From 1867-70, lower Alberta was Rupert’s Land. In 1870, the Northwest Territory and Rupert’s Land merged to become one vast territory encompassing modern day Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and northern Quebec.
Prior to the Dominion of Canada, the territory was administered by Great Britain. See the records of the National Archives at Kew, London.
- 1670 – the Hudson’s Bay Company was created by British royal charter
- 1763 – the North-West Company was formed to encompass and exploit that part of the territory not covered by the HBC charter
- 1820 – HBC was joined with the North-West Company
- 1869 – HBC sold its rights to the two-year old Dominion of Canada
From: Mandy Banton, Administering the Empire, 1801-1968: A Guide to the Records of the Colonial Office in the National Archives of the UK (London, UK: University of London Press, School of Advanced Study, Institute of Historical Research, 2020), https://humanities-digital-library.org/index.php/hdl/catalog/book/administering-the-empire-1801-1968 : accessed 14 Jun 2021.
This page last updated 3 Jan 2023. This page contains resources primarily for Alberta, Canada. Main archives and lesser known locales have location maps. Listings are under the following categories:
- BMDs and Divorce
- Censuses – See Western Canadian Censuses
- Cemeteries, Obituaries
- Censuses – see Western Canadian Censuses
- Church Records
- Courts, Law, Legal, Prison
- Land, Directories, Property
- Local History Books, other Publications
Archives – ARCA
This is a meta-site that searches the digital archives of mostly 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. The easy to use interface will search by any input including names.
Archives – Archives Society of Alberta, Edmonton
Address: Prince of Wales Armouries and Heritage Centre, 10440 108 Ave NW #216, Edmonton, AB T5H 3Z9
Address: 1st fl, 313 – 7th Av SE, Calgary AB T2P 2M5
Address: 10440 108 Ave NW Edmonton, AB, T5H 3Z9
Archives – Galt Museum & Archives, Lethbridge
Try the search engine for your family name. You might get lucky.
Address: Esplanade Heritage & Cultural Centre, 401 1 St SE, Medicine Hat AB T1A 8W2
Archives – Millet and District Archives
Find the archives at 5120 50 Street, Millet, Alberta.
Archives – Peel’s Prairie Provinces (University of Alberta, Edmonton)
One of the premier resources for researching the prairies. Last updated 2009.
Address: 4725 49 St Red Deer AB T4N 1T6 (403) 309-8403
BMDs and Divorce
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 guide to Vital Statistics Alberta for getting the most out of the indices.
Cemetery – Alberta Ancestors, Calgary
This is a co-production by the AB Family Histories Society, Family Genes, and AB Ancestors. Address: Alberta Family Histories Society, 712 – 16 Avenue NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2M 0J8. The easy to use database index lookup provides information for southern Alberta burials.
Cemetery – Edmonton Cemeteries
Think your ancestor might have been buried in Edmonton, Alberta? Check here.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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.
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.)
There’s nothing like a good set of city directories. Here’s Alberta’s, courtesy of the Medicine Hat and District Genealogical Society.
Local Histories, Other Publications
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 – 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.
Newspapers – Peel’s Prairie Provinces (University of Alberta)
A major, free collection for searching the smaller newspapers of the province. Hint: 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.
I’ve been collecting links and sources for years but in 2022 had the opportunity to contact dozens of archives, libraries, societies, and museums in the province. Every one, from big to small, was unfailingly helpful and responsive, even if the answer was sorry, we don’t have what you seek. In addition, there are the genealogists who frequent the many FB groups and are generous with their time and expertise. To everyone who shared their knowledge, thank you.