Ontario Ancestors Conference 2022 The Ontario Genealogical Society Virtual Conference 2022, June 24 – 26, Ottawa
The Ontario Genealogical Society Virtual Conference 2022, June 24 – 26, Ottawa

Speaker Review : Janice Nickerson

Early Ontario Research (pre-Confederation)

Date: June 25th Time: 1:00 PM Stream A

What You Don’t Know about the Canadian Census (Ontario Focus)

Date: June 26th Time: 9:00 AM Stream A

As the ‘Bloginator’ for the Ontario Ancestors Conference, I posed a few questions to our Speakers. It’s interesting to see all of the different perspectives of genealogy research and a few personal stories about the people behind the talks.

Question 1: A brief Bio:

Family history research has been my passion for over 40 years. When I was in school, I spent all my spare time poring through books in libraries, squinting at microfilm in archives and writing letters to ever increasing numbers of relatives. In university, my research projects invariably focused on some aspect of my family’s history!

After studying anthropology in graduate school, I decided to make genealogy my life’s work, specializing in Upper Canada to help others researching in this difficult period and location. Since that time, I’ve developed additional specialties in fur trade research, criminal justice records, and turning bare bones genealogies into full-fledged family histories.

In addition to researching my clients’ family histories, I also do heir searching for the Public Trustee, give talks to genealogical societies and write for genealogical magazines.

I am a proud 8th-generation Canadian, with English, German, Irish, Welsh and Indigenous ancestry.

Question 2: What or when was the moment that you became interested in pursuing your family’s history? 

I caught the genealogy “bug” when my father brought home a 4-page family “tree” written by my grandmother.

In those few pages, my grandmother had listed six generations of male ancestors, the earliest of whom were “sent by the King” to Canada to be “Chief Factor” of the Hudson’s Bay Company. I didn’t know what a “Chief Factor” was, but I knew the HBC was a big deal and that men can’t have descendants without women! I set out to identify who the mysterious female ancestors were and why my grandmother omitted their names.

Question 3: Please provide a bit of insight into what your talk will provide

In my lecture on Early Ontario Records I’ll introduce the audience to the 6 key record groups that you need to know about to effectively do research in Ontario before it was called Ontario: Census, Land, Tax, Church, Estate, and Burial records; with details of the information you can expect to find, and where you can find them.

In my lecture on Ontario Census research I’ll talk about how to get the most out of the census, including how to be sure you’ve got the whole record (there’s more to it than you might think), extract all the important information, understand what it all means, and what to do when you can’t find your ancestor’s enumeration.

Question 4: What is your ‘AHA’ moment – that moment when you finally found a connection (or broke a brick wall) you’ve been looking for in the records?

My latest “aha” moment was more of an “oh no” moment! A cousin sent me an e-mail telling me that she had a letter from my grandmother that mentioned the name of a relative in the UK. She asked if I knew who this person was. I didn’t. But a quick look made it very clear that the people I had long thought were my great great grandfather’s parents were definitely not the right people, so a whole section of my family tree was wrong (never assume your ancestors’ parents were married!!). On the other hand, it lead me to identify a whole new set of ancestors, which is always exciting!

Question 5: Do you have any tips for first-time genealogists?

My biggest tip for beginning genealogists: Don’t be afraid to publish your research. Don’t wait until you’ve “finished” your family tree. You will NEVER finish it. And it’s usually after you publish that you get the best information!! Relatives who thought they didn’t have anything to help you will come out of the woodwork with stories you “left out” of the family history. Other researchers will read your article (if you publish in a genealogy newsletter or journal) and write to you with clues to places you never thought to look. And people will find your blog entry about your grandmother’s painting hobby and contact you to ask if you’ve seen the painting they purchased from her 50 years ago. These are all true stories that have happened to me.

Two great talks to look forward to! Bring a friend!