed online.
You can search the indexes for:
- birth records that are 120 years or older (from the date of birth)
- marriage records that are 75 years or older (from the date of marriage)
- death records that are 50 years or older (from the date of death)
- stillbirth records that are 75 years or older (from the date of stillbirth)
If you find your ancestor, you can request and pay for your record online and either choose to have it sent digitally or mailed directly to you.
Visiting the Provincial Archives of Alberta
A quick look at the “About Us” on the Provincial Archives of Alberta’s website is a good idea (as it is with all research facilities) to learn the hours of operation and to also understand when the facility is open and whether appoints are need to access all or some of the records.
At the Provincial Archives you’ll find lockers in which to store your belongings as well as a store and front desk where you can register to access the facility. In the Reading Room, you will find a desk in the center where the archivist is located and that is surrounded by tables where you can sit and have the materials you request brought to you to review.
There are three adjacent rooms. One houses resource books covering all aspects of Alberta life, and this is where you will find local history books. Another room has a large photograph collection as well as finding aids for coroner’s inquests and investigations throughout Alberta. The third room houses the finding aids and microfilms for the homestead records as well as the large collection of microfilms for Alberta newspapers.
Information about the archives’ collection of church records can also obtained through the Reading Room. These include:
- United Church of Canada (ca. 1830s – present)
- Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (1842 – 1980)
- Anglican Church of Canada (ca. 1870 – ca. 2000)
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ca. 1895 – ca. 2000)
In this central area there also are Henderson directories from Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, and Red Deer.
Homestead Application Files
The Homestead Application Files can be a wealth of information, and through a volunteer project done by the Alberta Genealogical Society for the Provincial Archives, there is a complete every-name Alberta Homestead Index where you can search for your ancestor. This index includes individuals who had applied for and received grants of land under the Dominion Lands Act, as well as those who abandoned their homestead and any other names who were mentioned in a file.
Once you have the PAA reference, film and file number, you can access the microfilm at the archives. Often, you will learn more about the family and who their neighbors were, but also the applicant’s age, marital status and where the individual last lived prior to requesting a homestead.
Other Records Available at the Provincial Archives in Alberta
The archive is also home to divorce and probate records for the major centers in Alberta. With the necessary record numbers, you may request the information be brought to you in the Reading Room.
The Provincial Archives also holds newspapers from around Alberta. You can find a complete listing by community that lists the publications and the time periods they are available for. These newspapers have been digitized and can be viewed at the archives on its bank of microfilm readers.
Additional Archives in Edmonton, Alberta
- The City of Edmonton Archives is another facility to research your family if they lived in Edmonton. Located in the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre, the archives is the official repository of the permanent records for the city of Edmonton. However, it does have a wide variety of materials that might include your family. The archives’ large photo collection just might have a photo of your ancestors’ home. Other records that are available are voters’ lists, tax rolls, Henderson directories, and Edmonton phonebooks as well as insurance maps.
- The Alberta Genealogical Society Library and Edmonton Branch Library are jointly housed at 14315 – 118 Avenue in Edmonton. They offer finding aids online as well as at their facility. The Homestead Index was previously mentioned, but one of the hidden gems of the Edmonton Branch of the Society is the Alberta Name Index (affectionately called ANI). Details in the index give you the information needed to access the original records. Sources include probates, local histories, obituaries, coroner’s records, land records and newspaper indexes. At the library, you also will find local history books, clipping files and family histories that have been donated to the library and much more. Note that there are nine other branches besides the Edmonton Branch that make up the Alberta Genealogical Society and are located throughout Alberta. Each branch has records for its community.
- The Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum may offer not only your ancestors’ school records, but the museum also provides a glimpse of what school life was like in the 1880s.
- University of Alberta Library is the home of print and electronic collections exceeding 5.4 million titles and 8 million volumes that include scholarly journals, books, historical newspapers, memoirs, diaries and correspondence.
Additional Resources for Alberta Ancestry
If your family lived in other locations in Alberta, then additional resources might be found at the following locations in the province:
South Peace Regional Archives, located in the city of Grande Prairie, Alberta. The Communities page provides a complete listing of all the communities that are included in The South Peace Region. The goal of the archives is to gather and preserve the records for the municipalities, families and businesses located in the region.
The Alberta Families Histories Society located in Calgary, Alberta, has journals, family histories, local history books and maps not only for Alberta but from across Canada. The society is also the home of collections from three other organizations:
- Calgary Heritage Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
- Historical Society of Alberta
- Calgary Branch, United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada
The Gault Museum and Archives is in the southern part of the province in Lethbridge, Alberta. The archives contain over one million documents and photos telling the story of the people and history of the region.
If you need help researching your Alberta ancestry, the team at Legacy Tree Genealogists is experienced at tracing and extending family lines, wherever they originate from. Our network of onsite researchers have access to the archives you need to make serious progress on your family history. Contact us today to discuss your research goals and request a free quote!