Table for looking up the composition of Canada, 1867-1999. © 2018. Past Presence. All rights reserved.

[Last updated 2 Aug 2022.] This is a page of resources for the province of Alberta, Canada. I had the honour of presenting Getting Started in Chinese Genealogy – The Alberta Edition with Historic Calgary Week, sponsored by the Chinook Country Historical Society and the Calgary Public Library on 30 Jul 2022. I created a handout of every genealogical source findable in Alberta for Chinese genealogy, surveying twenty-five organizations as of 30 Jul 2022. If you would like a copy of this free handout, please get in touch with me here via my Contact page.

1906 Census

For Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba only, three special censuses were taken to measure the impact of settlement and migration. As a result, there are 3 extra census records for genealogists: the 1906, 1916, and the soon-to-be-released 1926.

1916 Census (Prairie Provinces)

Begun on 01 Jun 1916, the second Prairie-only census was taken. It was the 9th for Manitoba, and the 3rd for both Saskatchewan and Alberta.

1920 map of the Great Northern Railway Line – Washington State University

The GNR served Washington, Montana, and North Dakota, as well as reaching into Oregon, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Canadians travelled the GNR, crossing at various points from Sumas, Grand Forks, and Gateway in BC; Sweetgrass, Montana; Northgate, ND; and Bannerman, MB. It’s pretty useful to have a visual.

Alberta Names Index (ANI) – Edmonton Branch, Alberta Genealogical Society

An index representing hundreds of hours of volunteer labour and a plethora of genealogical sources. I did a test for a name, found a hit in a local history book that sounded intriguing, and was able to find that book too! (See Local Histories in this section.)

Ancestor Search – Library and Archives Canada (LAC)

If you haven’t been on LAC lately, it’s worth another look. In 2019, LAC rolled out my three favourite words in the English language: centralized database search. Bearing in mind that the usual spelling issues still apply, you can now search all the collections at once.

Alberta Government Telephone Books – Medicine Hat and District Genealogical Society

There’s nothing like a good set of city directories. Here’s Alberta’s, courtesy of the Medicine Hat and District Genealogical Society.

Alberta Online historical newspapers summary – The Ancestor Hunt

If you’re looking for a different way of looking for newspapers, this site offers links by geographic location. You’ll need to know the name of your town, but if you do, you may find periodicals you didn’t know existed.

ARCA: Discover BC’s ditigal treasures

This is a meta-site that searches the digital archives of BC-based institutions of higher learning. You will find digitized archives from Athabasca University, Camosun College, Capilano University, Coast Mountain College, College of the Rockies, Douglas College, the Justice Institute of British Columbia, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Mount Royal University (Calgary), Red Deer College (AB), Sellkirk College, Thompson Rivers University, Trinity Western University, the University of Northern British Columbia, and the University of British Columbia.

Cypress Hills Massacre – Canadian Encyclopedia

Everyone approaches genealogy differently, and for different reasons. For me, genealogy helps me see historical events with a new perspective – through the eyes of our ancestors. Here’s a good summary of the Cypress Hills Massacre of SK and AB, 1873.

Edmonton Cemeteries 

Think your ancestor might have been buried in Edmonton, Alberta? Check here.

Galt Museum & Archives – Lethbridge, Alberta

Try the search engine for your family name. You might get lucky.

LSD Finder

If you’re not a farmer, you probably have a little trouble reading the legal land descriptions for the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This is my goto lookup – and it’s free for the first 20 searches / day. [EDIT: As of Sep 2019, this site now appears not to be working very well with Google Maps. A pity, since it uses Google Maps as the underlay. You can still make out the location but I’ll keep my eyes peeled for something better.]

Local histories – University of Calgary

I’m advised this is the new home of the local histories that were once housed on RootsWeb. Local histories are such an important resource for the prairie genealogist I wrote 3 blog posts about them. See Genealogy gold, part 1.

Newspapers from Peel’s Prairie Provinces (University of Alberta)

When I was at the SK genealogical conference in April, 2018, I attended a lecture about using digitized newspapers for genealogical research.

Here’s an excellent resource for the province of Alberta, which has 106 newspapers in this collection, and most focus on Alberta as of this writing (Apr 2018).


Use the location finder at the top for “Town/City” to narrow the results. For example, if you choose “Calgary,” your results will be The Alberta Non-Partisan, The Calgary Eye-Opener, The Calgary Weekly Herald, The Eye Opener, and The Rebel.

Non-BC Wills, Abbotsford Genealogical Society

This is an odd one, and a total Hail Mary shot in the dark, but there is a slim chance your ancestor left a will in …BC. I found 200+ entries for wills for Alberta residents in this index, which is a list compiled by the AGS. There are also wills for SK, Manitoba, England, Scotland, etc.
Provincial Archives of AB. © Past Presence. All rights reserved.

Prairie Towns (Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, BC

I had to find a list of small towns in Alberta, and this site was the answer to my question. There are maps as well – a real genealogical find.

Provincial Archives of Alberta – Birth, Marriage and Death Records

Alberta! Always the province to go its own way, and its vital stats are no different. You can even download them, if your family originates in Alberta. After a couple of weeks looking for a few elusive ancestors, my advice is read the How To Guide first, then read them all. At least the handwriting is easy to read.

I had the opportunity to visit the Provincial Archives of Alberta (PAA) in Edmonton in person. It is a genealogist’s dream: huge space, tons of resources, friendly and knowledgeable archivists, free parking, free access, free lockers, open Saturdays, and super cheap document printing. Unlike some other collections, the PAA will not allow researchers to bring cameras or phones into the reading room, but at 35 cents/page it’s very affordable. Check the hours before you go: the PAA is not open Sundays or Mondays.

HINT: From Shannon’s Research Services comes this fabulous guide to Vital Statistics Alberta for getting the most out of the indices.

Township Canada: Canadian Township Grid System

This is one of the best descriptions of the township system in Canada I have ever seen, because it includes the provinces of BC and Ontario. If you’ve ever wondered what “DLS” meant, or wondered how Ontario was different from Saskatchewan, or why British Columbia was different from Alberta, this is the page to see. This is the only page I’ve ever seen that included Legal Subdivisions (LSDs) subdivisions in its descriptions, encompassing the urban and the rural. Also has a free lookups, limited to ten lookups/month. If you’re wondering why you might need this tool, I have one phrase for you: homestead files.

Wills, Probate, Land, Tax & Criminal (Ancestry)

Just when you think you’re familiar with it, Ancestry coughs up another collection. I don’t fully understand why a general search doesn’t (always) bring up these interesting nuggets, but where would be the fun in that? Here’s the interesting part: I took a spin through the prairie homestead records found here, and they are different from the ones held at the provincial archives.