This is a page of resources about the province of Saskatchewan, Canada. Last updated 10 May 2020.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to the work of Doug Gent, you can find a good quality scan of dozens of towns from Alameda to Workman circa 1927. Doug doesn’t stop with maps – he has pages of detail on each town, including this page on Weyburn, where one of the SK mental health facilities were located.
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.
A map of Saskatchewan showing where various ethnicities tended to congregate.
From Pete Payette comes this site detailing the forts of SK. Did your family work with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) fur trade outposts or the Northwest Mounted Police (NWMP)?
Also see below for the HBC maps of fur trading posts.
Can’t find your ancestor?
Is it possible they changed their name because the original was too unpronouncable for the neighbours? This register of name changes from 1917-1993 is a goldmine, listing both the previous and new names, plus dates and locations, of SK residents who opted for a name change. Bonus: the registers are text-searchable.
One of the greatest tools in the genealogist’s toolkit is mapping. The City’s archives house fire insurance maps, city maps, building plans and much more. Unfortunately only available in person, but if you ask nicely, you might be able to talk the City clerks into finding something for you. Here’s the inquiries link.
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.
This site was begun in 2005 and is still fairly bare bones. From the website:
The legislation governing Saskatchewan Vital Statistics allows for the publishing of a genealogical index of historic vital events. A portion of these events have been indexed and are available via the search below.
The search function does not allow for Boolean searching, so keep a notepad handy of all the name variants you’ll need. For example: Giesbrecht, Geesbrecht, Geisbrecht, Giesbrekt, etc. The “Select number of records” to show in results should automatically have been set at 100 or larger, but it defaults to 3.
Copies of records may be ordered from the Government of SK. In Feb, 2018, the charge for a death certificate was $55. Here’s a link for more information.
HINT #1 – Although the site suggests that births older than 100 years are available (~1918), I have yet to find any birth records past 1908.
HINT #2 – See above. It’s a similar situation for death records. The site suggests that records older than 70 years are available (~1948), but I have yet to see records past 1916.
Genealogy – if there was one central repository for all records, what fun would that be? You would think the Provincial Archives would have probate records for the province, wouldn’t you?
If you don’t already have an account with FamilySearch, go ahead and sign up. It’s free.
Saskatchewan had two hospitals for those suffering mental health issues: Weyburn and N. Battleford.
You can find some former patients for either hospital with Find a Grave if you enter the key phrase “Saskatchewan Mental Hospital Cemetery Memorials.”
North Battleford Provincial Mental Hospital
Here are the specifics to help you locate the actual census record: Province of Saskatchewan; District 222 North Battleford; Subdistrict 59. There are only 25 pages in this file. The patients and staff begin on page 4. See below for finding the records.
As well, I found that the 1921 Canada census lists the patients AND staff. If you’re looking for any missing, long lost SK-based relations around this time period, check this census.
HINT #1: 1921 census at Library and Archives Canada, enter the keyword “mental” and choose the province of Saskatchewan.
HINT #2: If you have an Ancestry account, you’ll be able to page through the entire census, which is easier: i) Go to the 1921 Census of Canada; ii) Browse this collection, choose province of Saskatchewan and district of North Battleford. In the drop-down, locate sub-district 59 – Mental Hospital. Try this link.
Weyburn Mental Hospital
The Weyburn Mental Hospital opened in December, 1921, too late for the 1921 Canada census (in June). It wasn’t only for mental health – there was a “TB” (tuberculosis) annex. Here’s some background information on the hospital, and here’s the location. You can find it in the 1926 census of the prairies at Family Search here:
- Year – 1926
- Province – Sask.
- District – 36 Weyburn
- Sub-district – 87, Weyburn City Mental Hospital, pages 1-21 [Edit note: Pages 1-4 are staff; 5-21 are patients.]
I prefer FamilySearch because I like paging through the whole file. Alternatively, you can find Weyburn Hospital at Library and Archives Canada’s Search page by entering “Weyburn” in the keyword box, plus the names you’re looking up.
From the Archives of Manitoba come these maps of HBC posts.
Did you know that SK’s borders are the second and fourth western meridians? Did you know that the first meridian is located just west of Winnipeg, which is why Winnipeg was an important jump off point for European migrants in search of free land?
This is a great breakdown of the survey that literally carved up the prairie provinces into quarter sections of land for European immigrant farmers, and it includes maps.
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 1 Aug 2019: This site has been having some trouble for months now – the underlying map doesn’t work. See Township Canada, below for another option.]
Frances Morrison Library, Saskatoon
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. If you can, visit the Family History Room at the Frances Morrison Library in Saskatoon. Their collection is extensive.
Local histories online
If you are unable to visit Saskatoon, try the card catalog at FamilySearch.
This is how a family researcher in England did it: she found a local history title, reached out for help from the Facebook group “Canadian Genealogy,” and I was able to request the book by interlibrary loan and send her the pages she needed. There was so much more than she expected that she’s now having to process it all.
The Collection Search came back online in Feb 2020. YAY!
Also try this site for a digitized local history search. Our ancestors were mobile folk, and AB and SK are right beside one another.
Following the logic of the above, here’s the link for local histories at the University of Manitoba, because Manitoba is Saskatchewan’s eastern neighbour.
Military Service Recognition Books
For some years, the legions have been raising money by producing Military Service Recognition Books. Families wishing to honour their veterans contribute write ups. Unfortunately, they are not a database lookup, but the names of those being honoured are listed in the indexes, it is absolutely free to look them up, and if you are lucky, the writeups usually include a photo – pure genealogical gold. Google “Military Service Recognition Book” + [province] to find them.
From the excellent volunteers at this society, this site features an extensive list of names, cemeteries, and other details about Moose Jaw, e.g., schools and local history. Here’s the direct link for the updated (Dec 2018) obituaries section.
Located at the Nutana Legion, staffed by volunteers and run by donation, this is a hidden gem in Saskatoon. The museum recognizes the contributions of SK-area men and women in war, predominantly WWI and WWII. There is a wall of medals to see, and the last time I visited, two of the volunteers took the time to explain the significance of the death penny and its eventual replacement by the war widow’s cross. You can also look them up yourself at Veterans Affairs, but you’ll be missing the stories that go with the memorabilia (and neither the death penny nor the cross will be there. I just looked.) I’ve been visiting to chat to the volunteers and browse through the newspaper collections. There’s a small but significant library underway. The museum is open 9 am – 12 noon, Thursday mornings only, and the address is 3021 Louise Street. Parking is free. Admission is $5 for adults, cash only.
Understandably for the UofA, the newspapers focus on Alberta; however, there are three from Saskatchewan in the collection, AND they are keyword searchable.
- The Moose Jaw Herald Times, 1890-1899 available online
- The Prince Albert Review, aka The Saskatchewan Times, aka The Prince Albert Times and the Saskatchewan Review, 1882-1895 available online; it looks like 1880, 1881, and 1896-1891 may be coming as well
- Qu’Appelle Progress, 1885-1900 available online, with 1880-1884 and 1901-1909 underway
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 SK residents in this index, which is a list compiled by the AGS. There are also wills for Alberta, Manitoba, England, Scotland, etc.
Prince Albert City Jail, 1921 Canada Census
Built on the site of a former residential school in 1911, the 1921 Canada census lists ~130 inmates. Here is the free link from Ancestry. (Please let me know if it doesn’t work for you.) Today, the jail is the Saskatchewan federal penitentiary.
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 Saskatchewan
Interestingly, these records don’t show up in Ancestry or Family Search. Check out the homesteading records in Land – I found an elusive ancestor there, because you can seach by name. Hallelujah!
Digital newspapers, free to search, organized by publication. Not every edition of every publication is online, but there’s enough to give a great sense of the life and times of the day.
Recently updated, the transripts are data from the graves 1850-1994. You might just find your elusive ancestor here. (Link requires an Ancestry account.)
Oh, the goodies you find when searching for information. There are over 6500 records in this database, searchable by last name or by parish. Try both. We all know what kinds of problems happen with transcription, illegible records, and old documents.
[NOTE: The links require a FamilySearch account, so sign up and sign in before clicking the links.]
Family Search has done a great job of explaining the records in their wiki.
Not every parish is represented, and the availability of records is uneven, however, it’s a lot easier than writing to the church. Here are the larger population centres in SK:
- St. Paul’s Parish, Saskatoon
- St. Mary, Regina
- the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Prince Albert
- Mission de St. Joseph, Moose Jaw
- St. Vital, Battleford
NOTES ABOUT THESE RECORDS: I looked at the parish of St. Paul’s, Saskatoon. There are 14 databases, containing a variety of records on births, marriages and burials. Some records have an index: a file that lists the last names and page numbers. For extra fun, I noticed that not every year is represented, and there are at least 3 languages to contend with: English, French, and (this is a first for me) Latin. I guess those Catholic priests had to exercise their elite educations somewhere.
Here’s a current map of the Saskatoon area rural parishes.
A beautiful site with no provenance. Discovered online in May, 2020. Like a digital local history.
A journal for doctors. I found the main body of the journal a bit TMI, dealing with medical procedures as it does; however, each journal contains a Personals section about the gossipy events in the lives of doctors such as obituaries. Here’s how to find them:
- go to the link and scroll down to the Serials section of periodicals, annuals and newspapers
- Click “Browse this collection”
- In the search box, enter “Saskatchewan,” and refine the search by entering “Title” in the “Search in” dropdown menu
- There are not many medical journals, so easy to browse
For the provinces that have stricter privacy laws, more tools are needed. You may not be able to hunt down any of the big three vital stats via eHealth, but you may find a local news piece announcing an event. The Ancestor Hunt has done a great job explaining what’s available, and how to search, and while the information is available elsewhere, it’s nice to see it organized this way.
A wealth of resources, run by dedicated volunteers, and backed by SK Culture, with funding from SK Lotteries. The society offers conferences, field trips to Salt Lake City, books, and more. I discovered it when I was reading the excellent Tracing your Aboriginal Ancestors in the Prairie Provinces. See my review in Books for Genealogists here.
I joined the SK Genealogical Society in January, 2018.
The history of SK, in story form. Unfortunately not centrally searchable but still entirely free to read. A great resource for long, cold winter reading. (You know it’s coming.)
From Eleanor Kennedy, this impressive site is a listing of the Saskatoon obits names and dates. Currently available are the years 1940-1945, but 1939 is on the way.
Are you a resident of Saskatchewan? Did you know you can access many of the digital resources from the comfort of your couch with a library card? It’s true. Find the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, and Prairie Gold: Sports Heroes from Saskatchewan, among others.
The worldwide Ancestry Library Edition, though, can only be accessed at the library. I bring a laptop and download my finds to my hard drive. If you don’t have a laptop, you can still access Ancestry on the library’s computers and send your finds to yourself via email. For free.
Note: The SK budget was released on March 22, 2017, and both the Saskatoon and Regina public libraries lost their funding. It was touch and go, but thanks to a large public outcry, funding was reinstated. Thank goodness.
A rival site to LSD Finder, above, except appears to be newer and fancier. It’s a great site, but will only allow half as many free lookups/month: 10.
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 SK homestead records found here, and they are different from the ones held at the provincial archives.
As the cemetery for Saskatchewan’s largest city, Woodlawn has seen some 59,000 burials and interments. The link will take you to an alphabetical listing of the people buried here, which provides some useful information not found elsewhere. Another surprise is how up to date the listings are: as of May, 2018.
Finally, I’ve found the staff at Woodlawn exceedingly helpful. When we couldn’t find a marker, a Woodlawn staffer sent a photo of the exact location of the burial site (which confirmed there was, unfortunately, no marker to be found).
Rolls, photos, war diary, and other links and resources relating to SK’s participation in WWII. Of particular note to the genealogist is this link to the 670+ men and women of the Weyburn Legion.