Lookup table for the composition of Canada, 1867-1999. © 2018. Past Presence. All rights reserved.

This is a page of genealogical and historical resources for the province of Manitoba, Canada. Last updated 4 Nov 2021.

1870 Census of Manitoba

As seen from the table above, Manitoba joined Confederation in 1870. A census was taken of the province, but it was not included in the nationwide census of 1871. This is something to consider when searching for documents in the period.

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.

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.

Brandon Mental Hospital and Cemetery

Originally designed as the Brandon Reformatory for Boys when it was built in 1890, the building was converted to the Brandon Asylum for the Insane in 1891, and renamed the Brandon Hospital for Mental Diseases in 1919. A fire destroyed the complex in 1910, but it was rebuilt to house 700 patients by 1912. For a complete history of the asylum, see the Manitoba Historical Society’s Brandon Mental Health Centre.

The 1921 Canada census tallies the staff and patients in 20 startling pages at this link on Ancestry.

Just over 390 patients were buried here. Check this link for the north cemetery and this link for the south cemetery. Also see the Manitoba Historical Society’s page here.

The facility was closed in 1999.

Directories (Canada) – The Ancestor Hunt

Thanks to the work of Kenneth R. Marks and Miriam Robbins, we have a site for Canadian directories. This site is always being updated. As of July 2020 there are directories for Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. Plans are underway for Alberta, BC, Newfoundland & Labrador, PEI, Quebec, and the Territories.

Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research

Wonderful site for genealogists looking into Métis ancestry.

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: This is no longer my goto lookup – see below the Legal land descriptions at Manitoba AgriMaps.]

Legal land descriptions at Manitoba AgriMaps

Wouldn’t it be amazing if somone could put together a legal land description lookup combined with hi-resolution maps so you could not only find your ancestors homesteads but also see the features of their particular piece of land? How much would that be worth to you? Lucky for you, the government of Manitoba has assembled AgriMaps, which does all of the above and much more. The layers of mapping show features from topography, roads and rail lines, and there are tool for measuring and drawing.

A bibliography of local history – University of Manitoba Library

A unique feature of prairie genealogy, at least in Western Canada, is the local history book. This is a collection of stories put together by the local historical society, and is a total goldmine of genealogical information. If you find one for your family, you are fortunate, because you are guaranteed to find something you wouldn’t normally know, in addition to a deep look at the place they lived and the people they knew. I’m a big proponent of Friends, Acquaintances, and Neighbours (“FAN”) research, and a local history book is stuffed with FAN details: the post office, the history, the homesteads, and sometimes biographies of the locals who served in wartimes.

How do you find if a local history exists for your family? First off, you need to know where your ancestor lived. You’ll get this information from censuses. The censuses ending in “1,” i.e., 1881, 1891, 1901, will have district and subdistrict information avaialble at Library and Archives Canada. The censuses for the prairies 1926 will have the legal land description and the area.

Then, you’ll need to find a title. This is a bibliography for local histories for Manitoba. It’s a little dated (1989) but it’s a good place to start.

Manitoba Genealogical Society

Provides a wealth of information and links to all things Manitoba.

Manitoba Vital Statistics scrapes from and links to this site, but you may be able to find the original record details here. You may need to pay if you would like a copy of the actual record. Note that each province has the right to restrict records as they see fit, so here are the limits for the Manitoba vital statistics:

  • Births more than 100 years ago
  • Marriages more than 80 years ago
  • Deaths more than 70 years ago

I found to my delight that the site accepts Boolean searches, which is a huge plus when searching for scrambled names. For example, I was searching for Jacob, and found Jacob, Jakob, Javol in various records. Using a Boolean search for “Ja*” will return all my known variants. Similarly, the year field will accept Boolean searches, in addition to the 3 dropdown choices of “Match”, “Or earlier”, and “Or later.” For example, if you are looking for records in the 1920s, you can specify “192*” to get them all.

Like some other provinces, Manitoba charges for documents. Depending on whether your records are unrestricted or restricted, the fees are different. For restricted records, the fee is $30 each. For unrestricted records, the fee is $12/record. I have ordered unrestricted records from Manitoba Vital Stats, and I am finding it takes about 4 months to receive my documents.

Newspaper Search – University of Manitoba

The above link will take you directly to the search, however, you may wish to see the overview of the collection before you dig in. This is a free collection of newspapers that include dozens of titles from the Brandon Daily Sun to the intriguingly named Winnipeg Telegram Strike Edition. This is definitely a tool in your toolkit if you are researching Manitoba family roots. As well, if you are new to newspaper searching, or would like a refresher, here are lessons from The Ancestor Hunt which will absolutely improve your search successes.

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.

While this UofA collection naturally focuses on Alberta, there are 3 French language newspapers for Manitoba:

  1. La Liberté, Winnipeg, 1913-1941 available online
  2. La Liberté et le patriote, Winnipeg, 1941-1971 available online
  3. La Liberté, Winnipeg and St. Boniface, 1971-2014 available online

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 Manitoba residents in this index, which is a list compiled by the AGS. There are also wills for Alberta, SK, England, Scotland, etc.

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.

Red River Colony and Red River Rebellion – 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 Red River Colony (1812) and the Red River Rebellion (1869-1870).

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. 

Here’s the link for the Surrogate Court, Central Judicial District, Estate File Index, May 1884 to Jan 1937.

Winnipeg Free Press – Passages 

Obituaries from 2000 onward may be found here. Free.