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Bermuda Triangles, Continued

April 14, 2016

In my first post, I introduced the concept of Bermuda Triangles or black holes of genealogy: areas where information was harder to come by. I already covered Ireland, so I won’t dwell on that.

One area I have had trouble with is the early northern Vermont area in the later 18th century, because this was an area contested between the British and the Americans, and because I can so rarely get there from where I am to do research.

Absence of records to begin with is a problem there. In other areas, though, records may have existed but have been been destroyed in fires or war. This is quite common in areas where US Civil War battles took place.

In still other areas, records may still exist but privacy laws, poor organization and cataloguing, language barriers, lack of political will to make records available, or cost may be factors in making genealogically valuable information hard to get.

Specifically in Canada, Ontario and Quebec have fairly strict laws covering vital statistics that make some aspects of recent genealogy a little tougher. On the other hand, Quebec has some of the best digitized church records in the form of the Drouin Collection, while Ontario has an immensely dedicated team of cemetery and vital record transcribers, with many records now available at

Some of the great sites to help one along started in Ontario are the Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid; the Ontario Vital Statistics Project; and the Ontario Genealogical Society. The Archives of Ontario can be immensely useful.

My own province of Manitoba has all genealogically available records indexed by the Vital Statistics Agency, and available genealogical registrations are a mere $12 Canadian. In contrast, Alberta makes it tougher to order vital records. First, Alberta offers no index of these records, so you have to know exactly what you are searching for to start with. The charges are high for those from out-of-province, too.

One workaround for Alberta research is to make use of the excellent resources of Alberta Family Histories Society, the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project, institutions such as the Glenbow Museum and Archives, as well as paid indexing services like The Recents.

British Columbia used to have a similarly awkward and expensive system, until they moved the Archives to the control of the Royal BC Museum and many interesting and valuable records are now digitized and freely available, as I wrote about last time. Maybe it’s just me, but donating money to an institution that makes records free feels better than paying the same amount in fees.

Don’t ignore small local museums and archives, either, whether in BC or elsewhere. I found a treasure trove on one of my family lines from the Summerland Museum and Heritage Society, for instance.

I was also pleasantly surprised, then, when, on requesting the death registrations of my grandparents from the Wyoming State Archives, I discovered not only that they were provided free by a prompt, polite, and helpful volunteer, but also that she included a PDF of a newspaper clipping with coverage of the accident that killed them. That’s the sort of service that I think merits a donation.

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