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Researching Your Aboriginal Ancestry at Library and Archives Canada

Introduction

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Genealogical research can be a complex and lengthy process. Records from many private, provincial and federal sources must be used, and they are often scattered throughout the country. Researchers may therefore have to travel to where the records are located. In addition, records that contain personal information  the very records most wanted by the researcher  may be subject to access and privacy legislation or to restrictions placed on them by the donors. Other possible difficulties are many:

  • the changing meanings of words and expressions over time
  • historical information rewritten from the perspective of the present
  • a lack of contextual knowledge about the creation of the records
  • assumptions about the types of records that might contain information
  • inconsistent information within the same series of records
  • a lack of research guides or finding aids

These difficulties are compounded in aboriginal genealogical research. Locating records can be challenging, and once found, records can be hard to interpret. For example, records based on aboriginal perspectives of oral traditions and spiritual concepts can be difficult to understand for researchers of European origin. Equally, any exploration of records based on non-aboriginal perspectives must bear those views in mind. Overall, records of aboriginal ancestry are of notoriously complex nature and organization, with records from different sources contradicting each other and all reflecting the perspectives of their creators. Often, a complete picture emerges only after consulting many types of records from many sources.

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