Canadian Genealogy · Genealogy How Tos

Genealogy gold part 2: finding local histories using Family Search & Facebook

In this post I’ll share with you a method for using FamilySearch + Facebook to find local history books, and then I have a guest post to share with you.

This is part two of my three-part series on local history books. If you’d like to read part 1, see The who, what, why, where and how of local history books in the Canadian prairies.

First, find local histories on Family Search

In Family Search, go to Search and choose Catalog.

Family Search Catalog
Family Search home page, showing the Catalog menu in the dropdown under “Search”

In the FamilySearch Catalog, type the words “local history” and the place you’d like to find. I like to start off at the provincial level, so it would be any of Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba.

Screen Shot 2019-08-03 at 7.54.33 PM

There were two results. I chose Saskatchewan local history directory : a locality guide to community and church histories in the Prairie History Room. 

Now let’s see who has copies of this book. We’re going to check out WorldCat, which bills itself as “… the world’s largest network of library content and services.” Click on the WorldCat link.


We find there are copies of this book in Prince Albert, Calgary, Laval, and in Salt Lake City. If we lived in the local library areas, we could request a copy through interlibrary loan, or we could ask friends who live in the local area to request the book.

For the purposes of this blog, let’s assume we can’t. What else can we do?

WorldCat results

Use Facebook for genealogy

If you find a local history book for which you cannot locate a digitized copy, try asking someone in a Facebook genealogy group for help.

There are many Facebook groups for genealogy. I’m a member of dozens of such groups on Facebook. I’ve found the members of these groups genuinely love helping others with their research, and the collective knowledge is staggering.

Currently, I see two groups for Canada: the Canada Genealogy Research Community and Canadian Genealogy. There’s two for Saskatchewan also: the Saskatchewan Genealogy Network and Saskatchewan Genealogy.

The story of Janet Pennington

Janet Pennington, who goes by Jan, lives in England. She was researching her Canadian cousins who settled in southern Saskatchewan, had found a book title she thought might help, and posted her request on Facebook.

I saw her post. Here’s the rest of the story in Jan’s own words.

Candiac local history
Local history book “Candiac 1909-2009”

Jan Pennington:

I have been researching my family history for about three years and when I started I had assumed that as both sets of grandparents were farm workers or servants, their ancestors would be similar and also not have moved far from home, but this was not the case.  I have found relatives who have left rural England for Australia, America and Canada.

In America three brothers fought in the Civil War, two dying in prison camps.

But the most intriguing migration was five siblings who left England for Canada at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Esther, the youngest and first to leave in 1906, went to Saskatchewan as a servant.  She soon married her employer, John Taylor, a pioneer of the Candiac area, and they had three children.  I could not find much about her later life or what it would have been like to live in such a remote area.

Then I found a reference and image of a page from a book called Candiac 1909 -2009 which told the story of John Taylor and his brother arriving in the area, filing claims for land in 1880’s,  so I decided to try to find out more about the book thinking it would be a small book, 40 or 50 pages, written to celebrate the centenary of the township.

I had no luck trying to locate a copy online and so I resort to putting a request on Facebook – Saskatchewan Genealogical Network, and Linda responded, and she was able to find the book in a library and order it. Far from being a small booklet it turned out to be 600 pages and there were several references to the Taylor’s extended family. Linda’s email allowed me not to just find more relatives, but to better understand what life was like there in the early twentieth century.  How moving house, was not just packing your belongings and taking them to another house but, as a picture showed, actually taking the house with you.  How ‘multicultural’ the area was, but how everyone helped each other.  If you wanted a school the community seems to have got together to organise one.

I was amazed at the work put into writing such a book and how the contributors seemed to want to include everyone from the early days of the town.  They have painted a vivid picture of life in a farming community in twentieth century. I understand similar books have been written for other areas. They deserve to have a wider audience, not just for family historian but for the wider community.

image of old books
Old library. Photo by St. Mattox from FreeImages


This has been so much fun. I would definitely do this again. Jan didn’t mention she made the whole process easier by sending a detailed descendency report for her families. It was easy to quickly determine the families in Candiac 1900-2009 were the right ones thanks to her detailed research.

How about you? Do you have a prairie family? You too may have a local history book for your community. Have you found it? Please let me know in the comments.


11 thoughts on “Genealogy gold part 2: finding local histories using Family Search & Facebook

  1. Great information.
    A few more additional resources that you and your readers may wish to explore are volunteers that are willing to do Look-ups in the local history books.
    The look ups sometimes also include taking pictures in cemeteries that aren’t on Sites like Find a Grave.
    This link is for the Saskatchewan GenWeb site that has links to the volunteers and the books available. At the bottom of the page are other Look-up resources such as “Books We Own”.

    1. Thanks so much for this, Stacey. I’m writing one more post on local histories with the idea being collecting the great advice I’ve received. I’ll definitely be including yours. Thank you again. 🙂


  2. A great topic and helpful tips! I didn’t realize there were online sources for these community books. I read your article after getting home from my annual trip to my favourite used bookstore in a small Manitoban town. I’ve often stood in front of the local history section and thought “I hope people know these books exist”.

    1. That’s exactly how I felt the first time I saw one. My roots are – for better or worse – big city. There are lots of great resources in big cities but nothing quite like the prairie local history book for small towns – and to find any of them online!?! Jackpot! Thank you for stopping by to comment!


  3. You are very welcome, Teresa. I’m always scouting for digital resources too, so if you run across something intriguing at the library please send it my way.


  4. Great story, but what did you send her? Did send her scanned pages or just your notes? I’m assuming a book like that would be a “reference” title, meaning you can only read it in the library.

    I’ve told this story elsewhere, but the great people who run the library/inter-library-loans managed to get me a book from Alberta (I live in Ontario) about 50 of the most important women in Alberta’s history.

    Librarians are than just Shushers these days;)

  5. I found a few local histories for my families. I use the collection at University of Calgary. It used to be called Our Roots, and is now under the Local Histories collection at UCal. Of course when they switched everything up I had to go to my profiles on Ancestry and change all the weblinks. *sigh

    1. I was a latecomer to Our Roots, and RootsWeb. I managed to discover it just as it went offline. Now it’s slowly re-emerging, I can finally see all the thousands of volunteer hours that went into the resources there. Simply amazing – but I do absolutely sympathize with the horrors of link redirects..! *shudders* (I put a broken link checker on this website so nobody needs to wonder when they click a link if it’ll be there or not.)

      I’m in Edmonton at the moment, where I found entire bookshelves filled with prairie local histories. If only I could donate those to genealogy societies. Perhaps one day, when I win the lottery! 🙂


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